Re-payment

I went with Rupert to see Goethe’s Iphigenia, a nihilistic germanic retelling of a Greek tragedy. We sat in the stalls of a small theatre in the Village. He held my hand, but his face and ears were focused on the stage. I had worn a blue silk dress, it was warm so my legs were bare and I could feel his knee brush against mine.

At the interval we drank cold gin and tonics, and bought expensive tubs of chocolate ice cream. “You know English people need food, sex, and theatre to be happy,” he said. I laughed. “Is it ok if I don’t come home with you tonight,” I said. Phrasing it as if I were asking permission, which sounded weird as I heard it come from my mouth. “Not because I don’t like you, but because I do,” I said.

“Of course,” he said, “I’m not usually like that, it was very fast of me,” he said referring to our first time together. I handed him ten dollars for the ice cream and drinks. “We can split the cost,” I said, “but you can pay slightly more, to adjust for the pay gap between men and women.”

He looked at me, “you’re an oddity,” he said, taking my hand and leading me back into the theatre for the final act.

It was late when the show finished, and we walked along the pavement looking for a cab. I was thinking about Iphigenia, the child, the innocent who survives the tragedy, only to be cast adrift, alone in the world. “I need to go again to Brussels,” said Rupert, “but only for a few days. And I promise I’ll call as soon as I get back.”

I felt deflated. Why is it that women feel the need to cling. To have someone who is always within reach, who returns to the cave each night, with the day’s catch and a soft smile on his face, that hybrid between man, and child still attached by an umbilical cord. Or the phone-line. The cable which connects, binding him to me even when he is away. “I like that you travel,” I said, my voice strained. “I think it makes you more interesting.”

I wondered if he would be having the same conversation with a girl in Brussels three days from now. Was she a mirror of me. A girl in a blue dress and heels, standing on a pavement, trying to convince a traveller to make his home with her.

I saw a figure ahead of me, bent double, and a horrible retching sound. I though about crossing the road to avoid the girl, whoever she was, some casualty of the night, but I found myself staring. And recognising the face. Flushed and contorted. “Katy?”

She looked up. “Cara, I don’t feel well. I think I ate some bad seafood,” she said. I could smell alcohol on her and her eyes were funny somehow. The pupils failing to focus on anything.

“Honey what have you taken?” I asked, reaching out to steady her. I was angry, but I was more concerned. “Nothing, nothing, just my meds, but that wine we had was strong, and now I feel sick.”

I wanted to take her to the hospital, but I was worried she might get in trouble over whatever she had taken. And I didn’t want to press Rupert or my father for some massive American medical bill.

“Come back to mine,” I said, “you can sleep it off there,”

“No Cara, I’m fine, don’t interfere, I’m fine,” she said, pushing me away. Rupert had flagged down a taxi, and I tried to get Katy in the back, she struggled with me, fighting me off. “Please Katy, I live nearby, and you can just sleep and go home in the morning. I’ll get you some water.”

She looked at me, dizzy and angry.

“Ok,” she said. “But just for one night.”

“Ok,” I said. Just one night, I wondered what she meant by that. God knows.

I bundled her into the cab, giving the driver the address. “If she throws up in the cab you owe me fifty dollars for cleaning,” he said.

“Ok, whatever,” I replied, how fucking trivial. She’s imbibed a lot of toxins, I was tempted to say, throwing up might just save her life.

Rupert closed the cab door, “call me,” he said, not sure what to make of the whole scene. “I hope your friend is ok.” He blew me a kiss as we drove off, which I found old-fashioned. And possibly camp. “Who was that homo?” slurred Katy. “Don’t say homo,” I said, “and anyway he’s not gay, he’s an art dealer.” She looked more confused. “Did he want to have sex with you?” she asked.

“Maybe, but not tonight,” I said.

Fortunately, Katy didn’t throw up in the cab. We got home safely, she slept in my bed while I dozed lightly in a chair, afraid to leave her side. “Cara, homos is the only men you can really trust,” she mumbled, “all the rest just want to fuck, and then make fun of you.”

Maybe she was right.

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