Sunday, May 12

Still, Charming Girl


HER THUMB LIFTED up and I rubbed my own over it. She had said that holding hands was more than kissing and, I thought, maybe it is. Her hands were the good kind—all bone and long. They were warm. It was a quarter-past-eleven on a Friday night and we were both drunk good. There were still people going to where they had to go.
We hurried down into the tunnels of the tube and I told her which tunnel to go down to catch the right train. “That train’ll take you right to your stop.” We embraced and I meant it. Then I watched her walk off. She got smaller.
She went down the wrong tunnel—“I went the wrong way, didn’t I?”
The last train home is the one people smoke on. One minute they’re in their seat and the next they come back from the toilet stinking of fags. Always sitting back down with their eyes closed, head pushed into the seat, trying to keep the guts down. I’ve seen people hold it until they get to their stop; then they lurch outside, lean against the wire fence and go for it. It streams out in thick orange mulch and sounds bad and they wipe their lips and walk home.
“Can I see you tomorrow?” I asked her.
“Why not?”
“Because the monster will come out.”
“I am trying to provoke the monster.”
She was always talking about some monster that wanted to go with me, but was restrained by her absent boyfriend.
The sun was still up when we got to the pub so we sat outside. It was a busy little side-street that was lined with houses-turned offices. She sat on the floor so I joined her. She was slender and brown hair tied up and teeth that angled outwards and were revealed whenever she smiled—which she did a lot. She was dressed in some odd leggings and a bright green jumper that rolled over her breasts. Nine months ago I had proof-read her collection of short stories and I actually liked them. There is only one thing more beautiful than a woman who writes and that’s a woman who inspires people to write. Not a minute gone eight the bouncer chased everyone inside. The place was filled to the rafters. People were loud, having fun, I was in good spirits. We stood in the back. You couldn’t hear music. You could just hear the sound of people. I didn’t mind it. Sometimes it just gets you good.
After my ninth she asked if I was going to offer her one—“I didn’t think you smoked. Shit, I wasn’t being rude.”
She smoked up my cigarette and began nodding at couples—“They are going to fuck. They are going to fuck. He wants to fuck. She doesn’t. They are going to fuck. They aren’t going to fuck. They are going to fuck.”
I wondered what people would think of us. I wanted to fuck. There were already visions of myself sliding in. We talked and drank. I was drunk and so was she. A monster, she kept mentioning the monster.
I looked at her hand—“Are you married?” There was a silver ring on her wedding finger.
“No, but I have a boyfriend.”
“It’s the ring, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is.”
“Next time you’re in London, ditch the ring.”
“I can’t, I love the ring.”
When I came to, I saw that the train was in the station. There had been a dream, I suppose, but one I could not remember. It affected my thoughts. I stood at the open door and saw down the dark empty platform. One more stop until home, I thought, and waited for the train to move on. I stood like that for a full minute before my dream ended and I was jarred into my drunken consciousness. Walking home I worried if someone would start a fight. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to fight exactly but that my bladder might burst inside me if anyone sucked me in the stomach. Her hair was tied up and it was shiny. Holding hands is more than kissing, she said. The way her jumper rolled over her breasts. I had to hurry. I was about to piss myself.


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