Thursday, August 6, 2015

Flutter (A Short Story, Not At All Autobiographical)

The days were long in June, and the evenings barely blushed and fluttered their eyelids, with a sunset of a little over two hours. He felt that day had lasted forever, as he waited for her to arrive. He idled. The long glass corridors made him uneasy: the ringing out of his heels on the polished wooden floors troubled him somehow, as if he were pacing a hospital corridor. Here he was, in the site chosen to mark the occasion of their long overdue meeting.  
The idea had come to her in a Williamsburg bookshop. She had picked up a series of travel essays about Iceland, and she’d fallen in love with the photos; her glacial eyes gleaming at finding such serene blues on the book jacket. They had picked the Harpa concert hall as their meeting point. “We can pick up our own symphony where we left off,” she had said.
Their lives had been abruptly separated when she had accepted a new job in a New York publishing house.  He had remained in London, unwilling to give up the work he loved as an editor, but also the townhouse, the dog, and his usual weekend stroll to collect the paper, followed with precise regularity by a flat white and some Ottolenghi sourdough toast. It wasn’t that he was stuck in his ways. Just comfortable. It had been four months since their last physical meeting, and an intercontinental ache had set in. He despised the digital. He couldn’t get used to their instant messaging – it just seemed so banal, the information they would exchange: the photos of their lunches, their desks, their walks to work. In the early days, he thought, they might have met at the museum of penises instead. They would have snickered in complicit unison, as they had on their first trip to Amsterdam. The sex museum had hardly been highbrow, but they had wandered about in a dazed glow, giggling as they took in exhibits of Monroe and Mata Hari. That first year had seemed like one long Sunday morning spent entangled in his high threadcount sheets. Now? They whatsapped their salads to one another.

He sighed, his heartbeat quickening. He missed her nape, her scent, her often-fuzzy legs. He fought his impending erection, scandalous in the airy confines of a concert hall with endless windows. He strode, then slowed, then sat, then stood and dialled. A robotic voice asked for his message, but he found he had none.The sun was dipping, lazily, like a cat stretching. There was no sign of her. He tried her phone again, fruitlessly. An icy thought gripped him: panic that her plane hadn’t arrived. As he arrived at the next possible conclusion, he felt nauseous. 

She hadn’t boarded in the first place. 

Light danced on the glass panels, honeycomb glittering in the soft evening sunshine. Final flurries of activity at the concert hall doors were taking place. Attendants collected wayward tickets, wives snapped their handbags shut and husbands downed the last of their drinks. He put his dinner jacket over his shoulder, and hurried down the glossy hallway, towards the briefest of dusks.