I think this song by my beloved Leonard is the perfect soundtrack to Wrennie and Dr T’s relationship. The line ‘A weekend on your lips // A lifetime in your eyes’ reminded me of their weekend in Sheraton; and I can just hear ‘Let me catch my breath // I thought we had all night” pronounced in another, no less velvet male voice…
If you like the song, check out the lyrics. There will no other like Leonard; there will be no other poetry like his…
Four months later…
You come home with only one thought in your head – you want to sit down. You don’t care if it’s going to be a sofa, an armchair, or the rug by the entrance door. You think you’ve never been that exhausted in your life; but to think of it, you felt exactly the same way yesterday. And the day before, and last week – and sadly, you’re sure you’ll feel the same way for a long time now.
Instead of pushing the key into the door, you stop and press your forehead to it. It reminds you of that day when you and John broke up. Although, the only similarity is that you’re frozen on the other side of the door from him. That’s where parallels end. You do want to see him. You do know what you feel towards him. You do want to come in – you just can’t. Physically.
The door unlocks, and he’s standing in the frame. It smells like Italian. There’s a glass of Scotch in his hand.
You peek, and your jaw slacks. He looks arsed up. He is so obviously drunk! The eyes are shiny, red-rimmed, and unfocused; cheeks red flushed. That’s so unusual that you straighten up despite being in danger to just fall into the flat like a rolled up carpet.
“Has academia defeated you again?” he asks softly, and opens his one armed embrace. You whine, step in, and press into him. That’s better. That’s a relief. John is very therapeutic.
“Remind me why I decided that post-grad was a good idea?” you mumble into his soft white tee. He smells like food, clean laundry, and John – he smells like home.
“Because you’re a badarse scientist, and weren’t going to let your giant intellect go to waste.” He rubs your back, and you moan into his chest.
You’d ask him if he’s trying to butter you up, but that would sound like flirting. And hinting on a shag. Which would be unacceptable, since you can’t shag. You’re too tired. You could probably just lie there, and let him do all the work – but surely, he’d get offended if you fell asleep mid-way. And you definitely would.
He closes the door behind you, and then kneels in front of you helping to take off your boots. You shake the coat off your shoulders, not caring that it falls on the floor, and plod into the living room.
“Italian?” you ask and drop onto the dining table chair.
“Yeah, I ordered take away.” He goes to the bar and adds more Scotch. “Three hours ago.” He gives you a soft reproachful look.
“I’m sorry…” You have no energy to get up and go to the kitchen. “We were in the lab, and then it turned out we needed to redo couple tests…” You can’t stifle a wide painful yawn. “And then one of the students in the group project cocked up some data…” You drop your head on the table.
He hums, and you hear a clank of the bottle. And then you remember. Oh fuck! Fucking fucking fuck! You jerk your face up and look at him.
“Oh god, it’s Thursday, and it’s our ‘dinner and talk’ evening, isn’t it?”
“Yeah…” You see him heavily sit down in the armchair. He takes a gulp of Scotch and drops his head back. His eyes slowly close.
“I’m really sorry…” you whine again. “It’s been a mental week, and…”
“It’s alright, Wren…” He lifts his head, takes a sip, and then goes back to the same position. “Have you eaten?”
“Some disgusting sarnies in the cafeteria. But I’ll enjoy the Italian tomorrow, yeah? I’ll take some to the lab for lunch. Or we can warm it up and have it for dinner.” You’re groveling, and he makes a small wave with his hand, his eyes still closed.
You consider apologising again, but then you realise that he’s much more drunk than you initially assumed. To think of it, except his stag night, you’ve hardly ever seen him under the influence, in all the time you’ve known him.
“John, are you OK?”
“Leonard Cohen died,” he answers, and takes another big gulp without opening his eyes.
“I’m sorry…” Your words sound empty, but you do sympathise. When it were an actor or a musician you were fond of, their loss always felt personal.
John loves Cohen. Well, ‘loved’ will now be a better term. Popular Problems, released couple years ago, is his favourite album.
“Should I choose some younger artist to fancy now?” he asks from his armchair, and you hum questioningly. “To make me more hip, and less… old.”
You frown not sure what he’s talking about.
“Peterson’s retiring,” he says. You properly fail to follow the leaps his mind is making tonight.
“OK…” you draw out. “Peterson from Cardiology? Well, he’s old, and…”
“We were in the same year in uni,” John interrupts. Oh bugger.
You could remind him it’s not dates and numbers that determine a person’s age. It’s not about ‘how long;’ it’s about ‘how’ – how the person lives, how they feel, how much they want, crave, how much they take from life, and how much they’re willing to give.
“Do you know that in a few years they will think I’m your Dad? I’ll get all that grey hair, and with your genetics you’ll stay young forever…” He emits a sarcastic sharp laugh, and finishes his bevvie.
Ah, so that’s what it’s all about.
You rise from the chair, cross the room ignoring the aching soles, and climb on his lap. He doesn’t stir, but you know he’s glad you’re here.
“So, is this Hemingway style drinking all about your mortality and…” you start in a light teasing tone, and he suddenly lifts his head and pins you with a dark stare.
“Do you want children, Wren?”
Oh sod it. Wrong time, wrong place – and really, John? Definitely wrong circumstances. He’s pissed, you’re exhausted. The combination is as cocked up as possible.
You have an odd thought. You wish you were forty right now. You wish you knew what one is supposed to answer to a man of his age, how one is supposed to talk, what to say to this question. Should you console? Flirt? Answer directly? Mollify?
And you’re tired, so very tired. And you feel young, and immature – and lost.
An adult wise woman would know what to say to her husband in this situation. She would know just the right words; she’d look into his eyes, and answer something that would make it alright. You want him to be happy. You don’t know how to make a man like him happy.
He’s achieved so much; but is looking back on one’s former successes a healthy way to deal with one’s age? He’s right – in ten years his hair will be all white. In ten years you’ll look just the same; you saw your biological mother’s photo in your file, she was thirty seven when she had you, and looked just like you do right now.
Are you to say that all is ahead of him? What if it isn’t? Are you to promise that the two of you will have a baby soon? You might not. There’s your education; and your career. On the other hand, you do want one. But you don’t want one right now. Right now, you want to sleep.
If you stay quiet long enough, he’ll shut like a clam, like he used to – or sigh melancholically, as he’s recently started. He’ll apologise, and say that the two of you need to go to bed.
“I’m sorry, Wren…” he starts, and you lean in and press your lips to his. He tastes like Lagavulin.
“I’m so tired…” you whisper, after moving away. His eyes open slowly, dark blue and shining. “I don’t think I can sustain this conversation.” He opens his mouth, and you press a finger across his lips gently. “Don’t apologise. It’s a valid convo, I just can’t…” You’re feeling sick, your eyes feel like full of hot sand, and there are some grotty yellow sparks dancing before your eyes.
He studies your face, and then sighs and nods.
You two go to bed; but despite how knackered you were, you can’t fall asleep. The conversation has left a nasty feeling somewhere in your stomach. And in half an hour or so, while you’re lying on your side, as if asleep, John carefully climbs out of bed, and leaves for the kitchen. You fall asleep before he’s back.