Blue Lines

Blue Lines

A Story by Jostein Kasse

Juliet entered the hallway of Marshway House hostel. I could see her through the windows of the TV lounge where I was sitting with two girls from Featherstone.

“Who the f**k is that?” said the girl with the fairer hair.

“What the f**k is she wearing?” said the dark haired, brown eyed girl.

“Ladies!” I said standing up and quarter bowing before rushing to the door. Juliet hadn’t seen me sitting in the lounge and I said, “Hi” and she said, “Oh, hi!” she was wearing a Hindu Mandala T-shirt with an image of the elephantine headed God Ganesh on the front. I ushered her along the corridor of Cluster One to room seven which was toward the end. She looked around the room which was humbling because it was far smaller than my previous living spaces. She took in the aboriginal chalking I had scratched onto the walls, and the wooden carving of Mercury propped up behind the stereo in the corner, I showed her an image of Ganesh been fed milk from a spoon that I’d collaged into a scrap book, and I pointed out the door number to the room was an interesting coincidence. She said to me, “You really should listen to Massive Attack!” and she looked serious as well as enthusiastic as though this meant something to her. I made a mental note that I should buy one of their CDs. I told her that I’d found £20.00 on the pavement of the precinct the previous week and I had bought the album Adore by the Smashing Pumpkins with the money. I loaned her the CD and we sat for several nervous moments without words. Before she left she said, “I won’t be coming back here again”.


On the following Thursday I bought the Mezzanine album and when I got back to the room and played the music I could have believed an angel could have emerged through the ceiling and manifest in the room. I remember feeling slightly disappointed at the end of the first song that it hadn’t, but what can one expect from a CD?


Almost a year later, shortly after I had first moved into the second number 4 I had seen Russ in town and he told me how Juliet’s boyfriend had been violent and abusive to her, and I said, “She had said the same thing to me about S---, maybe it’s something she’s doing?”


Later that evening however I was flicking through a magazine and I saw a photograph of a man who happened to look almost exactly like her boyfriend and I was immediately inspired into creating some voodoo magic. I cut the image out of the magazine and glued it to the side of the TV set. I then found an old photograph of the girl I had once taken and I glued that to the TV set as well, with jagged lines dividing the couple in two and I placed an image of an old war plane dropping bombs over the head of the individual that represented her boyfriend. I then painted a bat over the two of them and in the evening I set out for a walk and I passed through the ginnel that takes one through onto Newton Hill fields. I was singing, and a bat circled around and swooped down for me, its wing-tip clipping my face. I was startled and jumped back, and the bat circled again and I ducked down and ran off with my back arched low and stooped. After walking across the fields and back into the town centre I walked up to the top of Westgate and I had decided to buy a pizza from the Italian take-out when I saw Juliet walking towards me. I almost felt my soul loosening from its moorings and walking toward her ahead of my body. She came into the take-out with me and I bought mushroom pizza and she didn’t order anything and we walked down towards the precinct together to sit on the wall of the cathedral when her boyfriend came stomping through the Bull-Ring hollering and shouting her name. I heard him say, “I might have known you’d be with him!” and they argued and she came back over to me and said, “I’m going to have to go, but I’ll come around and see you” and I said, “Okay”.


I’d all but forgotten about the collage and painting on the side of the TV when I got home and sat down in my chair. I thought of a line from a William Blake poem, “the bat that flits at close to Eve has left the brain that won’t believe”.


Juliet came around to see me, but I feel it was perhaps more to negatively analyse for the purpose of social-gossiping than anything cordial. She said, “I still think about you”, and that seemed pleasant enough and I asked her if she’d heard the Hours album? She gave me a look like that that was something to be concerned about and not happy about. As she was leaving, standing by the front door she said, “Oh, I told Singh where you live”. I could hardly believe what I was hearing, and I thought, well thanks a lot! Singh was a champion kickboxer.


In high school when I was 15 years of age, a girl in my year that I had shared several classes with had cried on my shoulder that she had been raped the previous night by this Pakistani from the fourth year. She had asked me with a red face and between sobs if I would do something about it and I had confronted Singh during the lunch-break and he had protested his innocence to me and I had thought him a liar and I swung a blow to the left hand side of his jaw. His knees buckled slightly and he leaned back against the steel railing that prevented him from moving backwards.


Inside Mrs Humes’ office who was the head of our year I told her my reasons for the assault and she dismissed me from her office looking extremely serious and she called for the two individuals to be brought in and interviewed. I never heard anything more about the event from the school authorities, but back at home I was severely punished.   


I was 18 years of age and sitting in the Buzz bar and two huge heavy fists slammed down on the round wooden table in front of me. I looked from hand to hand and looked up to hear Singh asking me, “Are you Justin Penney?” and I said, “No,” and he said, “Are you sure you’re not Justin Penney?” and I said, “I’m sure.” I had been sitting with some people from college and SS said, “Yes you are Justin, don’t lie!” and I said, “My name is Banks, S!”


The Pakistani went and stood by the circular support pillar and he was staring at me, sure, but not sure. A moment later the music dimmed slightly and my name was called out over the Tannoy speakers, “Could Justin Banks please report to the reception desk?” and I looked up and saw that the Pakistani was gone and I sat firmly rooted, fixated, and frozen in my seat. Five minutes later my name was called out again and I left my seat and slowly edged up the stairway uncertain as to what may be waiting for me when I reached the top. I introduced myself to the receptionist and she pointed to Jib, Mick and Lee who were standing on the other side of the glass panelled door. To the nightclub staff Jib had appeared to look underage and they hadn’t permitted him entry. We had walked back to my flat on Bradford Road. We listened to music, smoked marijuana.


I saw Juliet walking through the old bus station after I had heard the Keep it Unreal album and the first thing she said to me as she approached was, “Are you still not eating fish then?” and I said, “You’ve heard the album then?” and she smiled, and I said, “They even got the TV set in there”. We sat under the bus station clock and talked for five minutes, I asked her if she’d seen Antz? She said “no”.   


I had designed the interior of my living room so that there was a blue-line running from one side of the room to the other. In the centre of this line was a totemic aboriginal figure that reached from the floor upward to the ceiling. One afternoon I was buying some CDs from Our Price when I noticed a sticker on the front of a CD several aisles away. The sticker had a large number 7 in white on a bold red background. I was drawn to the number and I picked the CD from the rack and could see that the recording artists were Massive Attack. The album was called Blue Lines. I recalled Juliet saying, “Listen to Massive Attack!” and I bought the album along with the other two that I held in my hand. When I got home and played the album I was somewhat amazed upon hearing the line, “Up against the wall, a halo like De Niro” and I looked to the painting on the wall and I thought, my God, that really does look like a halo. Afterwards I started modelling myself as an Avant-Gard artist.


On New Year’s Eve, the night of the new millennium, I was sitting by myself downstairs in Players. Bob, Juliet and her new Asian boyfriend, and Anna, and several others streamed in single file down the narrow stairway and into the room. Juliet sat next to me, her boyfriend on her right hand side, and Bob sat on a small stool to my left. Juliet said, “I was going to come around and see you,” and I said, “I don’t think that’s such a great idea”, and she said, “Fine, fine, okay then!” I rolled my eyes and shook my head. Bob swivelled on his stool to face away from me, I thought this rude and ignorant. I hadn’t seen these people for over a year with the exception of passing them in town occasionally of which I was mostly ignored. I’d once recommended a series of audio cassette tapes to Bob on African hand-drumming when I saw him briefly in the works. He pointed to a book called Think Tank and said, “I like the title”, I said, “I haven’t figured it all out yet, but I will”. Then he’d dashed to the counter, bought the cassette tapes and disappeared from the store with quick speed. 


Anna was standing with a small group and I caught her staring at me, I wasn’t certain why. As the others stood up to leave, Bob turned toward me, and I rather eccentrically put my arms together so that my fists rested underneath my chin and my sleeves showed thick parallel navy blue lined bands. The clothing had been recommended by Juliet two years earlier.


 The group left to unknown places and Juliet’s boyfriend lagged behind and he said to me, “She really wanted to be your friend”, and I was rude to him and said, “Get away!” as I brushed at the air between us, a sweeping gesture with my hand. He started cursing at me, he appeared very angry, but I couldn’t hear his words. I stood up and put my hands together in a prayer gesture and looked upwards toward the heavens, but he shrugged that off as though it meant nothing. He then exited through the door, up the stairs and left the building. Lauren was standing in front of me and looking at me as though, you’ve got yourself into trouble again.


Unperturbed, I left soon after him and I walked across Wood Street and Northgate and sat by myself on a bench outside the Post Office. I saw someone that I recognised on the other side of the road directly adjacent to me. He was one of the Pakistanis from Bately and he had stepped out of the bar that I had never seen before which was called Monkey. I’d known Monkey as a fashionable clothing store. The Pakistani was dressed in black, wearing a long black leather jacket and he was speaking on his mobile phone. He’d once kicked in my front door several months earlier when I’d lived in the flat outside the hostel. He disappeared back inside the Monkey bar and Bob who was dressed entirely in white came outside. Bob walked down the road, then back up the road, then back down the road and then back up and into the bar. I wasn’t going to follow him. I sat with my head in my hands until the Cathedral clock chimed twelve times. There became a flurry of people who ran down Northgate completely naked and one such young man stopped and starred at me and shouted “Happy New Year!” There were fireworks lighting the night sky and the loud bangs of explosions that could be heard from near and afar and before they reached climax I left for my cold flat alone.


The following day I walked up Northgate and when I approached the Monkey bar I could see through the glass windows and I saw there was a painting-collage of Bob’s hung on the wall. I half opened the door and leaned my head inside to peer at the painting. I could intuit that it would be about me in some capacity or another and I resolved to come back later in the early evening after I’d bathed and changed clothing and I would buy a half of lager and sit in front of the design, which I did. I sat in front of the art three times over the year and it wasn’t until the last time that I really got the message.


In the image there were three figures to the right hand side, there was one person to the left, separated from the three by a fish. Inside the lone individual was the number 4 which was my flat number reproduced several times. To the figure’s right were the words, “Don’t die, JUST yet”. There were photographs taken from Bizarre magazine of corpses in coffins with crosses painted over the coffins. “The GUARDIAN” was written over the three figures, and the words BIG STAR upside down in newspaper print. The word “UP” in an arrow pointing downwards and at the far left a figure with an arrow for a head that represented Bob, the words “I’m Not Interested” running down the side of the board which was largely painted in white. There was a bold blue-lined stripe next to the singular individual. It was when I saw the corpses that I was hit by a pang of fright and I knocked my bottle of lager over the table.


The artwork in a public place caused me concern. It affected my mood state, my equilibrium balance, and reasoning. It seemed a heavy burden to carry around, and was often on the back of my mind, particularly when I walked through the city centre. The artwork was on the wall of Monkey for a full year and a half and the very night that it came down I was walking past the bar as Russ and Bob were loading the artwork into the back of a transit van. I was hard-staring at the two of them, they knew I was there, but they refused to look me in the eyes.


In the early autumn of 2001 I complained to my local GP at Trinity Medical Centre that I had a constant headache and that I was tired of being chronically fatigued. I’d made similar complaints since I was 14 years of age. I’d had a series of tests, but never any conclusion or treatment for whatever it was that was fighting against me. In my living room, I had taken to performing headstands and sleeping on a night with powerful magnets behind my head as a radical attempt at self-treatment. The doctor who was a German man by the name of Dada said he would book me an appointment with a psychiatrist who visits the practice on a Thursday morning. “A psychiatrist!” I exclaimed. The doctor said, “Well, you’re describing a head problem and I’m not a specialist in the head”. An appointment was booked for me and on the second time after rebooking I actually showed. The psychiatrist kept me waiting for twenty minutes to show me that she was in charge and I was invited in to her consultation room to talk, but as it turned out, I didn’t address my actual medical complaints at all, and I instead gave myself a much larger headache than what had led me to see her in the first place.    


I talked about the weird coincidences that I seemed to be generating through imagistic designs. She seemed a hard-nosed rationalist and no nonsense sceptic, but I told her how I’d glued a number 4 onto the stereo before receiving a letter through the door four days later to alert me that I would be moving into the number 4. I told her about the bee in the collage and how the grandest bee I’d ever seen had somehow emerged in my concealed room. I told her about the bat on the side of the TV-set and how within a matter of hours a bat’s wing had clipped me in the face. I spoke about the trout I’d glued to the stereo with the word focus wrapped around the body of the fish and of how Mr Scruff had created a song on his album called “Fish” with a chorus of “I wish I could get my fish”, I said that the song mentioned a trout, “In and out like a trout”, it seemed uncanny. I told her about David Bowie, the Seven, and Thursday’s Child, and I told her about the coincidences of the blue lines. I had painted blue-lines on my bedroom wall and been given several T-shirts, shirts, and jumpers. An entirely independent person who had never even seen the bedroom wall had given me a blue-lined belt. I said to the doctor, “Blue Lines shatters the temple”. I’d previously made this claim six months earlier which was met with an aghast response.


During the week running up to the appointment I had been reading Naomi Klein’s No Logo, and the little red book by Crowley which was on my bedside table, from this book I quoted, “Hail ye twin warriors about the pillars of the world! Your time is now at hand”.


I’d said that as I’ve been able to predict so much stuff through imagery that has had synchronistic effects, I should be able to predict an event without the artistry of imagery. “It’s the mind that does it”. I believed the art and design may be a key that opened an internal door and that some brains may be able to have quantum non-local correlation effects, or maybe it was some form of precognition, for some unknown reason, the brain could see ahead, beyond the here and now, I wasn’t sure.


The prediction that I gave her was that a building will come down in New York City, it will happen in five days hence. I talked some more and then said, it will be an uprising by the East, against the West, and at that juncture the doctor loudly exclaimed, “HA!”


I said, “You see, even you as an intellectual doctor can’t see that an event of such magnitude seems likely to happen so that when it does, at the very least you’ll be able to see that I have a point?” I scrambled around in my mind for further detail as to how this building could come down and I said out loud, “It won’t be a plane that hits a building,” but as I spoke the words I could see a plane striking a building and I said, “Wait! Scratch that! It will be a plane that hits the building!” The doctor was shaking her head, because I’d changed my mind, and I said, “C’mon, give me a chance. I’ve never made a verbal prediction before, it’s always imagery”.


At one point she’d seemed resistant and I said, “What if I get it correct, what if I can do this, what if I’m telling the truth?!” and I re-emphasised the whole claim several times so she couldn’t forget. “It will happen in five days’ time”.


Before I left, the doctor offered to prescribe me with an anti-psychotic medication and I felt wounded by this evaluation and I said, “You think I’m psychotic?” and she didn’t answer, but looked down at her prescription pad. Earlier in the session I’d suggested that a female doctor wouldn’t have so much power in the system, it was a male hierarchy, and as I approached the door she said, “I’ll be working very closely with Dr Dada on your case” and I said, “Okay,” she said, “I’ll see you again in three weeks from today and then we can find out who you really are”. This frightened me, because I’d given her all of my best lines, and I said “goodbye” and left the building.


Outside in the parking lot I felt such a dreadful gloom, why have I said such a thing to a doctor, a psychiatrist of all people? I scanned my mind and memory for knowledge of forthcoming events that would happen in five days’ time and I knew nothing at all, I had no information at all, there was no data cache of future memories to draw on and I thought it stupid that I had sat down in a consultation room and become Moses for an hour.


I walked down Ings Road to the new industrial park to see if I could catch a movie at the Cineworld complex and there was an early afternoon screening of Moulin Rouge starting in an hours’ time. I set off to the nearest newsagents and on my way was hassled by four policemen who had jumped out of the back of a Black Maria. They had said there was a known shoplifter in the area and I pointed to the security guard outside B&Q and said “You need to talk to this clown about wasting police time”. The security guard had some kind of nervous disorder and was convinced my name was Max. The police radioed Wood Street station and they were told that there was nothing on me, and the sergeant said, “Well, I‘ve never seen you before”, and they drove off and I bought cigarettes from Westgate and I walked back around to the cinema. I put my troubling conversation with the doctor to one side and became absorbed and uplifted by the movie.  


Five days later I was walking through the Riding’s centre and I could see a horseshoe shape of people standing in front of the shop window of Martin Dawes which sold electrical appliances, and the people were watching the television screens, and before I could see the screens I had a kinesic response of in some sense knowing. Then I could see that the screens were showing a building in New York City that was coming down and I thought about walking straight past the people without stopping, but instead I paused for thirty seconds and stood with the crowd and I watched the images. I soon forgot whatever it was I thought I had known.


Around ten days after the event I was having a bath and I languorously soaked in the tub for half-an-hour. I had poems and philosophies blu-tacked to my walls and I liked to read them and look at the image of the tiger peering through jungle foliage that was printed vividly into a large towel I had hung over a metal rail. I got out of the bath and lightly dried my body and hair and when I opened the bathroom door I could see that down at the bottom of the staircase was a leaflet for the Conservative Party which had been posted through my letterbox. Face-up the blue leaflet read, “WHAT IF”, and immediately I was triggered. What if I get it correct, what if I can do this, what if I’m telling the truth? and I was walking across my landing towelling my hair dry as I was repeating this phrase to myself and I stopped still in the living room of my flat and I fanned the five fingers of my right hand in front of me, more as a gesture of quickly counting, because I already knew that Thursday to Tuesday had been five days and I exclaimed, “Oh, my God!”


On the morning of my next appointment I had a waking morning dream that Wez and Sian had broken into my flat and I woke up, dressed, brushed my teeth and left the flat to walk down Kirkgate to the medical centre. I was thinking about playing what seems like a really immature game with the doctor, a kind of, I told you so game. I got to the end of College Grove Road Wez and Sian appeared from out of the subway by Light Waves and I walked past them without acknowledgment, down the steps, under the subway, across the parking lot and I was bothered by the dream I’d had and I remembered an account written by Dr Jung of how a mountain climber that he’d known had dreamed of falling off a mountain and then the following week had gone climbing and fallen off and how he’d knocked another climber off who was climbing beneath him and how both of them had died. I turned around and walked back to the flat and when it came into view I could see that Wez was pushing some long thin steel instrument into the keyhole of my door, it looked like it was maybe a bandsaw and Sian was on the lookout and she was bobbing up and down with arms bent into fists at either side of her and she looked like she was training to be a skier. When they both saw me Wez ran off down College Road and Sian ran to the other side of the road and walked toward where the subway was. I was staring at her, she was scrunching her eyes and pouting.


I sat in my red leather chair and manned the fort all day and I never saw the doctor again.     

© 2018 Jostein Kasse

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Added on November 22, 2018
Last Updated on November 22, 2018
Tags: Massive Attack, David Bowie, Pop Culture, Blue Lines, Hours, Keep it Unreal


Jostein Kasse
Jostein Kasse

United Kingdom

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