Sunday, 7 August 2011

Andrea XIII – Parting

Our final session. It’s rather early and I’ve come along with an orange for breakfast. I just fancied it but now I don’t know what to do with it. It’s going to get messy and I don’t have a knife on me. I fiddle with it for a while and she looks at it irritably. I notice she has a glass of the freshly squeezed. Why didn’t I think of that?

Andrea is trying to avoid politics by injecting some levity into the proceedings. She’s trying to get me to tell her some more about my pathetic attempts at chatting women up. I don’t want to talk about politics but I don’t want to go over all this either. I’m telling her about a date I had. How to describe the scene?
‘I made a complete twat of myself’ I say.
‘What happened?’
‘It was just stupid. I see that now. I knew it was supposed to be just a one night stand...’
‘What did you do?’ she says, obviously preparing herself for something unspeakable.
I can hardly bring myself to say it. ‘I made breakfast’ I mumble.
‘What?’ she says, trying not to laugh. ‘You did what?’
‘I wanted it to be nice... not like those other... blokes she knew.’
‘So you made her breakfast?’
‘I know, I know... She was absolutely livid, like I’d asked her to marry me or something.’
Andrea shakes her head slowly at me. ‘How old was she?’ she says at length.
‘I don’t know. Early twenties?’
‘And you were what, thirty something?’ I nod. She sits in disbelief for a while, just looking at me, giggling slightly to herself. I suppose it is funny but I’m not in the mood. She sees my serious face and pulls herself together. ‘What’s wrong Gabriel?’ she says.
‘I’m sorry Andrea’ I say abruptly, ‘I know this stuff is maybe important but really... I’m going to be going back into the world soon.’
‘And I don’t want to be out on the streets again.’
‘I’m glad to hear it.’
‘I don’t want to be in and out of hospitals and helping the police with their enquiries or dossing down at my parent’s because nobody else will have me.’
‘Well, good.’
‘I’ve got to do better this time.’
‘And I’m sure you will Gabriel. I do understand.’
‘I’m not sure you do. Sorry babe but I think we’re missing the point. I’m still not entirely convinced I don’t need some help with the whole getting a job and making a living thing. Surely it’s what gives people their purpose in life and self-respect and dignity and so forth. All this stuff about chatting women up and having sex is fun but I don’t really know if it’s doing much good. I’m sorry Andrea. I know you’re trying to help.’
‘Do you believe that?’ she says, at length.
‘You believe your sense of self worth would be best served by getting yourself a career? I’m not saying you shouldn’t have a career but... I just don’t think that’s where your heart is. I don’t think that’s what you missed most. Really...’
‘Well, I take your point about there being someone for everyone, but I’ve seen the kinds of ladies my fellow travellers consorted with and quite frankly I was not envious.’
‘Have you noticed how you go into this pedantic polysyllabic way of expressing yourself when you’re unhappy? It’s quite off-putting.’
That shuts me up. But I know what she means.
‘It makes you sound like a pompous old fart. It’s not attractive.’
‘Thanks’ I say quietly and sit and think for a while. Maybe I’m pushing myself away, trying to make leaving easier somehow. Or maybe I’m trying to string it out a bit. It reminds me of when Justine died. I was the last of our family. I watched them all go one by one, me shuffling inexorably to the head of the queue. Today I remember what it is to be an old man again. It’s a perfect place for the addled and arthritic, this. You don’t have to get up and eat if you don’t want to, and nobody fails to get to the loo in time because there’s no need to go to the loo at all if you don’t want to. Paul pointed out with some amusement that some still seem to visit the toilet regularly, even though their body no longer has the physiological need to excrete, but then I honour meal times even though my body has no physiological need for sustenance. I suppose some people saw their time on the bog as quality time. I didn’t. I saw it as a waste of time – a time of waste. I thought I had better things to do.
I didn’t know what to do when Justine was dying. The hospital was too far away to visit regularly, with the NHS ‘restructuring’ and so on – and I hated myself for not having learned to drive and not being able to afford the train as often as I’d have liked. Justine’s sons would have nothing to do with me so I was stuck. I wasn’t there when she died. No one was.

I can’t believe we’ve wasted all this time here, farting about, talking about girls when there’s this chasm of utter incompetence in the middle of my life. Oh there’s someone for everyone alright. I have a sudden memory of Ned’s girlfriend, running down Trafalgar Street with her legs together, the back of her pink leggings already translucent with piss. I got on ok with Ned – he fancied himself as a bit of a philosopher – used to get into some amazing discussions but he was a total alkie. They all were.
I look at Andrea. She looks at me.
‘I can’t go back, not the way I was’ I say. ‘I couldn’t stand it.’
‘Do you think that’s likely?’ she says, impassively.
‘I don’t see why not’ I say, reproachfully. She knows what I’m getting at. I dig my nails into the orange. Who cares if I get sticky hands?
‘What do you want me to say Gabriel?’ she says – another phrase I hate. It means she thinks she’s told me all I need to hear, and if I can’t handle it, well... But I don’t think she has. Now I have all these ideas that a lovely woman could really love me back and of having a life with her and a place of our own and holidays and all the stuff I never dared realistically hope for in my life and...
And suddenly I can see what she’s done. The cow has done it again.

It never felt realistic before, all that stuff. I still don’t know the details but it does actually feel like it could happen. I could make it happen. A smile spreads across my face. I can’t help it. She knows what it means too.
‘It will feel worse, at first’ she says gently ‘but it will get better. I promise.’
I separate the orange segments and share them with her. I can feel the sticky dried juice on my hands but the orange came apart easier than I expected. There’s a metaphor here. I can’t think what it is right now.
‘Will I see you again?’ I ask.
‘Here or in life?’ she says, smiling now. We’ve both relaxed. It’s over. It’s time to go now and it’ll be ok. I can do this.
‘Either’ I say. ‘I think Paul wants an End of Voyage party. You could come... I’ll buy you a martini.’
She smiles, a little sadly I think. ‘We’ll see’ she says.
‘And then there’s always the festies – I’ll come and find you in The Healing Space.’
‘I’d like that’ she says, and means it I think. ‘I’ll look out for you.’ and we stand and hug briefly and I kiss her cheek and leave the room. I don’t expect to see her again.

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A life backwards

It's in the nature of blogs of course that you come across the latest postings first (or you find yourself in the middle.) Normally it doesn't matter but if you want to read my novel in order, the first installment is as you'd expect, the oldest posting.
Thanks for your patience.