Being Beta

Exercises in the higher banter with One of 26. Elsewhere called 'poet of adland'. By a whipple-squeezer. Find out why being beta is the new alpha: betarish at googlemail dot com

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Fiction: Special ordinary

It was about then that she knew there would be an end.

Not now. Not tonight. Tonight was not going to be a denouement. The climax of the opera buffa that they had become (despite their best efforts, their frowning, none-more-serious, weighty, efforts) had been postponed thanks to this intervention.

They would dribble on together for a few more weeks, or – more likely, as they both lacked the necessary courage to do it – a few more months, until one of them – she, inevitably – would crack and cry and say with an exaggeratedly sincere sigh, ‘Basta, basta’.

All this she could see, as clearly as she could see the outline of the power station in front of her. She would, if she had been more sober, made the obvious leap to the metaphor in front of her – the heat and light, the power, the electricity they once gave out together, made together; the gradual loss of fire until all that was left was guttering embers, heard but never seen.

And then the silence, and the decay.

Still standing they fought the elements that wanted to bring them down completely. Hollowed out but proud, they remained an icon to their friends, elemental yet sad, their dust and rubble evoking nostalgia laced with a deadly pity.

And, let’s be clear, the envious, the less scrupulous of their circle, had had designs on both their bodies for a long time now. She could see the embraces of one or two of them in particular changing in touch, becoming as sharp as the cranes on the pontoon. She didn’t fear this, but didn’t welcome it either. Her being desired roused a weariness in her that immediately dented any promises these haptic declarations made. And him being desired raised a jealously in her that she feared would make dismantling their edifice an even longer task.

All this she knew, in that moment, but couldn’t say. The night up till now had made sure of that. The two bottles, shared at first, but gradually left to her, had made sure of that. The guilty half bottle of vodka to follow had made sure of that. The dwindling levels of blood sugar had made sure of that. The last gasp of her youth had made sure of that.

Thank God the park was locked. If she was feeling more robust, the railings would have proved little hindrance, and she feared what she might have do to herself, with a bandstand and a lake available. She was sure that she’d have made it worse for him.

Then there she was, arriving as angels – or those who in our stories we make into angels, because the inevitability of the narrative demands it – are meant to do: from nowhere, appearing on the roundabout, her wings dropping, her blonde hair streaked with grey, her halo in her left hand, her nipples emitting a red light on a slow pulse.

In her right hand, a kindness.

His kindness had been an affront. It hadn’t been his idea, after all. He had agreed, almost happily, to this method of commemorating her aunt. It confirmed both what she loved about him, that his ability to surf her moods was unique, a sponge who could infinitely absorb rage, joy, disdain; and what she hated, that he would never save her from herself.

A moonwalk for fuck’s sake. At midnight?

And yet he’d said yes. Said yes to her pink hair and pink bra and pink face when what she really wanted him to say was, stop this, stop it now, let’s turn around, and do it another night, when you are happier, and I am stronger, and we will remember her properly, with the joy that she would have wanted, rather than this sullen trudge to raise money for the useless, moronic fight against the thing that killed her.

But all he’d done, instead, was facilitate, nod, smile – wanly, uselessly – offer to stop, offer to feed her, offer to water her, a barrage of kindnesses as deadly and destructive as a firestorm.

She’d returned fire. The spittle that remained on his top from two hours ago was success enough.

She would only ever appreciate his gift of making ordinary phrases seem special, and special ones ordinary, after the end. And when she remembered it, it made her remember him an iota more fondly than he deserved. She took the Kit Kat, and made one of those promises that are broken the moment they’re said out loud.

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