It’s hot. A stifling oppressive heat that makes breathing a chore. A day for sitting on the balcony under shade drinking margaritas. Not this. Not out here consuming. Not more shopping. How much more crap does she need? None. A drip of sweat forms in my armpit and runs down the inside of my arm. Sarah keeps moving forward. Now into a shop – shoes. Maybe that’s how she moves so fast? Never wears the same pair of shoes twice – new leather.
Now it’s cold. The aircon on full. It’s too much. My head spins a little. Sarah is oblivious. I head for the row of chairs and sit. I close my eyes for a second. Head clearer, I open them again. There is a woman sitting next to me. I straighten myself in the chair. She turns to me.
“Excuse me,” she says.
Her hands keep moving around in her pockets. She takes her jacket off and is searching for something inside.
“I’ve… I think I’ve lost my phone. But the lining of my jacket is… There’s a hole in one of the pockets and…”
Was she about to ask me for money?
“Do you think you could… Could you call me? On my number. So I can tell if my telephone is in here somewhere?”
I type her number into the keypad on my phone… Press call… I am holding the phone in front of me, I realise I can’t tell if it’s connected. There is no ringing from her jacket. I put the phone to my ear. It is ringing… somewhere.
“Sorry,” I say.
“Oh, never mind, thank you.”
She looked away.
“Do you know where you last saw it?” I found myself asking.
She turned back to me. Looking right into me.
“If I knew that..”
“Yes, sorry.” Why was I apologising?
“They don’t move on their own you know.”
“Yes, of course, it was… Just something to say.”
“I didn’t expect you to say something banal.”
“Sorry.” Why was I so apologetic all the time? Why did I care what this woman thought?
“I’m renting a flat, I was just at the agents. I bet the phone is in the folds of their sofa.”
“I guess that makes sense.”
“Why wouldn’t it?”
The woman gets up to leave, I find my self getting ready to say sorry for not being more of a help but I decide against it.
I close my eyes again and when I open them a second later Sarah is standing in front of me.
“Who was that?”
“No one? You exchanged numbers with her.”
“Oh, I didn’t think you had seen.”
“Well here on the shoe changing bench in the shoe department of a store I am shopping in is hardly ‘in private’ is it?”
“No I didn’t mean it like that. She was just some woman, a total random, she had lost her phone and wanted me to ring it to see if it rang.”
“And did it?”
“Yes, just not here.”
She looked unconvinced. God! Like she had a right. At least my story sounded even vaguely plausible.
“Look, if you want revenge then there are better ways to hurt me. I mean she wasn’t even pretty.”
She hadn’t been pretty exactly, but there had been something about her. Maybe it was a lack of something, and I don’t mean her telephone. She had a lack of charm that I felt myself mistaking for her being guileless. She wouldn’t call a spade a digging apparatus. Maybe she had been beautiful?
I had felt something for her, I was sure. And I have to try and remember that… Because…
When she called that evening, I felt it. I was smoking out on the balcony, I heard the telephone ringing and I was annoyed. I was halfway through my coffee and a quarter of the way through my cigarette. I let the telephone go to the message. But the interruption ruined the rest of both. I looked down at a geranium in a terracotta pot. The flowers just couldn’t cope with this temperature and any water you gave it was gone before the plant had a chance to drink it. I sipped and puffed, and I knew this moment was withered. The sun setting on the hot day, with the smoke and burnt caffeine, had been a symphony. But the discordant telephone had broken it.
I ducked in through the sash and picked up the phone. I had been annoyed but as I looked at the number I was confused. Who was this? I clicked back through the recently contacts list and I realised where I knew it from. I suddenly understood. I joked in my head, remembering Sarah’s conclusion, “I thought I told you never to call me here.”
It wouldn’t matter, Sarah would never know anyway. She was never here any more. Always working late. Even after I’d caught the two of them she still called it “working late”, like it made it better.
I picked up my keys, closed the sash and walked out. For some reason I felt the urge to not even bother to close the front door.
Down on the street the heat had slacked off but it was making me thirsty. I walked down the block to Eldon’s and sat at the bar. A beer and a shot arrived. I drank them and smoked. I took my telephone out of my jacket pocket and placed it on the bar. I wanted it to ring again.
[This is part one of a four part story. A new part will be published each day this week, and will be followed by a directors commentary.]