Saturday, October 17


THE NEXT DAY I awoke with an unusual air of positivity, not quite sure what I was doing, but feeling better than I had, and determined to make something of myself. What would I make of myself? I did not know. It was possible I would become something mediocre, but with all my faculties, at least. Indeed the past couple of days had been awful but I was not about to be reduced, not by her or by anybody. I slept long, waking before the alarm. On a modest table are some flowers my mother bought for my grandmother’s grave but, finding flowers freshly delivered when she arrived, she gave them to me; ten days later they, too, were dying, and fanning a sweet, acrid smell about the flat.
I was going to meet a stranger. If I were to improve, then I would have to seek out something different.
Not long out of the city, the roads expand rapidly and a blank open space revolves around you; not that all the ingredients of London are lacking, but they are given more room to roam. I was nervous, yes, but excited and unsure and desperate for something different. My gait was sweeping amongst the hour’s rush. I dodged pedestrians expertly, stopped by an ATM and then found myself on narrower pavements and in busier crowds. It only takes a sidestep (a slip of the big toe or a drunken tilt) to find relative peace again.
I waited on the corner for her. She showed up and led me through some alleyways until we were in a residential street.
‘I really liked the look of this pub,’ she said. ‘I have to have my back to the wall, I have to be able to see out,’ taking a seat on the wooden bench with her back to the wall.
She spoke with an infectious enthusiasm, a flightiness that prohibited her from remaining still for too long. As I ordered a drink, she whizzed around me, looked at the walls, pulled out leaflets, corrected her order, and removed the ice from her glass, while telling me about a band she was very fond of.
But had I not looked at her properly yet? What nerves! We sat opposite outside, the sky down to darkness, and the glow of neighbouring windows filling up.
I looked at her for the first time. It was quite something to look at her for the first time. Cheekbones big enough to hold bigger eyes. She had a nose I had not seen before and clear skin and it was something to look at her for the first time. She drank Diet Coke and I had two pints. We continued like that, talking and not letting up. I found myself with so much to say to her and so much to listen. Whenever she listened to me her catastrophic eyes dove into me as she cooed and paid complete attention. I was fearful of her gaze at times, pulling my view away, but why? What had I to fear? Ah, yes, the boyfriend. Already I was forgetful of the sadnesses, but, above all, she went to bed with another. She had the upper hand: as she remained sober, propped up by caffeine, I deteriorated into loose-tongued drunkenness. ‘I’m hungry. Can you get me some food, please?’ I did as I was asked, sitting there and watching her eat; the bowl of chips between us equally but subjected only to her fingers, her long, slender, dark-red-painted nails, and every time her fingers brushed me I thought—Her fingers just brushed me. Her orders became more ridiculous. She was toying with me, no doubt. ‘No ice… Make sure they’re gluten-free chips… Elderflower, if they have it, but not cordial, and if it’s with apple, make sure the apple isn’t too strong.’ She gave me these orders, and I obliged, I researched, I quizzed the bar staff, I made trip after trip. It was silly of me, but I wished her to be satisfied. I did not want her to leave, nor to get bored; I did not want her to leave me without she. I even made up a name for her, which she quite liked. Such an interesting beauty in front of me, so unsure of herself, seeking whatever good things I had to think about her, putting down her glass, stirring with three straws, her bold eyes unmoved from me, asking over and over what I thought, her lashes, she had an expression on her face when she asked these questions that emanated from her full, shapely lips; I had not seen lips like that before either; it was quite something to see those lips for the first time.
She blew her smoke in my face. Altogether I did not mind, but I pointed it out to her and she made every effort with every drag to blow the smoke in my face. She was toying with me. Each time she blew her smoke in my face she smiled a little smile with these lips in the shape of a seahorse.
Please be considerate of our neighbours.
At ten o’clock we – the only punters outside – were ushered inside. We took a sofa, falling into its lap and rolling toward each other. Once more her directness unnerved me. I was already such a wisp of anxiety, and she reduced me furthermore, not content with my ducking, but getting out of me whatever she pleased. Still, I gave it.
Then I was drunk, and she was sober. What was I saying? She would remember it all! If I told her that I had an erection because of her then she would remember it. My purple pinkness pricked at her proximity, and I declared it, crossing the border, attempting to toy as she toyed.
At the entrance to the train station near the exit of the evening, I told her—‘I dunno if I can see you again.’ It was not good of me to think those nine letters. She implored me to meet her again. Well, what use was it to resist? I have nothing to lose, not a thing, so I could meet her again, I suppose. If someone makes you forget the rest of the world, then you pay attention and ignore the mess.

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