Richard John Davis
‘He said I was an animal. That’s what he said.’
I didn’t know if I was upset or not. I might have even been happy about it. I knew one thing: he didn’t want me to be happy about it.
But I didn’t care – I was starting to become happy because he didn’t want it. He was the animal, just look at him. But I was going to embrace this. I was going to turn it into something positive for me. I thought about his face when he said it: slightly contorted, looking at me closely, measuring my reaction.
Then I looked at her. ‘Don’t worry about it,’ she said. She laughed. I smiled, a little. I looked over at him. He was dancing with his girlfriend, but he looked over, now and again. We’d just broken up, but we’d decided we were going to remain friends. We were sitting in the corner of the bar, away from everyone else.
‘What did he… how did he say it?’
‘Oh, I don’t know. He said he didn’t like me. He said I had an animal quality. No, that wasn’t it. He said I was like an animal – there was something animal-like about me.’
‘And that’s why he doesn’t like you?’
‘Strange reason. That’s a strange reason to dislike someone.’
Later, we were back in bed together. In the morning we discussed it. We both thought it wasn’t a good idea. We both said it was a mistake, and that it shouldn’t happen again. We were unified in our judgement of the situation. We stayed in bed all morning, making the most of it. We didn’t know if, or when, it might happen again.
We got hungry. We left and went to Norberts, nearby. That was how they wrote it. It was hand-painted, outside, above the glass. Norbert didn’t work there anymore, but he’d set it all up. Everyone knew that.
Coffee, eggs, beans. We had exactly the same thing. Adele put her hands up, as she did when she wanted to emphasise something.
‘I can’t believe we did that.’
‘I’ve got to go to see my daughter later.’
‘We shouldn’t have done it, should we?’
‘It’s her birthday.’
‘Yeah, I need to get her something.’
‘Really Martin? You haven’t got her anything yet?’
‘No. Any ideas?’
We were still together in the afternoon. We went to a little row of shops, then back to bed. After a while, we held each other, staring into each other’s faces, searching. Both searching.
‘What are you doing with all your shit, Martin?’
‘What kind of question is that?’
‘I don’t know. Are you happy?’
‘Happier, I think, yes.’
‘You’re here with me.’
‘At the moment.’
‘Nice. Thanks. Look, I’m not trying to start an argument. I just worry about you.’
‘Don’t worry about me. I’m a survivor.’
‘But I do. There it is. I do.
‘Why do we have to get old?’
‘We’re not old.’
‘We will be.’
I got up and tried to find a way to make some tea. There was no milk. I made black coffee for both of us. There was no food in Adele’s kitchen.
‘Why are you worried about getting old?’ she asked.
‘I don’t know.’
‘It’s like I was saying before. What the hell are you doing with your life?’
‘I’m doing the best I can.’
‘I know. I’m sorry. I can’t help worrying.’
‘And you’re happy.’
‘You already asked me that.’
‘Everything’s fine for you now.’
‘It’s not perfect.’
‘Nobody’s life is perfect.’
‘Really? Not even yours?’
‘Oh, come on. I’m not attacking you.’
We started kissing.
When I left it was even colder than before. But it was still light and bright. The trees were bent over me as I walked, waving slowly.
My mobile rang. It was Adele. Her French voice still sounding worried about me. I felt bad because the worried tone irritated me.
We agreed not to meet up again. To avoid each other. To have a break. Then, if it was all ok, we would try to be just friends.
The wind seemed to be getting colder by the minute.
I thought about him again. He was a city trader, or a banker. Something like that. He was huge. Monstrous. He had a beautiful girlfriend. These were the facts. I hardly knew him. Last night was probably only the second or third time I’d ever seen him. He knew some of the same people I did, but I might never see him again. He was the animal – that was all I could think.
Then I tried to think about my daughter. I was late. But she never got angry with me.