Friday, July 27

Like a Racing Driver

FOR MANY MONTHS I had talked myself out of it, tried desperately to wave away all romantic affection for her because it was, I thought, pointless. All romance is pointless except to pass the time. And so I removed her from my nocturnal thoughts when I wasn’t around her and the emotions that tortured me in my inebriated hours seemed completely alien and incomprehensible.
‘I just want some shade,’ she told me, after I had suggested a sunlit bench. There was very little shade, until we happened upon some oddly shaped stone benches that had been rubbed smooth. We sat down there so that we could enjoy our ice creams. We were underneath a building. Many people were, like us, resting in the heat, though there were a few still walking here & there.
‘You’ve got to have a small bum for this kind of thing,’ I said, trying to get comfortable as the smooth hip of the stone rolled me off.
‘She must be having some trouble,’ and pointed to a fat lady on another such stone bench.
We rested together; very closely, just touching; I thought that we were just touching, felt us touching and her thin cardigan blew in a slight wind. Her ice cream was phallic. She devoured the remaining red before it dripped on to her fingers and down her wrist that was altogether fragile and rectangular.
‘Let’s go sit at that other place.’
‘Let’s.’
The tall buildings shaded our side of the road, keeping us cool. I was to get lunch at a little eatery by the side. It had some tables & chairs outside for us to sit on. There we could enjoy our time. Trees overwhelmed the air in jagged leaves and aroma. Cars went past, other than that it was quiet.
I chose and paid for my lunch – a baguette and a can of drink – and went to the tables beyond the entrance.
She was sat at one of them, tapping her phone. She had pulled a chair opposite hers so that they were sideways to the table. I noted this with some delight. Had she prepared a seat for me so that I may face her, or, if not, chosen it specifically? It did not matter because my eyes were drawn to her legs, which she had crossed. They were long and perfectly traced. God bless long legs. Hers are two of the best; for them I forgive her a great deal. Even her knee did not protrude too prominently. They are some of the finest I have ever seen. They were aimed at my seat so that to sit down I would have to touch them.
I sat down and did not touch them.
Was she calculating?
I did not care. I tried to forget many things.
I started to eat and the food tasted good and the can was cool. We talked and laughed and revealed memories. Everything was lighthearted.
Behind us sat an American family. Their skin was dark, perhaps Mexican, and when the toddler fell off a chair, he exclaimed – ‘I fell over’ – in a charming accent, then grabbed my bum as he stood up, causing me to chuckle. Then his father led him to a step and he pointed out buildings with his index finger and his son looked along the length of his arm to see what was at the end of it. Such things send me into fits of joy.
Yet her legs were so near. The fact that I was not touching them – unable to truly relax my leg – only heightened my obsession; that desire be the thing I crave perhaps more than fulfillment. I was reminded of the time we caught the drunk train back and her legs were beside mine and it was all I wanted to do to reach out and run my fingers along them the way racing drivers might run their fingers along the bonnet of a car.
Eventually we had to leave. The heat had not let up; the sun still burned in the sky; the peaceful repetition of the city showed no signs of ceasing; the weather enticing people to draw out their lunch-hours. There was no haste in our return, though. The buckles on her sandals jingled. Soon she started to sing ‘Jingle Bell Rock’. It was ridiculous to sing that song on a day in July. I suggested she walk so that she jingled in time to her singing. She did. That was an hour or a passage of time that I cannot determine, but it was there and it, like much of my time with her, became not time but a series of moments that may appear dull or pointless but I – as my many words show – did not find them so.

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