Saturday, November 19

An Amount of Money

I SPENT SIXTEEN-FIFTY today and the only reason I remark on this is because I spent sixteen-fifty in three equal amounts of five-fifty. How strange to only spend five-fifty each time. Of course there were occasions when I had to break a tenner, because I didn’t have the fifty.
You should see the place I buy my tobacco. It is dusty and you would not believe how dusty it is. Every chocolate bar & pack of batteries & can of Fanta & bag of ready salted is covered in dust. The place is run by a pair of eyebrows and these eyebrows are anchored by eyes that have sunk into the silt of a man’s face. I paid five-fifty for some tobacco, a box of filters, and peppermint gum.
Me, her and a friend went out for lunch in the mid-afternoon. It was cold out. There was no frost, nor was there a puddle or damp, but the wind was bitter and I was in embraced by the month of November. The sun, for the first time in days, was visible. It beamed a heavenly beam upon the streets so that you could remember you were on earth and that everything was still spinning nicely. We were hungry and all three of us talked about our hunger. “Let’s go eat by the ice rink,” I said. “No,” said they, “our food will get cold.” They wore jackets but I was all right in just my suit. The buildings were made of glass and you could see into the foyer with its reception taken up by security, people waiting, fish tanks, inoffensive art. I have never even imagined having sex with her. Somehow it extends beyond that into an area I am uncertain of. We go to a place that sells burgers and hurry a Japanese girl away from her table.
She explains that tonight she is going for a meal and to the movies. My friend asks her if it is with that boy she is seeing. Laughing—“Yes.” I laugh and I stare at the TV in the bar next door. It is the odds on some horses. I have to concentrate very hard on the odds to make sure that I can keep laughing. The odds on the horses are not very interesting but in the background of the screen you can see the horses galloping casually on the course. When they are not racing they do not seem to run straight.
A cough forms in my throat. I did not know she was seeing someone.
I pull another pickle out of my burger. Why has she not mentioned him to me on our many lunch-breaks together? Why did she tell me it was a “friend” and not a “boyfriend” or a “boy-friend” or even a “boy friend” when she told me about her evening earlier?
I eat my burger. I think of the ice rink.
She sits next to me. Even though she complained about her hunger, she has lost her appetite and half her burger is still on the table. The horses are lining up.
Afterwards I talk them into visiting the ice rink.
A building is being knocked down and rebuilt. It surprises me. One gets used to certain areas of pavement being in the dark. Once dark now open to the sun that is slouching over the horizon to cease.
The ice rink is busy and we stand on the mezzanine, looking down. My friend on one side, her in the middle. We watch the skaters. Steam mingles with our breath. Each of us in turn comments on the school children skating. My friend says, “They must be from a private school. They’re all wearing the same coat.” I had not noticed. All the children from the private school were wearing the same style coat, boys and girls alike so it is difficult to distinguish them. In the middle was a teacher dressed in a shawl, her old grey & blonde hair tied up in a bun. She is showing a young girl how to twirl and how to make the twirl look the best it can, with the hands and the feet. They take turns spinning, one watching the other. The male teacher is on the side, talking to other children underneath his bald cap, he is feeding them a baguette and they bite from it.
My friend, myself and her all joke and laugh and observe.
This will hit me later, I think to myself. And it will hit me. And it has.
Soon, afterwards, we made our way back to work. The sun bounces off of the pavement, which has been smoothed out during the summer when many more feet were upon it.
The final five-fifty I spent in the corner-shop just down the road from my house on my way home. There was one other customer in there, on a Friday night, looking at the tinned soups. The old girl behind the till looked at me as I came in. She seemed like an automobile engine that had been stripped, cleaned only slightly and placed in the middle of a corner-shop. She watched me as I browsed the wines, looking for a bargain. Five-fifty; more accurately, five-forty-nine. She rang up the price and I gave her the exact change. Her hands were so hard. The skin of them did not soften, even around the nook of her joints.
Now I sit here wondering how the meal went, how the movie was, what happened after the movie. You can’t think too much about such things. You lie in bed and sleep escapes you. Your own mind plays with you. And eventually, just so you can get to sleep, you tell yourself there is a reason she never mentioned him to you. Still, she is elsewhere.

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