God’s Gift to Zebras
The birthplace of Iwan Rheon, better known as Ramsay Bolton, a Lad Bible featured story, the old capital of Wales (and god knows why), Carmarthen is a town that people escape from. I lived here for four years, and if not for The Lighter Journal I would have never looked back. As I strutted through its disfigured streets, too familiar, I saw the wild colours of an alley I’d been mugged in, and I saw the freshly hosed streets; a hefty job for any mortuary cosmetologist.
While there, I noticed a bizarre trend. An Apple store “genius” spent what seemed like an hour telling me about the iPhone SE when I had asked about the 6s. A server at Coffee #1 repeated my order wrongly after confirming it with me twice, and then proceeded to mischarge me for it. A car wash salesman gave me £10 less change than he should have. Clearly my astonishing beauty was a breath of fresh air for these poor young men, since every woman here was either obese or twelve years old. The girls wore tight leggings and crop tops, regardless of shape or maturity, and every single one of them had giraffe buns tightly wound on the tops of their poor misguided heads. And then there were the rich ones, who tripped along in kitten heels, wearing some kind of animal print. There was a battle going on, flowing maxi dresses and orange fake tan versus doughnut hair, gladiator sandals and vamp lipstick. Being as pale as a ghost with a hot accent and boobs that weren’t falling out of my top, I could see why these boys were so distracted; I was a new zebra at the zoo.
I ran into an old school friend, and even though I hadn’t seen him for eight years, he recognised me. It was an awkward thirty second catch-up, but in that short moment when we walked towards each other I caught what can only be referred to as “the look.” That approving once-over that says, ‘nice job in growing up.’
When I was younger, I’d spent many a night in the The Golden Lion, listening to live metal and shooting pool. It was a great place, pub in front, cave in the back, and upon my revisitation, I was not surprised that the jukebox was too loud, and the pints too cheap. But the service was always excellent. The helpful barman, Jonny, after pouring me a half pint, proved astoundingly helpful when I asked about the local gossip. I’m still not sure if he knows about the sixth form tale, where a girl in the year below was filmed “servicing” a circle of men in the back corner of the bar. Instead, I asked him about the shops I hadn’t seen before, the Joules, which apparently has only been there a couple of weeks, and the American-style ice cream parlour. He informed me with a conspiring smile that there’d been some trouble with that, since the council originally denied their planning permission.
He asked me what the highlight of my trip was, and I told him about how earlier that day I’d been hunting for a lighter all over town, and had to resort to Timpson’s for direction.
The man behind the counter looked at me with disgust, ‘Left, next left, Rod’s Ice Cream’ll have one.’
I took his strange advice, and in a tiny shed down an alley, sceptically asked the woman in the out-of-place ice cream shop if they had any lighters to sell. Amazingly, she didn’t even flinch, and showed me her wares.
‘Of course,’ I pulled the lighter out of my bag and waved it at Johnny, ‘I had to have pink.’
The ice cream woman reminded me to check if it worked before I left. I laughed and said it didn’t matter.
‘Oh, I’m not crazy, I write for a travel website called The Lighter Journal.’
‘Wow, that’s amazing!’ And she continued to gush over my status as a “real writer”, which is when I began to feel defensive.
The thing is, I don’t consider myself a real writer, I’m not even a real grown up! I have to phone my mom every time I renew my TV license, I can’t even re-pot an aloe plant without assistance. ‘Grown ups’ say that University is like a bubble; you live in a safe, structured environment until you graduate and then BAM! thrust into real life with real responsibilities. Perhaps the people of Carmarthen are in their own bubble, and are yet to burst free. In this grey town, my pink, possibly defective lighter was enough, even unlit, to spark their curiosity.