You could have a big dipper   

My Friends Share Secrets by Stuart Lowe



As Carl waited for the coffee with his name on it to be slung his way, he considered the croissants. Jewelled with sugar, they stuck together like lobsters in a tank. To Carl they were foul, poison drenched and unfit for consumption. When the coffee arrived, he offered his card and ordered one.


Match: Coffee Fan

Match: Junk Food


Coffee circled the dense pastry in his stomach, mingling with the acid and washing over it as Carl cycled towards Holborn. He felt sick, he told himself it was the food. Headphones in his ears carried the directions from his phone like secrets. Hot fumes from the farting buses roiled the air and choked his throat. He placed a hand on the thrumming side of one at the traffic light to remind him how close it was, leaving a print on the grubby film poster it carried. The interview was five minutes away, it began in three.


Match: Cycling, Exercise Fan

Match: Cycling, Central London, Risk of Accident


Lance Armstrong? Lance Armstrong? How, when they ask you for an example of your leadership hero, do you pick Lance Armstrong, Carl wondered. Others from the group interview were still inside, still invited, none of them had invoked Lance. He couldn’t go home now to downward glances, not yet. Instead, Carl ambled down to Tottenham Court Road in search of distraction. Passing a cinema, he glanced at films showing, experiencing a dim recollection at one of the names.


Darkness concealed the other patrons and Carl felt some tension in his shoulders dissipate. He mindlessly took in the large popcorn he’d brought as the adverts played, grateful for the deliverance from the Oxford Street crowds and temptations - I deserve it, he’d thought.


Match: Movie Fan

Match: Low Income, Impulsive Spending


The film left no imprint on his thoughts, as Carl approached Holborn, it slipped from his mind, falling away to reveal an obelisk shaped monument to work. That was the third interview in four months, yet more than two hundred copies of his CVs were fluttering around the internet, briefly landing in inboxes before being brushed away like litter.


Carl instinctively knew something was wrong as he approached his bike. Its shape was all wrong. He moved slower, as if pushing through the barrier to acceptance. Both wheels and the seat had gone, now it slumped against the rack like a corpse.


He tried two underground stops before being let on at the third, “No bikes are allowed.” Carl wondered when a bike ceased to be a bike, how many parts did it have to lose before it became something else? How many parts did he have to lose before he became something else? The meandering back and forth was exhausting. An internet search for help with bike recovery had revealed nothing. A few seats away, a man began to clip his fingernails, sending the cuttings away like shrapnel.


Match: Bicycle Repair


A nod from his dressing gown clad flatmate greeted Carl as he opened the front door. His flatmate held a plate with a steaming samosa, recently microwaved and collapsing.


“We’re watching a film if you fancy?”

“Think I better head to bed.”

“Fair enough… You trying to go faster?”

“What?”

“The bike... Looks like you’ve been streamlining it.”

“Yeah, something like that.”

“Interview good?”

“Not bad, I’ll find out next week.”

“Nice, you good for rent this month?”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah? I’ve got you though, remember that.”


The samosa was raised in salute and the flatmate disappeared. Carl trudged upstairs and placed the remains of the bike in the corner of his room. Light coming through the window caught it and further contorted its outline in shadow. Carl flung a blanket over it.


Carl’s bedroom was positioned above the living room, above the sounds of the thriller being played loudly below. Sleep wasn’t forthcoming. He had started the day with hope endowed by possibility, he’d ended it without any wheels for his bike. Carl reached for his phone.


Call, Match, Call, Match


He scrolled through the sports pages and was confronted with an ad for a new bike, one he couldn’t afford. A persistent ache in his stomach, mirrored in the centre of his forehead suggested he’d eaten too much sugar and failed to drink enough that day. Another ad, this time for diet supplements.


Call, Match, Call, Match


Finally, with the film entering its denouement below, Carl checked his emails. No responses to any he’d sent. Boredom saw him click on the promotions folder. “Payday Loans, See How Much You Can Get In Just Ten Minutes.” Downstairs, the credits were rolling.


Call, Match, Call, Match



Stuart Lowe (He/Him) lives in North London with his cat. When not reading, writing, or watching documentaries he later forgets, he can be found enthusiastically cooking. Twitter: @stuartlowe46

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