Monday, July 17

The Nurse, Part I

Tuesday is the dullest day: Monday there are things to talk about and a freshness about the eyelids; Wednesday is the hump, the halfway point; Thursday is tomorrowisfriday; Friday is the end of work (when one is disinclined even to work too hard, if they can help it), and the start of the weekend. Our teambuilding night-out was on a Tuesday, the dullest day. It was supposed to make us all closer, but, from previous experience, I found that it only tired me furthermore toward certain colleagues. We walked to the venue in the rain, but it was not so heavy but refreshing instead. Clouds wet with water made everything darker so that you had to look for the more inconspicuous signs of summer. Holed up in the bar, bullied by the shaking umbrellas of entrance, I began to drink quickly. It was reasonably busy, although I was in no mood to socialise, to ‘teambuild’, to address the imbalance of people I wanted to spend time with and people I did not. Truthfully I could have declined the invitation, but then I would not have had free beer and something to distinguish the Tuesday from its brothers & sisters. Becoming irritated by a colleague’s political opinion, I left the bar, and stood under the awning, with not enough cover to keep the rain from my wrist and legs, witnessing the dishwater rhythm of people walking by, silently enjoying the tickle of collective water down an oily nose. Upon my return to the table, around which everyone gathered awkwardly, I was inevitably drawn into a conversation I wanted nothing to do with. I grew bored. And so it was.
The evening drew on but the rain did not abate. We played darts for a few hours. During this time my mood took a turn for the worse and I withdrew from the crowd. At times I lingered on the edge, observing, not even commenting. There was food to be enjoyed, so I did that, but not much interested me, and I would disappear for a cigarette then return to find that someone had taken my turn; after all, I did not care. I regretted being out. Although others had left, I could not leave, not myself, for there was still bottle after bottle of beer. It was free, I needn’t have worried about paying a penny. On my breaks, I regarded the rain; it fell, forming deep puddles, and all it did was fall fast and then soft and then ridiculous. I ate the last slice of pizza and it was cold but it was delicious. In me there was a great tumult of longing, a quickening of sorrow for myself, and how silly! it was not really so bad, yet I imagined it was. Everyone in my group was laughing and parading before one another. I did not pay attention to how well or how badly I had done at the darts. It passed the time.
After that, many people dispersed until it was only a friend, my boss and I remaining, occupying the corner of a table, finishing leftover bottles of beer. They spoke while I lingered, disinterested. I did not entirely expect that it was all happening to me, but if I were left alone then I could pull the shutters down on the night’s entertainment and go home, smoothly enough in the rain. I wondered to myself—O, how did I get here?
Someone had broken wind. I twitched my nose and gagged. ‘Who the fuck farted?’ Disgusted, I looked around as everybody did their best to clear their name. What kind of savage does such a thing in a bar on a Tuesday?
The first time I saw her she was fanning the bar menu in the direction of my colleagues and I.
That is it now: forevermore; the first time I saw her she was fanning a bad smell at me with the most accusatory of glares. What was I to do but clear my name, to assure her I would never commit such a crime? That was it, the first time I ever saw her. One cannot do anything about such a misfortune. Either way, she soon came over to me and asked for a cigarette. As she rolled, she spoke to me and the other two I was with, abandoning her date for a moment. Yes, I had seen her out the corner of my eye, facing a gentleman, perched on a barstool. It was such a relief to see somebody new. We spoke—‘Your boss is a bit of an arsehole.’ I told her that that was one of the kinder things people have said about him. She had a good laugh, which she used freely. In a moment I forgot myself until that point and found a wonderful pleasure in her company. The rest of the night, which occurred to me to be a string of miserable moments in an unfortunate event, faded away beyond memory. As we spoke we laughed. I did not want for this stranger to return to her date. She complained about him, how he had criticised immigration and benefit system; how it was not going well, but—‘O well!’ she said. Sadly she finished rolling the cigarette, thanked me and started to leave—
‘Enjoy your shit date,’ I said.
‘Enjoy your shit boss,’ she said.
‘I’ll see you in hell,’ I said.
A great big laugh, she said.
Now I was distorted, coiled up into some sort of thought and imagination! Her, she, them. I wished to speak to her more. She was gone. She was so lovely and she was gone. I would not put looks into her direction (for she was only right there, back on her barstool), but tread water there, in the bar, barely moving, thinking—‘Hmm, I must do something.’ Something is only nine letters long. As my colleagues prepared to leave, packing their bags and so forth, I saw her go toward the toilet. In my state of mind it seemed perfectly reasonable to approach her after she had relieved herself and ask her a question. It felt to me that some things only happen once. If I did not act then I would surely live to think worse of myself, and how much of a sin the night would be! I leapt out of my thoughts and hurried downstairs to where the architect had placed the toilets. And there I was doing something uncharacteristic. An imposter had my shoes, was plotting my downfall.
As carelessly as I could, I hovered outside of the toilets, feeling simultaneously foolish and determined. Soon she would emerge and I would see into her eyes again, and that was a good place to see into, like a canyon or a tub of ice cream.
‘If this date continues to go terribly, do you wanna perhaps go for a drink sometime?’
She inclined her head; such eyes; she said—‘Yeah, sure.’
I gave her my number—‘That way, if you’re just being polite you can fuck me off and not text me or anything.’
‘What’s your name?’
I told her. ‘What’s yours?’
She told me. I repeated it, holding it on my tongue.
She assured me that she was up for a drink. It was over. I did not know what was going on. I said good-by.
My friend was waiting for me upstairs. I thanked him for waiting, although it was quite unnecessary, and I had no great desire to bid either of them farewell. It was raining, coming down in thick English sheets, cold and singing. I had not an umbrella to erect, so I walked home in the rain. O, how happy I was! I was happy that something had happened. For the night had been so empty of promise and yet, at its demise, it surprised me and I myself! Goodness, the rain fell down and soaked me through. My clothes, my white shirt, became stuck to me, clinging, and all of my body cold with the delight. Think! if I had not approached her then I would not have felt anything other than the glum that hounded me earlier, and then the next day would not be so full of promise. There seemed to me to be a hundred ways to die and so few to become happier. Her, and her, over her, and multiplied by her! She ran through my mind ceaselessly and I was so happy. So what if she never messaged me, I had pursued something that, in the past, I would not have. I had tried, I had reached. She was worth the risk; I swear it on the rainy bastard of this city London, she was worth it. The streets were empty at the rinsing of the rain. I walked home; the peacock feathers of a stomped puddle; the traffic a nest of snakes. You see the yellow streetlight shatter over brown mirrors and that’s sight enough. Everything was good to me.

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