I have a different vision how this should end.
On a train track.
I’ve been there before. I’m still coming to terms with that mistake, with what happened on an empty platform all those years ago. She was whisked away, the girl from way back then. Down a train track. Then she married someone like me. A tennis player. That’s the second girl I lost to an ace-serving jock. If I played my cards right I’d now be a pilot sitting in a cock-pit alongside her dad somewhere over South Africa. She had it all arranged, the girl from back then, the one at the train station.
Divorce is on my mind. Today. Again. I’m skirting around the periphery of Lisbon as the traffic in front of me merges. Octopises. Slip roads appear from everywhere and bring everyone somewhere as roads fork off to little known places with grandiose names. But really, is there any difference to where we’re all going? Who cares about the destination? There is no apparent fear. Fear is not apparent as we slalom along to wherever-land. Touching bumpers at speed is ok.
I’m driving Susan to the airport. I’m sending her back. We’re not having a conversation. Sure there’s talking but only I’m talking. It’s one way traffic. She’s not engaging. She’s in a huff. This has become our theme of late. Being niggly.
In days past I confessed my latest upset,
on the beach,
as I suntanned her up.
‘It’s not like Jeff asked me to help Him write a song’ I say. ‘It just kind of happened.’
‘But the song came out of your mouth?’
‘So then it’s yours.’
‘Well, no. He modified it. A little bit. I was more a trigger.’
‘Ya, a tip-off to inspiration.’
Susan goes quiet. Has she lost interest or is she snoozing? Tragic, aren’t we?
‘You listening?’ I ask.
The sun does more to her than I can. I sing her the song. My song. Although it’s actually Jeffs song.
Now she’s snoring. Lying on the beach, in a bikini, and this is us. Call it our Arab Spring, a revolution of revulsion and mutual undercurrents of disgust. While she snoozes I do the maths and weigh up the pros and cons: my life with and without her. Susan comes up short on many fronts. For one thing, she doesn’t understand the off-side trap. Fuck it, we’re not a love story. Carnal memories about sums us up, consolidating any misgivings by fucking. But with the initial horniness gone, the fuck-fest over, I now see the truth. She and I: it’s a dead end.
Child-like I set to doodling as is my way as she sleeps.
‘Susan, can words touch you?’
‘What the fuck?’
Crushed. The inarticulate always trumps articulation: fuck. She is only half-awake, half-alert.
‘Susan, do you think you can find the best words that describe us?’
‘Love is not something you take but something you give’ she says.
‘I don’t know what that has to do with what I asked.’
‘Ok, you describe us.’
‘It’s a maze but the truth of us is in here’ I say.
I present Susan a slip of paper on which I built a word quiz.
‘You bastard’ she decides, balling up the page and throwing it at me. ‘It’s always theories and sex with you.’
‘Susan, did you ever notice that the words ‘theory’ and ‘horny’ look alike and have many letters in common?’
‘You must change’ she says.
‘I must? How about you!’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Don’t know what?’ I ask.
She goes on the defensive; talking in undefinables; unaccountables. I don’t get it. I’m a man of action. I need a course to steer. She changes tack.
‘Louis, you’re not going to write about me, are you?’ Susan asks.
‘Eh, why? Like, why would I?’
‘You write don’t you?’
‘Not about us people.’
‘Us people!’ .
She’s outraged we’re not other people or the kind of folk I’m paid to write about.
‘But if you had to write about this life.’
‘The right here and now?’
‘Ya. Who would you dedicate the book to?’
‘That’s sad. Why?’
‘Because nobody would have helped me write it.’
‘You meany. But if you had to write about me, would you say I’m nice?’
‘Sure, and in real stylish prose too.’
Here goes: she’s nice. But she isn’t. To write a character, you need to have some! Fuck building Rome, Susan better get character-building.
Back to the now. We’re back in the car, driving to the airport. It’s the same old, more of the same. Blah dee blah. Only it’s too late. I offered Susan the world, the world she scorned. Lets travel places together, lets sprog up, lets spend Christmas skiing. Everything wasn’t enough. Her depressed disposition killed all hope and adventure. She made Hollywood drama of minutiae:
- my motorbike breaks down means the world is ending.
- she doesn’t like the restaurant means the world is ending.
- we’re late to the beach means the world is ending.
She often leaves me with images of burning witches. The heretic bitch, my lover witch.
‘I’m listening, go on’ Susan says.
‘Ya, but we’re not really talking, are we?’
‘What are you on about?’
‘Now that – what you just did – that was two-way communication. But other than that it’s me talking to a wall.’
Earlier this morning and with total recall, I can picture Susan’s frown as she reaches for her hairbrush and slowly brushes her hair (she winces when there’s a knot). I prayed for knots. We had a fight last night after she discovered condoms in my wallet. She’s on the pill and wonders who they were intended for.
‘It’s just’ I say.
‘The condom was always in my wallet, since time immemorial.’
‘Fuck knows. Since day dot. What of it?’
‘It means you’re up for sex with strangers’ she says.
‘You think! Ok, how about last night; what you said in your sleep? Yes, Sean. You. Explain that!’
That did it.
When I awoke this morning it still rings in my ears.
‘Yes, Sean. You.’
We had a showdown.
As she was brushing her hair.
Blah dee blah.
She played denial.
Then, know what she says?
‘Maybe it’s a good idea’ she says.
Lets take a break.
Blah dee blah.
The things she knows about me!
Blah dee blah.
There’s fear of you.
More of the same.
It’s too much.
‘Susan, too much is only around the corner.’
‘Ya, well, I’m already at the corner.’
‘Oh ya? If you want to go, then go.’
Now she’s going. Around the bend. She said she felt pushed; that I pushed her. Constructive dismissal. Fair enough. Now she’s sat in the car like a stranger. We’ve grown apart and I’m unravelling and pissing on myself and undoing all my gains.
A truce, is it possible?
I wonder about making another go of it, of us. But how many times have I wondered this? All too often and it’s always the same. There’s no synthesis, no glue to fasten us tight. Anyway, after last night, it’s too late; we’ve found each other out. Sure, I wanted meaning and even wondered about trying to shape her. Only it’s too big a stretch, a character-lift too far. A beauty she is but there’s no personality at home. Plus, there’s no common ground. I’d rather be alone than live a lie. I must see us through to the end.
‘Susan, you say I play on your nerves but don’t you think that’s a bit rich given your rant last night?’
There’s some fessing up that needs doing. But Susan just sulks.
‘You know, there’s a big cost to being with you’ I continue.
I throw her a sidelong glance. She stares back. Then she buckles. I hear sniffles.
‘I’m trying’ she concedes.
‘And I’m trying too, but don’t you think there’s too much of that, of trying? It should flow naturally.’
‘Or not at all.’
I don’t tell her that I read somewhere that ‘trying is lying’. Now she’s in a hump. I’m on to her tricks. She’s no lamb. Although her back is up, I don’t deviate from the plan and remain steadfastly uncompromising and remain on track to the airport.
‘I never asked to be LOUISified’ Susan objects.
Maybe poison does flow from me. Louisitis! She’s saying that I’m brain-washing her and doesn’t want to be under my tutelage. She doesn’t want to be accredited by the University of Me, no PhD in Louis studies.
‘I’m a relationship virgin’ I chance.
Now that her own virginity is out the window she shows me little sympathy. But it’s true, I’m not up for shared bonds. It’s another retardation of mine. Plus, I’m not in the way of holding my hands up. Nowadays my fighting is done more on page than out there in the real world. You got beef then either kill or maim the person or write it out of your system. That’s my take on it.
We’ve arrived at the airport. I retrieve her bags from the boot. We square up. Susan makes a final effort to explain our short-comings which naturally implies my disability.
‘You’ve no morals’ she accuses.
‘I used them on the soul of my shoe! They wore out so I threw the shoes away and walk barefoot. Soulless me in a moral-free world.’
‘Louis, I never could tell if you really were odd or just pretending to be!’
‘And the verdict? A mental health test would settle it. But only pilots have to do them. I hope the guy flying your airplane passed his. I mean, I’d hate if he nosedived into the sea and you disappeared.’
‘Louis, you once told me to only listen to 20% of what you said. The problem is I didn’t know which 20% to listen to. How was I supposed to know? I think I’ve been listening to the other 80% all the time.’
‘Shit, if only you’d listened to the correct 20% you’d have felt totally different about me.’
‘How do you manage it, to listen to yourself?’
‘I don’t. Never. It’s my golden rule.’
‘We tried’ she says.
‘We did’ I say.
We’re talking around the houses and avoiding the point. The crunch. The dread. The end. We hug. We kiss. A peck on the lips. Goodbye is a stilted affair. False. Fake jokey.
‘Susan, you know, I’m not the devil. I’m actually a decent guy.’
‘I know’ she concedes.
She never was one to big me up. In all our time together I only ever received a compliment if I chatted myself up.
‘I’ll be at sea without your hairbrush’ I say.
‘Buy your own one.’
‘If I was a millionaire I’d commission a yacht to be built in the shape of your hairbrush. I can see it now, the hairbrush sailing into port…’
It’s old hat. We know I should be saying I’ll miss her but there are no final declarations. Love it’s not. It’s over. My hairbrush infatuation. Her. Us. What rattles me is her blithe acceptance, that she doesn’t object. Lambs to the slaughter!
‘Did you really dream of Ronald last night?’ I call out.
I can’t help my curiosity. I have to ask. She gives me a smirk before marching off. Over her shoulder she responds:
‘Louis, the universe could keep sending you the same message but you just wouldn’t get it!’
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ I shout.
She stops abruptly and turns around. There are tears in her eyes.
‘Louis, you used to say – hi, sometimes and goodbye never!’
‘What does that mean?’
‘Just what the fuck are you!’
She runs indoors to departures. Gone. Vamoose.
As I drive home, I feel cheated; I’m cursing lost time. I’m embittered that my ominous tidings are realised, that all along I was simply her coach, ironing out her flaws, training her up for her next boyfriend so that she’ll be better relationship material. I bet she wants to get hitched. To anyone. Don’t they all? I don’t know why I think that, I just do. I can’t figure out what it is with her and I keep telling myself not to care because I’m back on the highway and disappearing from the her life at speed.
Back home and I’m back to meaninglessness. I’m more curious about discovering new kinds of beer than making any kind of female acquisition. I get to thinking about changing my life. Look at all the things I can do now. There’s freedom to go bowling or rock-climbing. That’s it: I’m going to do everything you’re hindered from doing when you date a girl with French nails. J