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Lee would tell the curtains if they’d cheer how “bodies have a mind of their own, flesh occupies itself with new desires,” and he knows that now there’s no need for Bex to spit out the bloody obvious. He’d say, could he turn back the clock “and surely, you should see – ” as palms spread Christ-like innocence itself, though God-knows X-ray Bex she always saw too well, CT-scanned his moral fudge. “My body, too,” she said as she set off. His body chose to not make worse the scene, flesh defaulting to lumpy mope not flight nor fight.
Let’s move on. How the weeks become litter. Here’s Lee, alone, housebound, slothful legs imitate absenting until an empty sofa blocks his way; shouts at furniture, ceiling, unflushed cistern, throat lying to the emptiness how he’ll “face discomfort in comfort.” He’s unmapped in an avalanched room, tells the fat-encrusted hot plate a mitigation, why, unjust it is, a man as blossom as he must have a hobby not undeserved punishment, plain to see, it’s his nature, nurturing adventure, much like setting out for Asia and discovering America. Chief product of his land: Floors emptied of her shoes. Population: One. Imports: Wine. In an altogether different time-zone.
His body shudder-sighs, sits squat-sulk, flutters creak-cracked lips to sip imports to slip through news of current affairs, not his, no no, it meant nothing, not that, rather hanky-panky in the Cabinet, as per, Parliament of Cocks, power pooled in privately educated spaces, relay team of twits, where among corporate nibbles, sauvignon blanc, leaks of CCTV infidelity, as the television schedule begins its nightly mockery, the announcer warbles “now the weather where you are at six.”
At seven it transpires the world’s end is a sour front of low pressure, all frost fingerprints on the metal handles of artfully closed doors, but look, let’s be reasonable, he contrives to game the hard soap sink, lectures it now Bex is long gone, not that she listened, how a phase-change is no mystery, it being comprehensible, at least to someone somewhere settled.
Still, may cause disruption.
London’s forecast is for fragile crystals by late evening, mizzle turns to sleet, hail to locust, usual for this time of year, though things will settle, in some new region she will settle, while beside himself the television chirrs “coming up next filmed before lockdown a new series of Pointless.”
He unpeels a land of unlit lamps where a coat hook shrugs fibres of her fabric into his lungs, exhales an unintended air, no graces, at least he’s the house to himself, home as castle, battlement bafflement, and her bedsit well worth his fuck, bit of fun, hobby, nature unnurtured, why not rather stamp collecting? as the schedule drones, fails to condone, trills “Only Connect, Mastermind, Would I Lie to You?”
Her going snuffed his coming, home fired burned after losing an hour on a stranger’s threadbare sofa, 50 quid, claim it through expenses, showered, usually, as Bex cooked, as if he wished to change early every clock while home proved able to twist itself into a house, right location, do it yourself, wrong channel, wide-screen peeps “up next DIY SOS, Grand Designs, Amazing Small Spaces.”
In the corner lounges an outline of bugger all, there, can’t you see her memory? floored, a thread, wholly lost by threshold, a rug rich with fossil footfall, furnishing a singular key hung high on undusted walls as dust motes from love’s last needlework award a thimbleful of nothing, though he will settle, she will settle, with someone somehow settled.
Don’t forget to turn back the clock.
“I haven’t lost my head,” Lee tells the kettle. “This is me rattling the cage.” On it boils, limescaled, her job to clean, cold room of roiling steam, though maybe he will settle as she has settled in relief. “It could be worse, got to laugh,” he lies over the continuity announcer, chitter “Scandi crime thriller, long silences, lingering shots of lakes.”
The one thing able to satisfy the longing in his lungs is the goodnight cigarette they shared, a small addiction, more a habit, settee settled, which for her was a sniff of stupid sin, for him a fluttered intimacy, crammed with bitter lipsticked nicotine, neither able to finish a whole one alone.
“How come, how I did come, how did I come to be alone unsettled at this windowsill of moments?” Notwithstanding her gone-scent wisdom or the memory of the forgiveness of her body. “This being the last episode of the current season,” these documentaries of lost men in colourless rooms, trills tele “Storyville, some viewers find offensive.”
Rioja two-for-one toasts empty belly. Given there’s no witness he licks her favourite glass in search of her last drop. Colder than he can remember. A nice woman on the other side sings soft, blue, forecasting “Sufficient for snow, a weather warning, Question Time.”
Don’t you have a bed to go to?
He is tall and lives a skimmed-stone’s bounce from Margate. Much of his youth involved hauling coals to Newcastle. He passes his time with little to show for it. Tony’s second non-fiction book will be published by Jessica Kingsley in March 2022. His fiction has or will appear in Blue Nib, Templeman Review, Literally Stories, Litro and Extinction Rebellion Creative Hub. He is finishing off a couple of novels and like as not shall continue until he croaks.