128. The power of the great (II)
As I walked back from the pub one day, I bumped into the former Royal Marine who lived in the room next to me; he had given up the Marines to become a lawyer—to lie. He was standing outside a fashionable bar when he hailed me. I did not know him so well, except the usual way a man gets to know a man in a house of multiple occupation, when your neighbour is fucking his girl next to your wall and you have to put toilet paper in your ears to shut it out. His girlfriend was some little Eastern European, the type so common in London; they are all the same, blossoming alcoholics with a gay boypal and endless complaints about their racist grandma back home. These girls are always quick to complain about the English, of course; but they are not racist like Grandma and her little speeches about the blacks. Oh no.
Anyway, when I watched her leave in the mornings and when I listened to the Marine talk about her I just knew it was going end badly. She would run off with all his money and he would sulk, resentfully, in some suburban town while she pissed it away. Yeah, I could see that. He was a really together guy—not like me—he could, even now, take you apart. “I suppose they train you to stop on command,” I said to him once. “No, not really,” he said, “once you go you just…go.” You just go. Tick-tock soldiers. He was all calculation—“squared away”, as they say in American films. He had it all planned out: the job as a provincial solicitor and the new-build suburban home.
So, at first, I thought the girl had finally run off to go and play with all the thousands upon thousands of London Agnieszkas—gone to tell some gay about her racist grandma. But it was not so. The story came out; he had downed five or six pints and was a bit red-eyed. I am not a big drinker, never have been; people think I am, because I make an unusual effort to be honest—mostly I am sober, or drunk on God. It turned out his brother was in some legal mess; he was an embezzler. “We got silk, we got silk,” he kept saying. Legal slang, “a silk” is a barrister—a senior type of lawyer in England, the Porsche of lawyers, the guy who can smooth shit over without resort to prison.
It all turned on blood, like everything. The brother’s wife was Indian. “She’ll leave him,” he said, “her family never like him, they say she married the blue-eyed devil.” Let us refrain from criticising our sainted racist grandmothers for a moment, because, for all your racial sentimentalism, this is what it comes down to; not brotherhood, just the blue-eyed devil. The wife drove the brother to crime, supposedly, she was the sort to book one holiday and then book another while she was posting about the first on Instagram; she was, in other words, a woman.
The blood: the Marine and his brother came up from some council estate, and, in the end, the blood came out; the brother was a pikey thief, just scum—just like the silk would expect. And the other brother? Perhaps he was the good one, it works by opposites.
He told me about a friend who left the Marines and became a gamekeeper in Scotland. The helicopter would drop him off in the Highlands and he would stalk excess deer for months on end. Of course, it was no life, said my Marine; his eyes set on some dismal suburban home in some post-industrial city, with a multiplex and Pizza Express nearby. The schools are great here. To me, it seemed a helicopter gamekeeper was the life and what he should have been doing, so far as the blood goes—though we don’t care much for blood, do we?