It’s been a one-night stand. That’s what I’m thinking as I lean against the shelter at the bus station and wait. Don’t ask me why I know it was a one-night stand, but I do. Neither of us said anything but I knew it and she knew it. Maybe it was the way we said we’d see each other around when we parted by her front door.
Maybe it was the look in her eyes and maybe it was the look in my eyes. Maybe it was the picture of the pretty boy on her bedside table that gave it away, the one with the dreamy eyes and floppy haircut and soft skin and far-away look on his face that she hadn’t bothered to hide and didn’t try to explain away and probably thought I wouldn’t notice. Maybe it was the phone call that she wasn’t expecting before I was leaving that put her off guard. It could have been any of these things. Or all of them. Or none of them. But it was a one-night stand, nothing more, nothing less.
Lying there this morning, though, the dim, late winter, light coming through the window, I reflected on life, love, and good times and how it can all suddenly come alive, often when you’re least expecting it. I thought about last night and how it had moved along in the way it did. We’d been to see the band and then decided to go clubbing and then danced all night to old rhythm and blues records and northern soul tunes and two-minute rock songs with blazing guitars from the sixties at a night called Helter-Skelter where we drank beer and wine and had some shots. Then we went back to the flat she shared with her friend and Jack disappeared with the other girl and I disappeared with her. That’s what makes it wonderful, I suppose. Good times come along, in the middle of all the day-in, day-out drabness of life and brighten it up, giving you a moment of memory.
I’m thinking this as I stand and watch the grey and overcast morning as the bus pulls in and the people in front of me move forward. There’s an old man who could be the same old man as was on the bus last night when I came into the city, and a middle-aged woman and a young student with his backpack and they’re moving ahead. There are office workers waiting as well behind me, not saying a lot, some saying nothing at all.
I wouldn’t normally be here as early as this but she said she had to leave, to go to a lecture early or something somewhere, she did tell me but I’d forgotten. Then my mind stops wandering and comes back to the present as the bus appears ahead of us and comes to a stop and the driver waits for a moment, as all drivers do when they arrive at bus stations, and the door opens and the other passengers get on and I walk past them and sit down.
I didn’t see Jack this morning. Then I remember he said he had things to do today. He didn’t say what, just ‘things.’ I don’t ask questions. I never do. Jack always has ‘things’ to do. And, as I’m thinking about this, the bus pulls away and heads out of the city and past the shops. I think to myself I could have spent time looking in windows and browsing in records and book and clothes shops but I didn’t and it’s a waste of a day but I can’t do anything to change it, I’m on the bus now, sitting towards the back and looking out of the window. I’m surrounded by an army of workers on their way to their own day at the corporate coal face, the corner of a dark satanic mill, or a warehouse somewhere.
It reminds me that I should be looking for something similar but I’m not sure I want to. Not right now, at this stage of life when the sun is just round the corner. Why surrender my doleite playboy lifestyle for responsibility and drudgery when I’m in the bloom of the moment? I know the answer, of course, I do, it’s all down to money, spending power, and filthy lucre. One day I’ll have to succumb to its charms. But not yet. I’ll enjoy a moment of idleness first.
The man in the seat in front of me has a newspaper open. That’s if you want to call it a newspaper. It’s one of those tabloids that’s filled with gossip. It’s telling me the stories I’ve heard for weeks, of war and rumours of war, of an economy that’s going into the gutter, of people claiming benefits as more firms close down. There are headlines about what they should do about those who claim benefits, maybe force them into work, make it less easy to claim any money, or put them in the army. It says they should bring back national service for those under twenty-five. I smile to myself. Imagine me in one of their uniforms. And I couldn’t fire a gun at anyone, I know that for certain.
I look out of the window at the trees passing, the ones that have been there for centuries, that were there before me and will be after I’ve left this mortal coil. Then I reflect on last night and its wonders. The softness of her lips, her hot breath on my neck, the smoothness of her skin, the smile she had when we shared a joke. It’s a shame I won’t be seeing her again. But there you go. That’s how it happens. Let lover boy come home for his Princess and enjoy what’s rightly his, or maybe he’s back already and I just don’t know it. I was the usurper, I know that now. It doesn’t make me feel good. But that’s how it goes sometimes.
I’m going back to bed when I get home. I’m dreaming of it now, the soft warm duvet that I’m going to slide under, let its comfort envelop me on its rapture. I’ll have a couple of hours of sleep. Then it’ll be coffee and music on my stereo, funky music to liven everything up and get me ready for going out and meeting the others again tonight. But that’s for an hour or so in the future. For now, I sit back and look out of the window at the trees and the houses and the sky and close my eyes.