Saturday, May 16

Me Little Bastard

IN SUNNY BISHOP’S square I sit and look at the crowd. That is all I seem to do when I am on my own lately: look at crowds, at people who are not myself, and get such little enjoyment, yet still I sit and look at crowds. I am similar to one of those foxes at the side of the dual carriageway.
Today I woke up very late, hungover. I went into town – a habit I cannot explain but one I have recently developed, so that a Saturday is not a Saturday without the same trip into the city and the same routes through it. I bought a cappuccino and sat in Bishop’s Square, smoking. Some French girls sat next to me. When I noticed them, I began shaking and then left, for they were too close to me, and were making me uncomfortable, ruining my afternoon and pointless pining.
It was calming, sitting there in the sun, looking at the crowd. I thought of a lesson I should have learned.
She had taken my virginity. I did not believe we had a relationship, as one acknowledges that sort of thing, but a friendship whereby we enjoyed the other’s company and genitals. It was with her, all those years ago, I realised that I did not hold hands with a girl for any other reason than because to a lonely spectator it might be nothing but the most accidental torture.
It was a pang I was familiar with before, and, true to my principles, I refused to hold hands when I was able, in consideration to all those strangers. What a fool I was!
No, what a fool I am!
I have not learned my lesson. These days, when I walk about the streets as one of those lonely strangers, my only wish, over anything else, is that I had held L—’s hand every small chance I got. What I wouldn’t give to go back in time and hold her hand for even the smallest of journeys, from the tube to the ticket gate, say, or the shop door to the counter. I would harass all those lonely strangers without the slightest tinge of guilt, and would enjoy the perfect bony softness of her fingers (as I had that first night in Manchester).
Sure of my foolishness, I gape down the street at all the couples around me. Couples everywhere. Couples filling May’s sunny London pavements. Couples holding hands and swinging them, love’s pendulum. Couples with their arms around each other’s waist. Couples bringing coffee to the cafĂ© table and looking down, presenting sachets of sugar. I confront the scene with a sadness I cannot communicate, but one that turns my brow down to the floor and heated surges of sorrow flow through me. ‘Hold your lover’s hand,’ I will tell my children. ‘Hold their hand. Are you listening, you little bastard? Hold your lover’s hand.’
But down the Cheapside there is no hand to hold. There are memories; memories piled up against the lampposts but no hand to hold. It is the memories, as well, that leak out of their bag and dribble down the kerb.
I think things are over now. There is nothing one can do about such things. Even Genie cannot make someone fall in love with you (one of three rules repeated after each rub of the lamp). I think things are over now. I have thought about them a lot. I think they are over. It is not what I want, although I could not list out the things I want, such is the absurdity of my mind these days.
Be still, my useless dejection, and let’s rise up! Let us keep strolling the paths of this city as it greens into summer! Let us learn lessons and so forth! Let us not permit the office to crush us or the lonesome night to silence us!
It is hard. It is so hard that it is all but overwhelming.

PS: Photograph by her, by L—.

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