Wednesday, December 11

Sudocrem Can Make You a Star

ALMOST A DECADE OF all sorts; of long silences and relationships (hers) and infatuations (mine) and muddled growing up in different parts of the country, until: she was sitting in my chair.
I looked at her sitting in my chair. I was uneasy so I paced around my flat, attended to various things, topped up our glasses of wine, tidied up here & there, put a record on, meanwhile she read an erotic novel I had placed in her hands. She sat curled up on my chair reading an erotic novel. Every now and then, she would say—‘This is dirty!’ and I would ask—‘Which bit?’ and take the chance to smell her again. She smelled like the Christmas candles my mum fills her house with.
She was leaning, most inelegantly, against a signpost, glancing one of the free newspapers. I liked her coat (which she later referred to as ‘Girlfriend material’). I almost didn’t recognise her. How long had it been? No sooner had I asked—‘You got the time?’ than she threw her arms around me.
‘Can I have one of your rollies, please? I’ve quit smoking.’
Years ago, we had been sat on my garden porch, smoking together, and she locked in the sadness of her grandmother’s death. In front of us the bush quivered and a pale hedgehog emerged. It walked on by, to behind the garage, where there would be, I knew, slugs to be eaten. Her hair was a different length, her skin better, she seemed more fragile in one way but more hardened in another, she had a different scent, and tattoos on her body. Manchester was windy but coolly sunny. Its streets, which I knew a little, were busy and grey. We walked the distance of a smoke to a bar that she remembered from a previous visit. It was dead inside, just a few souls hanging over midday drinks and the only light upon them was that which coughed in through the front window. We sat down and ordered a round and I a fish finger sandwich. The bar smelled of last night of the weekend of good times and spilled drinks. We cheers’d.
‘If you could have an animal of any size, what would it be?’
I thought awhile.
‘… A massive seahorse. Like the size of a Leviathan.’ I was reading Moby Dick.
The pub never filled up. It took punters off the street one-by-one. They stopped by for a drink and took their leave. We hung around, taking it in turns to go to the bar. Silence never fell. We talked and talked and not once did we touch, separated by the worn-varnish’d table with its carvings and mystical acronyms. Behind her was a pair of ladies, a pair of beefburgers and a half-dozen shopping bags like poodles at their feet. The light in the bar waned. She sits there all in black. Her big dark eyes shine at me. There is laughter. It is so easy to be back with her. She went away, got herself in love, engaged, all geared up for marriage. Now she was there in front of me. The world we had met in before was no more, and this one was better. She didn’t mind me getting one more drink before we left; I wished to stay in the bar forever. She asked me to stay in Manchester with her, but I could not. So, she would come back to London with me. It was arranged.
A gruff man stopped us outside. He was holding bags and a fearful, bewildered look in his eyes. A stream of clear snot ran from each nostril. He asked us where the 184 went from and we tried to help him and were shunned by strangers. The air was black now in the northern city, streetlights ignited and the white lamps in buses (though no 184); the rehearsed business of the homebound rush was in full swing. I was buzzing off the drink. We looked for a Chinese restaurant—where we had always allocated a smiling portion of nostalgia; lying on my parents’ guest-bed, prodding each other’s bellies—and I loved that great city as I ever had: home of the Smiths and Joy Division, its careful and friendly eye cast sad and envious at the capital, yet so much more beautiful to its yard, with its rosy architecture standing up straight around me. I could have strolled forever down those roads with her, looking hungrily for the restaurant, the restaurant that was largely Wednesday unattended. We must make the 19:15. Her tiny wrists hovered over the steaming bowl of egg-fried rice. The toilet was hidden behind an embroidered silk sheet; a wind off the street pushed it open for you and chilled your clean hands.
She was coming back to London.
I tried to get used to that.
We stopped off at an Italian cafĂ©, waiting for the train to be announced. Beneath us, football fans arrived howling out of their cabs, donned and ready to go with arms raised in the air and, with them, the musk of six empty cans on a dirty seat; despicable merry psyched; the clatter of them broke off the station walls. As she crossed her legs, a small ring of white shaved skin was revealed to my stroking finger. Other passengers sat there, eating a meal—‘Who goes for an Italian in a train station?’ I left for a cigarette on my own and to chance one last look at the city among a crowd who were passing time before they left it. Coming or going, train stations, like airports, are where one can find all the cilium of human wonder, and I asked myself if I would ever tire of them.
On the train a man had himself a small bottle of wine, and when Lisa and I caressed each other, he stared at me and I ignored him—‘He won’t stop staring at you.’ Swollen city faded to lights on the horizon erupted to swollen city; gone glory gold and glitter; graffiti putting down the tracks; and then Euston with its p.a. and the staff, little shops that I had noticed that morning but that now seemed a trifle forgettable.
District Line, straight back home.
A young man with an odd blonde haircut sat in front of us, she found this most amusing.
Last time I had caught a train with her she was draining the sorrow from her body in the language of sleep; on her lip a small bead of puss hardened where she had squeezed a spot.
‘Sorry it’s a bit of a mess. I hadn’t expected you to come back.’ I could not get used to her being in my flat. I thought of turning her out, claiming I was not prepared for such excitement or that I was due for surgery tomorrow and should already be nil by mouth; indeed I was tired. I brushed my teeth to wake myself up and asked if I should go buy another bottle of wine—the one I had from the night before would not last us much longer—and she said—‘Yeah, go get some. You want any money?’ I left her on my chair, reading an erotic novel. When I got back with the red wine—‘Don’t worry about a bag, cheers’—she was still reading it so hard that she didn’t look up. I wondered if the novel aroused her as it did me. There was nowhere else for me to sit, so I positioned myself on the uncomfortable Persian rug. We watched one of our favourite t.v. programmes, which I was in the middle of watching for the eighth time. I leaned against the chair with her legs on my shoulders; I topped up our wine glasses, being sure to pour myself more than I did her; chain smoking (‘I quit smoking’). I asked for permission to take her socks off on account of her feet being so close to my nose and some people would rather get married than expose their feet.
The first kiss—the first proper kiss that is a kiss in as much as a rocket is one way of getting from here to the moon—had been and gone.
‘Yeah.’
They were lovely feet. The tendons seldom broke the soft form of her uncalloused skin. Trains shook past the window, slowing down, sparing, then failing altogether. Smoke filled the room. I wanted to fuck her. We waited three episodes together and the wine, draining slowly, split unfairly between two glasses, an erotic novel still keenly bent open, the ashtray overflowing; it came to pass that bed was calling us and all the nerve of a first caress as the foggy finger of night was nigh upon the window, the midnight twitch upon the Persian rug. I wanted to fuck her. I wanted to put it off; my nerve, my tiredness, my sobriety on holiday, I could not allow it. I wanted to put myself between her tight gorgeousness. I wanted to fuck her.
It was not morning when we were ready to awake; it was four in the afternoon. Her hand was endlessly massaging my prick so that it endlessly dribbled and she was so charmed and I was so tired to arise. Around my bed were spots of come, drying. On the sheets was more come and white stains of origin one cannot determine in the light of day nor in the haze of a descending evening. My penis was clammy with the fragrance of her cunt and as I stroked her hair I found knots of semen that I cooed over and picked out. Around the bed were tissues screwed into white carnations, having mopped up what they could of what we could not. The blurry enchantment of her eyes, no more than a nose from my own, did not lie when pleading to linger, but go she must.
As she showered I looked at the day I had seen so little of fade to black. When all was clean—‘I used some of your Sudocrem … it’s the only thing that works on my skin.’ I lay my head on the balcony between her ribs and belly before she put her hand on my clean prick and rubbed it some more—‘This is mine.’ The pizza deliveryman was to arrive at any second. We had a feast on its way. It was night once more. We could not roll around forever; there are jobs to be performed, taxes to be paid, books to read, flowers to grow, toilets to unblock, train timetables to be observed.
When she had gone.
When she had gone, there was little for me to do. I could not clear up the mess. She had taken the erotic novel, some d.v.d.s, a strip of photographs of me she had wanted. I studied my bed and the stains upon it; a grin; a big grin is what the constellations are missing. I could be a movie star. The bed asked me if the wait had been worth it. Three months ago someone I did not know had been sleeping in that bed. I told the bed this. It repeated the question. The beginning of anything. This is the shaking of a kaleidoscope and holding it to one’s eye before the turn.

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