Georgine “Georgie” Koloniewska is forty-two years old and unemployed. She’ll tell you she’s a mango picker, if you ask her what she does, but she lives in London where no mangoes grow. Instead, she liberates the imported fruit from various stands around the city and makes herself lashings of fresh mango juice. She drinks these on high park benches where she can swing her feet through the dirt. There’s always dried mango strings stuck in Georgie’s teeth.
Georgie is from the Ukraine. Her mother was a seamstress and her father was a drunk. His favourite drink was vodka and lime juice, which was very sour and made Georgie’s lips twist up that one time she tried it when she was ten.
Georgie must throw salt over her shoulder if it is spilled.
Georgie has long red hair that falls to the back of her knees and a nose with a rather pronounced hump. Other than these two things, Georgie is fairly unremarkable.
Georgie does not watch films or television; she makes shadow Puppet Theater in her living room, to an audience of one.
Georgie is lonely.
In Georgie’s refrigerator, there is an egg, a dried up leek, a bottle of old olives in a salt bath, and a full container of soy milk. Georgie rescued the eggs from the organic store and covered them in warm blankets, but they never did hatch.
Georgie’s favourite hobby is knitting woolen hats for pigeons. She has made dozens of pigeons’ hats but has yet to place one on a pigeon’s head. Pigeons are a bitch to catch.
Georgie enjoys autumn leaves, small dogs, large cats and almond butter. She goes to bed at seven p.m. and wakes up at four a.m., except on those days when she goes to bed at two a.m. and wakes up at one p.m.
Georgie smells like patchouli.
Georgie is also a pen collector. She collects the pens she finds in the streets, the ones she borrows from people at the unemployment agency, the ones she rips off the desk chains at doctor’s offices. She asks people on the trains if she can borrow their pens and then flees swiftly out the doors at the next stop, cackling with glee and holding her prize aloft on the platform. She once stole a pen sticking temptingly out of a woman’s handbag but then felt pretty bad about it afterwards so she placed it in a completely different woman’s handbag two days later.
Georgie steals and begs and borrows dozens and dozens and dozens of pens. She puts them in a cup and then a box and then a drawer and then a cupboard and then a great, big sack, like Santa’s. Her sack of pens takes up too much space in her tiny studio apartment, so she decides to give them away on craigslist. She writes an ad that says
I have collect so many pens that I have to say goodbye to some of them. Anybody interested? Thanks for looking. Georgine (071 xxx xxxx)
She is giving away her pens, but she is really hoping to meet someone: someone like her who she could, perhaps, collect more pens or liberate mangoes with. Maybe a friend. Maybe something more. She is very excited with the anticipation of it.
But nobody calls.
At first. But then Petra gives her a ring and says she would like some, but not all, of Georgie’s pens. She agrees to meet Georgie in front of the Jamaican Jerk Chicken place near the tube station. She is very tall and very young and wears all black. Her shoulders hunch and her hair is lank and her expression is a bit like a dazed cow lost in a field. She grabs a handful of pens out of the sack and says “right, thanks, yeah?” and stomps away before Georgie could even say “how d’ye do?” Georgie is a little disappointed, but not too much because they would not have made good friends.
Percy calls two weeks later. He suggests they meet in a café and have a cup of tea while he sorts through the pens. He only wants a particular type, he says: 0.5 fine ballpoint, black. Or he will take the fancy calligraphy ones, if any. Georgie meets him at The Fang Dangle, a hipster café on the corner of a busy street. Percy wears prescription-less glasses ironically, a top hat and striped socks. His face is half-buried in a full and bushy but manicured beard. This is why he likes this pretentious café, thinks Georgie.
Percy orders an almond milk cappuccino for himself and nothing for Georgie. He rifles through her sack of pens and begins pulling the caps off them, one by one, with his teeth. He bites deeply into them as he yanks the tops away from the bottoms, examining the nibs to find just the ones he likes. Each bite is like a piercing in Georgie’s heart. My pens, she thinks, sorrowfully, as she watches them being abused by the hipster. “MY PENS!” she shrieks out loud, startling Percy as she grabs the cap dangling from his mouth, sweeps the exposed pens from the table into her sack and storms out the café door. What kind of crazy person, thinks Georgie, bites pens like that?
The craigslist ad was a bad idea. So Georgie leaves the sack of pens beside a sleeping homeless man on the corner of her street. She is sure that he will appreciate having some working pens. When he wakes up, he looks excitedly in the sack to see what has been left him. He hopes it is some fresh bread or a nice, clean blanket or maybe some warm socks. He is decidedly annoyed when he realizes it is just a sack full of cheap pens. Is someone expecting him to write his PhD thesis with them, there on the streets? But the sack might be useful. He takes the sack to the river and dumps all the pens in. Thank goodness Georgie isn’t there to see.
Georgie feels very sad about the failed craigslist ad, even though she believes the homeless man to be enjoying the pens thoroughly. She decides to cheer herself up by trying once again to put a warm wooly hat on a cold pigeon’s head. Doing something good for society always makes her feel better, like the time she went around giving all the dogs in the neighborhood refreshing lemon wedges as treats in the summer.
Georgie is walking through the park. It is snowing and the snow is catching on the bare trees and Georgie thinks it is very pretty. Soon she sees a man running around in a very strange manner. He is moving frantically in a zigzag motion, his body bent over at the waist, his arms outstretched. She watches him for a while and realizes he is chasing pigeons. Georgie knows that people like to abuse the birds, kicking after them and trying to stomp on them. She hates when people do this.
“Hey!” Georgie cries. “You! Stop bothering that pigeon!”
“But . . . ” he huffs, out of breath, “I’m just . . . I’m trying . . . oh bugger it all!” He flops himself down on a park bench as the pigeon flutters away in a huff. Pigeons have so much God damn attitude. “I was just trying to help,” the man says, dejectedly.
Georgie looks him over. He is of average height and very skinny, with lots of lines around his solemn brown eyes. This must mean he laughs a lot, thinks Georgie, although he is so sad now. His hair is slightly wild; dark curls on top with a smattering of gray just over the temples and then a very long braid all the way down his back. He is wearing a threadbare black jacket with small, chunky pieces of avocado dried on the left lapel. He is twisting a small piece of fabric around his thumbs and looks like he’s about to cry. Georgie’s face softens and she sits down beside him. Georgie doesn’t like to see people cry.
“It’s so cold, you know?” says the man, almost to himself. “I just wanted to help.”
“How?” says Georgie, her hand upon his back.
“Well, I’ve made them scarves, haven’t I?”
Georgie’s eyes widen as she looks at the fabric that the man is now holding up on display. She reaches out to touch it; it is tiny and soft and red and well knit. The man puts his hand in his pocket and brings out a heap of these wooly pigeon-sized scarves in every color of the rainbow. Georgie slowly reaches into hers and pulls out her stash of wooly pigeon-sized hats in every color of the rainbow. The man’s jaw drops slightly open as he reaches out and plucks one from her hand; it is tiny and soft and turquoise and well knit.
They look up at quickly at each other. The man smiles first. It makes his laugh lines crinkle.
“My name is Ronald,” he says.
She smiles back.
“And I,” she says, “am Georgie.”
ISHA RO is a Jamaican writer running on a corporate hamster wheel in the East side of Berlin. She lives with a large Czech, an oversized stuffed monkey and an imaginary Golden Retriever. The monkey is Luigi, the dog’s name is George, and the Czech is called Schatz. She is trying to get off the wheel so she can write full time and make George a reality.