Saturday, February 16

The Triumph Of Time Over Romance

AS I ROUNDED the corner I thought that I was getting a little tired of winter, of the cold that I had once so longed for then been so fond, of the darkness I walked through so keenly. The skin on my hands is dried so much it splits and bleeds; Christ-like blood dribbling from nowhere. At that precise moment I imagined my path, looking downwards, in the reviving months of spring, and my body was soaked with the anticipation of that season. Maybe I hadn’t noticed it before or, more romantically, it was the first occasion of the year: I saw a flock of birds in the blueing grey hue of the sky as it lightened into morning. The Chinese lady took a seat behind me, sighing as she removed her coat. One bird broke loose from the flock. They settled in air over the estuary. They reformed. I watched them dart and flutter, as the flock hurried along those who dragged from formation. The Chinese woman sighed and took out her gardening magazine. The long, untended grasses of Wivenhoe’s marshes swam in frozen white dew. A gentleman boarded the train and told his friend of a seal he saw swimming in the water, down in the river, before the water changed from salt to fresh. Temporary February floods outside my hometown reflected the changing skies.
It was Valentine’s Day and I woke up drunk. I knew that I was still drunk because I fell over when I got out of bed and bumped against the wall, and as I showered I could still taste the wine and whiskey, together, poorly mixed. I asked myself – ‘Why, when the wine was finished, did I start on the whiskey?’ But it was good whiskey. I sat down at my desk and burped it all up, then necked some painkillers for my head. It was a sunny day. I asked everyone what they were doing that evening. ‘I’m meeting a girl for a drink and a meal.’
‘Oh,’ says I – ‘That’ll be a blowjob, fingers crossed.’
‘Yeah, we’re going Nando’s.’
I paused – ‘Maybe a handjob, then. If you’re lucky.’
Perhaps I could go for a walk in the City at lunch, but I decided against it.
In the entrance to a skyscraper a Valentine’s stall – flowers, cards and chocolates – was set up, all swollen in red. I thought of bored husbands picking up last-minute gifts for disappointed wives – ‘I must remember!’
No imagination left.
She’s still dreaming of some gesture that will never come.
I saw a man with about a half a dozen single red roses. I wondered if he had a half a dozen different women. He walked along next to an old girl with good legs flashing barely in the afternoon. She looked like she knew how to light a cigarette after sex.
I listened to the coffeeshop girls behind the till – ‘Every fuckin’ time he walks past me he has to touch my arse. It’s so fuckin’ annoyin’. Like this,’ she showed her friend. She looked so angry and upset. I knew who she was talking about; he was new to the place and I didn’t like him either. ‘I swear!’ She was prettier when she removed her customer-service smile. I was sad for her. I just walked out. The wind was silent, at least. Up between the buildings the view was afternoon.
That night I got into bed early because if no one else was to love me then I was to love myself, and afterwards watch some comedy. Besides, I wished to sleep off the hangover. I masturbated to the black & white photograph of a long-legged brunette in heels. As I came I thought of all the couples around the world having sex at that moment; the sheer weight of them; the gentle sex, the ferocious sex, the expensive sex, the battered and weary sex, the passing-the-time sex, the token sex, the invincible sex, the loving sex, the loveless sex, the first-time sex, the last-time sex, the enormous sex.
In my younger days I used to make things for my Valentines. Every year I made a card for the weight that had tried to drown my wellbeing. They were beautiful girls, girls who measured out my life like roman numerals measured the face of a clock. Each one occupied a part of my life and I can name their names now and what I loved about them.
Somehow the card got to her.
I was sat down on the floor outside of the toilets, minding my own business. Then, she was there. My friend was with her. He was pointing at me. She said – ‘Looks a bit young, d’n he?’
‘Yes, but so do you,’ he said.
I don’t know. She said some other things and walked off.
Her card had been good-quality paper that I had painted upon. The colours were not explicit or anything. They were just there: shades of blood in varying stages of coagulation.
In the end I just stopped making them. They were not worth the effort. Who knows whether I feel more alone now or then. The come ran down the sides of my belly and on to my sheets. I thought of all the time zones and everything going on. It was no longer Valentine’s Day, but I suspected that those who mattered didn’t care about that at all.

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