Wednesday 7 January 2009

One Night Stand (A Short Story)

He flung open the door of the pub and went straight to the bar.
She turned her head as he walked in and watched him.

He was about thirty years of age, still wearing his shirt and tie, but had donned a leather jacket, a concession to his hours of leisure. He was slight, boyish even. But not innocent.

She was early forties, perhaps. Slightly eccentric. She was talking at high pitch, frantically, in almost fevered tones to any who'd listen. About the bastard. Who was the bastard? Who knew? No one really. The three men stood at the end of the bar hearing, but not listening.

He caught her eye momentarily before she resumed her monologue.

The barman nodded 'Guinness, Joe?'
He removed his gaze from her before flourishing a fiver. 'Aye'.

She didn't draw breath, but her range doubled. Now it wasn't just the three older men she addressed. He too had become her audience. As she rambled on she kept turning to him, making sure he was listening too.
But he did what the other men did not do. He nodded, half closing his eyes, suggesting he empathised. What was he empathising with? He hadn't a clue, his mind was on other things. But he knew a woman on the rebound when he saw one.

Five minutes later he clunked his empty glass on the bar. The barman nodded 'Another one?'
'Sure. I'm just going for a fag'.

Outside he turned to one of the other men, one he knew well 'Who's the redhead you's talking to?'
The old man rolled his eyes to heaven. 'Crazy. She's in here in the daytime sometimes. Completely nuts. Don't ask me what she's on about. Trouble with her ex, I think'.
He took a drag. 'Yeah, I gathered that. I just wondered if anyone was fucking her'.
The old man took a drag. 'I thought you had irons in your fire, Joe. I thought you was pursuing things with Gemma?'

The younger man grinned, 'Aye, but she ain't here tonight. And that's more of a long game. But she ain't bad looking and I could do with getting laid tonight. Is that going to be a problem? Does anyone mind?'

The older man grinned 'Go for it! But be careful. She's mad!'

The younger man put out his cigarette. 'Point taken, John. I'll watch meself. Hey, it'll only be for the night. It really is just a case of I need a fuck.'

He strode back in and took a swig from his pint which the barman had thoughtfully placed right next to the crazy redhead, as if anticipating his mind. Well, they knew him in there. It was probably predictable.

As if by magic, she fixed her gaze on him, seemingly assuming he had been following what she was saying; 'YOU know what I mean, DON'T you?'

He smiled softly at her 'Yes. Yes I do. You describe it perfectly'.

She regarded him slowly, her eyes locked in his. 'You've been there too, haven't you?'

Did he know what she was talking about? He hadn't followed the conversation, but he knew. Knew what she meant. And yes, yes he had. He could pick up the emotion she was trying to express and he felt it. He could relate to her, he could. That sense of being broken inside, that sense of wanting someone but feeling too broken to be able to cope with anyone. Yes, he could relate to that. And that's what she was on about. Searching bitterly for the warm embrace of a loved one and yet finding that everyone you trusted with your love made you less and less able to love and be loved.

He turned and faced her allowing his eyes to wonder down her figure. She was still pretty. Broken, vulnerable, hurting deeply.
But for all his confident machismo, so was he.
He reached down and caressed her hand. 'It's ok.' he said. 'You don't need to tell me anything you don't want to tell me. But if you want to, I'm listening'.

She looked up at him, a faint glimmer in her eyes. 'Thanks. That means a lot. You're a good person'.

A good person? A good person? Am I good person, he thought. Do I care? Yes, I care. I care enough to want to listen. I want to hear how fucked up you are so we can compare notes on how fucked up we BOTH are. I want to know how it happened to you. And I want to be able to cry in your arms too. And hopefully we'll drink a bit more and both decide that a few hours of intimacy will somehow make life just that little bit more bearable for both of us. That by bringing eachother to mutual climax and feeling some connection briefly we'll feel validated, a little less alone, just for tonight. Because I can't deal with any more than that and nor can you.

He drifted in and out of conversation with her for much of the evening. He got as much background on her as he could in between his football chats out in the backyard.

It was near closing time. Both she and he were slightly drunk.
Him: You know, if you ever need to talk, you can call me.
Her: What's your number?
Him: I don't know it. But if you tell me yours, I'll ring yours with it now, then you'll have it.
Her: I don't know mine either.
Him: Damn. Ok, not a problem. I only live five minutes from her. If you don't mind walking back past mine, I'll whip inside and get the number. I have it on my PC. I only have to check my Facebook page.
Her: Is it far?
Him: No, just by the Westcroft. The flats behind the off-license.
Her: Ok.

Outside the pub as the barman locked up, he chatted to Old John, watching as she was engaged in conversation with Adie. Adie, thirty eight and balding. Adie, who pined in unrequited love for a barmaid he too had an interest in. He and Adie mostly got along, but he knew Adie didn't exactly approve of his womanising. Whereas most everyone else connived at it to some degree. He couldn't hear Adie, but he could hear her; 'I'll be Ok! I know what I'm doing. Sometimes, that's all a woman wants. I know the score. I'm a big girl'.

He took her hand and they swayed slowly down the street as he shouted over his shoulder 'I'll probably be in on Tuesday! See you then! Good luck with the darts match!'

They fell over by Morrisons. Or she did, and he tumbled down with her. They didn't get up straight away. They lay looking into eachother's eyes and kissed. It was five minutes or so before he took her handbag in one hand and her in the other and heaved her to her feet. 'These heels...' she murmured.

They must have looked a comical sight walking up his road. Her with one arm around him, her shoes in her free hand, otherwise walking barefoot. He had her on one shoulder and her handbag over the other.

He settled her in the living room and made some coffee before going to the PC and finding his mobile number.
He returned to the living room and handed her the number. They settled on the sofa, curled up at opposite ends. She asked if she could smoke. He smiled 'What the hell. Usually no, I smoke outside, but I'll let you off. Here, there's an ashtray here. In fact, you might as well save your cigarette and have some of this'. He held up a joint. 'I was going to smoke it outside, but we might as well share it here.'

As they cuddled up together over the joint, he asked her if she had far to go. She smiled up at him. 'Not far. I don't have to go, though'.
He squeezed her shoulder. 'You're more than welcome to stay if you want to. And there's no obligation. There's a bed in the spare room, I can make that up.'
She snuggled against him. 'I'll be all right with you- if that's ok with you?'
He kissed her forehead. 'It is'.

He led her into the bedroom. 'If you want to get into bed, I'll be with you in five- just need to check my e-mails.'

She sat on the floor while he ran through his mails. 'You got a lot of bookcases. And real books. You know, proper books. I love books.'
He swung round on his chair. 'Yeah, I don't really get much chance to read these days. But I guess I do have a lot of books.'
She picked one off the shelf. 'What's this one about?'
'I don't know. I've not got round to reading it.'

She huddled up. 'Can we smoke another joint before we go to bed?'
He laughed. 'Sure. You liked it did you?'
She giggled. 'It made me feel all nice and tingly.'

They smoked another joint and then she got into bed, undressing from under the covers. Why did so many women do this? Only let you see them naked once the light was off. It wasn't as if she had a bad body.

She was soft, surprisingly smooth skin. Age had seemingly been kind to her, even if life hadn't been. Their bodies seemed to slot into eachother as if carved from the same lump of flesh.
He needed her. Needed her touch. He held her close and carressed her. She rolled him over and straddled him. 'Have you got them? You know, them? Only I'm not doing it otherwise'.
He sighed. 'I have, yes. Top drawer. I'm not sure if we should though. We could just go to sleep. Sometimes it's nice to just have company to sleep with.'
She looked at him for a minute, before rolling back down next to him. 'Ok. You're the boss.'
'I'm not the boss. I mean, we can, if you want to, but, let's just go with the flow. Not just rush to get the little plastic bags out'.

Suddenly she rolled him over again and held him down. 'I've got you right where I want you, haven't I?'
He winced and moved back against the headboard. 'What the fuck? Back off! Leave me alone!'
She gurgled evilly. 'Got you scared now, haven't I? But I can do what I want with you. You're my slave.'
He eyed her cautiously. He was nervous. She had thrown him completely off balance. For a moment there he had been scared of her, not sure if she was playing games or was truly unhinged. Or both. He spoke slowly. 'You're scaring me. Don't.'

Suddenly her expression changed, a maternal look came in to her eyes. He knew what a maternal look looked like, he'd seen it in the eyes of mothers. Not his own, but he'd seen it. Or in women who wanted to be mothers but had given up on it and used him as a substitute. He didn't know what he wanted from her.
She pulled him close and he rested his head against her chest. He snuggled his face against her breast and began to run his tongue round her nipple.
She stroked his hair. 'Do you like that? Mmmm? Is that better?'
He looked up at her and nodded. 'Yes'.
She pushed his head back on to her nipple. 'Suck on it. That's it. Harder. HARDER. THAT's it. Who's a good boy now?'

It did occur to him how disturbing this was, but he didn't much care. He felt better. She wasn't scary any more.

After about ten minutes, or it could have been twice that, he was comfortable. She had calmed him sufficiently, or her unhinged edge had gone, either way, she had rooted around in the top drawer and found the condoms and he didn't have much objection as she slid one onto him.

The had sex two, maybe three times. He couldn't have said for sure. They didn't lie there for very long afterwards before she skipped out of bed. 'I better be going, Joe'.
He sat up. 'Why? Christ, it's half four! Why do you have to go?'
'Just because.'
He pouted. 'Don't go. Stay. I have to be up in two hours myself. Stay here and sleep. It's nice. I don't want to sleep alone.'
She shrugged. 'Well, you'll have to. I have my own bed to get back to.'
He shook his head. 'You don't have to. Or was that it? Just a fuck?'

She walked over to him and stroked his cheek. 'It's not like that. It was good. But I have to be going. Some other time, maybe.'
He looked away. 'Yeah, maybe. I'm sick of going to sleep alone.'
She smiled and stroked his cheek. 'You'll be ok. You'll manage.'
He looked her in the eye and held her gaze for a few moments. 'I'm always ok. I always manage. This is how it is, how it always is. Half four in the morning, sobering up, and that's it. The cold light of day. Hey, it's no big deal. It just would have been nice if you could have stayed till the alarm went off. That's all.'
She smiled sadly. There were actually tears in her eyes. 'I know. But I can't. I might see you around though. I can come round if I want to, yes?'
He snuggled against the pillows. 'Yes. Yes, that's ok. You got my number as well.'

He lay there, taking in the silence. The sun was rising, pouring in through the curtains. She had been there, now she wasn't. This was the bit he hated. This bit. In a few hours he wouldn't. In a few hours he would be sitting at his desk reliving the thrill of the chase, reliving the raw passion of the sex, reliving the sweet moments as they had lain on the ground outside Morrisons tenderly kissing. And it wouldn't bother him that he'd probably never see her again.

But now, now it hurt that empty bed. Just him, four pillows and a whole lot of space. And the alarm due to go off in less than two hours.

And yet.
He felt real. He was alive.
And that's why he went through this same ritual, or similar ones, at sporadic intervals. To feel alive, to feel the warmth of another human being however fleetingly, to be vulnerable in the arms of someone as vulnerable as him, to cry in to the arms of someone who knew what it was like to feel broken beyond repair. Someone who knew how scary the whole concept of loving and being loved was and could seize on to these moments when two human beings strove to release eachother in a brief lifting of the shutters to emote with eachother before the carriage turned back into a pumpkin and the armour had to be put back on.

It was like a dose of medicine. It strengthened him. It gave him most of what he needed.

And yet he would always drift off with the same thoughts on his mind.

If only...


Anonymous said...

I shall be round in about twenty minutes with a four pack of Tanglefoot and some rizlas...

Anonymous said...

That womans name wasn't Janet was it?

Anonymous said...

If you speak to her again please don't do the brittle, "We were never intimate were we?" body language and casualness.

Just do the "Yes we did and it was nice wasn't it" thing instead.

Anonymous said...

You should write for

There are some good stories on there too :)

Anonymous said...

Mutley- Sounds good. I'll be out tonight though. Fish to fry :)

I've been Mugged- Well, it's a story and in the story she doesn't have a name. But it could be based on reality, these things often are. I know the name of the bloke I based this story on, the woman, I'm afraid I haven't a clue.

Moggs- It's a story. It is based on real life events, it stands out because the male concerned remembered it in detail for once. He often doesn't. Quite why he remembered this occasion, I'm not sure.

With regard to your comment, it does happen sometimes he talks to women in the pub and he genuinely doesn't know if he's slept with them in the past. I think he's recognise this one. But often he doesn't.

Sue- I just thought I'd try my hand at a bit of reality writing. People always glamorise sex. Most often it isn't, it's the way I've described it here.