Hunting, Gathering, Slathering, Bothering
Oh, so it’s not inside. That’s a surprise. My hand slaps against my forehead and stays there. I’m amused, thinking: What a charming dolt! I also think: Check outside, it’s probably there.
I do, opening the front door and peering at the step. Nothing. A young dog walks past and I inspect it. It turns its head to me, friendly, then resumes walking. The owner is not far behind, swinging the dog’s lead. I smile and close the door, seriously considering getting a dog.
Inside again I take my coat off, take my jumper off, put my bag down somewhere. It’s been a consuming day at work and I have been in demand. I head to the kitchen to put the kettle on; perhaps I left the thing there. I smile again, a nostalgic smile, thinking of our telephone conversation.
You were anxious, talking nervously: ‘You know that thing of mine, do you still have it?’
I had laughed at your lovably suspicious mind: ‘Yes, God! Of course!’
You were relieved, exhaling: ‘You’re sure? Phe-e-ew, I was worried then. Great, I’ll come and pick it up tonight.’
I didn’t mention that I think my haircut looks better than yours. I also didn’t mention that I think you’re a slight fool with your constant nerves. You’re so nervous about the stupid thing, even though you know it’s in my house where, I might add, you left it…so why would it be lost?
I shake my head, picturing your tense face not believing me when I say I have it. A feeling of affection suns me: Ah, your tense face!
But it isn’t in the kitchen. Checking again, I throw some stuff around on the table: yesterday’s newspapers, other things. The kettle boils. I make a cup of coffee, scanning the counters over the rim of the cup as I drink. Nope. It’s probably in the lounge. I head over there, hating my trousers, which I feel are an unflattering cut.
Forgetting why I’m in the lounge I sit on the sofa. The sofa is expensive and I appreciate its subtle colour. I congratulate myself on my sophisticated taste. Then I remember that you’re coming over later to collect your thing and I roll my head at the ceiling, annoyed because I can’t relax with that hanging over me. I decide to find it simply so I can head you off at the door; if you come in then you’ll be here for hours, and then I will be forced to make you dinner too because it will be more agonising not to.
I make an inventory of the room with my eyes, searching. Nothing. Fine! I get up and work across it manually, lifting cushions, stooping to look under the table. The room is full of suspect locations. I dutifully hunt through them all. Still nothing. I picture your reaction when I tell you I can’t find it: a patronising display of stoicism. But I will see the bruise of disappointment. Listen, why do you have to have it tonight, anyway? Can’t it wait until tomorrow? Yes, naturally it can. I know it. But can it? No, not according to you – you insist on having it tonight. Resentment touches against me with its thick fronds of seaweed.
I begin a violent campaign in the hallway, throwing aside coats and bags – a pointless exercise, as I wouldn’t have left it here. I repeat this to myself, blinded by a flash of instant deduction: Yes, exactly! Why would I have left it here in the hall? I wouldn’t have!
So then you must have, idiot – the blame lies with you. Could I tell you this? Tricky; you would probably argue against it. This argumentative streak of yours is ugly, I should inform you. And have you considered how demanding you are? Some might translate it as coldly exploitative… consider that.
At this a memory starts to itch, itches vigorously, then smashes to the surface. The memory shouts, its fists full of hair, ‘Rounds of drinks!’ It is accompanied by a theoretical pie chart: green symbolises the drinks I have bought you. Purple, your contribution of drinks, is fractional. I nod: yes, yes, I knew as much, I knew about the perverted imbalance. Disgusting abuse, made worse because you are boring when drunk.
Now I am at the backdoor. I have a hunch you must have thrown your hateful thing into the garden. This spontaneity of yours is negligent, you understand. Have you thought about the possibility slugs will be crawling on it? Well, it’s been lying in the garden all night. And how do you think I feel about slugs? If it’s out here covered in slugs, I say to myself, then I’m perfectly within my rights to insist that you buy me a present. I search about, an apprehensive shin lifting shrubs; a timid ankle parts the flowers. No sign of it.
I head back inside like a firework, slamming the door. My elbow catches the frame and this inspires a salty monologue from me. I am, I realise, oppressed. I can visualise your oppressive face, goggling with blame as I am driven to bootlick, patiently repeating that I can’t find it; that it can’t be found; that I looked everywhere.
And then, eyes to a spot near the breadbin, suddenly it appears! There it is! It’s on a counter, sitting there brashly, gloating. Oh, look! My head makes an unusual gesture, knowing a practical joke when I see it. Yes, yes, I know a practical joke, you old sow: you hid it there. Ha-yes, this is symptomatic of your odious sense of humour. Scorching with passionate malice, I grab the thing with gorilla hands, raising it high.
Whoops. Then something happens. It’s all over in seconds. The thing is propelled, falling to the floor, landing badly. Hmmm. It looks like recovery will be difficult. Then recovery becomes impossible, my foot making the situation dramatically worse. The foot finds the target accurately, the power of the thigh and hip behind it. Har.
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