Thursday, November 13


ON MY WAY to: the pair of them are sat in a doorway, drinking and passing their time on a busy south London street; rain, rough around the edges, is still hung in the air and no-one pays attention to them. On my way from: a copper is talking to her and she is laughing this big hyena laugh with all her teeth out but her friend is unconscious on the floor, his gut winking from beneath his t-shirt, and all the while she laughs down the south London street, through the traffic.
It is the second time we have met each other. He has a long face that is too big for his body, a light Australian accent, eyes that don’t blink a single time. A girl is also on site, dressed in unflattering PPE, luminous for the garb but distracted – so when she passes him, he starts to groan. ‘Oh,’ he groans—‘Oh, Oh!’ He is enchanted by her, I guess. Women are rare glimpses on building sites and are afforded the sort of spectacle only usually bestowed to celebrities. ‘I would stick my tongue right up her arse,’ he says.
Something like enchanted.
I laugh and cannot stop laughing. I picture his tongue going in and out of her arse – against my will! – and it flicking against the starfish of her darkened skin there; him grimly satisfied in achieving his simple aim.
‘Oh,’ he groans on—‘She’s so sexy! . . . To be fair, I’d just be happy following her around.’
Men often reveal things when you don’t wish them to, or when you’re not interested.
A potentially relaxing train journey up into Cambridgeshire is threatened by a colleague’s bottomless rant about the two-year-old disintegration of his marriage, embittered by the feckless insanities of his wife (one-sided, naturally), forced to return to her father, to plead, to communicate through solicitors and hurry the three daughters quickly out of the car, into the car, keep things sweet with them, and try to theorise in her complicated mind why he became bored of her and why things can’t sleep when you want them to.
‘You gonna get married?’
‘If y’bird brings it up, just tell her y’mate from work said no.’
How much rain has fallen that the Hertfordshire fields should flood? Peacefully he retrieves his laptop from a bag and works, leaving me to read and stare out of the window at the passengers who board and alight when we pull into a new station. Train songs. The most romantic form of transport, I think, and the wind prodding moss down the platforms.
Bored by my lot and close to collapsing (a dizziness, hunger – maybe – but I cannot find my mind and, oh, where is it?) I stop into a café south of the river and get a cappuccino. It is delivered by a girl with a red heart with a thick black outline tattooed behind her left ear. I sip and read. While I sip and read I become paranoid that I am being watched, maybe even filmed, that there is a big conspiracy, that everyone within the café is in on it and that I must leave straight away. I choke on the clotted bits of foam and chocolate sprinkles at the bottom of the cup. I go out on the street, that is where I see: from: the copper talking to her, the big hyena laugh, and him passed out on the floor with his gut and the restful look of unconsciousness about his face.
‘He didn’t say hello to me.’
‘Your dad was in your office and he didn’t say hello to you?’
‘Does that upset you?’
‘Yeah, but I’m used to it now.’
He was in a meeting room and people kept saying that my dad was in a meeting room. I thought that I would see him at some point and I could tell him how mad work is – because that is all we can talk about most times – and I would even try to kiss him hello, though he wouldn’t like it, but I wouldn’t care at him not liking it. He’ll call me when he has finished in the meeting.
He didn’t call me—
‘Your dad’s gone
. . .
he looks nothing like you.’
I was in a pit. It was not an altogether unusual pit: meaningless nightmares, absence, longing, being a terrible son, being a terrible artist, missing my parents, anger, winter’s onset that cares not, sadness. The sides of the pit were a slug sliced down its belly and turned – grotesquely, everything spilling – inside-out. It was hard to crawl out of the pit. I am a terrible son to my mother. Frightfully slowly I feel her drifting away from me and I away from her; falling into a pool with my suit on, pickets that fill up with water, fabric that soaks it up. I think – ascending the lift from outside where it is cold and one is condemned for ever lighting up in public – that were it my mother in that meeting room, rather than wave my understated right hand, I would have burst in, fallen to my knees and wept for her forgiveness and for her to never love another as she loves my brother and I. I pictured myself doing just that, in front of a room full of professionals.
But I don’t; I write it all down, and it is almost as embarrassing.

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