Wednesday, September 9

A Knife Evening

THE KNIVES HAD lay in one of my kitchen drawers for a while, unused. Although they were her knives, I assumed she had not wanted them, neither taking them when she left or asking for them since. Then, out of nowhere, she wanted them returned. I did not mind; they were her knives.
Knife & wolf. Knives & wolves. Singular & plural. I wrapped the knives in a terrible home newspaper I had received just before moving out of our old place, a newspaper that had somehow followed me and would make a perfect coffin for the knives. The knives clinked as they were wrapped tightly in the newspaper. Aside from the peculiar poetry of the request, I wondered why she wanted the knives back. What had she cut with since? It was none of my business. It would be as before: I would bring them to my work, she would walk to collect them, notify me when she was five minutes away, and I would put them down at the building reception for her to pick up; we needn’t meet, nor exchange words. It was, I thought, the easiest way. It was difficult for me to prepare all this, to think about, but I did not understand why.
Twice she postponed. Two-and-a-half times she postponed, more accurately, then—‘I won’t be able to pick them up at lunch but I should be there for about twenty-to-four.’
I was having a good day; good spirits, having attained a new position within the company – more interesting, exclusive – and was joking with my colleagues while enjoying a pot of coffee. Time got away from me.
I checked my phone—
‘Hey, I’ll be there in five mins.’
The time the text was sent: two minutes ago. I leapt out of my chair, grabbed the bag with the knives in and walked out. Furious, tumultuous nervous tossed & turned in my belly immediately. I thought I would throw up. We could not meet; I did not want to meet. Everything was very slow – slowest of all was the wait for the lift. Tapping fingers. Ding. First floor. Ding. Good, she was not there. My nerves calmed somewhat as I approached the reception desk.
‘All right, man, it okay if I just leave this here? Someone’ll be along to collect it in a minute.’
‘A lady was just here looking for something. She’s outside there, look.’
She was stood obscured by the frame of the door. Not knowing what to do, I got into the revolving door and then she was there, look, right in front of me.
It was the first time I had laid eyes on her in months. It used to be that the sight of her every day would brighten my waking hours. It used to be that the sight of her hair on the pillow next to me would sing to me through the entrance of the night. Now it had been months since I had seen her. Many things had changed since then. She was with someone else now; someone else she said ‘I love you’ to, someone she wanted to have kids with, someone she kissed good-morning to as she left for work. I could not measure the changes between us if I had a lifetime.
‘Hey,’ I said.
She looked up from her phone—‘Hey.’
‘Here you go,’ I held out the knives in the newspaper.
‘That’s all right.’
I suspect she anticipated nothing else because she made as if to leave right away. Did she think I would be so frosty? I could not make out we had not been in love, and so I asked—‘How you doing?’
‘Okay, ta. You?’
‘Yeah, not bad. Same old.’
It was not the same old. Things were very different.
She looked at my head—‘Very hairy.’
I smiled—‘Are you hairy, Mary?’
She smiled—‘What?’
‘Are you hairy—’
The in-joke disappeared into the wind.
‘Take care,’ I said.
‘You too,’ she said.
Go back inside. The security man behind the desk—‘Good timing, eh?’
I nodded. I could not speak. I stood inside the lift and held my right hand flat in front of me; shaking violently. A twisted nausea wriggled in my gut. Back at my desk, I went to my bad place. It was an unfamiliar feeling that held me, caused me not to utter a single word for the rest of the day. The tremors did not leave me for many hours afterward. The sickness did not leave me so I listened to one of my mother’s favourite albums to imagine that she was nearby. It was futile. Many things had changed, many things were futile. It was beyond me to make sense of the situation, or even to feel anything other than miserably ill. Unable to swallow another mouthful of drink, I retired early. My winter duvet smothered me and I was alone with it.

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