Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Awaiting the Return

She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, stared out the steamy windows of the café at the milling crowds. Clouds spiralled, letting through small stems of sunlight to touch lucky individuals. Her coffee sat on the steel table-top untouched. A paperback book, its cover pushed back behind the spine, lay next to it. This, too, remained untouched. Louise watched, awaiting the return of Brian.

They'd been married; they still were, albeit only on paper. They hadn't lived together for over a year now, not since Louise had left. He was stoic: that peculiar stiff upper lip the British man was so fond of could easily be Brian's dictionary definition. Louise was more reflective. She was fond of telling people - anyone who would listen to her without yawning - that she was a car, Brian the hub cap. They'd become separated, Brian spinning off in ever decreasing circles, settling, finally, atop the verge. She had continued on her journey, even though many of their shared friends always felt she wasn't quite 'whole'. On this occasion, Louise had replaced the hub cap. Somewhere, Brian was lying at the side of the road, undiscovered.

She thought about Brian, about what had gone before, what had happened since. At times she felt like a stranger. She recalled their first time together in bed; the details were blurry now but one particular event stuck fast in the mud of her memories: Brian pushing the splayed fingers of his gnarled hand through the silky strands of her auburn hair; she'd yet to tell him that it was out of a bottle despite their twelve years' of marriage. She hadn't known that Brian had never had the heart to tell her that he'd discovered her secret - she hid the bottle and discarded packages behind the bath panel - within three weeks of their relationship moving from coy, stolen looks across the college cafeteria to full penetration.

A single thought struck her now, as she sat on her non-descript metal chair in the small café: no-one counts their fingers or toes - it's accepted that they have the correct number of digits, just as it's accepted that a man of a certain age will stray, will renew his interest in fucking. Not sex; not lovemaking; not pleasure: release. Had it been that way, Louise could have understood, accepted. But, she had strayed, become the predator. Her interest had not been renewed, though - it had been uncovered. At the time, what had made her relish the feeling was the knowledge that it had been Brian who had squirreled her passion away, like a dark family secret.

Louise wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, stared out through the mist of her tears. She lifted her cup, drank the cold coffee in one gulp, gathered up her book and stuffed it into a leather bag with the broken zip. The chair scraped against the floor as she stood up; heads turned for a second to look up at the distracting noise, as if the café's customers were suddenly acutely aware that they were sharing space with other people. Louise didn't return the gazes. She left the premises, leaving the door slightly ajar. Several people tutted as a chill wind whipped in through the gap; one woman went to shut it, but was prevented from doing so by a middle-aged man who was stepping over the threshold. He wore a name badge.

It said Brian in a neatly spaced white font.

I've been tagged once more

Ian lay in the long grass, his eyes scanning the battlefield spread out below. He let his breath become shallow, so as not to attract the attention of the his family's enemies, the marauding armies that had stained the earth with the blood of Ian's relatives.

But, it was too late. He felt his shirt seized by a strong hand, hauling him to his feet in one swift movement.

"Come with me." That's all the voice said, preferring to remain silent as it's owner frogmarched Ian towards the battle tents. Once inside the cool atmosphere of the main tent, Ian was seated at a desk, a piece of paper in front of him. A pen was thrust into his hand, the paper turned over.

"We need to know everything about you, so that you and your family may be crushed by our forces," the mysterious voice instructed. Even though it would bring about his demise, Ian didn't hesitate in answering the questions laid out before him.

I have a combination of British accents, ranging from the South London twang to the Dorset farmer. These have come about through living in a variety of UK regions over the past 33 years.

Booze of choice?
Asahi beer.

Chore I hate?
Vacuuming, that's why I employ a cleaner.

Dog or Cat?
Cat. Dogs require walking and I'm inherently lazy.

Essential Electronics?
Lights. Everything else I could learn to live without.

Favourite perfume/cologne?
Anything by Jean Paul Gaultier.

Gold or Silver?
White Gold (that's what my wedding ring is made of). If it wasn't so expensive, it would have been platinum. It's the only jewellery I wear.

Albury, Surrey.

I used to dabble in sleep deprivation techniques and other mad things like that. Since I gave up (read: got a proper job) I have managed to sleep for at least 5 hours a night, although I'd prefer to sleep for 10.

Job Title?
Creative copywriter


Living Arrangement?
Married (recently). Live in two-bedroom house with wife and cat.

Most Admired Trait?
The ability to know someone for almost every possible need. Also, people love that I can spark conversation with anyone, whether I know them or not.

Number of Sexual Partners?
Just one now, but I've had about 14 in total.

Overnight Hospital Stays?
None since I was seven. I used to spend quite a bit of time in hospital to correct eye problems.

Not being liked.

Anything by Oscar Wilde.

It's the root of all evil. I try to live my life in the way that upsets as few people as possible.

Older brother.

Time I wake up?
Without fail, I always wake up 5 hours after I went to sleep, regardless of what time that was. This morning that meant 5am. I didn't get out of bed until 7am.

Unusual talent/skill?
None I know of.

Vegetable I refuse to eat?
I'm a vegetarian, but I still hate courgettes and marrows.

Worst Habit?

None. Never. Ever.

Yummy foods I make?
As a trained baker and chef I can create anything. However, my bread has won international prizes, so I guess that would be it.

Zodiac sign?

As soon as Ian finished writing a knife was pressed to his throat.

His shallow grave was never discovered.