Tuesday, March 19

PART II: Maybe Everyone Was Right

ALL OF A SUDDEN joy and happiness sung in me in equal measure, in time, in harmony. Beer sung, too, a little hangover ditty, but that would fade out eventually. Wind still blew and snow still fell. I packed an overnight bag. I would stay in London for the night. Vapours of her in my mind. She would not let me be. More than anything I wished to see her again.
I was happy at work but I couldn’t get anything done. I tied up the odd loose end but to concentrate on any one task for a period of time was impossible. There was a racket in my thoughts. Nothing was appealing or interesting.
I was happier in that miserable chair than I had been in a long time. Recent memories came to me. The city I had worked in for years was reinvigorated by her; streets that so silent and dully passed underneath my feet were given a fresh coat of paint; bars I had sipped drink after drink in were no longer dark but wide open spaces, meadows, forests. The first kiss was hard to remember because it was followed quickly by so many others. The plane was on the ground. The plane was in the sky. Images from the night before constantly flooded my consciousness.
‘I will tell you this now – and don’t laugh – but your Nan has been praying for you.’ ‘She has?’ ‘Every night. She prays for you and Yasmin. She prays that Yasmin will stop drinking and that you’ll get a girlfriend.’ ‘Jesus Christ! The woman’s dying! Why can’t she pray for that instead?’ ‘You know what she’s like.’
A good woman. Everyone always told me that all I needed was a good woman. Maybe everyone was right. Though being happy was not to last and soon my mind was overcome with worry, doubt and terror.
She would meet me again that evening. I booked a hotel so that I would not have to take another train back home, and I wanted to sleep with her. I wanted to be inside her, a flesh interruption, and to sleep beside her. Her smell was on me; it was on my coat though I could not quite tell where or why. Did the smell exist or was I simply imagining it? I could not be sure. It was there, playing tricks, sending me mad. I had not smelled a human being like that before; there were similarities but this was unique. Even though she was to meet me, I was very worried; what if she couldn’t make it and didn’t turn up? And, after all, I was going mad for her and there was no way she felt anything for me like that. I cursed myself, walked up to a wall where no one could see and punched it. Pain shot down my arm. Hadn’t I been in a fit of depression for weeks and was now lifted out of it? No. This was a different colour. Even its edges were different. I wanted the old misery back; I could rest in its arms and feel nothing the way nothing wanted to be felt.
She was late so I worked late – still unable to do much. The night is better than the office. Lights, soon to be extinguished, burned behind shop fronts. The last dregs of people trailed underground. The tall steps of the square were company for a moment, then I went for a walk around the block. It was a long walk. My head was down. Darkness. Sweet beautiful darkness! A strange man asked me the directions to Bow. ‘It’s a long walk,’ I told him. ‘It ain’t that far,’ he told me. She was beside me.
Nothing. Then everything.
She was beside me.
She looked sad and informed me that she didn’t feel well. Stomach cramps. She wore clothes the way a tabernacle wears a veil. Walking toward another bar on bus queue streets. The underneath of the clouds was the colour of sick custard, heated on the stove of city lights. Talking normally again; her fast talk; a perfect match for my quietness; I stared down, smiling, and watching her boots as they waited for her to tell them what to do; until then, they’d just make it up as they went along.
The wooden table was old. Its edge was bent so that one had to be careful not to put their glass too near it, in case it slipped. Old wood with lines down it, collected crumbs and stains, ash, twinkle lights arranged like a fishing net, five three four friends chatting nearby then leaving empty cigarette packaging. Her flank was always pushed into me. My hands reddened with cold.
I knew that something was not right … Not with her, but with me. I stared down a lot and found it difficult to focus. My jaw was aching with politeness. Another beer would sort it. Another beer didn’t sort it. I had waited for twenty hours and this was me dying in one piece. She gave me a book – a thin red paperback* – and started to praise it. I tried to focus on the insides. I smelled it. The smell of book; the smell of book is a nasal extravagance; the smell of book puts me at ease. I wished I were at ease, that I could be me and not this annoyance. Slowly something changed. When we left to get food, silhouettes walked toward us and I kissed her. She didn’t fill the sink with kisses but ran the bath. She would not stop. Kissing height. The plump gradient of her lips and the smell – always the smell. A house with a red door looked at us; a house or an office or dentist’s outfit; black iron railings pointed to the white smears that had smothered the map of England all day. We ate while a circle of young women knitted behind us.

Bars are tiring places but they are warm and I needed drink.
Another bar. Another faceless horde to be made out in the dimly-lit corners. Another flux of heat from her to me. Still I drank more. Perhaps I could have forgone drink but I didn’t. All day I had been tired from the previous night’s beer, weak in the joints, tired eyes, yet I drank on and on, more than her, pressing forward, trips to the bar when she was ‘okay thanks’. All the pale of winter on her skin and inward breaths when we kissed over her tongue.
I knew that, whether I wanted her to be or not, she was Something Special. (The first grass-stain. Prom night. Accidentally staying up all night and hearing the birds. My favourite band in concert.) I didn’t want her to be. I didn’t want to be interested in her. I wanted to fuck her and never think about her again. I wanted to not even think about her when I read the thin red paperback she gave me.
‘So, are you going to come with me or go back to Steph’s?’
‘What would you prefer?’ she smiled.
‘I think that’s pretty obvious.’
Her teeth emerged when she smiled.
The motion of two lovers getting into a taxi. A door held open. A yellow light going off. A man hearing an address. A meter flicked. Small red numbers alight. Late night newsagents offies takeaways restaurants laundrettes clear the way. The sparkling cool of a hotel lobby; fresh tiles reflecting everything in a dodgy accent; plants set up by the windows; a revolving door; a lonely couple finishing expensive drinks in front of twenty-four-hour news. The lift’s ‘up’ button was ‘down’ and the ‘down’ button was ‘up’. To turn on the lights the card had to be inserted; she put it on.
She started to talk – I interrupted.
No quiet like hotel quiet. The halls and the doors and the streets are paid to be quiet. The sound of kissing and the sound of clothes being removed, tit-for-tat. I cannot wait to get her naked but I can wait to get her naked. The feel of long nakedness against another long nakedness. Neither of us has shut the curtains; I like the idea of people in a nearby towerblock being able to watch; I wonder, at a distance of half a mile, whose skin is palest, mine or hers. A nipple piercing. I want to bite off her breast or a lump of her from underneath her ribs. I would like to chew her while blood runs down my chops and down my neck and I would like to swallow her.
My penis is not as erect as I had hoped. Tiredness and booze have got the better of me.
There is shame.
And shame invading my romance. I want to die and I want to not leave a will so that everyone argues afterwards and when I die I want the ashes from my body to get into everyone’s eyes. I want priests to lose faith when I die and I want a dozen shopowners to go out of business. Soon she has me hard but not enough. Someone please burn this hotel down.
When I come my spine whips and she does not budge from her praising crouch and thick white come drums into her mouth.
I don’t think she comes. I love the taste, the smell, the perfection of her organ, but I don’t think she comes. I want the night to end. I want to never speak of it again; a disaster; tiredness and drink have ruined me; I am fit for nothing; put me on the pile. Like pink butterfly wings her lips smooth out, sucked in and the carpel of her cunt small pink and delicate. My lips burn on her hair.
A year without sex and I know that I have suffered!
So I enter her.
So we contort.
So we play circus.
So I am not throbbing my heart’s measly pulse.
There is nothing left for me now but to die. I will take all the drink with me, cursing and swigging it on the way. A failure, a five-year-old’s fallen ice cream melting feebly on the hot concrete.
She makes me come again.
Let it die.
The cherry on top is the brushing of teeth after sex. She was naked and I was naked and we had toothbrushes in our mouths. Our bodies were white with inflammations of pink. Our mouths were white with borders of pink.

* I finished the book ‘Silk Handkerchiefs' by Paul Haworth this evening. The pressing is excellent and the story is infectious, endearing and amusing. I recommend you get yourself a copy, but hurry because there are only one-thousand.

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