For when love isn’t enough…
…between light and dark, Nikki sat as quiet as a vision should. She was so beautiful that I was blissfully content to close my eyes, kiss the sky and die. The sight of her milky skin, hazel eyes and sweet mandarin lips sliced a thrust of carnal heat through the air. I was not accustomed to being in such close quarters to a woman whose clear penetrating gaze highlighted my lack of exposure to the outside world; that at present was limited to, but not diminished by, the patrons dining at ‘Chez Swann.’
I continued to seek for fleeting glimpses into her world. A world that promised a peaceful cloak to envelope the constricting concerns I perceived her to be experiencing. Nikki sat oblivious to my thoughts; on a cane chair at odds with the physical limitations it placed upon her.
Nikki removed her long slender feet from her sandals as she carefully spooned a dollop of chilled asparagus, eggplant and lime tapenade onto a wedge of fried chilli corn loaf. Nikki’s feet became part of my daydreams. The two of us strolling along a beach, Suntanned and barefoot leaving a fine spray of saltwater mist in our wake.
I spent hours daydreaming. Enacting and then discarding scenarios that dragged me away from the mind numbing sameness of mediocrity I encountered everywhere. Navigating through the multitude of random thoughts, images and voices to find the appropriate scenario had always been a tough assignment. I unleashed the courage between pulses of internal dialogue and overwhelming waves of panic, searching for the voice that would steer me back to the shore. If I’m rejected then at least I won’t die wondering, and death was a subject I thought a lot about. Moments also fascinated me and I had learned the hard way that death was just another moment.
I concentrated so hard on how Nikki might perceive my every move, that I lost all sense of myself. Thus, I resorted to portraying a caricature, so remotely distant from my true self, that inadvertently I assumed a hybrid malformation of my persona, hideously disguising the one element that may awaken the phoenix from the ashes of her disinterest.
The inherent danger in mental deconstruction is when the basic elements of your mind scatter into the intergalactic dust beyond recognition so that they are lost forever with no hope of reconnecting.
Nikki rested her arms on the edge of the table. I noticed the fine sweep of blonde hair along the curve of her arm. She ate with ravenous enthusiasm, pausing to burp with such a fragrant utterance as not to stall her comestible surge. Sensing the last vestige of self-confidence retreat, I fuelled my disconsolate inferiority with a well-trodden path of introspection.
Life is full of such moments. A choice is offered. These choices are in fact the fundamentals of existence. A crossroad appears where no path is more correct than any other. Life becomes how you react to events as distinct to the events themselves. With no warning and with no instruction manual truth is hidden by the masks we adopt and the roles we create to survive the illusory world around us.
I tried to ignore the incessant chatter in my head. Would I ever be anything she might describe as meaningful or memorable? Nikki ignored my glazed eyes. As if to rescue me from this island of despair she spoke of inconsequential matters, pausing to reflect on snippets of conversation now stripped of truth, filtered by the net result of her life and with a tone devoid of any empathy, she embarked on a voyage that left me to fight with yet another voice reverberating inside my mind.
…I have bathed in the Parc-de-Princes steeped in red stars, devouring the mighty azure…
I could not concentrate on what she was saying while looking at her. Instead I sat back and ate with my head downcast like a monk eating his supper. When the tension had stretched to breaking point I lifted my head. Without staring, I alternated my gaze from one eye to the other. As a consequence I developed a rhythm independent of all the biological tempos occurring within. Had she noticed? Did she even care? Could she tell I was trying to stop her eyes from glazing over? To distract myself, I thought of my father’s penchant for maintaining an untangled hose.
‘A hose has a memory. You have to be firm, but above all, persistent,’ he would say and like the adoring son I was, I stood patiently watching him struggle, curse and flick the thin hard piece of rubber, with its holes bandaged with old stockings held together with flaky bits of tar.
I watched him walk along the path towards the shed that he’d built all those years ago. He twisted the hose, bending and lifting it all the way along its length and then turning to retrace his steps he made the hose snap, dance and crack on the cement like a snake escaping the rain after dozing in the Sun.
After visiting ‘Pop’ I wandered off elsewhere; soaring above a friend from years ago, driving a car. Laughter and talk of magic mushrooms faded like waking from a dream to hear her voice; ‘Wake up sleepy head, it’s morning.’
I landed back to the present with a thud. I saw the outline of her breasts and the curve of her stomach come into focus. Harmony stretched taut over the tension now billowing inside. Protuberances rocked the universe. The scalpel lifting flesh from her bones, the raw sinew, tissue and strands of fibres soothed the base desires that revealed my desire to burrow under her skin.
I explored the balance between revealing too much while attempting to entertain at the same time. I thought about all the lies I had told. I could breathe such life into them that I could lose all trace of what was real which, apparently was a common trait amongst pathological liars. Occasionally my intricate web of deception unravelled before my eyes. I was impounded for a week for a harmless white lie to my science teacher regarding a phantom holiday to some tropical paradise. I could not reconcile the painful interrogation that occurred from the off-the-cuff remark. It was made purely to alleviate the boredom of boiling a blue liquid for hours on end to form crystals on a paddle pop stick in an attempt to pass some dreary little test.
Nikki maintained her unrelenting gaze while wiping her mouth with a blood red napkin. She resisted the urge to remind the waitress that her carrot, apple and ginger juice had still not arrived.
Chez Swann was situated in a courtyard beneath one of those multi-purpose commercial towers so prevalent in the area of corporate diversity. For over twenty years the small bistro had offered authentic Italian food in a culinary landscape once dominated by prawn salad rolls and cheese and gherkin sandwiches.
The owners, Samuel Inzaghi and Philippe Altobelli, created their labour of love after spending a romantic sabbatical together exploring the Italian countryside absorbing the gastronomic perfection of Umbria, Toscana and Lombardia. Their love for each other and for all things Italian permeated every crevice of their lives. From the second hand Alfa Romeo painted prancing horse red to the scratched 78’s of Caruso, they had embarked upon a creation which would symbolise and focus their passion.
Upon this atmosphere of intense sheer magic, an intermittent spot of rain occasionally fell. At times patrons would down cutlery to eavesdrop on one of their now legendary discourses,
‘You can’t use the female flowers in the Fiori di Zucca Fritti,’ Sam remonstrated over the marble serving bench.
‘Why not?’ Philippe asked, rather defensively.
‘Because the male flowers are longer and stiffer, you should know that. Look!’ Sam held a zucchini flower for Philippe to touch. ‘Feel them! See how the flowers are longer and greener down the spine. You could even use them in a salad.’ Sam’s tone and stance softened as the idea germinated on the spot. Philippe moved closer to share in the discovery.
‘Yes, and look at how they curl at the ends. See the pretty yellow colour. They would be perfect for Insalata Verde.’ Philippe crushed and smelt the flower bulb while Sam’s face lit up.
‘Exactly, a little parsley, maybe some basil, mint, vinegar and oil. Perfecto!’
The tense silence of the restaurant was overpowered by the laughter from the kitchen. To be privy to their creative process was an organic experience, a vibration from the sub-conscious. It was now safe for their ‘little family,’ as Sam and Philippe called their patrons, to return to their meals safe in the knowledge that all was well again until the next domestic flare up.
As with any dream reality always closes in. There had been periods of hesitation encountered from previous lunchtime crowds to stray too far away from the ‘spag-bol’ mentality, briefly curtailing flamboyant adventures to enrich the local palates.
Chez Swann stood testament to the theories of Charles Darwin. Its success, built up over years in response to the fluctuating trends of the inner city, was a story of adaptation, arranged via trial and error. The menu progressed through many behavioural transformations in an attempt to corner that illusive niche. There was the macro-neurotic version of Italian cooking which amongst other things offered ‘Lenticchie di a’la Rainbow’ which comprised multi-coloured strips of pasta with an assortment of lentils, barely cooked and even more rarely eaten.
Surviving against all odds was a loyal bunch of hard core fanatics who for reasons unknown continued to queue in the courtyard for a table or one of the highly prized internal booths. For other reasons equally unknown nobody ever contemplated changing the theme of the restaurant. Perhaps it was too early for the Asian boom and too conservative an area to try Middle Eastern or Cajun cuisine.
The courtyard’s businesses offered their customers an opportunity to cross-pollinate with each other so that the patrons of Simon & Simon’s holistic hair & beauty stable, The Crunge - a heavy metal music emporium and Tafferty’s Kitchen - a domestic products wholesaler, could intermingle with surprising homogeny. Teenagers wearing ‘Grandma’s Hernia’ t-shirts sat next to middle aged matrons in their white and gold pant suits under the red and green sails that stretched to breaking point as wafts of garlic, lemon and olive oil bound all who dined together.
Marco was the wine waiter at Chez Swann, a Belgian born golf fanatic with an unhealthy Cassius Clay fixation brought on by a chance encounter with the ‘Great One’ at the Epcot Center while he appeared at a fund-raising event for whatever disease it is he has.
‘The greatest! Simply the greatest!’ Marco would announce at the drop of a hat, ‘not only the greatest sportsman the world has ever seen, but maybe, just maybe the greatest human being that ever lived.’
Most people took Marco’s proclamations as they should be taken, and it was doubtful whether Marco had ever heard of Michael Jordan, Maradona or Mark Ella.
The ex-boxer must have signed thousands of photographs that day under the GM Motors banner, but for one little boy wearing a Club Bruges shirt it was a life changing event which he carried forth so that in another part of the world in a restaurant on a wall near the cigarette machine hung a framed autographed picture of Marco and the Great One next to a faded poster of Nick Faldo.
Low level clouds passed over the gravel blue sky leaving the optical impression that the surrounding buildings were swaying. A trick of the eyes my grandmother pointed out to me many years before. At the thought of her, a warm feeling of nostalgia tinged with melancholy enveloped me. Her presence seemed to fill the courtyard, mingling with the chilled wind that cut corners around the courtyard. The warmth of her smile and tenacious love cut a swathe through the elements. Cast adrift on a longboat I sailed into the unknown with a longing for the stability of the shore.
‘Would you like to see the wine list?’ Marco asked. I was unsure whether alcohol was appropriate. A clumsy silence engulfed us. A silence that Marco felt strangely responsible for. I thought over the possibilities. Making a decision was never easy. The tension continued to mount.
‘I’ll have a Chinotto, with a slice of lemon and lots of ice, please.’ Nikki made the decision for me.
‘I’ll have the same,’ I said meekly.
‘The roast quail with almond and Pernod sauce sounds nice, but so does the Scaloppine a’la Veneziana. I bet it has too much garlic and chilli? I better stay clear of that one,’ Nikki said.
The silence lent more credence to the façade that we were a couple. Nikki looked across at another booth. A woman tore a chunk of bread from a small loaf and dragged it through a bowl of pumpkin soup. Long thin wisps of steam curled upwards as the thick liquid clung to the edge of the bread before returning to the earthenware bowl with a sensuous plop. Nikki stole another peek as the woman lifted a spoon to her mouth, and was caught mid stare. Nikki smiled and quickly looked away.
I wondered if I could override my facial expression by changing my mental state. I delved into my gallery of imaginary friends and their conversations. I wanted to project the person that Penny had loved and admired; the person with all the right answers and all the time in the world to implement them.
An image of uncle Oscar sitting in his fishing boat arrived. It was disconcerting to reconcile the face of my uncle, the pressing issue of choosing something to eat and wanting to tell Nikki how I felt. The words remained silent.
‘Ready to order?’ Marco asked. The moment was gone, lost forever.
‘Yes please, I’ll have the soup di Udine.’ Nikki flicked over the page and scanned the italic print, ‘and the Fagiolini a’la Peperonata.’
My decision making process was concealed in a vacuum of lost opportunity. I saw the flicker of an image.
Two men perched on an angular black monolith gliding through a powder white mist with various objects suspended in the ether; a gramophone, a single red sofa, a windscreen wiper and a naked Agnetha Faltskog floating in a sea of gluggy Fanta.
Words continued to fail the emotional component of my thoughts. We were within a breath of each other but the chasm between us was immeasurable. No matter how hard I tried, my facial muscles could not contort to the specifications so desired.
‘Are you alright?’ Nikki’s voice took me by surprise. The melody of ‘Sid’s Ahead’ was rampant.
‘You look pre-occupied almost distracted,’ Nikki spoke so plainly and quietly that her voice took on another identity that drifted across the table with a thinly veiled seriousness that instantly grasped the difficulty of being completely in the moment.
I saw how much time I had wasted reviewing, embellishing and sometimes deleting moments to arrive at something that resembled a life, when in fact it was only an etching; a mirror image, a transparency of the real events that surrounded me.
The reality of Nikki held certain patterns. Seeing her concerned with my plight after expending so much energy keeping certain aspects of my life hidden, forced me to make a quantum leap to accommodate the shift in perception. A pause settled over us, invading the conversation long enough to hold onto.
Under closer scrutiny it had the rawness and clinical attributes of a small tunnel ribbed with pinkish slippery walls that contracted and expanded in sync with each breath. A large soft dome entered the landscape and passed by. Each forward and backward movement pulsated with a strictly adhered to 4/4 movement, occasionally shifting gear to 6/8 or 8/11. I splayed my arms and pressed up against the side of the curved walls. The dome and its shaft went past, subsided and went further along the tunnel. My body dripped with liquid that smelt like warm mangoes. A sudden thrust of the dome came to rest alongside my crouched position in the tunnel. I slipped to my knees as the vibrations, slipperiness and stickiness made it impossible to remain standing. Tossed and turned around until all sense of up or down was lost, I was swimming, barely able to hold my mouth above the surface. Sliding down, it was getting darker, colder and quieter. A burst of cold air almost suffocated me. The blackness was unforgiving. The pressure hampered all movement. Feint lights in the distance reminded me of watching the night sky for Haley’s comet, the rings of Saturn and the polar caps of Uranus. If saving the Universe meant seeing the equivalence of orifices and planetary bodies then I was up for the task.
Jealousy, envy and a sense of self-loathing rested. It was too exhausting dreaming of what might be, playing mental gymnastics to achieve some unattainable peak of perfection.
‘You know what my uncle Oscar used to say?’ I asked seriously.
‘Who?’ Nikki snorted in the most pleasant unladylike fashion. For a split second I ventured down the path of exploring yet another orifice but quickly held back. She is full of surprises, I thought.
‘What’s so funny?’ I asked with even more intent.
‘You don’t really have an uncle Oscar, do you? Nobody has an uncle Oscar.’ Nikki’s laugh would normally have sent me into spasms of delirium, but as it was directed at me, the experience was less than satisfying.
‘I do, well I did, and he was a very wise old man,’ I reaffirmed, relaxing a little at Nikki’s amusement and interest.
‘I’m sorry, please continue.’ Nikki reached for her drink in a bid to remain composed.
‘As I was saying, uncle Oscar was a very wise old man and one of the many wonderful and thought provoking things he used to say to me, as a child was; the time will pass whether you do it or not.’ I waited for the enormity of uncle Oscar’s words to settle.
‘You do understand don’t you?’ I asked nervously.
‘I understand. It’s very true what your uncle said. I’m just having a little trouble relating it to anything we were talking about.’
The melody of ‘Run Home Slow’ entered my mind.
‘That’s exactly the point, the double-edged irony of everything. It all relates yet it doesn’t. Life isn’t about matching different shades of the same colour so it all looks like a lifestyle brochure. It’s all got to do with everything and nothing at the same time. The possibilities are infinite yet time marches on, creeping up slowly to the end when the big buzzer in the sky goes off, and then, nothing, all gone.’
‘Well that clears that up.’ I detected a slightly sarcastic tone. Had she lost interest? Was this shaky ground for her? Was she comfortable with hidden meanings and subtext? I sensed Nikki’s world was of sharp edges, facts and unhesitating action.
Our meal arrived amidst a tense silence. Awkward gestures dominated the table as napkins were unfolded and cutlery rearranged. We ordered more drinks and left to our own devices encountered familiar thought patterns.
I knew the signs; first politeness, followed by silence and then a change of subject. I had experienced many such occasions when my ramblings drifted into foreign waters, disturbing and confronting other human islands. My instinct was to cast a lifeline in an attempt to salvage whatever common ground was still available. I felt we had come too far to leave it as it stood. I was desperate for her, for anyone, to understand.
‘Did I ever mention Roy?’ I asked.
‘I don’t think so,’ she answered coolly.
‘He was a terrific soccer player; tall, athletic and courageous.’ Nikki looked like she was trying to understand a foreign language. ‘We played against each other at the age of ten and eleven. He was the captain and chief playmaker of another suburban team.’ I sensed her disinterest but I continued out of sheer bloody mindedness. Nikki ate her meal meeting my wide-eyed enthusiasm with a sympathetic ear.
‘One year we were both selected to try out for the district team. As I walked across the oval I could see him surrounded by other hopefuls. He was always smiling, never raised his voice or made fun of anyone. He was both charismatic and humble. He was rock solid; looking perpetually tanned with flawless olive skin. He was beautiful.’
Nikki came back to life. Of all the adjectives I could have bestowed upon my childhood friend, beautiful probably seemed a peculiar choice, but that’s what came out at the time. With her interest re-kindled Nikki cast a more intense look in my direction. Nikki searched the conversation for further clues to my apparent fixation with Roy, whilst I remained with an image far back in time. I had not meant to serve up any connotation less than the truth and it was only after stumbling over the word did I sense how far short it had fallen from describing the full picture of a childhood where the cynical hand of the adult world with its rules, attitudes and prejudices had still to be fully comprehended. Where young men with new bodies continued to reassess their boundaries, in an attempt too not only explore their possibilities but to expand them. Where the first inklings of the symmetry between mind and body is discovered; thrust out of the cocoon constructed over many years of living in a world dominated by home and school.
‘I struggled to keep my boots and tracksuit enclosed in my haversack as I ran towards my group of friends. As I approached I saw his dark green eyes widen. This is going to be great! Brian and Uri have been selected as well, Roy said. We stood together letting the anticipation swell up around us. This was the biggest event any of us had experienced and to be sharing it made it even more memorable. Like moths to a summer porch light, he was the one we all wanted to share it with.’
‘You guys take your sport very seriously, don’t you? No wonder the world is in the shape it’s in. I can see that male bonding rituals are developed at an early age; all that competition, trying to dominate each other.’ There was a bitterness to Nikki’s voice, but I pressed on regardless.
’That day was a disaster for me. I must have burned up too much nervous energy in anticipation with the guys. By the time I got onto the field I was a spent force. There was nothing left. I was either tackled too easily or failed to run down those loose balls I was famous for, a’la Kevin Keegan. I remember pretending I was playing at Wembley. I had taken a pass from Billy Bremner and was motioning to Mick Jones to move wider out to the right. I took on the defender and was just about to put ‘Sniffer’ Clarke into the clear when ‘bang’ I was on the deck. My coach couldn’t believe it. Eventually they substituted me for some little ‘midget’ I used to run rings around. I was the only one in our group not to be selected. Our coach came over to congratulate them while I turned to walk across the oval to wait for the bus. I’d been sitting in the bus shelter for a while when I was aware of someone standing at the entrance. Were you going to go without saying goodbye? Roy asked. I could barely look at him. I had spoilt the party. He squared me up and said, there is always next year and besides they could have left you on for longer. Did you see those twins from Melrose? They could hardly stand up in those shorts. We laughed and pretty soon I was feeling a whole lot better, not completely cured, but the sting had been removed. I never said to him how much that meant to me. Next year came and went. I never went to another selection trial. Time marched on without stopping to chat.’
I allowed the impact to settle over the table long enough for Nikki to bathe in its powerful resonance. The memory stood still in time as clear as the day it happened. I could still conjure up the stringent smell of freshly cut wet grass, the taste of gravel dust in the bus shelter and the grammatically incorrect graffiti which infuriated my grandmother so much.
Nikki finished her meal and contemplated ordering the tiramisu. A glance at her watch confirmed that she would have to wind things up. It hadn’t taken too long to perfect the balance between enjoying her meal and offering enough looks of encouragement at least until I had finished bludgeoning her with tales of an uncertain adolescence.
’Not long after that my father said I could invite anyone I wanted to my upcoming birthday party. I spent hours writing the invitations and addressing the envelopes. I arrived at school one day to see my friends huddled together. They were handing around the small envelopes I had sent. So they’re from you? Roy announced. We had no idea who they were from. Roy’s voice was loud and amused. Potential disaster beckoned. Looking puzzled I took one of the envelopes and discovered I had neglected to include a sender’s address. I looked at the faces watching me. I could feel the weight of my existence sinking into my shoes. I remember my curled toes scraping against the inside of my shoes. Another second eased away. I could hear Roy’s laugh as clear as it was back then in that small dusty cloister. It pealed back through the years, silencing the tinny din of locker doors, shoes scuffing the faded red concrete, the squeals of pain from Chinese burns, dead legs and rumbles. It blotted out the smell of damp woollen jumpers, bruised grass on pale sweaty skin and the overbearing weightlessness of childhood with its complete ignorance of nostalgia, blanketing the ignorance that not everything would be possible. Roy’s enthusiasm corralled us to face the same direction, to think the same thoughts. Each child took something of Roy with them. The taste of jelly donuts, lime spiders and Marella Jubes filtered back. The cloister was alive again. Chaos reigned, as it should. The air seemed to drip in and out of our lungs, becoming sufficiently heavy enough to carry us away. Playful shoving erupted. Books were hurled against the lockers. Light previously absorbed by the dank cold stone now flickered and weaved through the archways. Roy leaned forward and spoke the words I had longed to hear, It’s okay, we’ll all be there. My birthday party began with a river cruise where we snacked on crackers, cheese and green pickled onions while listening to an old German man singing strange cabaret songs as he walked the decks. Later my father drove us into town where we dined at the new ‘Pizza Parlour.’ My father ordered a four seasons pizza and fizzy soda drinks. My friends had never seen anything like it whilst I beamed and just pretended this was what our family always did. After dinner we went to the cinema to see ‘Young Frankenstein.’
As the lights went out one of the guys farted, and before long we were all chiming in which brought ushers fleeing from their darkened hideaways with beams of light criss-crossing the theatre. It all reached a crescendo when the little girl in the film was catapulted through the bedroom window when the monster sat down on the see-saw. The darkened room erupted with the sound of unrestrained laughter. At the end of the night as the other parents arrived to collect their children, Roy came up to my father and shook his hand, and in front of everyone announced that it had been the best birthday party ever. I ignored the possibility that for some of them it may have been the only birthday party they had been to. On the way home sitting in the back of our Volkswagen station wagon, still afloat on the sense numbing euphoria, I listened to my parents commenting on how well behaved my friends were, and how mature that Roy was. That was the highest praise a parent could bestow.’
I wrapped my hands around the top of the glass. I tried to stop my lips from quivering. I wondered how long the silence would last. As it reached critical mass I decided the last person to speak automatically relinquished ownership of the silence and therefore had no responsibility to end it.
’It wasn’t long after that it happened. I walked into our locker room at school one morning to see the gang discussing something without the usual animated nonsense. They looked at me with pain in their eyes. The words, Roy is dead, sounded like another language. I deconstructed each word until the letters bore no semblance to their combined meaning. They were elements with no relevance to reality. It wasn’t until it was explained to me that Roy had run into the path of an oncoming car did it seem plausible. To my shame the first thing I thought of was myself. His loss of life and his parent’s grief were the furthest things from my mind. All I was interested in was how it affected me. I only had the energy to come to terms with how I felt. I was never going to see him again. It was I who felt cheated. It was a surreal realisation. The fact that a person could be thinking, breathing and full of movement and in Roy’s case probably the centre of attention at the rear of the bus holding court with jokes and a warm friendly pat on the back, and then the next minute gone, lost forever. It seemed ludicrous, not in a morbid sense, just, what was the point? No more soccer games, no more buoyant smiles, no more walking across the oval, no more swapping ‘Shoot’ magazines, no more discussions on who was better? Beckenbauer or Cruyff? Nothing. At the service held in the school chapel, I couldn’t bring myself to talk to his family. Sitting on the pew, I remember looking at his family while the congregation sang, ‘Jerusalem,’ thinking if I talk to them then that will irrevocably seal the fact that he isn’t coming back. Even now I never fail to ask his opinion about something that might be troubling me. He has become part of my consciousness. I compare my actions to what I perceive his might have been. As a consequence when I am experiencing something new I wonder what his reaction might have been. Roy’s death taught me the value of asking when? In one second all that you think is so important can vanish without a trace. To comfort yourself with the thought that others will remember you is pure folly, as the truth will never be known to you. I carry with me a mental list of experiences denied to him for simply running out from behind the school bus into the path of an oncoming car. Roy wasn’t with me when I heard the understatement of ‘Kind of Blue,’ wasn’t with me when I saw ‘2001 A Space Odyssey,’ he never read the quiet desperation of ‘A la Recherché du Temps Perdu,’ never sighted the impossibility of Dali, never heard ‘The Yellow Shark,’ never tasted the sanctity of ‘Domaine de la Romanee-Conti’ and most of all never wrapped himself in the luxury of reminiscing over the memories of a life, long lived. This was the sum total of his lament. I grieved as much for the life denied to him as for the loss of my best friend.’
Teddy knew he had to stop. It was unfair to burden anyone with the refuse from his past even though it was part of the grand plan that hopefully, if all went well, Nikki would become fully aware of later on. Teddy worshipped her golden face while looking at their empty plates.
Nikki was stripped bare, barren and wiped of all emotion. Surely he must finish soon, she thought. Teddy could see the finish line. He had travelled full circle and knew exactly how to wrap this up.
‘Which brings me back to uncle Oscar’s immortal words of wisdom, that time will pass whether you do it or not.’
‘So you live by these mottos, do you?’ inquired Nikki.
‘It was just one of those things said at a time when I needed some guidance. It has stayed with me ever since. I know I’m inherently lazy, but by the same token, I’m aware that time passes so secretively that you have to wonder if anything is worth worrying about. I think of Roy all the time. He didn’t experience any of what he should have; yet life is fleeing away, in moments too precious to waste, without any consideration of his passing. It’s a double edged sword; if in the end nothing really matters then maybe it’s worth trying to do your best in spite of time’s disregard for life. I don’t know, I’m just babbling.’
Teddy delved into a familiar dark recess, submerging his thoughts as he noticed Marco hovering nearby.
…soothe the savage beast inside that wants to scream and shout for acquiescence. I’d love to roll her around in a plastic swimming pool filled with glucose syrup…what is wrong with me?...everything is such an ordeal…
Of course Nikki comprehends none of this. She has her own demons to slay. Teddy opened his wallet. Marco wished he would hurry up. He’d been up since five this morning, had already worked another job, and couldn’t see past next Thursday when the rent was due, and hadn’t heard from ‘him’ since last week when he got drunk and vomited on his lounge.
‘Would you like to see the dessert trolley?’ Marco asked.
Teddy is aware that he is ignoring both of them but he can’t help it. He can no longer ignore the truth that he is now on a wasted fuck finding mission yet he is able to reduce his quantitative expansive realm of introspection barely long enough to refrain from kicking the table over, punching Marco in the kidneys and bending Nikki over the anti-pasto bench.
As Teddy pays the bill he assumes he will never see her again. Ensconced in the mind wrenching boredom of self-loathing, he returns to the warmth and security of his internal monologue and daydreams. He starts to edit past events while inventing the future to suit whatever whim he is keen to explore or manipulate. Moving people in and out of context is a particular favourite. Pretending this person met this one, contriving their conversations and actions from the sidelines.
Nikki resisted letting his story touch her in anyway. She thought no matter how sincere his feelings were, any connection between his uncle’s sayings and his childhood friend’s death had been clumsy and ultimately irritating. Nikki would never admit it, but she disliked men with problems. In her world men had to deal with their issues on an even footing with women.
At work she was never afforded the luxury of being able to discuss her life with her colleagues, not that she would let them in anyway, but the point was, her rise up the corporate ladder had been achieved so far with a mindless dedication to separating those elements of her world that might be perceived as weak or indulgent, so her reaction to Teddy came straight from the same attitude.
Teddy was far from displeased with his performance. He felt relieved and drained at the same time. He experienced a sense of freedom voicing feelings he had kept prisoner for so long. At first it was strange to hear himself talk about Roy. Freeing all that pent up anguish had sent the shame, guilt and burden fleeing from their roost in the dusty attic of his mind. Teddy watched his thoughts from a distance.
…when to the sessions of sweet silent thought I summon up remembrance of things past, they posed no psychological danger...
A dark cloud containing many harmful and conflicting thoughts had dissipated into the bright fresh sunlight. Independent from his own life they had packed their bags and left home.