Become a Fan
Tottenham Court Road
By Wyn Preston
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Rated "R" by the Author.
A chance meeting in London brings back some painful memories for Richard.
“Richard! Hello” she almost asks. She wears a face of complex confusion, as though I shouldn’t be in this continent, let alone this street in London where we live. Her head tilts as her stare falls just short of hitting my eyes as though trying to read something printed upside-down. It’s hard to tell, as it always was with Carrie, how sincere she’s being. It instantly crosses my mind that she may well have seen me from some way down the street and formulated her fictitious approach before presenting herself before me. I, of course, realise straight after this hostile and suspicious reaction that if she had seen me so far down the street, her only choice of action would surely have been a physical one and that she would have crossed the street before I had spotted her and, no doubt, interrupted the thus-far traumatic-free evening for her. Whether her searching expression was innocent or not is something impossible to reach a definite decision upon.
I offer something.
“Hello, Carrie.” I wonder now if she noticed how tense my posture had surely become as my eyes search left and right without moving. I look to my peers, yearn for their presence so that I might perhaps adopt their indifferent body-language in place of my own. Alas, this is not their battle and they form shape behind me, leaving me the sharp point to the arrow. I fear in this instance that I’m blunt, and not in good stead to pierce water, let alone Carrie. Her of all people of this year.
We simultaneously request confirmation of each others wellbeing with a “You alright?” Neither of us bother with answering, at least not with our tongues. And probably not in any other form either. I need to control what happens here, move toward getting out at the right moment with timing that belies my despair. Always about saving face.
“Where’ve you been then?”
“Oh. I’m just out with my sister.”
Her eyes leave mine for far too brief a period as she seeks out her sister who has taken several strides behind me somewhere into the thick of the traffic lights, obnoxious hair cuts and self-regarding voices of London.
“Just been…” I don’t take in what follows, I’m no longer listening, I’ve become more interested in that I still recognise the sadness I saw in her eyes the last time she looked into me. A time which at this moment doesn’t seem like very long ago at all. Not nearly long enough. I come to, like a previously blurry neon sign coming into focus through a camera.
“You going somewhere good?”
“Oh no, I’m finishing my night, we’re getting home now.”
I get the feeling that she had already answered my question when I’d trailed off. I can only hope that she didn’t think I was attempting to create a scenario in which me and my silent witnesses could team up with her and the several-strides-sibling for a dancing session at some average night spot.
She answered without any sign of disgust, this reassured me enough not to rush into inappropriate stand-still farewells.
“Oh you’re rubbish!” I like this. What’s this? I don’t entirely know right away. But gut feeling says I like it. I can feel the corner of my mouth curling up into a smile. I send my eyes darting into different directions as though the conversation I’m having with her is just one of the many that I’m engaging in presently. Now I look as though I’ll probably forget I even saw her at all tonight. Her addition to my night is clearly as every bit as insignificant to me as it is to her now. She can surely think no different. I mean, the eye-contact, I want no part of it. She must see this. And not because I can’t stand it and that it feels like it did when she rejected my participation in her life all those months ago. No, I need to know that she can see the sincerity of my so-so demeanour that I’ve spent the last few crucial seconds constructing. I realise that I haven’t had time yet, to evaluate her aesthetically. I fail to reach a suitable verdict. It’s frustrating when shallow instincts lose out to all the other stuff. Blinded by chaotic sparks firing around the muscle that sits aloft, defended vehemently as always by the skull that I’ll never know in person.
She never faked laughter. Not in all the time I had spent with her previously. Seldom did she laugh at all. Some people just don’t take to laughing from the age that wit is an accessible tool of humour. It sticks with them. It’s something that I see in people because I embraced laughter as though it was the only thing worth embracing during the same period of adolescence. I like people like me. More so in this way than any. But I admire and adore the people that say no to laughter. “You have to laugh” they say. They. So few are not easily influenced or convinced by They and what has come before them. So love laughter as I do, I resent the They and long to be stony-faced.
“We’re just going Metro” I labour pointing and quickly check for the general mood amongst my friends, two thirds of whom I suddenly realise are probably watching my every move with an interest not quite intense, but certainly somewhere in that area. I wish I had a girl with us. I scan snap shots embe dded in my mind of attractive women I know who’d have made a point for me with their mere presence.
We exchange dialogue a little further, I make no major mistakes in my choices, and certainly no more minor tactical errors than she does. But then she can afford as many minors as there are words to be said. An enviable position. Not now for the first time, there’s jealousy within me. I keep hearing her name in my head as we talk. I’ve known for some time that Carrie didn’t actually mean as much to me as I pushed for her to mean.
I forget who initiates the parting, a good sign that it was a mutual effort. And once more, for the last time again, she’s gone forever. I say her name again and it kills me all over again as you always think it’ll be the last time you do.
I’d like to think that it wasn’t over the very minute I met her. It’s easier for me to think that I did something wrong back then, that I stood a chance of her. That a string of bad decisions or that approach was to blame. Was to blame. Is to blame. That’s far less cruel a thought than that it was never in my hands to begin with. I disregard fate, but hate it all the same as though it’s real. Something I can touch. As I make my first stride away from her every ounce of hurt, regret and anxiety walks off somewhere else with it. Somewhere I’m not going. Not away from me, but not to the same destination anyway. I’m rejoined in a shapeless formation by my three companions and I become a group again after my minute long stint as one. Once more I’m entirely reactionary, everything I say is real. I don’t have to consider anything. Immediately, I make light of the whole affair, which isn’t for any sinister or insincere reason and even enjoy the thought of recounting my tale of woe from months prior. She’s gone again, so talking about myself, it’d be like talking about someone else. Richard that I can relate to, yes. But not me-Richard. Feeling nothing of particular negativity, I play out the character based on what I was just seconds ago. I invite the three of them in on my charade by making light at the right time. Humour. I’m no impostor, I’m letting them know that the real bit is over and this is just a clever satire.
Minutes later I stand with my closest friend as we barter with a black man over the price of a beer that we’ve decided we’ll share. A man who hasn’t seen a bed in almost as long as he’s seen himself.
“Icy Cold bruv?”
“He’s wearing gloves, how would he know?”
We pay him.
“Shocking” I quip. “Don’t you think she’s pretty though?”
“Not really, no.” His face agrees. “You’re better looking than her.”
Ah. That’s what I wanted to hear. Well of course he knows this, but I believe him.
We stand there as my mind dulls and entertains the idea of fucking some girl I’ll meet in the club. I hope I don’t get sweaty. The black man is gone forever. If I ever see him again I won’t know his face. Which is a shame, because I’d have liked to have struck him with some alcohol-fuelled wit and heard the laughter crash into the air and fill my skull.
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