Monday, February 27

What I Did Instead of Having Anal Sex

She gave me a shopping list: champagne, condoms, lubrication, and poppers. I said I would gather all but the last, having no sure idea where I could obtain some, never having had any cause for them before. ‘Just go to Soho.’ Twelve days previous she had suggested a rendezvous—‘I want you to fuck me in the arse.’ When we spoke on the phone during the week she asked me if I had slept with anyone since I had last slept with her. A couple of days later I decided that I did not want to attend the rendezvous nor to fuck her in the arse. She called me a ‘pussy.’ I did not mind.
Instead I met Rebecca. The gallery we had planned to visit was closed for refurbishment works, just for the weekend, so we sat in the cafĂ© and caught up. ‘We’ll get back on to Regent St.,’ I said—‘Then I’ll take you to that bookshop I was telling you about. But we’ll just be quick. We won’t buy anything.’ ‘Go into a bookshop and not buy anything!’ she exclaimed, or asked. ‘No, we’ll be quick, then walk to the Hockney exhibition.’ Perhaps I dashed too quickly between the crowds, too quick for Rebecca, the great mass of tourists, but no sooner had I lost sight of her than she appeared at my side again—‘Let’s cut through here.’ I had not seen her in over a year: she had lost weight; her hair had grown; she and I got on as well as we ever had, talking much and laughing. She was greatly impressed by the bookshop – it truly is a credit to the trade – and we walked around the aisles, discussing this work and that, eyeing, fingering. She picked a title off the shelf and informed me she had not been impressed by it, at least not as much as she had the author’s other work. It was the same pressing—‘I lent my ex’ that book and she returned it with a note on the inside cover: “I’m sorry I came all over your book” and so I can never read it again, the memories.’ As we walked away, a lady nearby, who had been listening to our quiet conversation, picked up the book and hurried toward the till. We were with poets. We stood stifled in the pressed trees and stuffy air. Rebecca bought a book.
‘Let’s get out the west end as fast as we can.’
Lunch was taken on a bench in St. James’s Park. It was cold and the wind blew very strong. Our collars were turned up. Drizzle fell and stung. ‘I don’t mind bad weather,’ she said—‘As long as it looks like a movie.’ We were next to the pond—‘What bird is that?’ I told her it was a swan. ‘I’m not an idiot! I meant that one!’ I was sure that one was a coot. ‘C-O-O-T.’ ‘In Dutch it is a…’ and she reeled off a very long word, much more interesting. We crossed Whitehall and made our way down to Westminster pier. By then it was very dark on account of the weather, although there were still a couple of daylight hours left. It was best when the masses fell away, because then we could talk and reduce our pace, dawdling amongst the smoggy mist, the brown surf of the Thames rocking by. Was it night yet? The sun was gone, although the clouds were glow-in-the-dark. We climbed up the steps of the museum. Inside was quiet enough. Long halls fled to north east south west, through doorways, extending into the distance. In one of the exhibitions Rebecca became dizzy and thought she might faint, so we sat down. After ten minutes or so she became better again—‘Are you sure?’—and we continued, but many of the paintings were silly and we made jokes. There were many paintings of horses. ‘But they are nice horses,’ she said. ‘I fucking hate horses,’ I said. All of the paintings were condensed so that barely any wall showed through, in an overwhelming attack of colour, history and privilege. There were outstanding paintings certainly, wonderfully arresting paintings that took your breath away, famous or otherwise, but they were sandwiched between portrait after portrait of the gentry. In the end we rushed through, satisfied to the last that we had at least attempted to be cultured.
The rain had picked up, striking thin white lines across the view. At the exit were people huddled under the alcove, shielding lighters in the cup of their hands, illumined by the precise shine of a mobile phone. She had to go to work soon and we found, after some time, a place to eat. The evening was becoming a cocktail of those who had been out for the day and those who were out for the night. Afterwards I walked her to work. We hugged good-bye and she said—‘Enjoy your wank.’
So if I quietly delight in the Londonesque trial of wind, rain and no sun, do not hold it against me! I hunched against the elements, made it back to my flat and smiled into the warmth of everything familiar and safe. I picked up my guitar and sang a few songs. All the goodness of the day seemed a long way away, quite suddenly, and I was in no position to do anything. I thought—‘O, if you are not going to fuck her in the arse then you need to write, boy, do something!’ but I could not pull myself out of wherever my mind was. The soup I bought for dinner was not to my liking; I spent a long time picking it apart before abandoning it to the bin. I stared out of the window but there was nothing; no drunks to observe, no addicts in the stairwell opposite; just the distant din of motorcars. I got into bed, without regret.

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