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b e d t i m e   s t o r i e s  
3 a m

:  l a n e   a s h f e l d t

poulaphouca lake by andrew lovatt

poulaphouca lake at midnight : alovatt

This is what I miss most about changing lovers: I miss having a new face up close to mine, eyes to watch, telling stories.

Sex? I don't mind it, or when it's good it's all I can think about for days, a feeling that can't be switched off. But what I really miss are those moments when you refashion yourself for the next person in your life. When time stands still and you have endless curiosity about each other and want to fill in the blanks.

My friend Fran tells me this is called Romance. I thought Romance was going somewhere cheesy and expensive for dinner, with folded pink napkins and too shiny cutlery. I thought Romance was so dead it's beyond resurrection.

Fran says maybe it's so dead it's about to make a comeback.

So now that I've packed all that in, that boygirl or girlgirl or whatever stuff, I have plenty of time to decide which were the greatest of my unromantic encounters. My personal Best Of.

Some of the best were the one nighters, when it didn't even get as far as a bed. The guy I met when I was seventeen, in that town I only stopped in for a night. It was after midnight and I was on my way back to the cruise ship where I worked, when I spotted him. He looked good, and he smiled from behind a window at me and came outside.

We didn't speak the same language, and it was embarrassing because his friends followed him outside. But we just kissed like crazy until we made them go, and then we found a park where we lay on a roundabout watching the sky go round and round and the buildings fall in on top of us, and I fell totally, dizzily in love with him. He asked me back to his, but I had to go.

The pleasure boat was making ready to pull out when I finally reached it, and I almost got fired. By morning I was so tired I couldn't make the beds properly; I just sat there on the perfect white linen eating chocolates that were meant to be tucked under turned-back sheet corners for the guests. Thinking of him.

I bet he forgot about me, but I remembered him all summer.

Who else, what else? I'm not going to titillate with detail here. This keyboard is way too real, and I must email this to a stranger tonight just so you can read it whenever, but isn't it true? The ones you barely get to know are always the most gorgeous. Even better, they stay that way because you're never around long enough to see them change.

But have you ever really wanted to delete a fuck? I'm sure I've deleted a few: name, place, the lot. All the same I can only remember a single time when I told the guy straight afterwards: that really didn't happen for me.

He was a bit of a slapper really, a richkid playboy with overdeveloped muscles and an MP dad. No, that sounds awful, he wasn't as bad as all that. And to be fair he never mentioned his dad, someone else told me that later. No, he was just this fake skinhead with ironed jeans, an even white smile, nice eyes, the obligatory facial piercings. He was a regular at the bar where I worked, and every time he came in we'd chat a little. He was amusing but not my type, and besides I was living with my big-ego photographer boyfriend. But I was getting a bit bored, so one day when the boyfriend was on a photo shoot I said okay.

Incredibly, when we went back to his it turned out the skinhead still lived with his folks, at age 24. I guess the shock to his bank balance would have been too much if he moved out.

We tiptoed to the upper layers of their deluxe city-centre apartment. He mixed himself some gruesome protein drink with a raw egg, then showed me his weightlifting routine. This was funny, but not as funny as the sex. He was good on weird positions, and he wanted to work through them all. He was really trying, and I felt bad for not being more appreciative, but the sound effects were too much: I just could not get into it because he kept making these little Mmf Mmf noises, like earlier when he'd been doing his press-ups. So afterwards I said, "You know, that didn't really count because I didn't feel it. For me it's like we never did it."

I hadn't thought he'd mind, but he seemed really dishonoured. Didn't want to achieve less than the top score, much less be disqualified at the starting line. Kept saying, "But we did it, of course we did it."


Then there's Control Z. Control Z is what you need for the times you wish had never happened because it felt so weirdly good right from the start--because feeling that good is like hurtling further and further into a dark tunnel at speed, never knowing when you'll crash into a rock-face or tumble into a black hole.

I guess most of the time at least one of you has to jump into a void if you're to remember each other at all.

Like the boy who tried so hard to be living on the edge that he fell off of it. The poor boy from Brixton who was really a rich boy from Surrey, and he said, "Yeah, that's where I got into smack, they're all on it out in the 'burbs." Like it was new. Well, it was new to him.

I met him my first night at the pub with the folks from my first swanky office job. Would have been out of there in five minutes if I hadn't seen him looking my way.

And he was so beautiful. That drug-eaten beauty when your face is disappearing, your bones melting behind your overpale skin because you never sleep and you never eat. And when we climbed out over the railings of Soho Square at two in the morning he was going south and me east, but he kept walking with me till I gave in and we caught a taxi out somewhere past Brixton to a cold, cavernous house that he shared with a couple who were already fast asleep.

We went straight to his room. Black painted walls and mattress on the floor, books on the shelf that could have been ordered identikit from Rebel Superstore -- the Kerouac, the Burroughs, all that. Like walking into the past. The only futuristic thing was the tongue movement. I remember thinking: boys are getting better at this, I was born in the wrong generation.

And guess what, maybe Fran was right, because this boy seemed to believe in Romance bigtime. I mean, the next day he walked to the Tube with me and I kept having to peel his arm off my shoulder.

If I was in that dark room with him again I would at least spend all night listening to his stories, and I would tell him gently that he deserved Romance but mine was all used up so he should fall somewhere else, with someone else.


copyright © 2004 lane ashfeldt
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