The underfed fled home on summer break. Invitations leaked out on Facebook. Boosters used words like shindig and soirée. This was a less obvious way of saying party. We were trained to overstate the hint and underestimate the open gesture. Obscurity was in vogue. The truth was yesterday’s newspaper.
The acting thing wasn’t going great. I was in a play, but it was unpaid, overly long, am-dram and terrible. I was dressed as a yokel and had to wear fake freckles over my real ones. I wrote myself a note that I stuck on my wall, it said – NO MORE ACTING IN PLAYS. I was sleeping with one of the lead actors who only ate pies and protein shakes. When we met up and decided to call it off I smoked three cigarettes. It wasn’t stressful; I just thought it should’ve been. My flatmate was an alcoholic on the methadone programme who loved Judas Priest and Dolly Parton. He was currently addicted to prescription painkillers and passed out most nights to the sound of the opening title sequence of The Sopranos or The Godfather. The night before my new job, The Godfather seeped into my dream, and I dreamt my flatmate was ripping up our floorboards with a crow bar. I laughed about the dream at work the next day, as I fed another double-sided sheet of paper into the photocopier in preparation for scanning. Watching the magic of two turning into one.
Svetlana’s body could longer stand the cold; she shivered at the bus stop while fingering the cross around her neck. She’d moved to Prague from Most, away from her parents, and from their neighbours’ stares and the gossip that echoed the halls of their apartment building. She placed a hand on her swollen belly. She was pregnant, due in four weeks.
He doesn’t like to talk about it now that he’s home.
He has changed. She stares at his shaking hands. His face seems different somehow, wild. There is something untamed in his eyes. They only focus on things far away, very far away.
She reached two hands to the back of her neck, I thought to unzip her dress and wanted to say wait, stop but then, like a magician, she produced one hair pin and another, and another. She’d been straddling my hips and now she let her full weight rest while she concentrated. Eight pins, silver and small, in a school on my chest.
The lady recrosses her legs and stubs out her cigarette.
“Alright, boys,” she says. “You can come in now.” The “boys” are a surly painter and a uni student, neighbours from opposite sides of her apartment. The painter lives with his wife across the hall. The kid studies history.
The room is full of half-packed boxes and she’s got g-strings artistically placed on the furniture. There’s one strung over the back of the suede couch. Another is positioned on the coffee table. The boys pretend not to see them. They stand in her doorjamb, pensive. The kid doesn’t know what to do with his hands.
We met on a Saturday.
Did you know we’re moving through space at five-hundred and thirty kilometres a second?
Some memories have archives, and these exist in a book I kept when I was seven.
I would pay my way in the world by selling conch shells to tourists off of the edge of a jetty on Petite Martinique. My business partners were my older sister and my younger brother. and I made quite a profit – it’s hard for anyone to resist that pink perfection of a Caribbean shell forever playing the ocean against your ear.
She watched Jake slip the bolt cutters from his backpack and place the parrot-like beak on the chain. He squeezed the handles gently. The metal made a soft schink and he threw the cutters to the side, already busy pulling the chain off the bike. She wanted him to throw the chain on the grass and then her down on top of it, so he could fuck her as the grass tickled her ears and the cold links of metal left marks down her back. Then she could get up and leave him, take the bike and ride down the hill naked, hair streaming behind her. There was something desperate and wrong with what they were doing, and she wanted him, there in the dark, by the side of the road.
He asked her where she’d found them. She’d said it didn’t matter. She said she could guarantee it wouldn’t happen again. Not for them. It’s once in a lifetime, she said. One person in this house got it in their lifetime – it’s more like one in 3 million lifetimes.
They’d had a fight. It was nothing big. They had been irritable and stressed from life in the city. She’d gone for a walk. Continue reading