Monthly Archives: March 2014

What I do since you left.

I’ve started writing shit poems. Ones full of clichés and rhyming couplets. They make me feel sick. They make me cry. What does it matter, I’m sick and sad anyway so might as well get something out of it, eh?

I spend my evenings thinking about how we danced the funky chicken at party’s way back then. How you told me I was too old for you, every day. I don’t think about the time you screamed at me in the street because I told you I wasn’t ready for fatherhood, or how you ignored me for a week because I reversed the car over the cat. A broken tail, I got it fixed.

I stroke your cardigan. That God awful one you called your house coat but still wore outside. I look at the smudge of nail varnish on the pocket- you never could wait for them to dry. But, the way I spend most of my day is by putting away your things, realising how sad and shit and dark it is without them, and taking it all back out. That’s what I do. I look at everything over and over, I feel it, I smell it. There’s this slipper, still got the indent of your foot in it but I can’t find the other. I spend so much time staring at that slipper, searching for its other half, do you know where it is?

Remember those stars that used to hang from the ceiling, you know the ones, I said that they’d be the first thing to go if you did. I get tangled up in them just like before. Sometimes I walk into them on purpose, curse you and the hanging stars and feel better for a second. I know, I hated them but now, now they are beautiful because they are so very you. I’m sentimental. I’m writing soppy poetry and crying at the news.

I don’t let the girls come to visit unless I’ve had enough notice. It’s a good afternoon’s work to get it all away again. If I come across the slipper it can take me two days, I get side tracked and frustrated and have to have a drink. If the girls caught me doing what I do they’ll think that I need to see someone. I think I do.

In the evenings sometimes I can’t get off the phone, people who never called call me weekly. To make me feel better? or to make themselves feel better? I’m not sure which.

I try to ask questions, let others do the talking so that I don’t have to admit my sorry old life to anyone who doesn’t really care, someone who is just calling to fill a spare bit of time. I’ve got all the questions to keep them busy talking, if I ever have to answer that dreaded question, “You been getting out?” I say, the park, I go on bike rides to get the paper, feed the ducks with stale bread and think about getting a dog. I tell them that every Tuesday and Saturday I go to the supermarket, there’s a quiz at the Nags Head on Wednesday.

Truth. Since you left, I’ve been out once. To the supermarket, that big one with roll back as their motto. There were so many kids in there, snotty and screaming, wearing no shoes. I liked the one we used to go in together but I thought I might break down in the bakery aisle. I’m not ready to face those cream puffs in the red and white cases just yet.

In the supermarket, I didn’t know what to buy. I brought rice and pasta along with back up ready meals, beer and vodka- you never let me have vodka. The rice was crunchy and the pasta fell apart. Good intensions but now I’m surviving on my back up, back log of ready meals. They’re salty and I don’t like it. On those dark nights, when I close the curtains and drink vodka on ice I have two of the meals. Too cowardly to do something drastic, I decide to let the salt take its toll on my heart.

The little one came round to visit and gave me a lecture about the salt- wearing her hair pinned, a pair of chinos and a shirt. My God, she could have been you 20 years back. She brought me a parsnip soup. It was thick and chunky and I didn’t know how to get rid of it without having to eat it. I blocked the sink and still haven’t had it fixed. I wash up in the bath until I can find where you kept the yellow pages, maybe they’re with your slipper, maybe your slipper is acting as a bookmark for something you needed in the yellow pages, do you remember?

When the little one came round, we talked about you, of course and we laughed at how you got drunk at Christmas and put the cheese board in the microwave and filled the tea pot up with coffee. The older one has been round too. She’s sad, of course and she misses you being but she needed to talk about her problems and I liked it. She always was a daddy’s girl. She’s fighting with Liam again and that was all she could talk about it and it was a nice change. Although, the whole time she was there, talking about Liam and how she was thinking about leaving him I was thinking about you. I tried not to, I needed a break from my thoughts but this one just crept in. I thought about that time when you said, “if it gets any worse I’m leaving.” I begged you to stay and you said I’d have to come round to it when the time comes. You gave me your wedding ring and promised I’d cope alone. I told you I couldn’t cook and you laughed and told me I’d survive on ready meals, but you said that I’d need to make sure I watch the salt. I gave you your ring back and we cuddled in front of the box.

When the older one said, “dad, are you listening?” I said yes and then she carried on telling me what he had been doing. I’ve never liked Liam and I told her. I told her she should be with someone who makes you laugh even when things are shit, when there’s no money in the bank and bills to pay. And she said, “So you want me to find someone like mum.”

I said, “if you find someone like your mum introduce me, I’m going spare, make sure she’s better looking than your mum though, want to trade up.” She got up, kissed me on the head and told me she had to go.

The phone rings on Tuesdays at 6, and Fridays at 5. Those are the days we agreed on you calling, the nurses wrote it in your diary and remind you an hour before. I watch the phone ring, imagine you sitting on the other end with your crochet blanket over your knees, shivering and bony and grey, surrounded by others just the same. I can’t pick up. I freeze. I cry.

You’re not who you were. You’re not the same person who used to paint her nails every night and pick up the fish and chips on a Friday, call me a tight bastard and laugh at my jokes. That’s not you anymore, you are not mine anymore. You belong to them now, and you’ve got to accept it. You told me that I had to let you leave if the time came and that I’d cope. I’m trying to; I’m trying so hard to move on.

I’ve got in the car a couple of times, got the map out of how to come and visit you. I never get as far as turning the key. I feel sick and my head hurts, I go lie down. I’m punishing myself because I know times a healer and if I see you all the pain that’s getting easier will just get hard again and I’m afraid of what I’ll do.

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The Test of a Good Woman

  I believe you shouldn’t judge a woman by the way she looks, smells, or wears her hair. Yeah, okay so all that is important- I’m not after a troll who smells like a trucker- but I think you can tell all you need to know about a woman by what she eats, how she eats. I’ve been on a lot of dates, and this isn’t me bragging clearly I’m no good at it after 34 long years of being single, but I’ve always had a keen eye for knowing what women are really like behind that first date smile. I cant tell from the moment I see them, but from the moment I see what they order.

Take Sue. Sue was a red haired, fiery woman in a tight dress and thick heels. I met Sue in a club and told her I’d take her out after a few Martinis. I liked the way she flicked her tongue round her straw and tried to catch it in her mouth. Sue smoothed her Lycra skirt to her bare thighs and sat, with her spine curved at the bottom, on the chair. Her necklace hung low, a locket, and if things went well at dinner I was planning on asking to see inside it. She circled her shoulders in time with the music and held the menu in both hands. The waiter came and she peered over the top of the menu, winked at me and said, “I’ll have the oysters.” Looking at me the whole time she ordered. I don’t have to spell it out, she knew what she wanted and I like that. I also like a woman who can order and order well. Oysters are good on any occasion, on your own on a Friday night even, and if what they say is true then even better with someone else. I ordered a light soup, simple and easy, a classic.

                Sue started off impressively and I really thought I might get to know what was in the locket, somewhere I hadn’t got in years. I froze to watch her take the fish, hoping that she didn’t fail at the first hurdle. Her thick eye lashes were spread like spider’s legs and her pupils round and dark between them, not looking away as she pulled the oyster closer to her lips. Her red, thick lips. She scooped under to loosen the flesh from the shell and sucked. The noise echoed through the entire room, shaking the pictures on the wall and I’m sure I heard a mirror crack. After what seemed like 20 minutes of slurping and staring she’d sucked it all in. Then she chewed. Sloppy, mouth open along with heavy breathing, worn out from shoulder dancing I guess. I looked down into my asparagus soup and weighed up the pros of drowning myself in it.

Hannah was sweet. I met her on the sea front; she worked on the ice cream parlour and served me a 2 scoop of rum and raison for the price of one. Maybe her mum had told her that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I picked her up in my duck egg mini. I always drive; I don’t cloud my judgement with drink. Concentrating on every mouthful they take requires a clear head. I got carried away once with a woman a few years back, ended up drinking a couple of bottles of wine with her. I thought she was the one. In the meal I must have missed crucial signs or just let them go because after the 2nd bottle she burped right in my face. From then on I’ve always driven. Hannah kept tucking her hair behind her ears, even when it was already there. She pursued her lips and looked up at me over the menu, but when I made eye contact she looked away and giggled. I ordered fizzy water on ice and she followed suit. When the waiter came Hannah gestured towards me to order first and said the dreaded words, “I’ll have what you’re having.” I ordered the hottest curry on the menu and watched her sweat and sniff with every mouthful.

Sharron, or Shaz as she liked to be called worked at the supermarket. She made me laugh when she came up behind me and said, “You going to pay for that you thieving bastard.” When I turned around she had her hand covering her mouth, as red as onions. “Oh, God, I thought you were someone else,” she said.  She put her arm around my wrist and begged me not to tell customer services that she’d called me a bastard. I agreed as long as she came on a date with me. She was a big girl with a pretty, sweet face. Thin red lips, big blue eyes and blonde hair shaped to her round face. At dinner she wore jeans, heels and a top which was floaty and forgiving. She ordered her own drink, a large Nantua Les Deux- a complex and buttery wine. I knew she had good taste.  Then she ordered the food, “I’ll have the avocado salad please. No sides thank you.” How could such a good wine order go with such a terrible food order. I must have paused mouth open for a moment or two because the waiter had to call me twice. “And for you, Sir?” he said. “Sir?” I ordered the Chicken in a soft cheese sauce, with a side of vegetables and new potatoes.

When the waiter packed up his note pad and left, she said: “It’s a gland problem, my weight. I eat light.” I laughed and said something vaguely sympathetic, “my sister suffers with that too”. Don’t get me wrong, I would have believed her if it hadn’t been that when I dropped my napkin I noticed two chocolate wrappers in her open bag, and what I had thought had been a mole on her face began to look more and more like Cadburys. I don’t date liars.

Jane. If I was one of those men who judge a woman by her name I wouldn’t have bothered with Jane. I’d known her years, we worked together, drank coffee together, filed stuff together, then I bumped into her in town and we got talking.

On our date she had her hair to her shoulders and flat to her head. She wore jeans and a white shirt with a pair of black boots. She ordered a white wine and she didn’t mind which- I think she chose the cheapest. Out of work and worried that I’d ask her to split the bill. She took her time over the menu, really analysed it as though it was important data and we were at a meeting. The conversation flowed well as we spoke about people who we used to know, where they were now, where we were now. The waiter came over, smartly dressed with a napkin tucked into his belt. She smiled at him and closed the menu in front of her. “Please may I have the chicken in a white wine sauce but without the sauce.” Her order was dry chicken and boiled potatoes with no butter. It was dry and plain. If I’d have judged her by her clothes or her name then I could have saved myself three hours of my life listening to the plainness of hers. She’d never even been on holiday and stopped after one glass of wine because of a fear of getting drunk.

Tina was a food critic, so I let her pick the place. She said she wanted to try out a new Thai restaurant uptown.  She sat straight like she was balancing books on her head, wearing a tight black dress to her knees, low cut at the back. Tina had short black hair and thin red lips painted with bright red. She inspected the cutlery and wiped it over with her napkin. When she eventually had cleaned everything on the table she opened to the wine. She curled her lip and flared her nostrils at the list. “Oh I guess we will have to have the Belondrade y Lrton, it’s the only half decent one on here.” When the young Spanish waiter came to tell us that they were out of Belondrade y Lurton Tina’s lips went even thinner. “What kind of establishment is this? Why don’t you just tell me what to have rather than me even look at the menu.” The waiter hung his head and apologised but she didn’t stop. “Oh stop with your sorry mams, please. I would have thought a place like this would have a proper waiter not some spotty teen saving for his first car. Please, bring me the manager.” Then I got an emergency phone call and dove out of the restaurant.

That was how I met Lucy. I bumped in to her as I was running out of the resturant, half expecting Tina to chase me with a well polished knife. 

“Watch it,” she said. Coffee all over her parker. I tried to rub her down but it meant touching her breast and she didn’t take well to that one.  “Where you going in such a rush?” she said.

“Bad date.”

“Did you throw a coffee over her too?”

I laughed, “Let me buy you a coffee, please to make up for this one.”

“You don’t hang about, straight back on the bandwagon, you get knocked down, you get right back up,” she said.

“Well you know, can’t hang about. At my age most the good ones are taken.” Hannah looked young under the street lamp in her 20’s I guessed. She had soft blonde hair, flowing over the hood of her coat. I could see her hot breath in the cold night and she was shivering a little.

                “Don’t want coffee though, I’m starving. You can buy me a burger instead.”

“Alright, know any good burger places?”

“All stop serving at 10, ‘cept that burger van.”

“Bit cold though, isn’t it.” I know it was forward, I rubbed her arms to try and warm her, it just felt like something I should do.

“It’s alright, there’s a wind shelter over there.”

 We ate burger and chips together on a bench. We sat close to each other to keep warm, our thighs touching. She got sauce on her face and didn’t get embarrassed about it, she wiped it away and we moved on. She chewed with her mouth closed, and covered her mouth when she laughed. She was a casual diner, cool and easy to please, she was herself. That was how I met Lucy.

 

 

 

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