Friday, June 23

Retainer

Where had my earnings gone that I had not the money to go out and drink in the colour of the bar, but confined to the close walls of my flat? It is quite the bargain though, because I am able to buy four beers from the cornershop that would only get me one in the bar; yet the bar has crowds and loud music and friends and friendly women. Instead, in the intense heat of my home, I lay still on the sofa. The evening had gone to getting drunk and dancing around, and I found that perfectly adequate for Friday night, if I put my finances aside for a moment. It was so hot that I could no longer move. Imagine all the people out having fun, and there I was, utterly immobile and staring at the ceiling. It had been good to dance around. Friday nights are not for everyone.
‘What are you doing tonight?’
‘Listening to hip hop and dancing. You?’
‘Drinking with a friend in Hampstead. What you gonna be doing later?’
It was half-ten already and I would be doing nothing later.
‘Good. I wanna come hard.’
I was not in any great position to make her come hard, but it was too late and her cab was already moving across London with all of the mug’s velocity through her open window.
She looked at me and laughed. We had had two different nights. The stairs revolved and slowly I descended, so slowly, and she laughed at me—‘Where’s your tan?’ I had returned from holiday—‘What’s going on with your hair?’ I told her to shut up, that I didn’t much like the sun. ‘Still wearing shitty trainers, too, I see!’ The lift ascended. She stunk of booze (and probably me too). It was almost midnight now and she stomped noisily down the corridor. The peace of my flat was stomped upon too, and she asked for a glass of wine. There was some on the side, always an open bottle, and she sipped, removing her skirt. She had not much time—‘Gimme a cigarette.’ I rolled her a cigarette and we smoked at the window. We looked out. We had now known each other a year; known in a delicate way, known as two people, young and lost, known as fuckers and masters of nothing. The tobacco was packed well. My neighbours were returning home from prayer.
She was going to another country soon, for some surgery. She wanted her breasts lifted and augmented. She hoisted her breasts up to show me, and I said—‘Hmm, yes.’
‘I’m getting my teeth straightened as well. I met this dentist the other week and he says he can do it for thirteen-hundred. I’ll just wear the retainer at night.’ She ran her fingers across her teeth with the cigarette still smoking in her spare hand. It was night, aglow. In front of me she was editing herself. ‘You’re judging me!’ I told her I was not. ‘You are. You’re judging me,… but that’s okay.’ I was not judging her. I wanted to say that those are the kind of things one is likely to fall in love with: all the imperfections she sought to change were the kind of things that define one human body against another. How dull the English language would be if every word were the same arrangement of letters as the last! For a moment, I felt sad, although I did not tell her so. ‘Then I will be marry-able.’ This was aimed at me, most squarely. I ignored it, so she repeated it. ‘Marry-able.’ It seemed her sole obsession.
‘Marriage is not the be all and end all.’
‘But I want to get married.’ She took out all the buildings in front of us with her smile and the weight of her breasts.
We lay down on my bed—‘So, what have you been doing tonight?’
‘I drank and listened to music.’
‘Did you write any poetry?’
I chuckled—‘No.’
‘Why not?’
‘I didn’t feel like it.’
‘Well, when do you write poetry?’
‘When I feel like it.’
‘Can I shower?’
‘Sure.’
I gave her a towel.
She disappeared and then reappeared in a towel with soapsuds drizzled down her arms. The soap made her skin slimy so I wiped it all off. When the soap had gone, she removed the towel and lay next to me on the sofa, still. She undressed me, and we both lay there, still, with our simple sexes both shaking under a loose breeze that came in through the window and, somehow, came to grace the lips of my furniture. Looking at her there, an exhibition of thighs and cunt spread playfully, I awoke. All the insecurities of her previous confessions wilted and now she was something else, someone else, something whole, someone wholly intent on a brief encounter. All of her was enflamed. All of me was enflamed, in a picture of her fist and friction. There was a great duty! My tiredness weakened and I could taste the evening on her tongue. Wine, yes, wine, white wine, because it is appropriate for summer and fish. She arrested me with the nook of her torso and then formed this pose upon the bedsheets, opening her holies. She had transformed: insecure to assured to limp.
We fucked like enemies; we always fuck like enemies, snake and mongoose, exchanging roles at the drop of a hat, both about to kill the other. It was so hot and we were not in love, we were petty loners with upsets and thrust. She woke the neighbours. She always wakes the neighbours. Parts of her move in a way that, one day, they will not. The inertia is below.
It is a couple of minutes before I stop laughing. I am laughing so much that I collapse. Freeing myself, I lay down and these little gasps of fresh air bounce all over my chest. They are so cool that I adore them. She lies down beside me. The view is all different. I cannot tell where the north pole is. Carefully I remove the condom, holding it up, tying a knot.
She laughs at the condom—‘How long has it been?’
‘Twenty-four hours.’
‘That’s twenty-four hour’s worth? ... Your hormones must be going crazy.’
I did not think they were going crazy. I did not know if or when my hormones decided to be crazy. It is summer. Everything is going crazy. She tells me I’m beautiful and I laugh again. She holds the condom and studies it. After I return from the toilet she is clothed and telling me that she is leaving.
‘You don’t want to stay?’
‘No. I’d better be going.’
We kiss and she goes.
My flat is empty again. It is back to being mine. Although I am glad to be alone, I cannot help but feel strange about it all. I look at the clock. Over two hours have passed. I think about her operation and her retainer. Everything is over. I wish for a good breeze to come through the window.

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