Monday, 20 August 2012

He bought, she bought


He’d bought a small sailing boat, the word went round, prompting little malicious ripples of gossip.

Big enough for four, apparently.

(The word ‘apparently’ took on a particularly important role in these discussions, spoken with a special emphasis, as if to imply something worthy of suspicion, ridicule, contempt – any number of responses in fact. Hence its usefulness.)

There was some degree of speculation as to the source of funding for this purchase.

“Apparently,” they said, “It’s not even his money. It’s hers. From her last marriage. Or from when her parents died.”

Others were more concerned with the possibility of select couples being invited down for a weekend on the boat (or yacht, as some now said), which was, after all, big enough for four at the very least.

But Mrs Matthews, who lived close enough to know, said they could’ve hardly been out on it themselves, as they seemed to be at home every weekend.

As far as she’d noticed, at any rate. Of course she had better things to do than spy on her neighbours.


She’s bought one of those dry shampoos, the kind that are supposed to clean your hair just by spraying it on or something.

He’s not sure how long it’s been there, on the shelf by the sink, but now that he’s noticed it he’s remembered something.

He remembers her calling it ‘one-night-stand shampoo’.

There must have been an advert on TV for it, and she’d said that. In a tone suggesting scorn.

He’d made some noise in response and she’d said, “That’s what it’s for – it’s for when you stay out all night without planning to.”

Funny really, because at the time he wouldn’t have really said he was paying much attention, but now he can remember it clear as anything.

And there it is, her one-night-stand shampoo, in their bathroom.


He’d bought me a bar of chocolate, one of those big ones you’re supposed to share.

We’d had this silly thing before, sort of like a bet, and he’d ended up promising to buy me an ice cream, so then he turned up with the chocolate instead.

I’m not sure why it was so awful. I’ve never had a bad date before. He just kept asking all these questions, which I guess is what you’re supposed to do on a date, you ask questions, but I just wasn’t in the right mood or something.

So I think I told him to stop interrogating me, and he got offended, and that was it really. We had a few drinks and I sort of wanted us to click, but it just ended up feeling like an argument, even though it wasn’t.

I felt awful today. I ate the chocolate all in one go. That did help, a bit.


She’d bought him a grain of sand with his name written onto it, in tiny, spidery writing.

It was inside a small, clear pendant, part of a necklace, and (she told him proudly, like a child) she’d chosen the beads that went on either side herself.

He smiled mechanically, and said some of the polite things you’re supposed to say when you get a present.
But inside he was thinking: Bright red beads. She’s chosen bright red beads. I never wear red; I don’t have a single red thing. Why is she so pleased?

He held it up to his chest so she could see how it looked, then curled it meticulously back into its box, and put it away in a drawer.

The next time he took it out, several years later, he realised with relief that the hollowness and strange anger he’d felt at the time had faded.

Also, it seemed somehow to have broken; the metal piece fastening the pendant to the string had come loose.

He wondered if she’d noticed he’d never worn it. If she had, she’d never said.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

He went to Madrid... And I didn't

Waking up with a wail
In my heart:
He left me.
He went to Madrid
And he chose someone else.

Why are mornings the worst time of day?
In fact at first, I’m OK.
I’ve slept, at least, no terrible dreams,
Then gradually it sinks in.

Rejection, regret;
Should I have said yes?
Would things have been different?

...Most of the time, I’m actually fine.
But if he ever reads this,
He’ll think I’m obsessed
With a stranger I felt close to
Who asked me to go to Madrid
And I didn’t.

Pillow talk

I’d lounge around
On your lower lip,
Climb to the tip
Of your nose
And skip
To the middle-brow summit,

Make the return trip
Over the curved ground
Of your cheek
Then sneak,
To your ear

Where I’d whisper
So softly
You’d have no idea
That I was ever

You can also read this at Middlebrow magazine.