On one of the corners of rue des Abbesses and rue Aristide Briand, there is a café called La Villa. The decor could be described as gentlemen’s club stroke colonial chic. African masks look down, with long faces, from dark oak panelling. The lighting is always subdued, as though some hallowed mystery had to be preserved from the cold light of day. In the first section, there are twelve black leather armchairs on either side of six black round tables. The armchair where Emilie once sat is in front of me, by the window. It is impossible to say for sure if it is the exact same one, or if the armchairs have been moved around. It is a question of belief. I believe this is the armchair in which Emilie is no longer sitting. I believe that everything must leave some kind of mark, and that her buttocks are haunting the leather seat. The distance separating the armchair in which I am sitting from the armchair in which Emilie is no longer sitting is absolute. The journey between the two refuses to draw to a close as I draw close.
You will never read this. If you did, you would instantly fall in love with me again. Each letter was soaked overnight in a 90% proof voodoo potion, spirited out of New Orleans. By the end of this sentence, all the words would rain down on you, like a shower of beads from a frilly balcony. Then you would be mine, for ever. You will never read this.
Embowered wooing of the womb: jellied ire entombed in the quagmire of desire. Icky, sticky time bomb ticking away within the womb. Already ticking away, Time within the wombomb; icky, dickory dock. The tempestuous breaking of waters, like all hell let loose, and the throbbing of the plucked umbilical cord. Let loose in Hell to the thrumming, humdrumming humbilical chord: another gurgling baby wreathed in smiles, pushing up daisies. Already pushing up daisies.
Teach us to sit still.
– T.E. Lawrence
He wandered, he roved; he shuffled, he roamed; he pounded, he expounded, he strode and he strolled.
Perry Pathetic, we called him, this peripatetic poet who paced the streets of Paris, flogging his verse to all and sundry. “My work I have costed,” he told whoever he accosted, “and I’ll spin you a rhyme, if you slip me a dime,” or words to that effect.
Now his walking does the talking, it has no rhyme nor reason: he is poetry in motion.
“Trews doon,” she snapped after lining up her suitors, “kecks aroond your ankles”. Ms Ramsay was a career woman of the no-nonsense variety with a strong dislike of prevarication, or “shilly-shallying” as she preferred to call it. Her approach to dating was strictly business-like and goal-oriented. No faffing about: life was simply too short — like most eligible males out there. “This should sort out the men from the boys,” she said, producing a tape-measure from her handbag and getting down to brass tacks.
Once upon a time my sister baked a batallion of gingerbread men who seemed destined for doughy, doughty deeds so gallant were they. I simply couldn’t bring myself to eat them; had neither the heart nor the stomach to do so. A moratorium was declared by sisterly decree and the spice boys remained in battle formation on the kitchen table pending mum’s final verdict. You could smell the sensuous, exotic aroma from my bedroom, even behind closed door.
That night, I had this vivid dream in which the ithyphallic gingerbread men rose from the baking tray Galatea-fashion. Still under the influence of the self-raising flour, they legged it upstairs to gang-bang the Play-Doh model of the Girl Next Door I had lovingly sculpted and kept secretly beside my comics and sensible shoes.
Breakfast, the morning after, was a truly religious experience. I binged ravenously on the horny homunculi, tearing away at their limbs, biting off their heads with sheer abandon, and washing them down with enough glasses of Ribena to incarnadine the multitudinous seas.
My love has just left the flat, never to return. I can still smell the scent of her perfume in the room. I can hear her receding footsteps in the corridor.
When I was a kid, there were two different ways to go home, both equidistant. Every day, me and my sister would split up outside the school gates and see who would get there first.
As I open the window I think of the future that could have been, of the children we will never have. Every day they will split up outside the school gates and see who gets home first. We will hear their footsteps coming up the garden path.
Standing on the windowsill, I watch her winding down the six flights of stairs, carrying her blue suitcase. There are two ways to go home, both equidistant, but mine’s the quickest.
Last one’s a sissy.