Obsession (The Torment)
(Dedicated in fond admiration to Her Worship, the Lady of our Hearts, the actress Ms. Lena Headey)
Sitting in the armchair, Simon mused that to this day he could remember the exact sequence of events.
He'd gotten up at half past six. Made himself some coffee, strong. Drank two cups. Black, brimful. Then had two shots of vodka. Straight.
Never before had he to resort to liquid courage. But never before had he had such an obsession. Never before had he really been in love.
He looked at the wall. At all the walls. Pictures of her everywhere, covering almost every square inch available. Most of them secretly shot with his Canon. Camera plus long lens, 1.050 quid. A lot of others taken with his mobile. Bought the best resolution available. 550 quid. And an expensive photoprinter, to boot. His salary was stuck at only 1.100 since he didn't remember when. He couldn't care less. All he cared about was her.
The best part of his free time was spent with him loitering in the vicinity of her shop. Passing-by, window-shopping, stopping on the sidewalk for a fake phone-call, you name it. Had on occasion worn sunglasses, wigs, unrevealing clothes. Had driven by in taxis, having asked the cabbie to twice or thrice drive by. He'd pay him and dismiss him right at the spot where he had been picked up. Some had shaken their heads. They didn't understand. No-one understood.
He'd have drunk a third vodka, but that would have left him incapacitated. He went out the door. No shades, no wigs, nothing. Himself.
Like a student before an exam or a rookie actor before going onstage, he ruminated the words, the gestures, the stance he'd keep. Had no clue if it would work, but had weighed all alternatives and was resolved that direct approach would be best. Hadn't it worked for Wallace, another soulmate of his, a timid, dysfunctional fellow, but decent, dignified, educated? He hadn' t aimed too high, made an earnest move, his object of desire gave in. They were now happy together. Why shouldn't it work for him too? He was well-built, cleanly, well-spoken-of. A bit obsessive. As of late, very obsessed. With her alone. Which meant, whether he got her or not, his obsession would end. Logical.
It was a four-minute-walk to her flower-shop. He wanted to be there early, streets empty, hopefully no early customers. He made it in two minutes and a half. He was trotting. He stopped at the corner diagonally across hers. She was there, out, half-sitting on the stairs, half-squatting, watering and weeding plants laid in little tin buckets. He stood a little, gazing at her, drinking into her gorgeousness, watching her graceful moves, thought "it's now or never" or "do or die" or something in this vein and staightened himself to cross the street.
And before he knew it, on the pavement across him appeared the brunette in her business suit. She was… what, hasty, pressed. Looked worried. He stopped in his tracks. Watched how Luce saw her coming and how she smiled. He backed off a bit. Heard the brunette's upset voice saying something like "happy to see me", but quite incongruently with her deportment. Indecision stunned him. Kept looking as she rushed into the shop, flailing her hands effusively and pacing up and down the little free space. She was saying something. Luce had her back towards him now, but he could guess she wasn't answering, just waiting it out, taking it cool. Damn her, did she choose a bad moment to have this tiff or whatever it was, whatever it was about!
Whatever! He'd wait. The vodka would dissipate a bit more, but now it was too late to back off. Today he'd know if he was man enough for Luce.
And then another character made his entrance! Oh, sweet Jesus, he'd tried to be as early as possible to avoid customers and now it didn't rain, it poured. Luce turned toward the newcomer, an elderly man. He barely had begun to speak to her and she shoved into his arms a tray with seedlings, while she friendly waved him off, having taken no money.
She then shut the shop's door.
He watched and thought he discerned her going to the back of the shop. Kept staring. Suddenly, the urge for action resurfaced. He'd act according to plan. He'll go up to the shop's door and he'd wait outside while the ladies were having it out. He hoped it wouldn't last long, hoped it wouldn't degenerate into a bitch-fight. He started walking towards the shop, a bit cautious, but not as before. It was showdown time, so to say. Looked discreetly inside the shop, no-one there. They must be at the back. Logical.
He twitched in his armchair. The thought alone of that long-past day still made him feel awkward. But now, he could only twitch. In fact he could twitch all he wished. He could twitch the armchair upholstery threadbare, it was too late. It was over.
It was never meant to be. He stopped twitching.
Not sure why, he went to the side of the building, where he knew the window of the backroom opened to the sidewalk. Neared the window. Stooped to look inside. Saw.
Luce was lying on her back on some flower cartons. The other one was upon her, keeping her down, pressing her own mouth against Luce's. She kissed her repeatedly. They caressed each other, their cheeks, their locks of hair. They were warming up fast. They sat up. Brunette pulled Luce's jacket loose. They cupped each other's groins, felt each other up, grappled each other's buttocks and kissed and kissed again, fervently, lustfully, in sheer abandon.
He blanked totally.
He couldn't remember himself ever having been at such a loss. He backed off mechanically and started walking away. Barely glimpsed a young man in a dark coat – another customer, supposedly – entering the shop. What did he care who'd enter the shop from now on? He, for one, wouldn't . Would never walk by again. Would never see her again. Made a near dash for home.
He could remember, if he set himself to it, the exact sequence of him tearing the photographs, ranting all the time. The one of her bending inside her shop window, arranging the strelitzias – a fine specimen of a snapshot, well lit – then the one of her squatting at the back of her van to push some baskets of flowers inside, shot from her back, her panty-line showing tantalizingly, creamy-white, afterwards the one he took just before that hypomaniac guy had stormed her shop looking for that "last chance flower" – he was there ostensibly reading a poster. He growled, almost roared, as he recalled that as he was leaving the scene that particular day, that brown-haired lesbian bitch appeared for the first time at the door of his love.
That thought half-sobered him and he paused. He was standing ankle-deep among shreds. "Why, it's not her fault, she's just been seduced by that… that… slut, is all. She can't be…"
"Oh, yes" the voice of reason – an obsessive person's reason, mind you – interrupted. "She's a lesbian, too. She's got to be. She didn't resist the touch, the embrace, the kiss. She let herself be knocked over by the other and then they rolled, they wallowed on flowers, very poetic, I give you, but they wallowed nonetheless. They fucked, simple-Simon, is what they did. Clothes on, no peckers, but still they fucked. Ask yourself: can you live with it? No, says I". Simon carried on with the job begun, with renewed force.
He tore the photos up, all of them, the ones on the walls, the ones in his drawers, in every box, shelf or niche they could be found. Obsessive people do thorough jobs. He destroyed all of them, put them in a garbage bag, went down to the big dumpster round the corner to dispose of them. He returned home. Threw himself on the carpet and began crying.
He moved out of his flat very soon afterwards. Rented another in a far away neighbourhood. Never again did he visit his old one. Tried to channel his obsession to other activities. Tried living abroad, tried tourism.
In vain. She'd always be there. He wouldn't forget her. And there were days he'd remember of nothing else.
Her beauty, her radiance, her magnetism were to be the instruments of torture he'd go through for decades. There would be no solace, no rest, no release. Glimpses of her darting out of his brain cells would haunt him for the rest of his days. He couldn't have had her, but she'd be there all the same. For all he knew, she could be dead or still alive, she might be happy or unhappy, her gay romance fulfilled or shattered. What he also didn't know, was which alternatives would he wish they were true.
Which made him a bad man. For which reason he was tormented. Q.E.D.
And he'd been bearing with this burden, this guilt, this punishment for almost sixty years now.
The head attendant of the Elderly Home turned the 3D-TV off. The droids were cleaning the tables up. The lights dimmed a bit. Bed-time.
He plodded through the corridor to his room, a robo-nurse nearby at stand-by. He opened the door, the room lit itself automatically. He stood for a moment at the threshold, looking intensely, sorely, longingly at the bare walls. A very long moment. Then he waved the robot away and closed the door. Removed his housecoat and lay in his bed. Pulled the iso-blanket over him. Waved the light off. Closed his eyes.
"You should have saved a picture, you old fool" he thought to himself for the millionth time before plunging into uneasy sleep.