Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Me Without You by Thom Kofoed

Me Without You by Thom Kofoed

The Proposal

By Thom Kofoed

He knew right away that he would marry her. At least, that is the story he will tell to his children, when they are born and then later, when they are old enough to ask.
He did sort of know; that first time they kissed with their mouths open like caves. It had at least crossed his mind. And he definitely knew, three months in, when they ate sandwiches outside a café that bled grease into the air like a cut. When she got mustard as thick as paint in the hair around her face. But that is ordinary and their love story is big as a city. That is what he will tell his children when they are born and then later, when they are old enough to ask.

Now, he is sat at a bar and he is nursing a small drink which is his second. He drank the first one like medicine, quick as a race. This one he is sipping slowly, letting the alcohol seep into his tongue before swallowing it. The bar is only half full, mostly with men in day old suits and shirts rolled up to their elbows. They are not mechanics or men that work with their hands. They are office men. They spend their time on the telephone and think themselves funny for playing practical jokes on their colleagues. They wrap chairs in cling film and glue the computers mouse to the desk. They talk about the news. They are those sorts of men but this isn’t one of those sorts of bars.  Their laughter is like silly string and it sticks to the walls and then hangs there. It is the reminder of a party.

The barmaid is wearing a blouse that is covered in flags and she is hooking bags of crisps on hooks hammered into the beams between bottles of liquor. He looks up from his glass, now half empty, and they catch each other’s eyes. She smiles at him and then roots around in a cardboard box for more bags to hook onto the hooks between bottles of liquor. He isn’t smiling back because he is biting onto his lip. She thinks he has lost his job.

He taps his fingers onto the bar, making a rhythm that starts like a heartbeat and becomes frantic as falling rain. He is thinking about her saying no, and then about how he would feel about her saying no, and then whether or not they could go back to how it was before he had asked the question and before she had said no. He thinks that they probably couldn’t. Or that maybe she could but that he most definitely couldn’t. It takes a certain sort of man for that, he thinks.

And now he is thinking about her being gone. About the minutes before she leaves with her last bag of things looped over her elbow. She is saying sorry but she isn’t, and he is looking out of the window into the window of the house across the street. There is a family there, eating dinner and doing all the things they won’t because she said no and he’s the sort of man that can’t pretend she didn’t.
She is still speaking. She is gently explaining away the blade sharp edges of her rebuff until it is round as a stone. They are standing like two points on a map, the distance between them as big as a city.

And then he can actually hear her, calling his name through all of the silly string. Her voice is like a whistle calling him back, back again to her.

Posted 14:32 Friday, Jun 8, 2018 In: New writing

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