by Olga Wojtas
after Vermeer’s “Christ in the House of Martha and Mary”
We called them the M&Ms. Mara and Marta. Baz said they were sisters, but that may just have been his particular fantasy. I suppose their faces were quite alike: round, with little snub noses and cupid bow lips. But that’s where the similarity ended.
Mara had long Pre-Raphaelite ringlets and was swathed in Indian silks. Marta went for the dyke look, cropped hair, dungarees and DMs. I can’t remember where we picked them up. Sheffield, I think. We had gigs all over the place – man, we thought we were the Beatles and the Stones combined. I saw one of our singles on eBay last week. Put in a bid myself to make it look better.
Anyway, I assumed the M&Ms would just be typical groupies, around for a night or two, and that would be it. But they had staying power. Marta ended up joining the roadies, sorting out the catering for the band and the backstage crew, and Mara – well, by the end of the week, Mara was practically Jay’s old lady. He always liked the sound of his own voice, even when he wasn’t singing, and Mara’s wide-eyed concentration suited him down to the ground.
We would fall over them everywhere, M sitting there cross-legged, wiggling her scarlet-painted toes and gazing up at Jay as though he was the most incredible man in the whole world, while he smoked a spliff and rabbited on about The Noble Eightfold Path or the Three Marks of Existence and all that crap.
Even if they weren’t sisters, the M&Ms were friends, or at least they knew one another, and you could see Marta getting increasingly pissed off with Mara’s status while she was stuck in the grottiest of the sleeper buses.
One night after the gig, when everyone was laying about and she was bringing round veggie burgers and sweetcorn fritters, she said: “Hey, M, could do with a little help here.”
And Jay waved a paw at her and said: “M’s cool, sister. Should learn from her. Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
Marta glared at them both, but got on with her work.
The next day, I saw her with her tongue down the throat of a guy who had something to do with the venue.
“You don’t have to be at the gig, do you?” he asked. “There’s a new pizza place just opened, and then we could go to a disco.”
“Groovy,” she said.
After the gig, Jay was furious, storming around. “Where’s Marta? Where’s my veggie burger? This is not cool, man!”
I was going to remind him that according to the Four Noble Truths, suffering ended when craving ended, but I figured it wasn’t the time.
Olga Wojtas, a writer and journalist in Edinburgh, recently won a New Writers Award from the Scottish Book Trust.