I told them they’d feel different. It’s easier that way – they were more likely to stay the night, leave earlier in the morning. But they were all the same to me. The same then as the next day and the same as any girl before. Just a girl. It’s just a game. A script I read. A role I play. I take them, leave them, ignore them, apologise to them (lie to them), regret them. I push them through my doors, politely (forcefully) and watch them struggle across the streets, in taxis, to the next room. And in the moment where the light takes them and their silhouette becomes just another body in the shallow air I forget their name and I forget their face.
She ends the call. I was too harsh. She had to know. I was too harsh. Get a grip – this isn’t anything new. She’s just a girl. Caught in the ebb and flow of my own negligence. I grab dinner, curry. Something old from my housemate’s cupboard on my new blue plate. Do I enjoy it? I do. I text Ellie, apologise. The day is slow and again I’m bored of myself. Guilt. I go over to hers again. Regrets. I go over to hers again. Regrets. I go over to hers again. She’s lying on the floor, as if dropped. A coin. Heads. Chance. Choice. Mine. And it’s her, after all of them, that I pick. I lay down on unfamiliar ground and wander whether it’s right. And it is and I can forget everything and everyone. I can forget about Ellie and all the others and I can forget the girl from the other night, and I can forget her friend, my prey.
Later, I phone Ellie, I thought. Accidentally phone her, didn’t notice.
Her: You don’t sound the same
Me: Please listen to me – this has to end. I can’t tell you what I want to because if I did I would be naked and I would be everything and you would see every stain and every bruise and every scar – and your eyes are too naive to share them with. I can’t tell you what you want to hear because it’s those words that haunt me – lies. And I can’t tell you how much you need me because it’s wrong when I know I need you more – don’t tell, an alibi.
Her: Why do you sound so different?
Me: And I can’t tell you to forgive me because I haven’t forgiven myself – it wasn’t meant to be you.
Her: Your voice…
Me: I know. I don’t sound the same because I don’t feel the same – this shouldn’t have happened. It’s because I left your hands lonely as you lay suffocated on the floor – when I shouldn’t have been there at all. It’s because I was a coward and I wanted it to be perfect and it wasn’t because I am too tall to lie next to you and my neck hurt from looking down and my arms ached under your back – it’s not me it’s you. And I didn’t realise that it didn’t have to be perfect – but you did. It’s because in that moment you were everything and I was just a boy – who wanted another girl.
I go to see her. I tell her…
Act 5 scene 1:
‘I’m not sure how to feel’ (I am).
‘I want you to choose’ (although I’ve already chosen).
I touch her hand. She’s wasting time. Drama. I let her lie down, hungover probably. I need to leave, I’m bored. Places to be. Dragged out – myself and the conversation. We both want this to end – always do. So I end it.
‘You’re everything I’ve never wanted’.
She wasn’t there when I next visited. Thankfully. Never are. Her housemates and I, we ate and drank and played games and I got bored and left. I text Ellen. I’m back again the next week, by chance. Another home for another memory. We do the same. Forget the everyday, breathe the surreal. Speak the language of immaturity and marvel at the glamour of debt. Wake up to stale bread and drink warm wine. Bathe in mouldy showers and sleep on our mate’s sofas. And so I left because everything got boring again. And as I slipped past zombie and zombie’s friend she is sat in the corner looking down at a book. Her eyes stay still and I wander past. I didn’t even realise she was there. Easily done. Done before. Ironic. I laugh.
I avoid her, like I do with all of them. Housemates ask the usual questions, giggling, spluttering. I reply the usual reply.”It’s just a girl”. (Any girl. The wrong girl). I text Ella. Grab lunch. Something boring, can’t remember much. I nap and wake up thinking of her (and her). My parents phone, I don’t pick up. I lie and tell them I’m at a lecture (the one I slept through). They believe me, as usual. I throw up – it was spag bol. I laugh. Go to sleep. Wait patiently for the next day. The next dream.
It was just a few of us out. Her mate, my prey. Her housemates. Her. She was a few hours ahead of us, drinking her dinner. So was her mate, my prey. I didn’t feel it, never do, just wanted to get out of the stink of deadlines lingering around my bedroom, clinging to the walls. It was clearer here, even if she blinded me. Her mate, I mean, my prey. And hours later I woke up next to her. I text Ellena. I look down at the skin next to me and I can’t remember where her mate went. Disappointed, beaten. I ask her if she’s up (loudly, to wake her up). I ask if she regrets it. I can’t remember what she said.