You know what you want to say but you ramble, avoid it.
Talking is difficult. Talking about talking is difficult. It is hard work. And so you distract.
A bit about work, about now, about the past. And your eyes flick left and right. And you ridicule the stages of familiarity, those desperate days, student days, where conversations moved from where you went to school, to what subjects you studied, to favourite books, and favourite films. You sneer. The innocence of freshers week: the notion that a friendship can be built on happening to like the same book, happening to like the same film.
No one liked your favourite film. Pretentious? Moi? You know. You know the scene. Humiliated he left for home, ran the sink, and
And she questions. Gently. Sometimes repeating you. Sometimes not. And you stop looking at her. And your eyes flick left, flick right. And still. And you look at the corner of the room. Unoccupied. No seat. No table. A bare wall.
And you are elsewhere.
You recognised her, eventually. Brown coat. She was wearing a light brown coat – nearly knee length. And you bumped into each other crossing the road. And soon after you stammered that you were hating it, that you couldn’t stay, that you would give up. And she?
You start to stammer. Odd. Now infected by then. Time bleeds. You stammer. You have started to stammer.
“I knew her, a little. We’d talked. A little. Sports day. We’d both avoided it. And we’d talked.”
Yes, two years before you’d told her about him dying, and about the crash, and about the hills, and the windows, and the trees. And you’d talked. And so when you bumped into her, literally bumped into her, hand waving apologies gave way to the awkward exclamations of not quite familiarity, names asked as questions. And then affirmation, recognition, and soon, so soon, picking up a conversation from two years before.
“She saved me”
You don’t look. You don’t want to see the reaction.
But one night a week became something to look forward to. A meal. Something when you weren’t eating. She knew. Eventually you tell her but she knew you were not eating. Had you lost that much weight? Or was it the demeanour, the mournful demeanour?
“That’s a strong statement.”
She did. In retrospect you know she did. She persuaded you to stay. And you’d talk. And you’d share stories of lives and loves, or the lack of loves. And talking became important. Some nights you’d stay late, catch the late bus – trapped in a crowd of blue haired women clutching handbags exiting the bingo hall. Some nights later still, needing a taxi. But you didn’t mind the expense because talking mattered.
And you start to talk about talking, and your eyes prickle, the sharp heat of tears, and the words stop, and you’re truly, madly, deeply in full Juliet Stevenson mode – reach for the handkerchief and
in her kitchen you are ready to trust someone more than you have trusted anyone when she tells you there is something she needs to tell you and you listen and you know she trusted you and you want to hug her and tell her that everything will be okay and that it changes nothing but you don’t move and you don’t speak and you sit not knowing what to do with your hands and
Through tears you stumble out, “She told me”
And you didn’t move. You sat there. You sat there, silent. Not knowing what to do with your hands. She trusted you and you sat there. You didn’t move.
And you sit silent. You look at the wall. You don’t move.