Letters from the pub - Sutcliffe

Stuart Sutcliffe

I cannot sleep tonight. There is a guy who lives in the apartment above the pub. He always comes back home very late, when my shop is already closed. Oh, you know the slabs that divide places: thin as sheets of paper and you could write all the impressions you feel when you don’t get to sleep. Well, this guy who comes back very late and whose face I’ve never seen, is wearing leather boots that, in the silence of the deep night, make a big hustle on the floor. I follow the weight of his steps as he moves from one room to another and it is as if, in that gait sometimes nervous and sometimes slow, he would claim to exist.


- It's not easy to live in the shadows, Johnny.


The voice I hear comes from the other side of the pub, which is in the dark. I instantly recognize the guy, but I’ve only seen him on some photos: he didn’t have time to show his light. He preceded the greatest musical noise of all time. Never so mocking and indecipherable was fate. Life, in some cases, is so cruel that it is impossible to take stock of any losses. I look at him and smile. He smiles too; He wears dark glasses and carries a sketchpad and a black pencil case that I assume contains crayons and pencils. He is reading a book whose cover I cannot see and keeps closed another book by Gregory Corso.


- Hi Johnny – he tells me.

- Oh, nice to meet you.

- Your place is nice.

- Thank you. Can I... buy you a beer?

- Yes, that’s fine.

- Johnny – I tell Johnny B. Strong – two red ales at this table, please.

- They are on their way – he replies.


The guy gets up and takes a look at the walls. He caresses them, then he stares at me and smiles again. He pulls out the pastels from their case. May I? He ask me. You can do anything you want, I answer.


- Ok, but do not be so complaisant – he laughs.

- Oh, you too with this story...


He starts drawing on the only spare wall. He seems possessed. Slowly, the mural begins to take shape: four guys from behind, with insect bodies and human heads, that look at an erupting volcano from where musical notes explode.


- Do you like it? – He ask me.

- It’s nice – I answer.

- It's the top of the peaks of the great peaks – he replies.

- Oh... it's nice to have your testimony in my pub.

- Everyone in their own life is forced to slam their feet to prove they exist. So the question is: why do you have to make all this noise to ask for some love?

- Yeah. You are right. Unfortunately, I cannot answer your question.

- Oh, relax Johnny. Neither can I. May we take a sip of your beer?

- Yes: let's drink!


He takes off his glasses. He wets his lips. He sips, closes his eyes and tastes it.


- Good red ale!

- Really?

- Of course! I think we need another one, Johnny.

- Sure. Johnny? - I say to Johnny B. Strong – Two more!

- They are on their way, Johnny – he replies.

- Thanks, Johnny – I say.

- This is a nice place, Johnny – the painter says, looking around.

- I put all of myself in it.

- It reminds me a lot of Jacaranda, you know?

- Really? Jac...

- Yes, there is a nice atmosphere.

- Your words make me really happy.

- Yes, the words – he says closing the book he was reading.

- Uh... what is it?

- Ferlinghetti.


We remain with silence in the air and the fragrance beer in our throats.


- Do you know Johnny? I'm sorry I didn’t let you sleep.

- What do you mean?

- I'm the one with the boots.

- Are you the one living upstairs?

- Let's say I was trying to get your attention.

- We're friends now, you can come whenever you want.

- Thanks Johnny. I'll leave you these –- he tells me while taking his boots off.

- Well, they look good at the feet of this mural as a sign of your passage.




© Enrico Mattioli 2018