CuiousPages - fiction and nonfiction
CuriousPages - fiction and nonfiction
“I now have nothing to do but regret my intoxications,” he said, coughing, then he focused more clearly on her as she peered into his troubled eyes. She was still pointing towards the water jug. Her hand slowly lowered as she recalled the biggest regret in her own life. At nursing college, there had been an older porter who had, one day, stepped towards her as if to kiss her but she, being so surprised, had stepped back and he then quickly walked on along the corridor pursued by the laughs of the other student nurses. In return he increased his pace and never addressed her again, nor even so much as looked at her.  From that moment the other students teased her; she was their new joke, which they never seemed to tire of, and she would endlessly relive that moment—if only she had not stepped back, then her life might have been different. But she did step back and now here she was, with only her patients to care for and, when they needed her, nothing to say; for what could she say to Joseph; she had never lived, had never experienced what he had. She merely watched him as his cold hand gripped her wrist.
“What’s the worth,” he asked, “of being intoxicated if you must sober up in the end?” And he went on, through his occasional coughs: “Or is life supposed to be an intoxication? Is that what we’re here for—to become drunk on life, only to then sober up and, in this last moment of sobriety, pull the saloon door closed behind us as we leave?”
Clemency pictured a closed saloon door with herself standing on the outside. All the pleasures of life were contained within that saloon and she was barred. She thought, “There is no door for me to close; I haven’t even opened one yet.” She recalled the sight of the porter rushing along the corridor, pursued by the laughs of the other girls. Joseph was still watching her; she felt the need to reply but the only thing she could think to say was: “Is there a draft? I could get you another blanket.”
His eyes continued to burn, though the fire seemed so distant that its flames appeared black.
She added, “—If you’d like?”
He said: “I’ve been wondering how I chose my drinks. Did I choose the right ones? Or has my whole life been wasted?”
Clemency was only aware of the shackle round her wrist, and his cold flesh seemed to be draining the heat from her.
Have I?” he insisted.
She looked up and saw the builder watching her. He pouted and rubbed his crotch. She recalled the sight of the porter fleeing and she wondered whether the builder somehow knew she was undesirable and could tell she had coveted him and whether this was his response?—He knew; yes, of course he did; and he was mocking her for thinking she might be good enough for him. She wanted to sit down but she was shackled beyond reach of Joseph’s chair. She asked him:
“What do you mean?”
“First, I spent twelve years learning to play the saxophone,” he told her, then paused, as if waiting for his cough to speak—as a disturbed dog will bark; not really saying anything intelligible but merely letting its owner know it was still there, now an inseparable part of him that he must accommodate whenever it became unsettled—but it remained silent. “I was obsessed. I spent every spare moment on that instrument.”
She heard the back door closing as Peter left and her blood began to boil (—He’s doing this on purpose; he’s going out deliberately, the devious devil. Well, he’s not getting the better of me like this; I’ll just tell him; see if he can pretend he hasn’t noticed then).
Roland moved from his chair. The palm of his hand scurried along her thigh and he climbed on top of her on the sofa.
Sally then heard him snorting and reflected that he sounded just like a pig too. She recalled Peter’s smiling face and the way he kept pretending to have not even noticed her, then Roland snorted again. On the sound of this, she imagined Peter’s distant laugh, and an alarming realisation occurred to her—she would not have to tell Peter about her affair because the chief pig probably already told him. She imagined them on the golf course, laughing about her—Roland saying she was so ugly he kept his eyes closed. From this, she deduced that Roland was not in fact attracted to her, and therefore Peter was not (after all) pretending to find her ugly but really did find her ugly. To confirm her new suspicion she opened her eyes to look at Roland, and—Yes, there it is!—his eyes were closed, therefore he did find her ugly, therefore he did joke about her on the golf course with Peter.
She looked away, thinking what a fool she was to let herself be taken in so easily by Roland (—The malicious devil; he thinks he can laugh about me like this, does he? Right, I’ll get him back for this).
She again imagined herself going through those three different positions with him, but this time they did all three in different rooms and the entire performance took less than ten minutes; and in her mind Roland’s face was distorted with agony and shame as he struggled to keep up the pace. Her smirk returned.


Fiction and nonfiction by Fletcher Kovich and also classic writers.


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