Wednesday, June 17


I LEAD EVERYONE TO one of my preferred bars down busy Bishopsgate, and the thick swamp heat not moving, but me charging through it with them in tow. The sun is up in the sky, coming through a smoky haze so Londinium that one cannot do without it leaning over everything. She said—‘I would have, but I can’t. I’ve got a cheese and wine night.’ ‘Sounds very sophisticated.’ ‘I doubt it will stay that way.’ So she will not come that night. I just wanted to drink into the hours and not worry about life too much, for once in the company of fellows and jovial as can be.
We took a place in the courtyard and they complimented me on my choice of bar and they handed me drink after drink so that I had to give them to other people. ‘I’m sorry… but thanks anyway.’ Tired, mother, yes, but struggling on with things when things are broken and one has forgotten how to handle all of the broken things. A crisp light off the ivy. That tower on your shoulder. A small bit of conversation here, another there. I came into good spirits. I was with good people, laughing, Friday night the twelfth of June, 2015. My new friend asked me if I wanted a shot—‘Why not? Tequila.’ It might provide a boost. I drank but could not feel myself becoming drunk. No matter what I drank, inebriation would not come (like her, but with less long limbs). Even my bladder would not fill. The bar grew busier and busier; it was so that one could not budge for brushing someone’s elbow, smiling, apologising, nodding in good wishes.
With watering eyes I looked at the women about me.
(Women so good to behold, even as I endeavoured not to taint them with my own mistakes. They are human because they are imperfect and therein lay the appeal, the nuance, the quiver after the arrow has flown. I rummaged through my hair for the women. But even still, I did not admire them too much, but just enjoyed my evening, all my friends and the jokes we told each other.)
A colleague was talking to me, away from the crowd. I cannot remember what he was saying but he talked most earnestly with his wide blue eyes flaring with enthusiasm. Strangely I was adverse to him, because I fear his professional ambition is ugly, but I like something about him so much that I cannot help but compare him to a child, eager to impress a parent who does not share his surname. He is a pleasure at times, but one can never be sure when.
Then I did a strange, most uncharacteristic thing.
Over my colleague’s shoulder, talking to her friends, was a girl of wondrous beauty.
Where had she come from?
She was tall, a perfect nose, brown hair and her hair bounced even when she was not moving, in the stillness of the courtyard. Over her hung a black bodysuit with an opening over back, loose. The small of her back was soft with a line down the middle of it like a newspaper article.
‘Excuse me, geez, just for a minute.’
It was a puzzle why I did it, but so I went. Life is too short, and all that nonsense. I felt like a king of sorts but so strongly had the compulsion overcame me. Moving aside my friend I went up to this stranger and told her—
‘Excuse me… sorry for interrupting… I just wanted to say, but I think you’re beautiful.’ She shook a trifle at my confession, so I apologised again. ‘I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable or anything, I just wanted to say it. I think you’re incredibly beautiful.’ I looked into her eyes, these big dark things she kept in her skull, so bare. She smiled and thanked me.
Her friends were the first to engage me, talking, asking about me—‘I dunno what else to say. I just came over here to say that, and that’s that!f’ I stood there talking to them. Soon they, grinning, left she and I to talk together. She was lovely. Her name was a small melody, a name I had not heard before. It rolled around in my mouth. I learned about her. Then, at the end of it—
‘I’m sorry but I’m seeing someone.’
‘That’s okay… Seriously, I just came over here to tell you that. I think you’re stunning. I had no agenda in mind. I just wanted you to know it, y’know?’
‘Thank you.’
‘That’s okay. You have a good night.’ I wished her friends a good night, too. I walked away and sat down and drank some more of my beer. My friends could not believe my audacity, my bravery, the utter pointlessness of my action. With my mind on other things, I assured them that it was no big deal and something I only wished to admit in public—‘I just told her she was beautiful, that was it.’
‘Why would you do that?’
‘Why not?’
Meanwhile another of my friends was talking to them. He returned a short while later and assured me that all of her friends had loved me and said I was a ‘ten’ when I knew, above all, that I was not. I did not move from my seat, but I sat there on my chair, staring into space, feeling strangely positive about everything so that a small smile lay across my face. Of course I felt guilty for making her feel in any way uncomfortable, however she did not move away from my side, the small of her back like a streetlight’s glow through the smog to my eyes. ‘They really liked you.’ No, I did not expect anything, so simply I had wanted to express to her the weight that her beauty had impressed upon me. It seemed, at that precise second, the only thing to do. It was as though I could do nothing but tell her so in the most honest way – because I just want to be honest now, and must try to be so at all times.
We got thrown out of the pub at closing time, the dregs leaking into the street, hushed by the doormen, happy and glad that the night had happened. Light bounced off the cobblestones. I walked away from my friends in the opposite direction. I was smiling. For the first time in a while, a happiness ran through me and danced in my lungs. Striding through the dirty streets I came upon a blood red joy. On the tube home I stared at a girl and smiled, so happy was I, and she leaned up and stared back. We held our gazes like so. A minute or maybe longer. No more did I wish to smile but to hold her gaze and feel that shiver down me. The shiver did come. Her big Indian eyes looked at me and her face so perfectly calm. I was not a menace, just an afflicted romantic wobbling about the streets and she had not rejected me. Perhaps there was time to thank her. No. Whitechapel. There was no evening left. I swung my arms and felt no baggage upon my bones.

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