Saturday, October 16, 2010

I practice forgetting and sometimes I fail

Now her breath smells like Saturday night. Sophie spits her chewing gum into the street. She has left behind the day and the words from the day are gone. Her mouth is clean and her neck, it also smells like Saturday night. Her neck smells like a perfume that she bought but that she does not wear often. She gives her driver's licence into the big fingers of the man at the door of the club, his eyes are upon her driver's licence and then glancing up, his eyes are upon her; she smiles as though she were the glowing sign to a motel with many empty rooms. The man at the door returns her licence to her. His job is practice. She practices her smile on his face before she goes inside. The music plays so loudly that when she orders a drink she must stand on her toes so her voice is closer to the barman's ear. His job is also for practice, for her to practice her smile on him. She is here by herself. There is a woman by the wall who is wearing a perfume that Neil gave to Sophie but that she is not wearing tonight. Sophie's earrings are feathers made of silver and coloured metal. She looks at the woman who wears the familiar perfume and thinks mutton dressed as lamb, and then thinks, what a quaint phrase, a phrase for grandmothers who are divorced and for camp boys. The music beats away at the daytime worries of them all and excites their night time concerns. When a man nods at her and smiles for a fraction of the nod she thinks, his night time concern is what he is going to say to me.

‘What bird did those come off?" he asks.

"Excuse me?"

"Your earrings; they must've come from a beautiful bird. Why, what'd you think I said?"

"I thought you were being crude, but you’re sweet." She turns her head so that he can see her earrings and he brushes them with a slightly drunk fingernail. "A silver bird," she tells him.

"You should finish your drink so that I can get you a new one," he says.

"And you should be patient," she says and she pats him on his chest. She thinks, when men are drunk they are like little boys. I don't know if I like being around so many little boys. She thinks, I do like not knowing whether I like it or not. I'd like to tell this boy my thought on drunken men, but he might not understand it." So she says to him, "What do you know about birds?"

"I don't know anything about birds, but I know what I like."

She watches the woman wearing the familiar perfume lean over and talk to one of her girlfriends and cackle like a witch. A benign, foolish witch. I wish that this man would make me laugh so loud that I forgot myself, she thinks. "You can buy me a drink, now," she says. She gives her empty glass to him so he can find a place for it. He looks at it not knowing why he is holding it, "Whatever you’re having," she tells him. He is still looking at the empty glass so she gives him a push towards the bar.

"Where are your mates?" Sophie asks him. Her voice still hurts. Some parts of the day cannot be spit out easily.

"I don't know. I lost them at another club. Too many people dancing. Who're you here with?"

"Just you."

"So, did your boyfriend give you those earrings?"

"If he did, then I wouldn't be wearing them. Can't you dance?"

"So you've got a boyfriend then."

"A girlfriend bought me these earrings in Vietnam."

"Vietnam? I've been to Bali. I bet that you're really good at dancing."

"I'm good enough."

"Maybe you should teach me. Show me some dance moves."

"Maybe later," she says. He tells her about his holiday in Bali. They talk about holidays. I wish I didn't come here by myself tonight. And I wish that I did not use all the credit on my phone talking to Neil. I wish someone would call me, she thinks.

The man stumbles to the bathroom and to buy another drink. He comes back to her with a drink for her as well. I don't want another drink.

"So you know you're really beautiful." he says to her. He won't make me laugh tonight.

“Yes, I know," she says. He reaches out and holds her upper arm. Your arms are large and blunt, she thinks. He pulls her closer to him and dips his head.

"Only on the cheek" she says and she turns her cheek to him, the silver feather swings a little from her earlobe. He kisses her cheek. He doesn't know how to kiss a woman's cheek. He is too used to open drunk wet mouths. The woman wearing the same perfume that Neil gave to me probably has a drunk wet mouth. When it comes to cheeks, he kisses me the way a boy kisses his grandmother's cheek; because he is confused he is nervous and quick. The man is disappointed with how his lips brushed her cheek and he pulls her towards him to try again.

"No, wait," she says.

"So you do have a boyfriend then."

"Not a boyfriend," she says.

"One more."

"No more. There's a woman over there, she look like she wants one more." She points to the woman wearing Neil's perfume. Sophie is a barman shutting up shop with a face that is tired of saying welcome to the smiles of stranger after stranger. Like a barman who does not want to make people forget about their day any longer, and wants his bar to be empty. "I'm tired. I had a long day," she says to the man. I did not want to bring today into tonight, she thinks. "And I need to go home," she says.

"So I'll take you home." He is in earnest, he takes his night time concerns so seriously, she thinks. His face is like that of a little boy who is remembering that he has learnt that the world is not fair.

"I need to go home by myself." She pats his chest. The pat, that is something that a grandmother would do.

He starts to say, "You should come to-" Sophie cuts him off.

"I have a husband with a very big gun, and he's waiting for me." She smiles at him and walks away.


They are both standing by the dining table and she is talking. Outside, Sophie's taxi pulls away, empty, from the kerb by Neil's house and the light on top turns on as it turns into the dark street. Inside, she is standing there and Neil looks at her and he has one hand in each of the back pockets of his jeans. She reaches for the tissue box that is on Neil's dining room table and takes two for wiping the perfume from her neck.

"I'm not your husband, And I don't have a very big gun."

"No. But I thought that I would not think of you and then I did and it surprised me."

"What did you think?"

"I thought, I want you to come and rescue me."

"You were thinking of someone else. I don't have a big gun."

"No. I was thinking of you. You have other things."

"We don't have enough to make it work, you said. And I said yes."

"Yes. But there's enough for tonight."

She gives the tissues to Neil. She walks towards his room and he puts the tissues into his pocket and from behind her he kisses her on the neck.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice, Allan. Off the top of my head:

    - your dialogue is terse and raw and real and circuitous and ... real

    - read much Hemingway? Some of your prose reminds me of his terse, hard style; there I'm biased, of course, as I love that style.

    - keep writing, keep going, I want to read more! More grit, more raw shit, less filtering, more world-through-character-through-Allan