Not All Of What Follows Is True

A recurring journal of mixed veracity.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

"How would you like it cut, sir?"

"Well, normally I'd just go for a number three all over, you know. But I'm going to a wedding, so I think you should just, you know, trim the top. So I look a little bit respectable. No more than slightly respectable, though. I'm hoping to go for some of that hey-he-looks-slightly-dangerous charm with the bridesmaids. Know what I mean?"

"Not really, sir."

"Not that I'm going as some kind of bridesmaid-predator. Far from it. But make hay while the iron's hot, or whatever. If you know what I mean, and I think that you do."

"Do you want to keep the sideburns, sir?"

"Lose 'em."

Sunday, May 11, 2003

I knew I shouldn't have said anything. When I came in I found him sitting there in front of the TV watching Countdown - thought I could smell something. Not a scent, but a sensation at the back of the throat. Sure enough, dark stains were drying into the rug - my rug - where blood had dripped down from his forearms. Tiger-stripes across the backs from the wrist to just below the elbow.

Looked like he'd done it with the kitchen knife that was on the sofa now. That was bloody too, getting stains on the cushion covers. Inconsiderate, that's what he is. I must have said something, or made a noise, because that's when he looked up.

Looked at me and furrowed his brow. Dipped his head and said "What do you want?" before leaning over to the coffee table, where he poured himself another glass of Smirnoff red. Didn't get any more blood on the rug. Suppose the cuts must have been starting to scab over.

"What's all this shit with the knife again?" I said, dumping the Sainsbury's bag by the door.

"Because I'm drinking," he said, and settled back down, flicking through the TV channels. Remote in one hand, vodka in the other. "Is there any ice in the freezer? My drink's getting warm."

"Pour one for me," I said and headed into the kitchen. I grabbed a bag of ice cubes from the freezer, pausing to note that once again he hadn't done any of the damned washing-up.

Time passes slowly; it's late in the spring. The echo of a slammed door wings around the courtyard walls with no direction. There's another sound when that dies down, no way to tell where it's coming from. Someone is playing the clarinet.

The breeze eddies and gasps through a second floor window. Inside the room a girl is lying in bed. Her eyes are shut but she isn't asleep. The sun strikes her through the blinds in slatted diagonals as she curls up under the covers in the fitful rest of those on a come-down. Next to the bed an empty water bottle lies on the floor beside a coat that still smells of tobacco smoke.

If she looked out of her window she'd be able to see the JYA student who lives right across from her. He's at his desk. His ear's getting hot from where the phone's pressing against it. At the other end his mother tells him things. An upper reach of the brain floats through other things while her voice rattles off sisters in Atlanta and Navy cousins sent overseas. His eyes flick over the scrawled-on calendar, a promotional item that came in a plastic bag with cards to be filled out and glossy ads for discounts. There'd been a balloon in the bag, too. That got burst months ago during a party - high jinks in the stairwell.

Mother's voice breaks off as he changes the handset from one side of the head to the other. Now he'll never know the names of half-remembered relatives at the reunion spoken to thin air as the phone went from hand to hand in a second. He saw that girl who lives opposite in the courtyard today, though they don't know each other. She told him how to operate the dryers in the laundry once, back two terms ago. They're acquaintances of the nod and smile, always walking in the opposite direction.

She took clarinet lessons once. She doesn't play any more.