Jonathan Hughes + Stephanie C C Kuypers

Expire

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

“Would you…like to go somewhere? Together?” he stumbles over his words, slurs them. Watches her face as it becomes obvious she can’t focus on him at all. Won’t. He wonders why she even pretends to think about it.
“Okay.” Her voice is quite high, almost brittle. He tries to remember her name, and fails. He watched her sway in front of him, towards the door. He gets a thumbs-up from the bartender, flips him off. Anne. That was it. He thinks.
They don’t hold hands on the way to his place. For people who are about to have sex, he reckons the space between them is rather wide. Crater-wide. She shuffles away every time their arms brush. But he knows her. Knows her face as the type of girl who could be…he feels pathetic for even entertaining such a Hallmark notion of ‘the one’. Thinks he knows her, at least. Wants to know her, recognise her, as such.
The sex is mediocre, but he has to be honest and admit that he doesn’t know if he’s ever had great sex. Maybe this is it. These scraps of alcohol induced affection. He tries to remember the last time he had sex sober. He pictures her in a veil, and lurches to the bathroom, where he throws up piss-coloured, foamy beer remnants. It’s two-fifteen. The gap between them seems less significant. He reaches for her hand across the covers.
When he wakes up, he knows she’s left. Feels like an idiot. Arms himself against a new day. And again. And again. When he sees her, a week later, he knows how the evening will play out. Congratulates himself on changing the sheets. Knows that when you sleep with a one-night-stand twice…he hears her throw-up and almost smiles. They have to stop meeting like this, he thinks. When she comes back in, she avoids his eyes, starts picking up her clothes.
“Leaving?” and what a stupid thing to say - of course she’s leaving. “You don’t sound…are you all right?”
She’s squeezing the life out of her sweater, twisting it in her hands.
“I’m pregnant,” she sneers. Looks young. Looks tired, and unhappy. He thinks of a diplomatic way to say ‘is it mine?’ or ‘let’s get married’ or ‘I’ve always wanted kids’. There isn’t one. She tells him to fuck off.
He arms himself a little more, builds his wall a little higher. After about two weeks, the bartender starts giving him looks. He hates being pitied. Wants to lie to himself. Tells himself he’s not searching for her face amongst the drunken twats making fools out of themselves on the makeshift dance floor. Doesn’t drink.
It’s almost been three weeks. She should be showing by now, he thinks. He wonders whether it’s a boy or a girl. At night, under his covers, he thinks of names. Whispers them to himself. He’s had to resist the temptation to buy a tiny pair of yellow converse. He hopes, maybe, she’ll let him see the baby. Maybe…maybe - and he doesn’t dare to think out loud, so he pretends he doesn’t have the thought at all - maybe…she won’t want it. And he can have it, the baby, all to himself. He doesn’t think he’ll be that lucky. But he can’t stamp out the notion.
The last couple of days, he’s just gone out of habit, really. He doesn’t want to see her anyway. Not here, in this grimy pub . But he smells her perfume, catches a glimpse of her hair. She turns, holding a glass of wine. He stares at her flat stomach. She laughs at him but in her eyes there is regret. Maybe that’s his own reflection. And he knows what she’s done. And his fortified wall crumbles until he has nothing but the leftovers of some stupid, half-arsed dream that should have meant something.

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Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

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