My ex wife sitting naked on the bare stone floor, smoking my cigarettes, listening to the songs of Leonard Cohen. It’s the coolest thing that I’ve ever seen. There has been no sex.
The last time we met was in December, a chance meeting at the bookshop in Stoke Newington. She was wearing high-topped boots, a tight sweater. Thumbing through Victorian poetry, she told me that I was the devil.
I’ve missed her only fleetingly since then. She cultivated her own life and pursuits.
She told me, last Monday, on that first night of her return, that she’d been working in Chicago, teaching. I knew this to be untrue because I’d seen her serving at the Starbucks in Leytonstone a fortnight before. I didn’t mind the deceit, just the muffins and coffee that were achingly out of reach.
Sophia left me because I got too big. Not in the career sense, but around the waist. I did not suit her ‘world view’ anymore. She became decisively cruel, nicknamed me ‘the room darkener’. Those comments enforced me to eat more.
She did not talk much in her first few days. In the hours when Sophia was not drinking red wine in her nakedness, she busied herself by making soup for us both, using odd ingredients purchased from health shops.
It was part of her new ‘game plan’. She explained these fragrant potions would shed pounds off me and cleanse her entire, weary body. I didn’t know how I felt about this. This was typically strange of her, a continuation of her neediness. I‘d matured more in our interlude, I thought.
I became very hungry, and I knew, that in the larder, rested an unopened jar of crunchy peanut butter. My heart beat faster when I closed my eyes and addressed it. In those moments, I knew that Sophia stared at me, convinced that I was having a spiritual awakening.
Yesterday though, when I came home from work, Sophia led me into a candlelit living room. She‘d swapped Cohen for Dylan and was wearing one of my old shirts, glossy red lipstick. On the table sat a family bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, an ice bucket filled with beer.
She took me by the hand and waltzed with me to the song, ‘All I Really Want To Do’. It’s one of my favourite tirades; I used to send her the lyrics in desperate letters.
Sophia kissed me, encouraged me to her boned back. She told me that she was still in love with me. That she has been a vile liar. That our terrible ways had to stop from now on.
We went to the bedroom, for hours. Touching and crying. Sweating pure salt and history. That song played within us.
This morning, I threw the uneaten fried chicken away, the jar of peanut butter from the larder. I walked all the way to Stoke Newington in the slanted rain. The bookshop was closed. I visited her gravestone for the last time.