Reading Naked Lunch – Chapter 2: Setting

fish-market-man
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Need to jolt your mind? Chapter 1 of Reading Naked Lunch is over here!

The salon appointment arrives, twirling its skirt of forced gaiety on a Sunday morning whirl. We quickly set off, passing by tired aunties resignedly pushing their little aluminium trolleys filled with fresh produce from the market. Blue, pink, metal – Tudungs, hijabs and bobbing, unwashed hair. Pimply faces. Eyes squinting under a merciless sun. Mynahs squawking, pigeons going about deceptively innocent businesses.

My bad sleep last night means that I find myself trudging through a slightly hallucinatory state. This is soon confirmed by a speedy ball of barking cinnamon fur weaving itself through its owner’s legs, nearly tripping him up. Trying to get a hold on my own fatigue, I mutter: “That is a poodle. A dog.” Goddamnit. I need more sleep. The acrid smell of coffee, interweaving with the simpering smell of condensed milk, drifts my way, an invisible seduction rising from the hovering pinpricks of light in the distance. This is where the coffee shops call home. This is also where I call home.

I breathe in and get punched in the face for my efforts with the stench of hot oil. Thankfully, hunger never discriminates. We turn to the right, walk down the hotch-potch variety of shops and stop at the second-hand shop, gazing past stagnant pools of antiquated junk that has now invaded the vacuity in front of the next shop like some malevolent virus. Cassette players, music CDs, sad-looking branded fashions, silver watches eaten by the time of rust…

The shopkeeper, a little lady with red hair the same shade as her sprightliness, smiles at us and we exchange polite banalities. I look at her crimson hair, nails and smile. Red lips disappearing into the void of pink flesh, where the lipstick fails to cover her paleness, enveloping its voluptuousness over little, sharp teeth. I think she looks a little like a vampire. I catch myself in time, just before the words leave my mouth and into the beautiful yonder of a potential social blunder. My internal alarm screams at me: YOU FUCKING IDIOT –

We open the door. A little bell tinkers. Again, another assault on the senses by sharp hydroxide, the ceaseless chattering in dialect, hairdryers screaming up a storm…dear god. I sit down and take off my spectacles. My uncomfortably naked eyes starts to squint under the fluoroscent glare. To make up for it (fuck knows why, honestly), I start smiling vaguely at my reflection. I make out two panda-shaped blots in the Impressionist lens of my myopia.

Shit, that could have been a grimace. Horrified, I quickly revert to blinking obscurely at my own visage. The torturous procedure of hair relaxation soon commences, but only after an hour since the lady besides me takes up much of my hairdresser’s attention.

The perfect time to start on my book! I lean back as much as I can, squirming in the fake leather seat as I do so, and open my book…


I love the immediate sensory thrills of the wet market in real life. Dried cuttlefish stinking away in large styrofoam crates, the raucous calls of stall owners hawking their wares, having a speedy breakfast of soybean curds and fried dough fritters on a particularly cramped table…

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