Saturday, May 23

The Names of Places You’ve Been


THE BUS STOPS all down Bow Rd. were full of people awaiting the rail replacement bus service, everyone asking questions to the gentleman in the fluorescent vest, and finally the bus going very slowly down Mile End Rd where it was buzzing with activity. From the top deck of the bus one could look down at all the buzz: market day, police arrests, pub tables & chairs, shoppers, a sea of people waiting for a bus that crawls very slowly toward them. All the traffic was making me late for my engagement. It stopped outside of Aldgate, so I hurried from there to Liverpool St. and then the Central line to Holborn. She was waiting at the station entrance with a semicircle of movement around her, the centre of a clock. I apologised for my delay, out-of-breathly, and we hugged each other’s small ribcages.
Her skin is calmed down. I don’t care whether her skin breaks out, as it is inclined to do, for my own skin is terribly unkind to my appearance, but she cares and that makes me care. She covers it up with foundation but the more naked it is, the more wonderful. Her freckles are dimmer under the foundation. I do not like the foundation. She is wearing her spring coat. We head down to Shaftesbury Ave. and then on to Oxford St. It is a pleasant day for walking; as much as I hurry and pant my way between clumsy pedestrians, I enjoy walking with her, for our walking speeds are near-identical. She tells me—
‘I always watch you in my periphery so when you speed up, I speed up.’
We walk down Denmark St (where some of my youth hides its rock ideas): I want to hold her hand. Since we have broken from each other, every touch of hers has regained its static charge. A brush against my thigh causes me to jump, to shiver with glee; only now she is a more full human being against my skin. I would like to hold her hand. She laughs with me more than she did before. My silly remarks are greeted with a laugh rather than the silence they were swept away with before. Neither of us are taking the other as casually as we had before; a thought thought with a brief smile as we are absorbed into the horror of Oxford St.
I find us a way out of there—‘Not a moment to soon’—and we are in the quiet back streets where only the sane meander. She has pointed out a bookshop she wanted to visit, and there it stands amongst the houses and green parks. It is indeed a wonderful bookshop and, despite the emptiness of my wallet, I ponder the shelves. I pick up a book of erotic poetry by one of my favourites. Inside are explicit drawings of men’s penises going into women’s vaginas. I look for her. The penises are out of proportion, as are the vaginas, but both look very good, like people when they’re going on holiday. I look for her, because my penis and her vagina looked very good together, like people when they’re going on holiday. £9.99.
‘Let’s get something to eat,’ she says.
Walking down the street—‘One of the things I really miss about you,’ I say—‘one of the few things, there aren’t many… is when I used to tell you what song I’ve got stuck in my head and you’d get really annoyed because then it’d be stuck in your head.’
She laughed—‘You can always text me that.’
Sitting down to eat in one of our favourite restaurants, we continue to discuss memories. She remembers things as fondly as I do. We still have our jokes, our points of reference, our memories. We made memories together for a long time, and before that we made smaller memories, not as big or powerful. When we made memories together, exciting & white memories, we took half away each so that we could put them together in a pizza restaurant on Tottenham Court Rd., otherwise they would just be half a memory, the kind that bleeds on the pavement and takes up space in your empty bed.
‘Isn’t that the bar we went to with your sister?’ It was, and it was quiet enough, except for a dapper group of middle-aged couples outside who had a whole night in front of them on the tiles. She and I lounged at a table with a drink, slouched from the large meal and not as near to the other as I would have liked. I enjoyed our last hour together. Going up to the Warren St. end of Tottenham Court Rd., I remembered very clearly a time when we had held hands along that same path, the evening sun setting across us in strawberry milkshake light. I put my hand around her shoulders, into the grooves of her ribcage once more, so small even in my small reach, and we parted.

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