Monday, September 29

One of the Driest Septembers Since Records Began

THE GENTLEMAN IN front of me is walking home carrying a plastic bag that has his dinner inside: a bottle of mineral water, pasta and some tomato sauce. A car just before it passes into a tunnel. I feel as though I have intruded upon his evening. (I suppose it is the opposite – not as clean, as defined – to spy some vomit on the pavement, then what has been eaten, not what is going to be eaten, is visible in a mix of orange muck, half-digested, strewn and thick.) There is a difficult evening ahead of me. We have fallen out again and I am sure it is the end. One always fights when it’s the end; it is when the fight comes most naturally. I was in the mood for a fight. A kiss hello when neither of us wants a kiss. I begin proceedings by –‘We need to talk.’
‘About what?’
Of course.
Brief words back and forth, then – ‘It makes me not want to come home to you,’ she says.
‘Join the club.’
She tells me through her quickened sobbing that she cannot bear to look at me and, feeling a cue, I look downwards. She leaves and hurries to the bedroom. I sit there and enjoy my beer and roll a cigarette. The room is cleared for a moment and is quiet. Let her cry, I think, then go in there. I finish my beer and my cigarette then I go in there.
One of the driest Septembers since records began. A whole lunar cycle holding in its gut. A difficult month; I wish to hurl the thirty days into the sea. Always a sticky heat clinging and dangling around my neck. On my way to site, I look down at the Thames and it is perpetual motion. It is going east. I prefer it under the QE2 bridge where its spreads and thins and is barely recognisable as a river anymore but for the toy boats scratching its skin. An inch and nothing can be seen in the water; they say its cleaned up a great deal, but I don’t know if that is since records began.
She is sat up, facing a corner of the bed. I go over and we talk but the words do not come easily. ‘I’m thinking of leaving you,’ she says. Strangely, I feel better that those words are out. A peculiar sense of relief and dread overcomes me. They are only five words but I am glad they are out; the first line of a haiku. She says her piece. I say mine. Ad infinitum. We cry and the tears are absorbed into the duvet where they will, an hour later, evaporate from the heat, and be breathed in by us to be used as something else in another time and place (to dilute our blood, lubricate our genitals, fluff up our synovial pillows, keep our eyes the right shape). I notice, as it occurs, that while I am talking – not facing her, easier that way – I am concentrating on the hem of her top and how it catches the light. As a child, when my father would shout at me for giggling too much, I would focus on the word ‘Molecule’ because something about it struck me as being terribly unfunny and sobering. Why is it, during fits of agonising sobbing, the nose runs as hard as the eyes, turning one into a messy gulp of pity? Molecule.
My mother doesn’t understand when I tell her sometimes you have to let the bruised blood out. I learned that in a song she hasn’t heard.
You try to be a better human being. I try to be a better human being. An hour goes by but it doesn’t feel like it goes by. An hour happens without either of us noticing it. The sun has set and all is in darkness and our faces are sore for crying so much. Empathy kisses turn into comfort kisses; comfort kisses turn into forgiveness kisses; forgiveness kisses turn into make-up sex. It’s as if something new has happened. Smiles can return. Out of the woods. I put the kettle on and roll another cigarette. The evening has disappeared. She lies down on the sofa. The shop is selling two pizzas for a fiver. I can’t remember the last time it rained.

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