How Not To Feel
Observe the tall Argentinian as he approaches you in the bar. Admire his thick curls and glint of a crucifix. Feel foolishly flattered when he stops and says, ‘You are beautiful.’
Savour his intoxicating smell as he places both hands on your shoulders and leans in.
Momentarily believe that things will be fine.
Hear the music fade as you pad down the beach together towards the sea. Catch laughter and words from surrounding clusters. Lie back and imagine you’re in a planetarium (there are no stars in London). Then think, no. This Is Real.
Slip the smiley pill he proffers into your mouth and swill it around with your beer.
Feel the weight of him as he obliterates the stars. Smile as he runs his hands down your thighs. Absorb the lap-lapping of the water. Giggle as it tickles your toes and wets your jeans.
Stagger to your feet and feel your head huge and echoey as if in an astronaut’s helmet. Search for your bag, the burnished orange one, the one your dad bought you as he knew how much you wanted it. How much he yearned for you to be happy. Despite everything.
Dwell on this as you search more. Not just your patch now but everywhere. Ask more clusters and more clusters.
‘Sorry,’ they say and glance up for a second.
Wander back to the whirring music. Place your hands on your ears to block it out. But hear Pablo asking, ‘ella ha perdido su bolso lo has visto?’
Reach the bar and the thumping beats. Push through the juddering crowd to find Cathy dancing alone at the back.
‘My bag is gone.’
See her worried face, but hear Pablo. ‘You want to come with me?’
Follow Pablo away from the beach and down the main street. Hear screeching motorbikes, then stumble down dusty path into silent darkness. Feel his warm hand. Hear the flip flop of feet.
Enter cold stairwell and his apartment with glimmer of light in corner. Observe clothes strewn all over. Half-made bed. Condoms.
‘Drink this quickly, you forget.’
Throw back the drink. Vodka.
Stare at the blurry wall, feel him behind you. Same smell but wall is ice cold. Spot a small heart in the gloom, scrawled at the bottom in biro. Feel the tears run.
‘Are you okay?’
‘My dad is dying.’
Hear loud tick of watch.
‘I will stop.’
‘No. Keep going.’
Watch sunrise seeping under balcony door, illuminating beer cans, crisp bags, life.
Mary Thompson lives in London, where she works as a freelance teacher. Her work has recently featured in various journals and competitions including Flash 500, Fish Short Memoir, Ink in Thirds, Retreat West, Reflex Fiction, Flashflood, Ellipsis Zine, the Cabinet of Heed, Memoir Mixtapes, Atticus Review, Spelk, Firewords, Fictive Dream, Funicular Magazine, Ghost Parachute, Vamp Cat Magazine, LISP and Cafe Irreal. She is a first reader for Craft Literary Journal.
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