Wednesday, May 10

Inch-Long Breeze

The footsteps in the new darkness of the room were slow. It was the sound of his bare feet. Her eyes adjusted to the lights being extinguished. He approached softly, slowly sticking and unsticking feet to the laminate flooring. ‘Can’t see a thing!’ he said. In quiet hues of blue he appeared holding two glasses of water. What little light there was could be distinguished off the glass, flashing between his fingers. He was nude, as was she.
At first he handed the water in his right hand to her. She had thrown the covers off and had her knees up, not tight to her chest but her chest tight to them. ‘Thanks,’ thanking him, straightening her hair. All became the slightest bit clearer; for the eye to quickly accommodate the darkness, for all rods to quicken to action, for chemicals to react and signals to fire. He sat down at the end of the bed, around the coast of withdrawn sheets. She pushed her toes underneath him and wiggled them. He smiled at her and at his vision becoming clear enough to see her smiling back at him, drinking the water, her drinking water, everyone in the room drinking water. It was fresh from the fridge and tasted good.
‘You got a slice of lime?’ she said.
‘Up my arse,’ he said. She spat a mouthful of water at him. He laughed. The water felt good, and it was out of her mouth so her saliva was in there.
‘I thought you had sobered up.’
‘I have.’
It will do the author’s fingers a favour to omit noting all further smiles from here on in.
‘I sobered up when you paid for the taxi.’
‘Very funny.’
Now everything close to the window could be seen: the figures, the sill, the plants, the side of the wardrobe, the edge of the bedside table. The blind had been left elevated, allowing stray streetlight to fall onto the bed. Upwards the city was all asleep underneath a mirror of light pollution. He stood up and looked out. A breeze came through the window, a breeze that would not be felt anywhere other than an inch away from the open window. There was an inch of water left in his glass. Outside there were still cars rolling along, others speeding. The relief of taught springs and a ‘hello’ brush of her shoulder. A moment passed. ‘If you look at the shadows of the bollards,’ she said—‘they look like the evolution of man.’ From a single lamppost the bollards’ shadows angled and extended. Pause. ‘It’s so hot in here.’
‘Swap with me. It’s a bit cooler here.’
She got the inch-long breeze; her eyes shut against it.
‘Do you want another glass of water?’
Her eyes still her head shaking shut.
At such times London becomes a series of golden vertical and horizontal lines, not quite structured in its chaos, the beating of eight million hearts within, and all of it stretching outwards and forever in a loneliness of streets, boroughs and cities. It was half-two. A madman was walking a terrier. In the distance a building held a heart monitor at its peak.
‘Give me some of yours.’
She drank his water. He felt her bones. She had bones up her right side and each rib played a melody, a ditty, and reverberated everything around within her lungs. Each subtle shift in posture of both were heard in the laminate flooring, which creaked dryly. They were side by side. Their shoulders and hips touched. They were still a little drunk, neither as sober as they thought. She had brushed her teeth with her finger. ‘Why did you call me up?’ he asked; nervous to ask, nervous for answers. She was staring at the view, her arms covering her chest. Would she look at him when she responded?
‘I thought you would be up for a drink.’
He paused—‘You don’t know anyone else who would’ve been up for a drink?’
‘Not on a Tuesday. Do you wish I hadn’t?’
‘No, no, not at all… I’m glad you did.’
‘I bet you are.’
He didn’t want to, but changed the subject—‘You not liking anyone in your new office?’
‘They’re okay. It always takes me ages to get used to new people… I didn’t talk to you for months. I think a couple of them were going out, all guys.’
Still on his mind—‘How comes you didn’t call Sally?’
‘Jesus Christ… I wanted to see you!’
‘Sorry, I missed that. What did you say? One more time.’
‘O, fuck off.’
Both glasses collected off the sill. It was wet around them except in small patches where they had been held. Now his eyes made light work of the darkness in the room. Before opening the fridge he looked at the window where she stood. Suspecting that she was being observed, she turned. At that moment he opened the fridge and illuminated his nakedness from the waist down. Now the glow from the night and the glow from the fridge were squaring up, separated by two people who wore scratches and dried come, not fit for breaking up a fight, hardly fit for each other.
As the fridge was closed and he carried the drinks across, she moved from the window to the bed. It was a reunion of sorts. Pale skin that became translucent around shoulders and hipbones. She took a sip.
‘You want me to close the blinds?’
‘Nah, close the window a little, though. This neighbourhood is so noisy. It’s dead round my way at night.’
He got up behind her. She thought he might back off, spend his awkwardness on the other side of the bed, but he spooned and she closed the distance. His arms were hot. Her hair smelled of something sweet and unfamiliar.
‘Good-night,’ he said.
‘Good-night,’ she said.
They lay there for some time, awake, both looking at the night sky and aware the other was not asleep. He could see her eyelashes tapping along in time to her consciousness. He thought a lot before he asked the question. He wanted to ask before the sun rose. She thought a lot before he asked the question. She wanted to answer before the sun rose. They wanted it set in the minds before the morning, otherwise sleep would ruin the moment. As he asked the question he wished he had kept his mouth shut—
‘What’ll you tell Paolo?’
She paused a moment—‘The truth.’

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