Thursday, May 21

Jam Doughnuts

THERE IS NO blue light outside; only the colour of the sky, with the sun descended, putting the last of its hue on next-door’s red bricks. Good-looking people live there: a few girls, each more beautiful than the last, and a young man who arrives home late on a bicycle, his shoes clicking and causing him to walk unevenly. He sits on their front step late into the night, working on his bicycle; its frame is shiny. He works with his uneven shoes on. When he is finished it is dark so that he only works in the lamp from indoors. Then he goes to bed with one of them. They roll around while the bicycle is well again, all patched up, wearing a thick silver necklace.
Children play with one of the neighbourhood cats. They take turns stroking its fur, then it turns away; they follow.
I miss my neice. Slowly she makes my clothes smell of her. When they are on the clothes’ stand they smell of her. She could not stay that way forever, though you might wish she did if you had met her. She is a sprout, curling up, soft & green. She makes your clothes smell when you hold her. In a darkened room with clothes on the clothes’ stand, her smell sings you to sleep. Her smile has no teeth in it, like a road with no cars but glistening with dribble. Work on the upper body strength and hold her for longer.
The pond has been drained, just as it was a year ago. The fish have been moved – so the cats have nothing to pester (they amuse themselves temporarily with children although they’re no challenge to catch). I stand at the window and look out as a means of passing the time. All the time I am passing.
It was silly of me, but I had forgotten what it was like to talk and talk and just talk as one is meant to talk, not caring what one is saying but being honest and unloading. Where had her laugh been? another constituency, surely. Her whole body curled up when she laughed, her eyes squinting, her lips unfolding, her cheekbones swelling.
A ring of off-white, follicle’d, with a lone dot marking the only village with a population exceeding ten. It is extended down from her leg, hitched up black jeans and the black lake sock. A wonderful place to run my finger! I explored the village. Thirteen people. Population: thirteen.
The headmaster arranged for a game at the front of the assembly: three children had to eat sugary jam doughnuts without licking their lips. Each was seated on a chair in front of the audience and as they ate the audience went wild, cheering and shouting names, laughing. The three children, two girls and one boy, tried to eat their doughnuts without licking their lips. ‘This is torture!’ shouted the boy through his godawful jammy doughnut mess of a mouth. The audience could smell the doughnuts and it was enough to make them lick their lips. The place descended into chaos when the last girl was left, triumphant, her face covered in sugar.
She kissed me on the lips when I was not expecting it.
As if I were not confused enough, upon her exit, as we embraced, she said—‘I love you.’
I replied—‘I love you. I miss you.’ I supposed that I meant it because to no one else had I ever said that fragile three-word phrase and not felt each of its eight letters so heavily on my tongue.
‘I miss you… so much,’ she said.
‘Good… it’s not so bad when it’s mutual.’
I did a very strange thing and clutched the back of her head, all thick with hair, and pulled it closer. It was strange because it was a Tuesday and we had never done anything like that on a Tuesday before. Tuesdays are not typical days for such encounters. I read in a Readers Digest that the only two things to ever happen on a Tuesday were a river over-spilling its banks in Gloucester (1887) and a bank open in Cheshunt (1953). How dare we be so overcome on such an unremarkable day! I showed her out and she called me ‘darling’ but I did not know what that meant. The clock’s pendulum swung. The blinds were frayed in the bottom-left corner (bottom-right to those outside) where the cat had found his route. There was one last glass of prosecco left in the fridge. I had it in my lonely newness and then got into bed.

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