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The dance that night was in a converted cinema. We sat in the front row seats and watched the natives giving it, like it was 1919. Country and western was big in the hinterlands back in the day. Sugary sweet songs of the poor emigrant Paddy in his bed-sit in London, pining for his golden haired girlfriend and his silver haired mother while he drank himself into a stupor.
I finish my £8.30 pint and head for where I used to live. Why? I’ve started writing now, I might as well go. It’s an ex-council block. East London thick brick. Rubicon cans on the stairwell, faulty lifts. A kid called Abdi that tries to sell you weed every time you see him, even though you tell him that you don’t smoke weed. It was him that I thought I saw walking past the pub. He’s got a dog. He told me that it is was rare for a Bengali to have a dog. I wonder if he’s still here?
You didn’t want to make her uncomfortable by smoking in front of her, or subject her to secondhand fumes. You huddled in your bedroom with your stash, emerging when the coast was clear. Still, the smell should have been a tip-off. Not to mention your red eyes and dilated pupils.
And so I often find myself wandering through a hollow house alone, as he adventures to the tool sheds in the far corner of a backyard. I sift through the trinkets, the decorated knives, commemorative postcards, and wonder – who held these before me? I find a binder full to bursting with buttons of all types and sizes and colors. What hands carefully sewed each into place?
It’s a typical Saturday night at the Java Jive. The bar is a Tacoma institution, a one-time home to two pet monkeys appropriately named Java and Jive. The monkeys are dead now, and so is your marriage. You’re singing karaoke because you’re trying to forget everything. You’re a lonely 41-year old single mom with two kids and a decaying house on the north end of town, and you know what it feels like to have your thrills vanish. So you’re singing your lungs out, and some guy bites your foot.
I have killed her in my head more times than I can count. I have attended her funeral. I have wept on her grave. I have cried alone in a room littered with pill bottles and years of filth because I wasn’t there to save her. Every unknown number from Connecticut is her final plea for forgiveness before she swallows the pills or slices the blade across pale blue-veined wrists. I am a bad son. I let her do this. It is all my fault.
Cheap cotton tank top stuck under my armpits, the summer heat was making us light extra candles and pray for extra $5 donations. I was cheap and stuck at Saint Joseph Oratory under Mary’s smile and she gazed at her feet and I felt her son didn’t really save me. You had sad eyes and your hair was the best thing in the heat.
The affair happened more than ten years ago. We worked together on a project with four other colleagues. She was married and had two small children. During the holidays, she texted me several times saying that she was thinking about me. The first two or three messages, I ignored. I erased them. I seriously thought she was a no-go. The fourth time, I wrote back: “You’re married.” I thought that would end it….