Write us a little something as we drive, Peter says. I think he means with a pen and paper, but then he is turned around and stretching off somewhere into the back of the old camper van. I watch the road as the van moves on with no driver, Peter's swollen feet in flipflops on the pedals. Before re-taking the wheel he dumps an old typewriter down into my lap.
"What the fuck?" I say, staring at it in terror. "I've never used a typewriter."
"Whaa? Never used a typewriter? Every writer needs a typewriter!"
"Not this one," I say. "But I'll give it a bash, as long as it doesn't fucking come to life on me."
"Paper," Peter says to Katia who is sat in the back.
"We don't have any."
Peter turns, looks around and points. "Rip a page outta that."
I hear a page being torn out from some book. An aged yellowed leaf is handed through to Peter. Peter is smoking and driving and is now also feeding the paper into the typewriter. When he's done he lifts the front cover and redresses the ink spools, winds them back some. Then he adjusts the carriage and sends it sliding along with a rattle to a fresh paragraph. A little bell tinkles. I briefly consider Peter's sanity and prepare to type. I sincerely hope he is not sane. Sane drivers are just about more dangerous than any others – especially in France; especially in the rain. With the loaded typewriter sat on my lap I loosen my fingers and concentrate over how to start this thing. I decide to open up with a line that we could both relate to – travelling and writing. I type the opening letter of the opening word and four typebars spring forward and jam together. Without taking his eyes off the road Peter's right hand leaves the gearstick, unclogs the bars and knocks them back down into their beds. He must be used to having fools besides him doing that, I think. I tell myself to slow down and type with a little more care. Outside it is raining - plump, healthy splodges from a dirty afternoon sky. The rain soaks the city in seconds. We cross the first of the city's rivers. The water is green and beautiful. "Look how green and beautiful the river is," Peter says. "Waa." I nod. I know those waters very well, better than Peter and they now flow with time and loss and make me sad. Across the bridge lies traffic and the city square. Way up over is the hill. There is a feint mist rising up from its face. We are closed in against the world, condensation around the rim of the windows. Peter wants me to write and so I write. I stare at the typewriter and I look at the page and I am not thinking of anything but the words which come. In my concentration Peter disappears and Katia disappears and the van disappears. The city and all its tragedy and filth snakes right into my soul. I feel a familiar shade of darkness descend upon me. The rain lashes down outside. I am alone; we are all alone. I take a drag of my cigarette and I write...
* * *
Peter only wanted a paragraph. Something to capture that small moment. He collects mementoes and makes them. He reads what I have written. "You must read it," he says. "I'll accompany you and Katia will record." I nod. In an old clapped out Citroen Challenger camper van, in the centre of Lyon, illegally parked, Peter climbs over into the back and straps on a guitar. Katia takes up her phone and records, the opening close up of the drizzle on the windowscreen directed by Peter. I set my small text up on the dash and set the voice recorder on my phone. Peter plays his unmistakeable scratchy jangle of notes. I hear his nails slap down the strings and rap the body of his guitar as he strums. I stare out into the rain and await my cue.
We write as we go, paper in the ready and loaded. Lyon cries her heart out through the middle of summer. Up on the hill there's a creeping sadness. People are lonely; we're all lonely – and the loneliest man of them all awaits us. We drive and we drive and it just goes on. Peter says that sometimes it is better to hoot and steam through rather than to stop. It's true. Sometimes to stop is to never be able to start again. God, I hope I never stop. Death terrifies me still. There are three people as I write and we all want to live with a passion. It rains and the city smells like an old ulcerated dog has just crept by and is off some place to die. The French rain streams down the gutter and takes our Gauloises cigerette ends wtth it. The Bureau de Change will save our souls today but God only knows for how much longer. Just keep going, Peter says. This is and always was our mantra. We drive on through the rain, going nowhere very fast.
* * *
Peter sings an improvised tune using the title of my book as his inspiration as Katia de Vidas recites some text from The Body of Ewan Salt. Lyon, Rue de Cuire (Queer Street!) .
Thanks as ever for reading/watching this one of audio/visual post. A new Memoires text will be put up very soon... Shane. X