SINALTRAINAL v. COCA-COLA v. VELVETGODESS45
Selly Park makes me nervous. All parks make me nervous in the summer. Single mothers with thin adidas tracksuits on are like half-dead women with skulls for faces, pushing prams under twisted trees that threaten to swallow me whole. The footballers run around in little packs like pirates, drinking cheap alcohol and cackling. Their faces are grubby and I imagine their lips smiling at me, all sliced open and bloody from the edges of the rusty cans they swig from, all tetanus-filled and disgusting, winking and telling me to ‘cheer up’. The sun is clammy and oppressive and the midges around the trees are like tiny bats with no skin.
In the winter the park is more like a Jane Austen novel or a scene from The Nightmare Before Christmas – more like a romantic, gothic wonderland where I can relax on an empty swing-set or lay a tarpaulin on the wet grass and think.
Nevertheless I’m here, meeting a boy I’ve been speaking to for about a year on Tumblr. BlueBaeXVX shares my love of cybergoth and hand-poked tattoos, Broad City and Studio Ghibli films. Hopefully he’s real and not a paedophile or a murderer. Hopefully he’s the same person as his pictures.
I’m fifteen minutes early so I do a slow walk around the perimeter of the park. I don’t want to stand around in one place as I might look like an eccentric drug dealer, in my velvet jacket and New Rocks. I walk past some outdoor work-out equipment, and notice something shiny on the grass.
On closer inspection I see that it’s an iPhone 5. There’s nobody on this side of the park. I’m a whole field away from the single mothers and the footballers, from the tiny stupid humans on the playground equipment, squealing and crying. The iPhone doesn’t look damaged. I pick it up.
It’s on and has no pin code for some reason. I consider what I would want somebody to do if they found my phone in a park. I’d probably want them to call ‘home’ or ‘mum’, and tell them they have it, and offer to drop it somewhere and wait around, so that’s exactly what I decide to do.
I pause before I press the green ‘call’ button and think who the phone might belong to. What if this belongs to some upper middle class uni student SuperDry-wearing brat? This is a student area, so it probably does. I’m completely skint and my mum’s in debt. I could do with the couple hundred quid from CEx this would get me. What if it belongs to some dickhead marketing executive and it dropped out of his briefcase? What if it belongs to an undercover cop on his way back from the house of an anti-war activist he’s manipulating into a sexual relationship? Or a rapist who assaulted a woman in this exact spot and the phone fell from their pocket..?
I scratch my forearm and look around. In the middle of the park there’s a lesbian couple on a picnic blanket that I hadn’t notice before. They’re feeding each other what looks like Chilli Heatwave flavour Doritos out of a big red bag.
I hit the green button and call ‘home’. A man answers.
“Yes? Who is this?”
“I found a phone…this phone, in Selly Park. This was under ‘home’. It’s an iPhone.”
“Ah, fantastic! Congratulations!”
“I don’t…do you want me to wait here?”
The line goes dead. I look at the battery and it’s full.
There are cheers coming from the road.
A van has parked up on this side of the park, about 50 feet away from me on the road. Several people have rushed out of it with cameras and headphones in their hands. They’re coming towards me.
I start to back away. An attractive woman dressed by Topshop is holding a huge fluffy blue microphone and hurrying over to me, motioning me to come toward her. I shake my head. I can hear her saying something that is magnified over speakers somewhere.
“Congratulations! What’s your name?”
“Who the fuck-,”
“You’ve just won a trip for two to Italy,” she wails, “and an iPhone!” Celebration by Kool & The Gang starts playing out the back of the van. It’s all happening so fast.
My heart starts to go like a lawnmower and I sweat. The whole thing is hellish. It’s just me and about ten of them, cameras pointing at me, disgusting music playing, smiling amateur presenter in her big upwardly mobile moment. This is the worst possible thing that could have happened to me.
A fluttering from overhead draws near and I realise that a helicopter is approaching. I look up. It slows down and hovers. Gradually it gets lower and the sound gets louder, and louder.
“Piss off…” I say, and carry on backing away. They don’t hear me over the helicopter. The woman with the microphone is still smiling that stupid TV-friendly smile.
She’s wearing a t-shirt with a Coca-Cola logo on it. They all are. It’s an advertisement. They’re recording a fucking stunt-based advertisement for Coca-Cola.
“Piss off!” I shout it louder and she’s clearly heard me this time but she carries on smiling. I don’t know why I’m facing them. They’re only about 10 feet away. I turn and sprint away as fast as I can.
I look over my shoulder and see that they’re actually following me. All of them are jogging, the woman, the producers, the camera crew with their heavy six figure equipment and boom poles, all hopping over their cables that drag on the hot, hard ground.
Everyone in the park is staring at me. There’s no escape. I feel like throwing up. I try to make my feet move faster. If they don’t use this for an advertisement it’ll end up on a bloopers show, or YouTube. It’ll get a million views and I’ll kill myself.
I can imagine the upbeat music now, over the top of my panicked, crying face. A million hits on YouTube for Coca-Cola. A million views for paramilitary union-busting criminal empire fucking-Coca-fucking-Cola.
Then I spot BlueBaeXVX on the road I’m headed towards, and it feels like my heart stops, just like that.
BlueBaeXVX, standing there, shielding his eyes from the sun with his right hand, peering in my direction, looking puzzled. He’s not an old creepy man at all. He’s just as beautiful as in his pictures, shaved head and beard dyed purple. We were both real people after all. This isn’t some Catfish horror story and my heart literally stops.
Then I’m flying forward, face turning toward the ground. I realise I’ve tripped over a loose strap from my coat, and a second later I hit the ground and I do a somersault before my body crashes into the lesbian couple having their picnic. They yell and swear and I feel one of their heads slam into the ground under my ribs.
I finally come to a halt and my neck is in a lot of pain and my bare legs feel like they’re all cut up. I roll over to face them and babble apologies toward the tangle of blanket and human beings. One of the women is getting up and looking distraught between me, her injured lover, and the camera crew.
The woman with the microphone approaches. She’s still smiling, though her eyes are wide and uncertain. The camera crew is still rolling. They surround the scene as the giddy presenter hurries past the lesbian couple, and kneels down next to me.
She holds up a Coca-Cola bottle with ‘Maria’ written on it. She moves the microphone away from her mouth and holds a finger up to the camera crew. “Can we call you Maria for the advert?” she asks, and winks. “If not we can pause and you can go and choose a different bottle from the van.”