The rubber sound of tires thudding over concrete joints plays a dozen tonne of arrhythmic heartbeat. Vassals in vessels pumping in discreet motility through the city. I soak in it and say nothing to the driver. ‘You just finished work,’ he says, no question, a roadside directive. I can only nod and make some throat based affirmative. ‘I’m going home too,’ he tells me. I want to picture his family, I want to believe there is love there, and comfort, waiting to be worn. We cross the bridge and the heartbeat subsides. ‘Soon,’ he says, a dense night’s sigh.
I stand outside, watching her move through the mesh screen guarding the kitchen. It’s not our home, we’re dwelling. Sparsely furnished, fully occupied, the owners lives present from board to mortar. Watching her wearing it, an adult playing dress up. One day, I say, I will build this for you. Brick by brick in deed and metaphor. ‘My love,’ she says, a smile’s softness severing all my muscles. ‘As is proper, we’ll build it together.’ Watching her form through the gauze, the house lights define her filigree. You are my heart, I say. ‘Then we already have a foundation.’
I totally wasn’t going to go home with him. When he sat down I thought he was one of those boys with more ego than equipment, a big bow on a little package, you know. Cleo was doing her usual Claude Rains impression, so I let him stay and talk to me, figuring I’d rather be alone with company than altogether lonely. It was fun for a bit, letting him Quixote my windmill.
It’s easier to ignore a noise than succumb to a silence. After he steamed out I noticed something sad in him that sang to the sick in me. It was the eyes, like a deep green lagoon, hidden and still, that you just want to throw rocks into. I’ve got a weakness for the wounded and weird, in a totally selfish way (fuck Flo Nightingale). It probably makes me messed up but people’s twisted shit makes my brain hard. I just want to wrap myself up in it and see how long it takes to suffocate, like drowning in one of those blanket shawls they sell across the late night TV wasteland.
So, after a few chivalry inspired cocktails I told him he could take me home.
He held my hand on the cab ride over and didn’t even try to make out with me, which was sweetly depressing, not knowing if it was nerves or patience. His place was one of those apartments grown in the remains of a plantation mansion that the invisible rich carve into single servings for multiple rents. It would have made a swell bordello before it got dissected and had its nooks stuffed with bachelor types, imported students and low income independents. Still, it had a rusted out opulence that was sexy in a decayed sort of way.
We had to go right to the back and up an infinity of stairs to get into his unit. The door was cut into the guts of a built-in wardrobe, it was like walking into Narnia if it had been written by Kerouac, with an eerie Spartan starkness to it that made me feel exposed, as though I had skinned his personality and was looking the intimate muscles of his life. There was kind of nothing there. The whole thing would have screamed serial killer if it wasn’t for the books. They were mounded everywhere, tucked up in corners and piled along the walls, stacks of them higher than my head and neatly disordered enough that it took the sting out of the Dahmer decor.
I lapped the room looking for something like peace of mind amidst the indecent Dewey Decimal wallpaper, a thirty second prowl that only left me restless. It’s hard to get comfortable without any comforts and I wasn’t sure what to do, which was new for me. I gave in and sat on the bed, it wasn’t a big step. I guess that’s the joy of studio living, the sections of your life aren’t even far enough apart to be considered walking distance.
Fiddling with a laptop upon a plinth of yet more books, he asks me over his shoulder if I’d like another drink. Sure, I say, as The XX start to play, and he tells me he’s got scotch or water. I take the malted option without sighing and ask to have it iced. Plumping myself into his pillows, I build a little fort away from my hesitations and watch him mine the ice from the kind of snack size fridge they stock in hotel rooms. The drink comes to me in an old jar and he shrugs without apologizing, telling me he doesn’t really entertain. It’s not much of an explanation, but the scotch was smooth and made excuses for him.