Published on July 24th, 2012 | by Jamie Walker1
‘Downwards’ Preview #1
She rolled over and lit another cigarette. Puffing lightly, her smoke, her sex, malingered its way towards the window. Fleeing the dimly lit room. Fleeing him. She toyed with it between her fore and middle fingers, sucking on it up to the point that the white shaft disappeared, melting into the golden butt. She discarded it, dropping it to the tarmac twelve floors below. She watched it pirouette into nothingness, feeling just the slightest pang of envy. Gathering the clothing that she had lain down by the bathroom, carefully, inconspicuously, she slipped back into her green silk dress and shoes that didn’t quite match. Making her way towards the door, she picked up the roll of notes on the bedside table with grace and subtlety; breaking no illusions. Leaving behind no trace of embarrassment, the true mark of skill in her profession, she crept through the door of the flat, escaping into the refuge of the city. Escaping him.
He knew nothing of this.
To look upon him at this moment was to see contorted foetal curl. He wasn’t asleep. Awake with the wrong sort of medication coursing through him. Too low a dose. Blood coursing with too little serotonin. Hazed and dazed with the wrong sort of fuck.
He would not sleep tonight. The best he could hope for was a few hours of grey area; a liminal refuge between sleep and wake. Once again, it hadn’t worked.
The underlying problem, the one that he hadn’t the will to see, was that none of them were her. In the months after her escaping him, he had tried to replicate her with others. Each time it had happened, he had found something, a solitary feature that transfixed him. Legs on display in the park. Long and pale; just as elegantly dimpled with flecks of cellulite, like hers. The hair in the queue in front. Different colour, but that smell, same shampoo. So close. Almost. Breasts on the bus, bobbing up and down like hers did. Used to. Probably still do somewhere else.
He hadn’t the foresight to see that such dehumanisation would never result in his desired outcome. They never could. He had been flawed from the off. It didn’t stop him. Each and every hollow fuck brought him nothing but distance. They were shells. Substitutes. Imitants. Afterwards, he would cast them aside. He saw them not for themselves, but as disposable products. Each had served their end to him.
At first, he had taken the path to vacuous sex deemed acceptable. Casual. Singles nights, speed dating, online singles ads. He became quite in tune with whom to expel his efforts upon. In bars, he could smell the ones like him. Damaged and vulnerable. He recognised that very same scent, those same clouded eyes, when he considered himself. He would do the pageantry; the drink-buying, cigarette-sharing, careless-flirting, all to achieve his own ends. That hollow state of undress.
They always came back to his. It had to be that way. It was the only reason he did what he did. So that, for 12 minutes, 3 hours, occasionally until the morning, he could masquerade that they were her.
There had been many. He was not unattractive, and it took him only a little practice to feign the social skills he once had, providing he was in the right environment. The anticipation was nearly always there. Every Sarah and Sophie was another attempt at piecing together the jigsaw. Afterwards, as tonight, a malaise set in. The malaise of failure. At any one time, he could only hold one piece; a fragment of an imitant. This only exacerbated his problems. For whilst he was doing this, he was trivialising her; inadvertently turning her into an assortment of component parts. He’d made an impossible puzzle of her. One which he could never complete.