the final chapter
- 6 -
At his hotel, he asked what I usually slept in and rang down to the concierge to have things sent up - drawstring pants, a singlet top, underwear. I didn't know you could do that. When they asked for the size he swallowed like he had an egg in his throat, handing me the phone and leaping to the bathroom. I'll take more-or-less-thin-really, please, with 1950's coverage.
We slept together, side by side on crisp sheets, circumspect in the giant bed, and woke together in the afternoon.
- I'm starving. Good morning, I mean good afternoon. God, I'm rude. Hi. Food, at this point, is crucial, before I start munching on the bedding. I don't medicate for my condition, by the way. I'm always hungry.
He was worried that I found him alarming, but I didn't. I'd met people quite like him though I'd never met anyone quite like him.
We ate sitting in the windowsill in our pajamas, laughing eggs and coffee.
Nutritional requirements met, there was time to fill. I thought of asking if we could kiss but hid my face lest it give away ideas of lipsmeet.
- I'd love you to show me around your town. All the places of interest, although I think the most interesting place is going to be wherever you are. You could show me the inside of a cardboard box and I'd be delighted.
If I showed you two would you be ecstatic?
- I'd be beside myself. Both of me would be delirious.
He offered me a shower. When I came out he was playing a guitar, facing the window, singing softly - She gives me glimpses, gives me glances, I'm not taking her for granted, I'm not taking anything unless she asks, then it's all in, I won't be coming up for air, up for air, up for air
I leant against the doorway to listen, knowing later I'd fall to bits. He'd be jetting through air currents, a-wing to the next stage and lights and audience and I'd be breaking my fingernails scraping pieces of me up to reassemble them, trying to remember what goes where, craft glue applied to the cracks of devastation. It dries clear, doesn't it? There'd be nothing to show.
- Bella? Oh.
- You know, it's strange, but once I'd seen you, every day I'd forget what you look like. I mean, talking to you was the big thing. Then we'd skype and I'd get a huge rush because you're so - exquisite. I don't mean to objectify you, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. You'll think I'm a dick. Guys must tell you you're gorgeous all the time. I figured that's why you were reluctant about the camera. You don't want to be judged on your appearance.
Was he really saying this?
I don't understand
- Well, you know.
Light slanting in through the pane was glancing off his cheekbone - if there was kindling right there next to him, a fire would start. I was surprised one hadn't already, from all the sparks sparkling in the air around him. Maybe they were lulled by the notes suspended, once sung, reluctant to leave their wellspring.
- So many girls, they're - but you, you're not at all.
With the blanks unfilled I was entirely ill-equipped to guess. What were other girls? What was I not? What I was was bewildered and bashful, uncertain whether to sit opposite him, or pick up my bag and get out of there.
- Sight-seeing, then? he said, to my relief and disappointment.
I found more voice when showing him municipal buildings and historical trees, giving him stories, some of which were genuine.
- What about this fire hydrant? Did anything happen here?
Yes, this has been locally significant for centuries, since time immemorial. Unfortunately, I can't elaborate because the legend's in another language
- You don't speak it?
Evening drew close, his phone bleeped at both of us.
- My manager, he muttered, stepping away to take the call, eyes behind shutters. He was a skyscraper, I couldn't just look up through my lashes, I had to tilt my head. Vertigo.
- Damn, he said, returning, and from that great, great height his mouth descended, his lips fluttering down like a leaf in fall to land lightly, briefly on mine. They were gone so quickly I must have imagined it.
- Bella, I need to get back to the hotel. There's a car waiting to take me to the airport.
Well - oh. Okay then - it was nice meeting you
- Nice? That's all? It was wonderful meeting you. I wish I didn't have to go. I wish I could stay here. I wish you could come with me. Oh. Maybe you've had enough of me by now. I'm not the best company
You're great company
I tried to smile but my mouth couldn't.
- Okay, I'm glad to hear that. You're great company too. The best in fact. We'll have to do this again. Can we?
Yes, but aren't you crossing the continent?
- Well, yeah. For a few more weeks. Then I'm having a couple of months off to write songs.
- It doesn't matter where I am for writing. Well, it does. I have to be somewhere with the right atmosphere, somewhere inspiring.
I didn't know what to say. I didn't know what he was saying.
- I need to be near a locally significant fire hydrant. That's a new prerequisite, but essential.
Then my mouth could, and did smile.
I don't know how many locally significant hydrants there are in the country. Or even the whole world. Ours right here in this city might be the only one anywhere
So did his.
- Actually, I've already done the research, and it is.
Pretty crimson bloomed on my face, an upsurge manifest. He cleared his throat.
- Look, I know you're busy. You have things to do. Your job - and life. I won't get in your way. But maybe we could meet up and go for walks? Visit yoghurt stores?
You'll be busy. Your work. You have songs to write
Pretty crimson mirrored mine.
- I've started. These last few weeks have been a frenzy of output. I've got a slew of new songs, so many I could wallpaper a room with them.
Ahead of us his hotel was fast looming. A car waited in the forecourt, purposeful with that airport air.
- Can I give you a ride home? Hey, about me gatecrashing your life. Don't answer now. I'll ask you again in a few weeks, okay? You need time to think about it.
So do you, don't you?
- I already did. Hence the asking.
His manager was in the car and greeted me by name, prior to my scrambling into the back seat with Edward, us handholding and shortlytopart. My house arrived even more quickly than the hotel had. Before today I was unaware of the speed of the buildings in my town.
Edward walked me to the door.
- So. Look for me later? I'll be on your desk.
- Can I hug you?
He enveloped me. Through willpower I could levitate enough to kiss his cheek, although it may have been that he leaned down. His sigh tickled my ear.
Goodbye until hello, my voice a whisper.
- I like that. Goodbye until hello. I like everything you say. I already have the name for my new cd - Aloftsoar, if I have your permission. It's the feeling you give me.
His voice a murmur.
- Can I kiss you?
A real kiss - lovely lovely, wish and shimmer, soonspeak serenade, and he was gone.
- Hey! Hi. Hello!
All smiles, on my desk and his.