Enid was my local crush, as opposed to, say, a music crush, like Laura Veirs, or a back-in-the-day crush, like Janeane Garofalo. I miss Enid. Not terribly, not like a limb, more like a bus – there’ll be another one along in a while. Crush might be too strong a word.

I walk with a stick. Although it’s not an affectation, I don’t use it for support to any great extent; rather, it’s a reference point, telling me where the ground is, when to swing my right leg, where to put my left foot. Enid was like the stick – an anchor, not an object of slavering lust. I don’t even know what she looked like, really, or even her name. I thought of her as Enid because of her short…shortish…Hitler length black hair and thick spectacle frames: Enid Coleslaw from Ghost World. And although I saw her several times a week for years, I never got a good look at her face because she was a bike courier.

There was something reassuring about the way she rode. Not frantic or showy in any way, but straight as an arrow, never slowing or accelerating, just maintaining this smooth flow. I doubt that she stopped for red lights; I used to imagine her ghosting through traffic, eating and sleeping on the move like a two-wheeled shark. She was tall and powerful and only ever wore black, and every time I saw her it was the end of a working day and her face shot by in a flushed blur.

Originally she pedalled a green drop-bar rattletrap that looked like my school bike, although I bet it was always lubed, pumped and tuned to the bridge. Later she got a Bianchi track bike, long before the word fixie was common parlance and legions of skinny-jeaned fixters took over the streets.

I only ever caught one glimpse of her face. I was sitting in the sunshine outside the coffee shop and, just for once, I spotted her before she passed by. There’s no way she looked like a young, purple Sigourney Weaver, but that’s what I saw. Wish fulfilment; I know better than to trust my optic nerve.

I spend most afternoons in the company of a cute five-year-old PowerBook, alternating brief bursts of typing and gazing out of the coffee shop window, a neoprene laptop wallet between the heinously uncomfortable wooden chair and my arse. This coffee shop’s also a bike shop, and in the smell of grease, inner tube air and ground beans, I have another anchor; I know where I am.

If Virginia Woolf had hung on for another ten years, she’d have looked (and dressed) just like Tiko, who runs the Little Georgia café. Tiko’s another touchstone; Ismail the barber too. The opening scene of Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises, where the guy uses a cut-throat razor in a very literal fashion, that was shot in Ismail’s place.

Enid, Tiko, Ismail, Lee and Kathryn at the bike shop, Istvan the Polish barista, Hat Bloke from The Film Shop, the lady who runs the sweet shop who looks like a lady who runs a sweet shop, the old woman in the Elvis t-shirt who walks and walks and reeks of piss – I see them and, yes, I know where I am.

I was rolling home from Cranksters’ Paradise just now, podged up on lattes and pain au raisin. A woman on a bike passed by – an everyday commuter, not a courier, but…distracting. Not as tall as Enid, densely tattoed arms, similar heavy-framed glasses. Hair that, although black, was less Hitler and more Sonic the Hedgehog, and a slight smile. Hello! Didn’t I say there’d be another one along in a while?

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Formerly a professional modelmaker, STEVE SPARSHOTT turned to writing after brain damage sustained in a 2003 road accident removed much of his physical function. Typing with the three middle fingers of his left hand at a blistering fifteen words per minute, he has had work printed in London literary magazine Smoke, and various academic publications have featured his design-related social criticism. He has reviewed films for Screenjabber.com and Nude Magazine, and because his life just isn't difficult enough, he's writing a memoir called Get Well Soon. He is well chuffed to have an essay called Fin in the Nervous Breakdown compilation The Beautiful Anthology.

One response to “Enid from the Block”

  1. Original comments:

    Comment by Matt
    2009-10-23 09:18:12

    Good one, Steve.

    I have one of these crushes right now. There’s a girl here at my work, and everytime she passes by my desk, it can take the better part of an hour to get my focus back on what I’m doing.

    I now want to come to London just to visit your coffee shop/bicycle store.

    Comment by Steve Sparshott
    2009-10-23 12:43:28

    Oh no, a colleague crush! Very bad for your productivity. The bike shop, where I spend far too much time – and which isn’t really called Cranksters’ Paradise – is a smashing place: http://www.flickr.com/photos/frazernash/2921603915/in/set-72157603840073833/

    Comment by Matt
    2009-10-23 13:57:46

    Damn, that looks like a neat place!

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-10-23 09:56:39

    I love your writing – it is so gentle and rich. Your story unfolds in such a lovely, true way.
    I have an image of the sweet shop lady in my head. I wonder if she matches your sweet shop lady? I bet she does, they are a breed the world over.

    Comment by Steve Sparshott
    2009-10-23 12:45:06

    Wow, thank you so much! I chatted with the sweet shop lady earlier today – yep, I bet you’re picturing her exactly.

    Comment by Lenore
    2009-10-23 11:09:21

    i love the categorization of crushes…i have many local crushes, and one music crush. but really, my heart belongs to my music crush.

    and i agree with zara, this was delightful.

    Comment by Steve Sparshott
    2009-10-23 12:49:22

    Of course, I have to ask – who’s the music crush? And thank you. I was afraid it might be a bit slight, just a snapshot, so I really appreciate these positive comments.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-10-25 23:35:57

    I think I know who the music crush is, Lenore. First letter “A”?

    Comment by Ducky
    2009-10-23 12:40:27

    Yes, I concur. Love this. Makes me miss New York. Now my crushes tend to have fur or feathers as I live out in the wild off a lake. There’s a Great Heron who flies onto one of my trees every afternoon. I always notice him when he’s taking off. Always leaving me, that one.

    Comment by Steve Sparshott
    2009-10-23 12:51:18

    I’d like to think the heron has a crush on a yellow rubber ducky, but he gets nervous and runs away.

    Comment by Ducky
    2009-10-23 13:44:28

    Oh, that’s cute. I will think of this next time I see him.

    Comment by Steve Sparshott
    2009-10-23 15:34:17

    I read recently that Enid Coleslaw is an anagram of Daniel Clowes (Ghost World’s author).

    And here’s the barbershop: http://www.flickr.com/photos/frazernash/3376680324/in/set-72157607192292200/

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-10-25 23:37:39

    It’s true about Enid Coleslaw/Daniel Clowes. I love Ghost World. It’s my favorite graphic novel. The movie couldn’t begin to touch it.

    Comment by Steve Sparshott
    2009-10-26 08:09:13

    I’ve loaned out every graphic novel I’ve bought (all four of them) and not one has come back. They’re the standard graphic-novels-for-people-who-don’t-read-graphic-novels like Jimmy Corrigan; Ghost World was the first, and it’s my favourite too. I like the film though, I think it works well as a variation on the book. Whatever happened to Thora Birch? How come Scarlett Yawnhansson became the megastar?

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-10-27 00:36:55

    ‘Cause she’s hot.

    I’m afraid, for me, Thora Birch couldn’t begin to capture Enid. A haircut and a pair of glasses do not Enid make. The movie wasn’t bad, but the graphic novel…

    Comment by Tom Hansen
    2009-10-23 19:47:41

    That name Enid always reminds me of an insect. Probably because of its closeness to aphid. Is it possible to have a crush on an insect? Not the kind that involves a boot heel?

    Comment by Steve Sparshott
    2009-10-25 09:24:23

    Aphid, katydid. Er, chrysalid…triffid? Not triffid.

    Comment by Will Entrekin
    2009-10-24 06:49:57

    Very nice writing, Steve. Love the descriptions; that whole shorthand-use-one-turn-of-phrase-and-you-just-know-the-character . . . you make it look rather easy. Rattletrap bike? Awesome.

    Also, I’d never heard of or seen anyone sit on their neoprene sleeve, but the moment I read that, I thought it was a really good idea. Makes me wish I had such a sleeve, and then went to coffee shops so I could use it that way. I’m kind of a hermit writer, though; in my room, door closed, headphones on, all that.

    Comment by Steve Sparshott
    2009-10-25 09:31:31

    Thanks! Rattletrap’s a pretty old-fashioned bit of Englandish.

    My muscles only have about 25% function (brain damage, road accident, 2003) plus I’m skinny, so I’m pretty much sitting on my skeleton. Every one of the five coffee shops on my street has wooden seats, so a bit of padding’s essential.

    Now the weather’s worsening I’ll be writing at home more. I find this almost insultingly simple internet blackout tool highly effective: http://macfreedom.com/

    Comment by Mary Richert
    2009-10-26 06:26:00

    Lovely! I like Enid, too. Where’d she go? I love those vague passing romances. I have a little bit of a thing for the young guy at the starbucks down the road. I think he’s gay, actually, but he’s still adorable. I like knowing he’s there.

    Comment by Steve Sparshott
    2009-10-26 09:20:14

    I guess she just moved. When you say “I like knowing he’s there”, that’s what this piece was all about. And I expect Starbucks chap appreciates your attention; it’s nice to be liked.

    Comment by Dana
    2009-10-26 09:11:59

    I wanted to quote my favorite part, but realized I loved it all. So wonderfully evocative, and almost wistful.. but a happy twist.

    Comment by Steve Sparshott
    2009-10-26 09:52:23

    Well, thank you! It hadn’t occurred to me that it’s a bit sad, but yes, happy ending!

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-10-26 12:36:43

    Hey! Hands off Garofalo, Sparshott!

    Comment by Steve Sparshott
    2009-10-26 12:55:39

    I had to let her go: http://www.flickr.com/photos/frazernash/3549989270/
    Is Kim Deal still up for grabs?

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-10-26 13:31:53

    HA! Nice one.

    Kim Deal was actually my very first celebrity crush. Not including April O’Neill from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Or, of course, Dr. Blight from Captain Planet. Until I saw that damn radioactive eye. Call me shallow, but I can’t have feelings for a woman with a giant petrochemical burn on her face who destroys the environment. It’s one or the other – not both.

    Comment by Erika Rae
    2009-10-26 19:29:01

    I felt the tension between you, Simon and Steve, when I read that line about Janeane. Funny.

    Steve – I like your style. Something very fluid, pictorial and literary about it.

    Comment by Steve Sparshott
    2009-10-28 15:26:45

    Thank you. I really appreciate that; I’m relatively new to writing. It’s always been a background thing, but it was forced to the fore a few years ago, so it’s great to get positive comments from people whose opinions are clearly worth something.

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