Coming Up Daisies

 

My ex-wife once said
     that I was an ashtray filled with the money
     that rots my lungs.

Before she left, she said
     I was like an old car that splutters to start
     before coughing alive
     and heading straight into an unlit lamp post in the dead of night.

And the room is full of people,
     but none of them are speaking to me right now,
     although they were before.
     Now, they just stare.

And I was invited to this party
     by someone I didn’t know,
     only I did know him, all too well.

Mr Chinn suggested
     that I take a walk down to the shop to get my phone fixed,
     which was working before I sat on the screen and shattered it,
     and it would work fine now if it weren’t
     for the touchscreen not being responsive to my fingers.

And he says it scares him
     when he calls the house phone
     and I don’t pick up.
     Even though I didn’t pick up
     when he called my mobile phone anyway,
     when it worked.

It is the fourteenth of the month.
     January.
     Although depending on the time it could
     be the fifteenth now.

And the room is full of people
     Time is frozen, and nobody says a word.

And the man I met outside said
     that he recognised me,
     and I said I knew him,
     but I didn’t,
     even though it came to light
     that I did.

He took me in his car, and gave me a beer,
     and patted me on the back,
     and laughed,
     and spat on the floor outside,
     and smoked a cigarette,
     and looked at me with eyes that
     said he wanted to kill me,
     but not too violently,
     and he is bald.

He says:
     You were at Gordon’s party last year.
     I’m sure of it.
     Really, he knows who I am.
     Everybody does.
     But I play along,
     or he plays along,
     because at least one of us is being untruthful,
     and he says his name is Michael,
     which is true.

I say my name is Martin, and he says,
     “No, Michael. My name is Michael.”
     And we laugh,
     because we are drunk.

The car he drove me to the party in
     smelled like gravy, pasties
     and cheap rolling tobacco.
     Michael chewed tobacco,
     spitting it inside and out of the car.

“I’ve got some friends ‘round,” he said,
     which was a half-truth.
     Which, really, is still a lie.

And when I got to the party, there
     were murmurs around the room.
     I was recognised straight away, and
     a woman came up to me and asked
     me how I was.
     I could not remember her name,
     but perhaps it was Alegra.

I think I made a mistake.
     I said something I shouldn’t have.

And Alegra puts her hand
     on my arm and smiles,
     and I shudder.
     She smells like daisies,
     like earthy flowers,
     like daisies.
     And her eyes are green.
     And they hurt to look at.

And she is Sarah’s friend — I know her.
     I think I met her a long time ago.
     She was married once,
     just like me,
     and now she is not,
     just like me.

This is progress.
     The last time I was with these people,
     I did not perform as expected, and
     it ended badly, and
     there were at least four people crying,
     three women and one man, and
     I think that the man was me.

Sarah and Michael embrace,
     Sarah strokes Michael’s head,
     Michael looks into her eyes and
     I have no idea what they are talking about, but
     it is about me.

Sarah is proud of Michael.
     He is happy for me –
     I think maybe she is, too.

And at first, Sarah was
     flustered, and she kept
     pulling Michael aside and
     swearing at him quietly.
     Then things got even quieter,
     but calmer.

And I say to Alegra,
     hello, how are you,
     it has been a long time
     since we saw each other.

“Yes,” she says. “Too long.”

The house we are in is fancy,
     the polar opposite of Michael’s car,
     and not just because
     you could sleep in it without
     feeling wrong the next morning.

Magenta drapes cover the windows,
     and people are behind those drapes,
     outside,
     smoking,
     and talking,
     and enjoying themselves,
     and I am standing here talking to Alegra.

And they stare at me,
     waiting for me to say something,
     all of their eyes glowing like
     half-squashed cigarette butts
     in the ashtray,
     Alegra’s hand on my arm,
     and time has stopped.

I stare back for a while,
     and then I drop my drink.

Her hand does not falter.
     She holds my arm,
     and I stare into her eyes.

They are beautiful,
     as is she.

Time is frozen, and nobody says a word.

My ex-wife once said
     I was like a broken boiler
     that only heated up at the wrong times,
     like in summer,
     and the rest of the time
     I left her cold.
     Tonight, she says nothing.
     We are past words.
     She has looked at me,
     and that one moment of eye contact
     was like nothing before it,
     a unique moment.
     I think it meant something.
     But I don’t know what.

 

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