Sunday, December 18

C is for

ON FIRST inspection it seemed as if he had simply skipped out of work early, just after one on a Friday afternoon. However, the suit was scrambled with dirt and lint and hairs that weren’t his. Even the folds of his trousers had faded to nothing more than minimal impressions. He stood at an angle facing the direction from which the train would roll in. There was a distant skyscrapered horizon and towerblocks. Wind hit him square in the face, making his eyes water. For such a time on such a day, he was interested at the amount of people waiting on the platform. Why weren’t they at work? Is anybody even driving this thing?
Food was on his mind. Not because he was hungry but because he had rejected it. A schoolboy aggressively fingered his way through a bag of prawn cocktail crisps. A young lady ate a cinnamon danish, dropping flakes of it on to the platform.
“I feel like a bacon sandwich and lots of brown sauce,” she had said. “Let’s go look for a cafĂ©.”
He told her—“I’m not hungry.” They went out walking anyway.
The train approached, its arrival predicted earlier by the iron tracks that bounced and racketed. He walked down and entered behind the husband of a small group who had struggled to keep the door open against the wind. Inside it was warm. People walked down the carriage looking for seats that were not marked by ‘reserved’ tickets. He chose a ‘priority seat’, removed the dirty bag from his shoulder, straightened the neck of his coat and sat down. A voice came over the p.a.
He was alone, warm; he was saluting platform eleven as the train, with audible effort, left the station behind and snapped everything into motion.
There was no romance. They sat in the bar drinking until they talked freely. It was busy in there. When she left to go to the toilet a girl had asked him—“So what’s your name?” and the fellow next to her interrupted as quickly as he could—“Oh, he’s not with us. He’s on some romantic outing.” The boy smiled and turned away. He tapped his cigarette and looked anywhere else. They ate and conversation flowed more. Cocktails of diluted orange tint through thick straws, and a disconcerting wind carrying rainclouds. Surrounded in a mist of coworkers trying to fuck each other, he said—“I have to go soon.”
“You can crash at mine.”
When he asked to spoon, she said yes almost immediately and they did so. Clothing was removed piece by piece. It was darkness. Bleak Hackney darkness and the silence that envelops it. He could just make out her vitals: nipples, breasts, navel, pubic hair, cunt. It tasted of sweat and sugar and salt and piss. “Have you got a condom?” He liked the way her labia clotted together, like a bunch of grapes.
The guiding-in is the best part. It convinced him that this was a good idea. The confident motions of a hand into.
The other body, though, that unusual presence next to him, was too much and he awoke every ten minutes, checked her presence and tried to go back to sleep. Finally she was sat up, her naked back segmented by a spine facing him, rubbing her eyes. He placed his fingers upon the small and she informed him, with large indifference, that she was going to take a shower. She withdrew a leopard-print dressing-gown over herself and left the room. His penis was sticky and he examined it. There were bruises upon it—little burst blood vessels, deep red with violet edges. No condom.
He leaned off of the bed, found his underwear and pulled them on. They were streaked in white phlegmy swirls of precome. Sighing heavily, he lay back down on the bed, his hand behind his head, fingers knotted, staring at the ceiling. The sound of her shower filtering through a couple of doorways, he, very faintly and with the least bit of effort, smiled. There was no one else in the room.
She had perfected a cup of tea with one sugar, and handed it to him. Spectating the scaffolders on the building opposite, he enjoyed his morning cigarette. It was drizzling. People walked to & fro. He watched them and the clothes they wore. This was Friday, midday, prelude to the weekend. She was sitting on the sofa, typing into her mobile phone. He watched the scaffolders clamber over the poles and holler their lunch orders down to an apparently rather forgetful colleague below. Their shouts filled the air. He could smell her upon him; her towel, moisturiser and the unmistakable smell of her vagina. He breathed deep. The scaffolders laughed.
A disagreeable breeze landed on the ‘priority seat’. It cooled the boy’s legs through the fold-less thighs of his trousers. As if it were the most important thing in the world, he selected the music on his personal player and listened to it intently. On the opposite seat an old lady ate a pastry from a plastic bag. She licked her fingers, retrieved the fallen crumbs and continued. Was there a breeze on her? He felt his penis and it ached. In a very detached way, he felt sorry for it. He wished he did not possess one. It was as if he had committed a crime and feelings of terrible sorrow and pity filled him. He tapped his feet in time to the music.
The table in front of him was occupied by four good friends who laughed a lot. In the mirroring window he observed a girlfriend laughing with her perfect teeth. Her boyfriend was dressed in his university’s rugby jersey. He laughed, too. A girl not so far away was resting her young delicate hand upon the glass. Her hand was relaxed into a ‘C’ shape. She did not wear any rings or bracelets but only a golden watch that told the time down to the second.
A terrible grey mist penetrated the countryside of the passing train and, slowly, with a stifled crack, rain began to fall.

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