From Jester To King XI
By Simon Barget
She the sweetest girl alive, the sweetest on earth. All girls to measure up from now going forward. Something pony-tail and ringlets. Erstwhile star from an 80’s advert. Something trinkety. Whenever he started to realise that he might soon be in her vicinity he got panicked. He shook and his lip quivered. Thought he would melt or die. It couldn’t be noticed, this secret desire, it meant he would be noticed. What if she looked at him for even a second? What does he want with her? Ridiculous, comical. She had a button nose. A mouse, cutesy and small. Small delicate feet. She had a beauty spot just to the left of her lip, where the cheek meets the jaw. Not a big one but noticeable. She was touched by a boyishness, something dungarees, down-to-earth. She was good people.
He yearned and he yearned and he longed and he longed but he never thought about talking to her. He never thought about thinking about talking to her. Talking was out of the question. There was a force-field, there could be no approach.
She had a turned-up little nose and nothing much else but oh god was she pretty. Pretty, not attractive. She had hair that came down just to the line of the shoulders from the back, her hair hanging neatly, straighter than usual now, slightly preened. So he snatched looks up at her in the gallery, to him acts of violence, surreptitious staccato looks, like she might even be free to look at without recrimination, free to devour, free to take in, as if you could look at her whenever you wanted. She wore suits in this synagogue, tailored suits that made her look drawn-in and so grown-up, a grown-up mouse-girl, his girl. She never caught him looking, never crossed her mind.
When friends said her name, heart pump/thwack, it was the big secret, he never let on. Silent, immovable like a stone. No one should find out. Because they’d kill themselves laughing, wasn’t remotely her type. No getting past it. She might be coming to Alon’s, but she didn’t, what a surprise. It was still good enough that she almost did, he had the excitement of thinking it for a period of hours. Good enough her name mentioned, bringing a link, albeit tenuous. Then one Saturday: they might be going to her house, round there to chill. To her actual house. They did actually then go round to her very own house. He went round with them, didn’t wimp out. Her clean floral house, number 18, that he knew from the outside, all too well. Her neat expensive sweet-smelling house with its pine whorl balustrades plump on the banister. How inviting the stairs. Smelling like her, serious about its smell, almost business like, sweet to the point of odourless.
He walked in. He can’t believe he managed to walk in through the door. He must have done. He remembers sitting on her couch, all of them facing the front on the couch, she might have been next to him with her waves and curls and her face always lit up. It must have been blissful. The house was clean and cream. Clean and cream like an extension of her. Every object an extension. Her car also her, her 17 year-old just passed her test automobile its redness, smallness, because he knew the number plate, as an object in space and in time.
In a group of girls she was springy and sprightly. In a group of girls she was always upfront. She wasn’t pushy or bitchy or daubed in mascara. She had this little button nose with plain unadorned eyes, neutral lashes and brows, and the flesh around the eyes in the sockets was milk and cream and almond and all things pearlescent and lucid. Her smile was not lips, but face, the engagement of cheeks and temples and everything concentrated into a beam.
Then a bit later sometime in 1998. At Lloyd Coleman’s, the party, the panic, the excitement. Not remotely expecting her to turn up, no no no. Why would she, no no no. Nothing for her here. No one to fancy, to want, not enough cool. Who’d even have told her. Yet his secret wish close to his breast. Never thinking of the thing wanted other than as distant star. Setting up for that party, the ballroom, the furniture, not thinking about her. Staying over on the Friday night on the TV room couches, not thinking about her, but oh god her coming to mind every fucking second, every single thing a token of her, presaging her. Not actively thinking about her but her crossing his mind. Then the moment of the car, seeing it, consternation, how then if her car is in the drive now, how can it be that she will not be coming.
She brazenly parks her car in the drive, she doesn’t even know Lloyd.
Perhaps then she wasn’t good people.
He had to walk round the block, heavy-breathing. Once again, the sight of her, always seeing this wonderful thing he wanted. Heart-leaping. See how the thing you want somehow cuts through the night. She was there that night in the house in the exuberant garden. Within reach for a good two and a half hours. Revel in it, relish it.
He was dark, she was light.
In her he’s in mourning, holding his desire even today.