After the reggae show and a tour of the Irish pub, the boys had driven him straight back to the house and He had rooted out some warm, dry clothes. He looked down at his hand which held a clumsy stoneware mug, hers, of black coffee. He was wearing a bright red t-shirt over a striped wool shirt and skinny blue jeans so undersized they put his man-bits in stark profile.
He couldn’t help smiling. All his life he had distrusted people who dressed like he was now dressed. In his better moments, he drank like a sailor and smoked marijuana like everyone in the United States Congress, but these people, people who dressed like this, he assumed they never sat down to eat without frying up a plateful of hallucinogenic mushrooms. They were constantly high on one thing or another, one idea or another – constantly raving about reform, change, the dawn of some new age.
He had always thought of it as part of the white man’s guilt trip: they have their industrial revolution, feck up the planet with millions of tons of packaging, poison gases, toxic waste, and then want you to stop using aresol sprays in the privacy of your own bathroom when you knew the Chinese, the Africans, the Indians, all the teeming millions of the struggling semi-industrialised nations were now belching out enough shit to finish off the planet by the end of the century anyway. Spray your armpits and face Armageddon smelling sweet was the was He saw it.
He was shaken out of his thoughts by the sound of her voice. He recognised the tone, but not the words. Something about calling her later, she was in a meeting. Firm. Uncompromising. She at her best.
He thought back to the previous night. The way she had laughed uncontrollably, contrasting that winning smile with playful slaps across His arm. His friends had lapped it up. Laughing uproariously each time the bottle spun in her direction. Hoping to dare her into a display of overt sexuality. Winking at Him when they thought her back was turned. Surprised that she had accepted the invitation to join him for farewell drinks with his foreign-based mates.
She had hesitated to accept at the time. It wasn’t just that she didn’t trust him to behave – she didn’t, but she knew she could handle that with one look. It was more that she hadn’t wanted him to think she wasn’t serious about the break up. But now She felt different, exhilarated at the idea of a no-strings night out with good peeps. She hadn’t had one for many months, and she needed one, especially after everything that had happened. Why shouldn’t she have a good time with him, anyway? It would help to keep her mind off what had happened.
After the initial explosion of anger, she had come to think that maybe she should have listened to his explanation. It was just that in midst of all the pressure of returning to work, and the wheedling and scheming of other people in her past and present, his betrayal, if that’s what it really was, had pushed her over the edge. She had come to expect as much from Him. Whatever his reasons turned out to be, he should never have lied to her.
She had played her part. Running the show with a firm hand and a loving smile. Lighting up the bar with her infectious laugh. She did it delicately, showing Him just the right amount of affection without being obvious. She reminded his friends why they had fallen in love with her in the first place. She reminded Him why he had fallen in love with her in the first place. A dynamo in red heels.
He hung up the phone, safe in the comfort that she’d call him back as soon as the meeting was over. He gazed out the window at a beautiful African morning. He was startled to see a policeman walking up the driveway.