Ghosts

Harry Lowther

Ghosts

          Ye havin’ a good fucking night?’ says the man. His friend is already halfway to the door. His features are all indistinct, like the rain has started to wash them away. He shakes his head and follows his friend out.

          I stare back, blank expression.

          Do I know either of them? It’s unlikely. Just another small random act of aggression.

          ‘Do you know him?’

          ‘I don’t think so.’

          His accent wasn’t local. They must be oil workers, up here to get their money, spend a bit, and then fuck off back to where they came from. Their night would be too predictable--using their money taken from the land herself to shed the clothes off the strippers and the Eastern European prostitutes who came to the city with the oil. I should have thought about this bar being too close to the hotels where they all stayed, but I haven’t been here in a while and things like that fade over time. If we’re being picky, I should have thought better about meeting her here at all, but like I said, things fade over time.
          She changes a little whenever I see her. She gets a little older, a little thinner, or fatter again, or colours her hair in a new way. She might get more confident, more serious, but the core itself stays the same, calcified, and I still don’t love her. I’ve known that for a long time. Yet I always let her know each time I’m coming back. Perhaps it’s the concealed eagerness to see me that plays to my ego, or that she is always here, always has been, and always will be.
          I go back up to the bar and buy us another pair of drinks: the same cheap pint of lager for me, the same gaudily coloured fake fruit flavoured vodka drink for her. It still pisses me off that her drink is always more expensive than my own;that she gets a little bit more value out of every round of drinks that we buy, all adding up over the years to a serious imbalance in our relationship.

          I pocket the change, take a sip from each, and go back to her.

          Then what do we talk about? Selective highlights from our lives since we last saw each other, carefully forgetting anything too romantic.

          ‘My dad died,’ she said. Well I guess things do change. Or perhaps not. He never talked much anyway. Politics had never been a feature of our conversations, besides the prosaic politics of our own relationship. Religion too. We had been our own priests, and our own doubters, and confessions were all too brief and calculated.

          After the bar we step out into the cold winter night. In spite of the chilling wind coming in from the sea, all along the street women wear their shortest dresses and men their most expensive T-shirts. I’m a little drunk. We walk passed churches long converted into bars, nightclubs, past piles of vomit on the ground and homeless beggars wrapping up to stay alive in the freezing conditions.

          We take a taxi back to hers, pulling up on the same quiet street that I could have found blind, through the front door to which a young virgin had once stepped so pensively through, and to her bed, once in excitement, now in familiarity.

          As I undress her any feelings of reluctance dissipate. Her breasts feel like they are made for my hands, and her hard nipple rubs on my fingers. Long ago we figured out what worked for each other, and the sex has been good in its predictability, but without the excitement of new experience, or the passion which comes with love. She shudders beneath me, and gasps, and digs her nails into my back, and then some time later I give her mine too.

          She cuddles into me afterwards, and I know that I should stop leading her on each time. I know that there is no future for me here. We’re all getting older.

          I think then of the man from the bar—of what he had said in throwaway aggression in the midst of another night fueled by cheap amphetamine sold to him as cheap cocaine. I wasn’t having a good night, just the same one that I always do when I come back here. I had moved away, moved on, but the city stayed the same.

          ‘What are you doing tomorrow?’ she whispers in the dark.

Comments