“What do you think of it, so far?”
The man is big, cumbersome, she’d say. He holds his wine like he’s holding it for someone else. Not drinking. Like a bloody rock. Other patrons seem as if they’ve cleared a space in the foyer around him.
As she is saying it she realises how phoney she sounds. Bad acting. Actors saying their lines badly.
“The gig? What do you think?”
He laughed a little, then. But more the laugh of an adult when a kid mixes something up in one of those cute but dumb ways. Like calling an elephant a ‘helipant,’ or grandma ‘gramma’. It pisses her off. He holds the glass with both hands. They’re pudgy, like leftover clay.
“Yeah, not bad.”
She pretends to look for something in her purse whilst cleverly (she believes) edging away from him. Her flatmate Annie taught her this move, it’s called the ‘What’s-in-here? What’s-over-there?’ manoeuvre.
“What did you think of those new songs?”
He seizes her. Clever. Can’t exactly slink off now he’s asked her an actual question. He looks like a science teacher she once had. Maybe it is him. Same saliva-edged mouth. Fuck.
Then he’s straight into, straight into, “What’s your favourite song? ‘Thin Line Time’, right?”
How did he know that?
He smiles. Arrogant. Her mother used to call his type ‘unsavoury’. She always thought of cheese. Confusing.
“Nah... Dunno. No favourites.”She remembers her mobile phone and reefs it from her coat pocket like it’s a drowning kitten. Check texts and walk. That’ll do it, walking checking. Good. She starts the procedure, but he shuts it down.
“I know you. You’re a friend of Rory’s.”
Her brain spin cycles. The Lodge. The Rose & Crown. Has she seen him before? The 380 from the Junction. The Thai joint on Oxford. Rory? Hell no... move on.
She doesn’t though.“Yeah, I am.”
She needs to look, now. Closer. The light from the bar behind them throws shadows into deep pock marks around his cheeks . Dandruff (or some kind of flaking) is backlit on his suit jacket shoulders. Classy.
“I’m Claude.” He says it like he’s pronouncing sentence.
Claude? The name pops in and out, evading her; an auto focus camera lens that can’t hold purchase on it’s subject.
“Claude,...the poet guy?” she scrambles, a sliver of memory finally falling into the light. It was still a guess.
“Yes. The poet guy.” He does the snicker thing again.
Rory gave her one of his books. Yes. Thin book. Puny. Not into poetry but took it because it meant something to Rory. She always does that shit. No recollection of the work. It was probably full of stuff about ‘needs’ and drinking alone.
“I used to see a bit of Rory at the park,” he says, nodding gently, “We share an appreciation of flowers.” His eyes are soldered onto hers. Tiny eyes for such a monster.
This is it. She goes to raise the quick goodbye wave, Annie’s ‘flicking lint’ wave, and then swiftly exit this grubby man, when it strikes.
the lily trembles
the army marches
Lines that have remained, jammed firmly away in one of the brain closets. His lines. She remembers the afternoon, now. Hot, a long way from the sea, avoiding her PHD, (anything to avoid it), picking up the book, expecting, wanting to hate it. Irritated at herself for caving in to Rory, again. Almost daring it to be anything but try-hard dross.
But there it was.
She read his poem, just the one. It was enough. In one gentle pass he layed bare all that needed attention in her, a surgeon, cutting, going in. Too much. She closed the book and thought of him, instead, the poet. With her on the window seat, all French and broody and lustful; she, intoxicated and willing to be understood by this man. Almost funny now. She actually cringes, but either way...
the lily trembles
No. Stops. She hopes the interval din might wash these ill chosen words away. Memory tugs at her good sense, mixing up moments. Now, then. She squints. This is not the same man. But it is.
“You read what?”
He moves in, somehow assuming the exact same stance. Pose. Mass.
“You have a hair in your mouth.” He reaches across the gap and removes the strand. His fingers smell of sweet chemical, cheap after shave maybe. She recognized it from when she was little.
She moves closer. Then some.