Sunday, November 22

America Squared

THERE WAS A CHARITY event being held on Thursday night, in a vodka bar around the backstreets of the city (mosaics of Lenin on the walls—‘It’s what he would have wanted’), where the streetlights fall dim and the crowds go to die. Many people from the building industry were there. A rock band, made up of employees of the various companies, was due to play, and it was that which interested us. A score for entry and all you wished to drink; buckets of beer & ice around two rooms. There were five of us, each a little tired from our labours. At first I was quite pleased at how quiet it was in there, so few people. My friend and I talked about a young lady at work—
‘A—a is beautiful,’ he said.
‘Ah, man, don’t get me started,’ I said—‘She’s one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen.’
‘She’s stunning… Her eyes!’
‘She’s on another level. Her eyes are…’
‘What’s so special about her eyes?’ someone asked.
I said—‘They’re incredible. I’ve never seen eyes like hers in my life. They’re blue and green and yellow and brown and grey… They’re every colour. They bore right into you. So piercing.’ We were all enjoying expressing our delight in her.
‘She’s just got this way about her,’ my friend said.
‘She has. A real class. She’s got a lovely manner about her. Very elegant.’ The bar was beginning to get busy. ‘Fuck me, there’s a lot of dollies in here.’ I said, and rushed out for a cigarette. It was one of those occasions where people ask where you work straight after asking your name, deciding, in a split second, whether you are worth talking to or not. ‘Ah, yes! Them!’ they’d say, and then boast of whom they worked for. My friends and I did not care, but I wished they would leave us to our cigarettes in peace. Quickly the evening was deteriorating. Fortunately my immediate company was interesting and so we talked. I was halfway through declaring something or other when I felt a cold drink splash against my leg. I turned to confront the perpetrator and he smiled—‘Someone just knocked this glass of wine over and ran away.’ He laughed. I stared hard at him and longed for a pen to stab into his neck. He was a large man with small, simple eyes and his breath stank of white wine. ‘I’m sober,’ he said—‘It’s not me.’ I sneered and turned to continue, stuttering with anger. Do not touch your wet trousers, I told myself. He tapped me on the shoulder—‘I dunno which way they went.’ I stared at him. Anger and hatred flowed through me; I remembered why I avoided these sorts of occasions, nothing but horror! Finally he apologised, as though it took something out of him. ‘Okay, whatever. That’s all you had to fucking do, apologise.’ I turned back and tried to continue talking, but the damage was done; I was furious and, at last, my mood was swayed negatively, spiralling.
It became so busy that one could hardly move. The music banged loudly as the band played their terrible music; clanging; a security guard—‘Thank god for earplugs!’ Groups of office workers congregated. Everything slithered and slapped. I was leaning under an arch watching the band (a woman on bass playing and singing a racket of a song; no humour, no ring on her finger, perspiring under the stage lights, her feet firmly apart and whelping into the mic; hoping for anything and the crowd giving back something that smelled good enough) (the man, chinless and slippery, sang and became aroused off the frenzy he was creating; bad pop song after bad pop song; a lifelessness behind the eyes and this one true moment of him getting somewhere near his dream; he would be talked about in the office the next day). An old man in a suit was dancing with a dolly. She was handsome, with a strong jaw and a bob that swung around in a halo, she giggled and flirted with the old man. His head was large and cut in half by a white moustache. He was revelling in her attention, as all his young male employees salivated and observed enviously. She rubbed up against him and his ringed-finger spun her in circles. She made eyes at the young male employees, dancing with more and more fervour. She laughed at the young male employees as she stroked the old man’s chin. I went away.
The rest of the group left until it was just my boss, his friend and I, both of whom I liked a great deal. My boss is a kind-hearted fellow who, try as he might to be more cutthroat, is too nice a gentleman for such a thing and, what’s more, he has a wonderful sense of humour, if a little prone to mood swings similar to my own. His friend is a huge bearded man with a silver chain around his neck, friendly, caring and humorous, recalling memories of art school and strict drug regimes. The band finished and it was I alone—‘You ain’t gonna try and pull, are you?’
‘Nah,’ I said—‘I’m gonna go for a piss and then fuck off home, myself.’
‘See you tomorrow.’
The streets were still warm. I cannot get used to how mild this November is. When walking down the street in my rapid manner I became overheated and found myself starting to sweat, at to sweat is to perspire and watching all the midnight traffic pass me by. On the Whitechapel Rd. I slowed and began to savour the night. It was a relief to be out of there. There were few people about other than those sparse clusters around the pale blue rim of a bus stop. Yes, I had tried to have a good time, yet I found within the air – as if it were a physical thing – something negative that I could not ignore. It did not matter; I was on my way home. My flat was quiet and cold from where I had the window open. I was, at last, alone, securely alone. I undressed and masturbated for a long time, deciding that I would sleep through my alarm and not dream of my ex-lover – neither of which I achieved.

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