Here she comes.
I know it’s rude to stare, but I just can’t help it. Without even looking I’d have know it was her, just by the way the floor trembled, by her slight wheezing, by the Jurassic Park ripples in my tea.
Batley is a big girl, but not in a fun kind of way. She’s big in a ‘no-neck-’ kind of way. She’s eaten so much her entire topography has changed, her borders stretching into unfathomable regions where the gut smothers the genitals, where side-rolls make her ams stick out at forty five degrees, where her front-rolls make her look like she’s wearing three giant bras.
To be fair, she’s a product of her upbringing. Not just her parents but an entire cross section of our society, or more accurately, my society. It might be a northern thing.
Leeds tries so hard to be Nouveau, with it’s sandblasted fascias and Harvey Nichols, it’s Trinity Arcade and cocktail hours, but the reality of Leeds is deep fried and soaked in booze. There’s a lot of shit that still get’s eaten here, a lot of pints supped. For every Gourmet Burger Kitchen there’s a dozen Undiscerning Burger Vans, for each cocktail hour there are twenty three hours of discount piss. You can’t hide centuries of factories and graft behind a thin veneer of chrome and glass – I’m not that easily fooled.
Batley’s family are all the same shape – thick set, short legged, humanity cultured in a barrel and tipped out to waddle the earth. I have honestly got no idea why natural selection chose such an ungainly form and decided to go with it. Darwin would probably take one look and burn his book.
And here she comes.
Usually I’d try to hide under my desk or run for the toilets, but today she’s got me cornered. Man, Batley can talk. She’ll talk when no-one is listening, just talk into thin air and hope her words drift into some poor unsuspecting ear. I know that her size, her talking, are all probably a product of some deep seated unhappiness but what am I supposed to do? We’re all unhappy. No-one is giving me any free hugs.
And she’s here.
“I wanted to ask yer summat. You know a bit about tar ooze, don’t yer?”
“Yeah. Tar ooze. You’ve got some tar ooze, yeah?”
“No, Batley. I’ve not got any tar ooze. I’m sorry, but what the fuck is tar ooze?”
“HA HA HA HA! Not ‘tar ooze’, you daft knob! TAROOZE!”
I’m baffled. I spend quite a lot of the day baffled, as it happens.
“Tell you what, Batley. Describe what tarooze look like, then we might get somewhere.”
“Tarooze! You know, like skulls and daggers and snakes and shit, what you get on your arm or your chest or your head. Tarooze.”
“Tattoos. You mean tattoos.”
“That’s warra said! Tarooze!”
“Okay, I’m with you know. Look, I don’t know that much about tattoos, to be honest…”
“You’ve got some though, ain’t yer? You’ve got a few tarooze?”
“Yeah, Batley, I’ve got a watch too but I don’t know how to build one.”
“What evs, Luci. Listen. My sister Sandra woz going out wi’ Mark, y’know Mark?”
“I don’t think so, but go on.”
“Y’know Mark, worked on the folders then the enclosers then got sacked for punching Terry and calling him a cunt?”
“That Mark. Right, I’m with you.”
“Well, any road, Sandra woz seeing Mark but Mark went out wi’ Darren off the cutters into Leeds one time and fucked a bitch called Chloe what he met in Witherspoons and Sandra found out coz Darren told his girlfriend Tracy that Mark had fucked this bitch Chloe and Tracy is mates with this lass Liv and this lass Liv is mates with our Sandra so this lass Liv asked our Sandra on Facebook if the Mark who went out wi’ Darren to Leeds one night and fucked this bitch called Chloe was the same Mark who Sandra was going out wi’ and it turned out it woz so Mark and Sandra had a right barney and she kicked him out and she went round and punched this lass Liv for being a right shit stirring little bitch and they’re not mates no more.”
I started feeling a strange pain above my right eye. “Ok. And what has this got to do with tattoos, Batley?”
“Well Mark came round to our Sandra’s one time last week an’ said he were sorry an’ sang her ‘I Want yer Back’ by Take That an’ that’s her favourite song so she gev in and took him back an’ they had a fuck right there on the couch an’ they said they’d be together for ever an’ ever an’ ever so next day our Sandra went off to Pen ‘n’ Ink Tarooze in Armley an’ got Mark’s name taroo’d onto t’back of ‘er neck in big letters wi’ stars all round, proper tasteful like.”
“I see. Tasteful.”
“But it turns out that while Mark were split up wi’ our Sandra he were fuckin’ this lass Liv AND that bitch called Chloe what he met in Witherspoons that time so our Sandra were proper gutted and kicked out Mark again and went round and gave this lass Liv another knacking and she said if she ever met that bitch called Chloe she’d fucking proper kill her.”
“Right. So I’m guessing Sandra wants to get the tattoo on her neck covered up.”
“And you’re asking if I know a place that can do it, right?”
“Yeah. Sandra went back to Pen ‘n’ Ink Tarooze and said she wanted ‘er money back and for ‘em to get shut of the taroo but Baz at Pen ‘n’ Ink sez it weren’t that simple so Sandra kicked off and Baz had to chuck ‘er out and now she’s barred from there and stuck wi’ th name of a right cheatin’ cunt all along the back of ‘er neck so I sez I know a bloke at work oo knows all about tarooze and I sez you might know a place that’ll cover it up, like.”
“Enough. I’ll see what I can do.”
I tapped the keyboard, found a local tattoo parlour that did cover up work, gave her the address and number. She looked chuffed.
“Ta Luci. I’ll…”
“Please. No more. Just let me know how she gets on.”
Batley waddled off. A laid my head on my desk and closed my eyes and dreamed of a large Bloody Mary.
A week later.
Once more the earth moves, the tea trembles, the air wheezes.
“Hello Batley. How did your sister get on with her tattoo of… what was it again?”
“That cheating cunt Mark.”
“That was it. So how did it go? Did she get it covered up?”
“Go on then.”
“She went to that place that yer found on tinternet that said it were right good at coverup tarooze an’ I went wi’ ‘er so we went in and she shows the bloke the taroo and he says ‘no problem’ an’ says ‘what d’yer want’ and we says ‘what have yer got?’ an he says ‘whatever yer want’ so we says, ‘we’ll leave it up t’ you’ so he shrugs an’ shows us these designs an’ they’re all proper lush so we chooses one an we say, ‘how much?’ an’ he tells us an’ we say ‘HOW FUCKIN’ MUCH??’ so he says ‘it’s t’ goin’ rate’ and we says ‘at that price we will be fuckin’ goin’, and we ask him what’s cheapest and he says cheapest thing he does is one letter for a fiver, so we says we got fifteen quid so he rolls his fucking eyes an’ says we can get three letters for that so we gets three letters.”
“Three letters? How the fuck can you cover up a four letter word like ‘MARK’ with three letters?”
“She didn’t cover it up. She just added ‘em on.”
“I’m sorry, Batley. You’ve lost me. She added three letters? What three letters?”
“She got a ‘P’ an ‘R’ and an ‘I’ tarooed in front o’ MARK.”
“You’re kidding. She didn’t.”
“She did. It were a bargain, which is sort of ironic, innit?”
“I suppose it is. Will you go now, Batley? I need another little lie down.”
“Awright. See ya, Luci.”
I lay my head on my desk, and it dawns on me that this name, this brand, truly epitomizes the spirit of modern Leeds – this once mighty textile trading city – and now that name proudly sits on the fat neck of a jilted girl, and that name will last longer than fifteen quid’s worth of shabby, sweatshop tat from their own overstacked shelves, their groaning rails.
In a way, Sandra really had got a bargain.