Wednesday, August 7

Pretty Blonde Boys Cycling Next To Pretty Blonde Girls

ONCE MORE SHE roused before I did; her destructive sleep patterns. And I had gained such joy from brushing her hair from my face while we slept and I absent-mindedly kissed her bare shoulders. Sleeping, my skin was not so hard and I was willing to give affection without the least bit of consideration; waking up distorted my trust; I rolled a cigarette while she continued to edit and clean the house.
While I was eating breakfast in the quiet, she grabbed a hammer from the cupboard, held it above her head and prophesied—‘I’m going to fix that toilet door!’ She vanished upstairs. Two minutes later she called my name—‘I found out what the nail was for … I’m locked in the toilet.’
This was my chance.
If I can’t start a fire, I might be able to free a maiden from a tower, or get her out of the box WC. The smell of that toilet—used primarily by the male tenant above—was unholy; even the paint in the room flaked off ahead of schedule. Using various tools from around the house, I perspired and struggled and finally I told her—‘Okay, push the door out very gently.’
She was free.
Johanna showered. I read my book and stared at the dials on the oven. [As if someone had flicked a switch, a desolation fell over me. I had trembled, and now I was falling. Trembling, I shook the last dust of tobacco into some paper and smoked it and thought about a great many things, drifting further & further from contentedness. If only I could have slain myself there & then, when she was in the shower, taking the memories of the past two days with me, fresh as cut grass. I paced about.] When she came down, we left the house so that she could walk me to the station so I would not get lost when I had to walk there alone. [That walk! how I would have given anything not to do it, but we must. She was leading me closer to the station where I would have to leave. She showed me the way.
On that balmy Sunday morning we quietly trod the silent streets of Eindhoven.
I bought her a pack of cigarettes as a gift and she was adamant to receive them.] We sat down in the centre and smoked them. Goodness again. Side by side, surveying the sabbatical city, smoking and gesturing through our conversations. Not even a rude kid could spoil my mood.
We went for lunch.
‘Annie said she would meet us today,’ I said.
‘She did?’
‘Yeah, just before she left last night … said she’d meet us.’
‘O, good!’
We sat outside, away from the other diners. I ordered a burger and a beer. She ordered carrot cake. All my uneasiness fell away and just sitting there with her was without equal. She told me stories of her ex-lovers. I asked her questions about her ex-lovers. Her ex-lovers upset me because her ex-lovers upset her.
How does a lover feel?
How does an ex-lover cope?
Her crystalline beauty would anger very quickly at times, before she remembered herself and softened her features again.
People relaxed on deck chairs; parents took their children & grandchildren out for lunch; waitresses discussed who owed what between shifts; the city lingered in a steely shade of July grey; ravens clawed at scraps, pointing their shiny beaks at the roving bicycles.
We went back to the house, grabbed some beers and made our way to Annie’s place, near the secondhand bookshop we visited the day before. Annie, too, stole some beers from her fridge; her house—a quiet heat with the shades rolled down—was on the outskirts, with the woods not far away. I leisurely walked behind them as they talked, taking in what I could. An Indian man stood on the street corner with his hands on his hips, waiting (or savouring the tranquil Sunday afternoon). I became hypnotised, focusing on the gorgeous movements of Annie’s bum going down the street.
The woods held us in.
Silver balls of blossom light blew weightlessly on a breeze before us. A river swum through the thicket. We sat down on the bank. The densely knotted grass—dying yellow at the tips and sweet green underneath—was a fine cushion for our bottoms. Cans of beer sprayed as we opened them. On the opposite side, people let their dogs down to the water for a drink and to cool off; they playfully bounded in the water. Johanna admitted she was a dog person. Annie admitted she was a cat person. Behind us in the shade of tall trees a young couple fondled, and an old man took his wheelchair-bound wife to the edge of the leaves’ cover where she brayed with illness this disturbing sound over the scenery. We sat there, talking and resting, tanning, for a couple of hours, then we walked around the forest, skipping over puddles, peeing on trees, talking about Santiago, Spain. Sunday afternoons at the river. In the distance we could still hear the ill woman moaning.
It was getting late, the sun was visibly tiring. We picked up some fast food and ate it in Annie’s back garden. Johanna and I left. The weekend had run its course, taken its toll; we walked slowly and with effort.
At the bottom of the weekend, her sandal broke. She considered it with pity; walked a few yards in just one, then discarded both of them into a bin. Even myself, I had become affectionately attached to her footwear and didn’t like to see them end up in some bin on the street.
Barefooted, she walked home.
The first night (Friday night or Saturday morning) I had observed how filthy the soles of her feet were. They hung over the edge of the hot bed. They had patches of black. I was entranced.
We sat with Sam in the park, waiting for a neighbourhood music festival to die down. All was quiet. [My last moments with them. The high-pitched squeal of a bell rang out. Not a thing moved.] Sam ate some chocolate. Johanna and I drank one last beer. Once more we walked home, and got into bed.
I lay there. The bulb overhead was blinding. Johanna had various things to sort out for work in the morning, when she would leave before me. [I did my best to still all of the sad thoughts in my head, about us parting, about the whole thing being over.] I lay there and watched her busy herself, folding up her nurse’s uniform and getting her papers ready.
‘My friend has sent me some photographs of us from years ago.’ She was delighted to receive such an e-mail. Darkness, only the light of her laptop shone on her inquisitive face. She showed me some other photographs first then she went through about eighty photographs from recent years, spilled out before her, never seen before. For a moment it seemed like she forgot I was there. She went through them all and smiled and laughed and sometimes she uttered a brief memory. I was so happy to watch her go through them all.
We wished each other a good-night. The room was black.
‘Wake me up in the morning, before you go.’
‘I will.’
[Slowly I listened to her fall asleep. I did not touch her. I barely moved for fear of disturbing Johanna. Soft breathing. Her form caressed into sight by the adjustment of my eyes to the darkness. I shrank farther away from her. A terrible & great sadness that I could not suppress overwhelmed me and I started to sob. I did my best to stifle them so that my shuddering would not disturb her. She had to be up in just over five hours. I wept. I was not sure why. The weight of a world of sadness was upon me and I wished to be anywhere but beside her. Crazy, manic thoughts passed through my head, my mind played with them, cut its hands, threw them out my ears like rubbish, and I wept harder. It was difficult to keep still on her mattress. It had been building and now it was upon me. There was no choice but for me to stay there and take it. What torture to be beside her and to cry! So it continued. She did not wake. After an hour or so, my consciousness faded and with the tacky residue of tears drying on my cheeks, I fell asleep, curled in a ball on the other side of her bed.]

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