Love, sex and interminable pop-culture references

Category: Recollections (Page 1 of 7)

ILB recalls moments from his past, vaguely related to love, sex, or whatever else

The Amorous Milk

Some people call me the milkman because I always deliver pain.
Others think it’s because I’m a renegade milkman.
But the real reason they call me the milkman is…
I carry a bottle of milk with me.

It was seven-thirty post-meridian and I was just standing outside the Zoroastrian Centre on Edgware Road when I got a text.

It wasn’t full of doom and gloom, but then again, it wasn’t overly exciting, either. Alicia had run out of milk and wanted me to pick some up on the way to her flat. There was an M&S on the road, so it wouldn’t be difficult. Simple task, of course, and nothing unusual. I’m always buying milk. How would I be able to drink my tea otherwise?

But this made me unreasonably excited.

The relationship between Alicia and I was wonderfully uncomplicated. We would meet at her house (often on my way back from work); we would talk and eat; we would flirt and eventually have sex. We would sleep, spoon, maybe have sex again in the morning, and then we would leave for our respective lives. There were, of course, variations on this theme: on our first night together we watched Moulin Rouge! beforehand; on our second, she randomly drummed the main beat from Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo on my stomach. But the general idea was the same.

Image from Disney's "Cinderella" (1950) showing a magic spell. The magic looks a bit like jizz.
Neither Cinderella or the Fairy Godmother look like Alicia. Cinderella’s hair here is similar to hers, though.

What made this simple request special was that this was the first time she had ever asked me to do anything domestic. Maybe neither of us had ever considered this. I was her lover, not her maid; I offered to help her wash up after dinner, but she had consistently refused. I occasionally went to the fridge to get chilled water for immediately after sex. Once I put some stuff in the bin. But that was about it.

Here, I had an actual errand. Go to the shop. Buy some milk. Bring it with me to her flat, so I could have tea with her before sex, also with her. I’d never had to buy milk in any sort of relationship before. Rebecca’s mum always had a supply available and Louise preferred lemonade (although she also had some for me when I requested coffee).

Is this what being a husband is like? I wondered, as I stepped into the warm light of M&S (noting the contrast with the Harrow darkness outside). Providing milk to your lady with the promise of hot sex afterwards? Calm down, ILB. You’re overthinking things again. Just turn up with milk and a penis and that’s all she’s really expecting.

I chose semi-skimmed, paid and set off down the hill to Alicia’s flat. As usual, she opened the door wearing a nice dress and a smile. I nervously, but with an air of utter confidence, presented her with a bottle of milk in lieu of a hello. She smiled, gave me a kiss on the cheek, and beckoned me inside.

We had a lot of sex that night.

This was preceded by some apple crumble she had made with custard. I don’t like apple crumble or custard, but I was very good at pretending. Plus, I had tea to drink to get rid of the taste.

With milk.


The first Nite Owl runs an autorepair shop. The first Silk Spectre is dying in a California rest resort. Dollar Bill got his cape stuck in a revolving door where he got gunned down. Silhouette… murdered. Mothman is in an asylum in Maine.

rorschach’s journal

It’s after nine in the evening and pizza has just been delivered. Apparently, this was a big part of the university lifestyle that I never got to lead. Three years up in Nottingham and pizza delivery only occurred to me once or twice. Here in Oxford, it happened after every essay was completed.

But they wrote more essays than I did, so.

This is the last communal pizza they will share in this flat. I’m an extra piece – an additional complication that they hadn’t factored in. To whit, although I’m sharing in the pizza, I’m trying to prove myself useful by getting a moth out of the window. The moth is winning this epic struggle.

“How much longer are you staying here, anyway?” I ask as I attempt an arabesque in order to find the moth behind a cupboard. She flies away and I inujre my leg.
“We have to stay for a certain amount of time,” says E, “or we don’t graduate. Very few of us actually do that time, but we have to stay for…”

At which point the girl who nobody likes walks in. She exchanges a sour look with E, the Seamstress and the moth. I may as well not exist at this point.

There is a very long pause. Without a word, she crosses the floor, exits into her room and closes the door.

Everyone breathes out. I attempt to cup the moth in my hands; she escapes and I only succeed in slamming my hand against the wall.

“What was all that about?”
“We don’t know what to do with her,” says the Seamstress darkly. “It’s been long enough and I’ve no idea exactly how to repay her for…”

I don’t exactly know what they need to repay her for. It remains unsaid. I notice the moth hovering around a light; I try to vault over a pouffe to get some leverage, but I trip over it and fall. I continue the conversation as if I’m styling it out.

“I’m not a fan of the concept of revenge,” I say, finally taking a bit of pizza. “But there are things you can do to make her feel a little uncomfortable.”
“Play music,” suggested E, “really loud. Something she doesn’t like.”
“Maybe just leave the moth in here,” said the Seamstress, “seeing as how ILB can’t get her out.”
“Go into your rooms,” I said, “and pretend to have really loud sex. and she’ll get jealous.”

They both laugh at this, although there’s something in the laughter which shows they’re aware that we have, in fact, spent quite a large chunk of the day doing just that. To save my blushes, I hop across the room to open a large window on which the moth is now resting. I even try to coax her out. She’s having none of my bullshit.

The evening is filled quite pleasantly with pizza, graduation discussion and free-flowing conversation. This, clearly, was the university experience I missed out on; I may have done some interesting things in my time, but here I feel much more comfortable.

E eventually says she has to go to bed, but we all know she’s just wanting to leave us alone. With an empty pizza box discarded on the side table, we stand there in silence, looking at each other, for a few very heavy seconds.

The moth flies in between us at one point.

We retreat into her room. Clothes end up on the floor. A condom wrapper joins them soon enough.

The rest of the night is full of kisses and orgasms.

But I’m aware, at the back of my mind, that we are never truly alone.


Revelations: IILLBB

Two similar-looking faces representing ILBs 1 and 2.

ILB wakes up in bed with ILB. Briefly, they look at each other, an uneasy grin unfurling on each face. Neither of them know what they have done, or how long for.

“Time to start my day,” says ILB-1. “Want some coffee? I’ll go downstairs to get it.”
“No need,” says ILB-2. “The kitchen’s on this level.”
Mahar!” calls ILB-1’s dad. “I’m making tea; do you want any?”
“Thanks,” chorus both ILBs at the same time.

ILB and ILB take their seats at the computer. It’s time to write their blog post, which is a simple routine: ILB-1 opens Blogger, gets a compose window open and copy-pastes the HTML in first before writing. He had an idea in his head last night and this is a way to get it down. ILB-2 opens his self-hosted WordPress compose window. He doesn’t have any ideas; he’ll probably write any old shit and hope it works.

ILB-1 will be going to host a session at Eroticon about how not to do that.

Both ILBs click the publish button at the same time and cross-post to social media: ILB-1 to Twitter; ILB-2 to 𝕏 and Mastodon and Bluesky. Immediately after this they both open their blogrolls, one blog at a time via multiple tabs. ILB-1 is still impressed that Mozilla Firefox will do this. ILB-2 would have been upset if Google Chrome didn’t.

ILB-1 reads through a succession of very sexy blogs by very sexy people. The first ones he opens are by Blacksilk and Lady Pandorah. Each of them has written something new and he devours every word. He also checks on Lace Stockings and Silverarcheress. LucyBoots may have some new porn she likes. Bitchy Jones is still hitting people with stuff. Leah is busily laying London.

He finishes by reading the blog belonging to the girl he has a crush on. He knows where she is and how best to get there, but it’s only a dream, he tells himself. He’s never going to get to have sex with her.

ILB-2 spools through a succession of very sexy blogs by very sexy people. He opens each of them in alphabetical order and checks quickly. Most of them haven’t been updated in a while and he clicks off the page impatiently. GOTN, Emma and Robyn usually come through with something new. He still considers himself part of something, but he isn’t entirely sure what that something is.

ILB-1 talks about how connected he feels. ILB-2 fears that he is becoming increasingly alienated. Put together, these average out to numb. That’s a very good way to describe the life of an ILB.

ILB-1 reaches over to ILB-2 and takes his hand.

“Don’t forget what I’ve done,” he says softly. “However long this lasts… however long we last… nothing is not worthwhile. Years down the line, you will always remember this. And I’m sure there’s more to come for me, as well.”
ILB-2 nods mutely. “There is,” he whispers, almost conspiratorially. “It’s not all good, but the good stuff is very, very good indeed…”

They look at each other for a while, heart to heart but ten miles apart.

Later in the day they both get 40 minutes to themselves and decide to wank. They both have the same method, wrapping one finger and thumb around their shaft and rubbing the foreskin back and forth with their right hand. The left hand operates the computer, pulling up whichever scene of soft porn they can think of at the time.

They both orgasm at the same time to the same scene.

And connect.

Pink Off

“Everyone gets one page,” said Lightsinthesky. “You get one page; you can write whatever you want. Or draw something. But you only get one… pink and jeans! Pink and jeans! What is it with pink and jeans?! …page.”
“What if you finish your notebook?” I asked innocently. “Do you get another page in the second one?”
“I haven’t thought about…”
“Wait. What was that about pink and jeans?”
Pink and jeans? Where?” he half-yelled, suddenly tensing in high alert like a startled meerkat.

I can’t really explain whether it was a 2002 thing or entirely localised around our borough, or even our school. Wearing a pink top paired with blue jeans (and, often, a large belt) had become a thing. As far as I was aware, it wasn’t even a deliberate fashion; it was just… a thing that happened.

I quite liked the look; Lightsinthesky – for whatever reason – hated it.

Being friends with Lightsinthesky came with its certain caveats: he liked to be addressed as “dude”; you could read one of his books but he would have probably drawn a cartoon of you somewhere there; he would invariably become interested in anything with a pulse (and fell in love with someone else every single day); he didn’t make much sense.

And he had his phrases.

Han Solo and Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: A New Hope (1977). Nothing to do with pink and jeans.
It ain’t there. It’s been blown away.

“My God, that woman’s got a huge arse.”
“People will lose body parts.”
“Fluff! Aah-aah! Fluff of the universe!”
“Yes, she is intensely shaggable.”
“Look at her, she’s nice.”
“Totally blown away.”
“Don’t start activating my annoying meter.”
Pink and jeans! Why? Why do they all wear pink and jeans?”

For that, none of us had an answer. There was no reason the girls in our sixth form shouldn’t wear that combination. It wasn’t something the boys wore, even the gay ones – it was a cis girl thing. And, although I didn’t mind it as much as Lightsinthesky did (his vitriol was unfounded), he had a point: wearing pink and jeans was increasing.

Following one particularly amusing lunchtime where I genuinely thought he’d pass out from all the yelling he was doing (as it may as well have been Jeans for Genes Day judging by what we saw), I finally bit the bullet and asked.

“Oh, it’s just easy,” said my unconcerned friend. “Jeans are comfortable and some tops are pink. It’s not deliberate, it’s just a thing that…”
“…thing that happens, yeah. I got it,” I helpfully added, pausing as Lightsinthesky’s latest tirade against the combination of fuchsia and cyan floated through the wall. “It just seems to irritate Lightsinthesky, that’s all.”

There was a pause.

“Of course it does,” she tinkled with a grin. “Why do you think we do it so much?”

A couple of days later I talked him into letting her have a page of his second “book of dude”. Her contribution consisted mostly of drawing of houses, trees, hills, the sun and the text “PINK & JEANS RULES THE WORLD!” in bold black writing.

I don’t think he ever got over it.

As far as I’m concerned, though, I don’t suit blue jeans, but one of the looks I find sexiest is someone wearing jeans on their lower half, with nothing on top at all…


Relaxed? Horny? I’m So Confused!

I don’t know which path you’re taking
If it’s bent or straight
All I know is I’ve found something
That will take me home again

It’s the middle of summer and school is a distant memory. I’m lying on my back in the overgrown field of grass near the local estate that used to belong to a stately home. The home itself is now a café; the grounds are open to everyone. The Sun is high, her heat radiating down onto us. I’m relaxed – more so than I have been in days. Weeks, even.

I’m not a happy person. Recently I’ve been turned down by the one person I ever thought to ask out. Depression comes and goes, seemingly at random. This is a rare moment of calm in the maelstrom of doom and gloom that my life has become.

I am horny, of course. But that’s to be expected. I’m hard nearly all of the time and, since I don’t masturbate, there’s very little way of getting rid of the shameful horn. I don’t think any of them have noticed, although right now I don’t really care. I’m relaxed. That’s all I need.

We have been here for a couple of hours. Earlier on, we listened to a singing competition on the radio VW brought with him, in which various people of our age sang the female verse from Teenage Dirtbag to win a small cash prize. The Floof was discoursing loudly about how attractive her boyfriend was. Most other people were being quiet, but very handsomely so.

“HEY, LOOK!” VW yelled at one point. “I’VE GOT TWO GRASSHOPPERS HAVING SEX ON MY HAND!” (Maybe it was the mention of sex that set me off. I’ve no idea.)

But that was a while ago. We’ve had food and drinks, and we’re now just lazing about on the grass. I’m nearly asleep… and I may well be, were I not so horny. There’s a dull thud emanating from the throb of my hardness, echoing through my body in time with my heartbeat. I can practically hear it reverberating through the dry grass I’m lying on… the soil below… the planet.

Relaxed. Horny.

And none of the people around me have any idea.

If I could have sex now, I think – and not for the first time – I would. I don’t care what anyone else thinks. I’d have sex here and now, under the heat and in the long grass.

Someone says something at some point and we start to make our way slowly back home while VW talks at some length about DragonBall Z. I’m only half-listening, walking along unsteadily while my erection begins to melt away and I feel more comfortable in the khaki trousers I’ve been wearing.

I get home, cool off and have a long, cold drink. I lie back on the little sofa in my room and take a few deep, steadying breaths…

…and, within a few minutes, I’m hard again.


From years 7 to 10, under the leading light of our Head of Music, Einstein, Music Man and I would spend Wednesday lunchtimes and Thursday afternoons in Jazz Band rehearsals.

Jazz band was a bit of an odd duck. We were a school that didn’t have an orchestra. Choir – although I had been the sole boy chorister in primary school – was an option I didn’t plump for, and although strings group came and went (although I was in every incarnation of the same), jazz band had more staying power.

There were more of us in jazz band, basically.

Okay, so, Big Spender is a really sleazy song, so try to play in a… I don’t know, think… think Michael Portillo.

music teacher

For all the work we did, however, it was quite clear that the rest of the school had basically forgotten we existed. Every Christmas we got to sit on the stage, rather than the uncomfortable wooden seats of the local chapel, playing a random assemblage of carols. Put strings group and jazz band together and you had something approaching an orchestra, even if it had at least one member playing pizzicato violin because he’d forgotten his bow and the IT teacher on electric bass.

24 years later and I’ve suddenly realised how sexy that was.

Nobody saw it as sexy at the time. Music was something that nerds did; it wasn’t football or athletics or computing (I was also in the calligraphy club, and the five-member French Internet club, just to prove how uncool I was). It wasn’t even a rock band so it wasn’t great music. We were all enjoying ourselves, but very few other people were enjoying our existence, especially the people who had to walk past out cacophonous renditions in order to get into the maths cupboard.

The thing is, however, that it was sexy.

Nobody saw this at the time, but the ability to play an instrument is a skill. While it may have been abundantly true that nobody wanted to kiss, never mind shag, the gawky violinist in the band that didn’t exist for most of the year, the fact remains that he played the violin, so might be quite skilled with his fingers. Those who fellated reeds before playing may have been accomplished kissers. Drummers would undeniably have a certain amount of rhythm.

And then there’s the fact that it’s music. Everybody likes music. Sneer though they might have done during the year, the faceless mass would still sing along to the carols every December, and rock out to Teenage Dirtbag by the time the sixth form rolled around. Nevertheless, nobody ever thought that anything we were doing was particularly attractive.

I look back at it now and I can’t think of it as anything but.

I went back to playing jazz at university. And, by that point, we were too cool to care…

…but people still failed to notice our existence.


“Do you know what I’m going to do?” she said. “I’m going to spread my legs.”
“That’s a bit early,” I replied. “I thought you were waiting until you were married. Or has that gone out of the window now you’re 16?”

Her boyfriend shifted uncomfortably. There had been plenty of stories about them deliberately not spending time together ‘just in case we have sex’. A year or so later, of course, I had no such qualms. I both admired their steadfastness and was baffled by it in equal measure.

“No, that’s not what I mean,” said the Floof. “I mean I’m going to do it here. Now.”

I looked up into the sky and indicated the summer sun beating down on us. Our picnic had quickly devolved into inane chatter and we were now just killing time before church. Spread legs were a new topic.

“I think people are watching,” I pointed out in mock scandalised tones. “Why don’t you do so in your bedroom tonight instead?”
“No, I want to do it now,” she insisted. “I want to know what it feels like for a boy.”

I rolled my eyes. Zounds, was it this again?

Much as I liked the Floof, she did have some ideas about gender which I found a little outdated. She was, after all, the one who always wanted to hug me, but not when I was crying because ‘boys don’t cry and I don’t know what to do in that situation’. She wrote me a letter once in which she assumed that ‘when we’re young we all think our daddy is the strongest man in the world’. At one point, she also clearly thought I was gay. No reason, she just did.

One of the things that she had brought up – and one I genuinely hadn’t thought about before – was that boys always sit with their legs apart, whereas girls never do. That was the way genders sat, and since she didn’t believe trans or NB people existed, they didn’t get a mention.

As a boy who had, in his own sixteen years of existence, had his legs in all sorts of positions when sitting, I was a little confused by this. In her very long elucidation of the subject she had also mentioned that, the more confident the boy was, the wider apart his legs would get.

Yes, you read that correctly.

The amount of male confidence is in direct correlation to the distance between their knees when in a sitting position.

this is what the floof actually believed

Much as I didn’t agree, once she’d said that, I couldn’t unsee it. While I could get the concept that external genitalia made it slightly more comfortable to sit with one’s legs slightly apart, there were clearly some rowdy boys at school who were keen to show off their manly confidence by taking up as much space as possible. There was one guy in my class who seemingly spent most of his time trying to do an impression of a croquet hoop.

I’m genuinely surprised they didn’t start walking like that, doing the waddle that cowboys in westerns do.

“Anyway,” said the Floof, “boys do it, so I’m going to.”

At which she unsealed her legs, spread them akimbo, and immediately experienced some kind of transcendental experience. Her eyes shone with an immediate realisation of a better world, all the other light in the immediate vicinity dimmed in comparison to her pure radiance, and an exclamation mark appeared in the air above her head.

“Hey!” she trilled. “This is really comfortable! It’s no wonder boys like to sit like this. I’m going to have to do this more often!”
“Not in church, I trust.”
“Well, no, not right in front of the minister. I mean, what would he think?”
“I don’t know. Probably that you’re getting comfortable, I suppose.”

At which point a rounders ball came out of nowhere and hit her right between her thighs.

“AAAAAAAAH! MY FANNY!!!” she yelled, in a way I’m sure her minister would have not approved. “That does it! This might be comfortable, but I’m never opening my legs again!”

But, considering the fact that she later married the boyfriend and now has two children with him, I’m fairly sure she did so… eventually.

Revelations: Unwritten

Unlike pretty much all of my friends, I quite like this song. I’m honestly quite surprised that Molly remembers it. I can’t stand Daniel Bedingfield, but Unwritten by his sister is such an earworm that I’m prepared to give the whole family a pass.

I’m nice like that.


It was a Monday evening and I was headed out to band practice in an hour. By this point, everyone else had moved out of the house and I had the whole building to myself. I’d spent the whole day doing basically nothing but wandering around in circles and listening to my growing collection of MP3s – the last of which was, coincidentally, Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield.

One of my friends had written a damning indictment of the song on his blog at the time, which was probably why I downloaded it.

I also had some porn open. It wasn’t running, of course – Unwritten may be a fun song, but it doesn’t quite sync up with this scene from Virgins of Sherwood Forest – but I’d had it open for a while, the DVD valiantly whizzing in its little USB-connected device.

Natasha Bedingfield in a still from her music video for Unwritten.
Natasha in front of the background scenery from Virgins of Sherwood Forest. Or similar, anyway.

“Feel the rain on your skin…”

I clicked off Windows Media Player when the song had finished and turned my attention back to the porn. Forty-five minutes until I had to go to band. Maybe I had the time to enjoy myself beforehand. Or at least start myself off. I unhooked my trousers, slid my pants off, sat back, curled my fingers comfortably around my shaft, and clicked play.


Band practice went past as it always did – a collection of adequate tunes coupled with me getting almost constant low-level verbal abuse from our musical director – but it had finished. During debrief in the bar afterwards, I excused myself to use the toilet, at which point I discovered that I was still hard. Quite an achievement considering that I had just spent three hours hitting things with sticks and I had had an orgasm shortly before that.

I resolved there and then to try for another orgasm once I got home – hey, it was my house now, I could have as many as I wanted – and was distinctly uncomfortable for the ride back to my side of Nottingham. Just before I got out of the car to follow my dick back up to my bedroom, our band manager asked me to add something to the website.

“Okay I’ll do that I’ll do that tonight I promise look tomorrow okay I love you bye bye!” I said in one breath as I channelled Billy Whizz on my way to the front door. Up the stairs, with my trainers, trousers, pants and T-shirt coming off at various points. Back to my room, computer on, porn back in, same scene, let’s do it again. Again. Again.

Sooooo horny.


Half an hour later and I’d finally managed to clean all the cum off my hand, belly, chest, neck and a bit of the desk that it hit. I was also considering sponging down my chair and going for a shower, but maybe that could wait. I admitted it: I love my porn.

Five minuted later and I was about to shut down my computer and actually go to bed when I realised that I hadn’t done the website update. I could do that. It would take me, what, five minutes? I could even put some music back on while I typed it up…

The first song Windows Media Player opened was the one I’d been listening to when I clicked it off a short eternity ago. Unwritten started again from the beginning, a nice accompaniment to the tappity-tappity-tap of my fingers across the keyboard. I was about to click submit on the web form when I realised that I hadn’t put a title.

What would be a good title for a general update?

“Feel the rain on your skin…” I typed carefully, reasoning that if the band manager didn’t like it (or, come to think of it, if he had an aversion to Natasha Bedingfield), he could always change it).

He never asked, and that post remained in situ for the rest of the website’s existence. The fact that I managed to hide the phrase “I have been watching porn” in the code remained so too.

Maybe that’s why I like this song so much.


Hot, hot, hot…

I wasn’t even aware the evening would be even hotter than the middle of the day. But, then again, this would have been more of a surprise had I not chosen to abandon all shock and awe. By this point I was just going along with it.

In any case, the evening was incredibly hot. All the windows were open, and the door to the back garden too. The distant rumble of the city could be heard, but the sound of the insects enjoying the summer heat was something I felt much more calming.

I could barely move. My own heartbeat was throbbing in my ears and, if I took a steady breath in, I could swear I felt the planet rotating.

Everything was sticky. Hot. Untidy. Heavy, almost. I lay there, eyes closed, sweat beading on my forehead.

Naked, of course.

“I’m assuming you don’t want any more coffee?”
“Mmmmmm…” was all I managed. I hadn’t even been aware she had entered the room until then. (I would have jumped in surprise, but I didn’t have the wherewithal to jump.) “No more coffee, though. Maybe a cold drink.”
“Lemonade, then.” She crossed the room, pulled a couple of glasses out of somewhere and pulled a couple of lemonades.


“It’s good, thanks.”
“Very good?”
“Yes, very good.”
“So you’re up for another round before you fall asleep?”

I mean, I knew she was horny. I just wasn’t expecting her to be this horny.

“Do you want to go again? I could do with one more, if you feel me?”
“Really? But it’s boiling hot! And I’m exhausted!”
“Your penis says otherwise,” she pointed out, indicating it with a finger. In all fairness, she wasn’t wrong.
“Yeah, well, my penis says a lot of stuff,” I demurred. “It’s had a lot of fun today, but now it just wants to…”

I didn’t say anything else, because by that point I was already inside her.

“Not fair,” I whimpered alongside her gleeful bounces. “It’s too hot to resist.”
“Nobody resists me,” she laughed. “Hot or not.”
“Hot,” I moaned. “Definitely hot.”

Ten minutes later, as we lay entwined, a very welcome breeze blew in through the French windows.

“That feels nice,” I said.
“Doesn’t it always feel nice?”
“I mean… the breeze.”
“That’s what I meant!”

And with that (and a shimmy I wouldn’t have been able to manage, even if I hadn’t been so hot), she slid from the bed, a mixture of our juices leaving a glistening trail across the floor.

“Where are you going?”
“More lemonade, of course, silly,” she grinned as she collected our glasses. “I could do with one more, if you feel me?”
“One… more?”
“One more lemonade?”
“Oh. Yeah, yeah. That’s what I meant.”

Because it was, as I may have indicated, very hot.


I’d just like to make an announcement:
This building is on fire!

Tim Booth, 1983

I got to my room before anyone else. My ‘phone, vibrating in my pocket, told me that one of my colleagues was out of action with a stomach bug; my immediate superior wasn’t in yet. Vaguely wondering if she was sick too, I sat down at a desk and began to busy myself.

The fire alarm went off.

Sigh. Out I went into the corridor. Nobody was there, but then I didn’t see anyone in the assembly point, either. Rationalising that if this was a real fire, it wouldn’t be safe, I made my way down the stairs. I was halfway down when the alarm stopped.

A building on fire, although unconvincingly, with alarm
The aforementioned cataclysm from Thirteen Erotic Ghosts. Devastating.

“It can’t be a real fire,” I said aloud to the unoccupied staircase, adding “like that one at the beginning of Thirteen Erotic Ghosts…” in an undertone. Confident that I was safe and struggling to remember any more of the plot of Thirteen Erotic Ghosts, I stomped back up the staircase to my room, this time passing by a cool, unconcerned-looking colleague.

I hadn’t sat down yet when the fire alarm went off again.

This wasn’t the first time this has happened. In fact, the day beforehand, and the day before that, we had all stood outside in the mizzling rain listening to our boss talk about how opening certain doors tripped the alarm. Who had done it? Staff? Client? It didn’t really matter, though; there wasn’t a real fire. Making a mental note to not open any doors again, ever, I stood there dithering for a few seconds before grabbing my lunch and the Super Mario cup I got in Sweden and making my way back out.

I didn’t stop walking when the bell stopped ringing this time, since I was halfway to the break room and had half a mind to make some morning coffee while putting my lunch in the ‘fridge. As I passed his office, I spotted our CEO Paul sitting back down, evidently having been caught out by the alarm as I had been.

Paul, like Paul Michael Robinson. Paul Michael Robinson, who plays Haffron in Emmanuelle. Grinning internally at what reaction Haffron might have to a fire alarm sound, I made my way into the break room to find, for the first time that morning, more than one colleague standing together.

The fire alarm went off again and nobody said or did anything about it.

I got my coffee and walked back to my room past a door through which grey smoke was issuing.

The word smoke slotted into my brain a little too late, and I half walked, half flew back to the room, wrenching the door open.

“Hey, close the door!” said my colleague in the kitchen. “I had a bit of an accident making the toast, but that’s okay. I threw away the burned bits. The toast’s ready now.”
“Theo, your toast is ready,” I said before I could stop myself. My colleague threw me a half-amused smirk, with which I thought it best to excuse myself.

My immediate superior was in my room when I got back.

“Ah! You’re here!”
“Yes! Have you been here for a while?”
“I have. The fire alarm went off a few times. I was enjoying the quiet and privacy, but that’s not to be.”
“You can have privacy in my room.”

I make connections far too easily.

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