Thursday, August 4

Gazpacho (Prose)

The benefit of having to attend meetings around London, as well as site visits and such, is that I am afforded time to read on the tube. The tube journeys do not last long – although my sense of perspective has shifted somewhat over the past thirteen months – but I can read several pages during a one-way trip; two pages a stop, all distances considered. Blackfriars to Temple; two pages. A nook between the door and a seat in ample space for me to angle between, assuming a comfortable enough position, with my bag pulled over my shoulder, and the coffee inside perfuming the air. It is not in my habit to sit down, so many hours in the office are spent that way, so I stand. I read. It is summer and the school’s are off, across the continent, so that the capital is full of tourists and daytrippers. They shuffle on and off, their wide-eyed children in tow, swinging from the bars, looking at the maps, asking their parents questions (I cannot hear, plugged in). So, during these journeys – for all their negatives – I am paid to read. I smile at the idea. It is true I could sift through work papers, brief myself on my things to come, catch up on minutes, check over calculations, but I prefer to read. (Raise the book at the station so that people can get by.) I am being paid to read. Until the last second, I am reading. The train pulls still, the doors open; I am finishing the sentence, simultaneously placing a bookmark (a postcard from Helen) back between the pages, and then jumping off and forcing it back into my backpack. Sometimes I might attend a meeting with a colleague; I will attempt to lose them, but they follow me—‘Hold up! I’ll come with you back to the office!’ We sit down and talk, but I talk quietly, lest someone overhear. There is a crew filming something at the end of the carriage—‘Look, they’re filming something,’ my colleague says, pointing. I have started reading more; an old habit that returns and helps convince me I am not fading quite so much as I believed I was. Reading had been so troublesome for me, not finding anything that grabbed me, until I went back to old favourites and found the joy that had been there before. However there are things from the past that are beginning to rear their heads again, causing me some concern. I am a worrier, yes, but I do not wish to be unhealthy. Unhealthy is how an infatuation is developing.
I know of no young man other than myself who becomes infatuated. Maybe I am past the age where men become infatuated with women, maybe they have their secrets I do not hear about. My infatuation – and I dislike calling it that, not at my writing desk – is starting to worry me. She does not worry me much at all because I find her wonderful, and wish only to tell her so, if that is all I have, but I want more. It will not be enough to for me to only tell her how wonderful I find her. There are two things I want to write about these days and yet find myself refusing to: my ex, and her. To endlessly prattle on about either would be unhealthy for me. So it is her laugh sets me electric, so it is she makes me laugh, so her eyes bore into me, so the length of her legs drives me wild, so her eyes her eyes her eyes, so if she is mischievous and strong; I cannot bring myself to write on and on about her. I am, at this moment, as I sit here recounting, dragging myself out of a low-point, in which I did not say a word to her; not, you understand, due to any scheme or attempt to unhook myself, but because I found myself repugnant, absolutely unsightly and unworthy to be in her presence or have her look upon me to converse. Usually I would talk to her, or share a joke, but I avoided her at all costs, my misery festering. No, she is too good for me, I thought to myself. In the elevator I would look at the mirror and say—‘You ugly bastard! You’re out your mind!’ and I would hurry to my desk, put my headphones in and avoid all official goings-on. Silly, I know, but you must understand that the days are so dull.
There is a meeting, on the other side of town, down Strand. I hurry past her. A few pages read, until Embankment, then I have the wrong venue – my friend texts me—‘Are you coming to this meeting?’ – and I board the westbound farther till Victoria. The meeting goes on. I leave at half-six and get back to the east side by seven. Undetermined to go to the supermarket, I check out the soup kitchen of my local offy: gazpacho. It will remind me of having gazpacho with my mother in Spain. Cold soup, delicious in the heat, after a shower and a few beers. When I came to eat at gone-nine I noticed, from a check seldom carried out, that the soup was a week out-of-date. I ate it regardless, too late was it to call for a takeaway. In the morning I awoke with bad bowels. I sat on the toilet there for some time, seeing from my watch that I was now late for a meeting. I was dizzy with nausea. Curse gazpacho.

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