on edge

I’m met at the door by a young guy with a buttoned-down manner and a way of speaking that’s low and whispered and slightly off to the side.
‘There’s someone here from the hospital come to see you,’ he says, over his shoulder to the locked door behind him. ‘Shall I take him down to the living room?’
Yes. I’ll be out in a minute.
He smiles at me (if he bowed I wouldn’t be surprised), beckons me in, then closes the door behind me with one hand on the latch and one flat on the panel to stifle the click.
‘This way.’
A long, narrow corridor, bare walls, widely spaced down-lighters, every door closed, until he stops in front of one, opens it, and stands aside to let me through.
‘Shan’t keep you,’ he says, and with a deferential scrape, leaves me alone.
The living room is well-named; there’s scarcely room to do anything else. A cluttered, boxy affair, it’s completely dominated by a waxy white leather sofa and a glass table covered with lifestyle, physical culture and health magazines. The sofa is enormous, like a gigantically plump mushroom grown fat on the dark shag-pile carpet, and silence.
I hold on to my bag, sit down and wait.
After a few minutes another, older man appears at the doorway. He’s wearing stripy pyjama bottoms, with a Scottie-dog patterned bathrobe draped over his shoulders, the only way he can wear it with the sling he has on his left arm. I stand up and introduce myself. He holds out his left hand; I reach across to squeeze it.
‘Nice to meet you.’
‘Do sit down.’
He waits for me to resume my place, then carefully guarding his injured arm, takes a seat next to me. He’s an extraordinary figure, with greasy golden hair that runs down from a prominent forehead to curl inwards at the jaw line – a formal crop that with his beaky nose, lidless eyes and haughty blue expression makes him look like he’s just stepped down to earth from a twelfth century stained glass window. He gives his head a shake, as if he’s clearing a little mental space to deal with whatever comes next, then slowly turns his eyes on me and smiles.
‘I expect you know the story,’ he says.
‘I didn’t get all of it.’
‘Well let me fill you in, then. You see, I’m very good, and I go to the gym quite regularly. I wouldn’t describe myself as a body-builder, quite, but I do have an interest in physical culture and so on. Unfortunately my usual trainer was delayed, and inadvisably, I attempted some bench presses without him there to spot for me. Awful, stupid, idiotic.’ He gives his head another little shake. ‘It could have been fatal, for goodness sake! Anyway, the first set was absolutely fine, the second was a little more of a strain. And Mike still hadn’t arrived. But you see one of my things is cussedness. I’m quite cussed. The more difficult something is, the more tempted I am to just go at it. So I put on some more weights and started the third set. Well of course it all went disastrously wrong and I suffered a collapse. Luckily I managed to direct the bar off to the side, but it wrenched my shoulder and tore up the superior and inferior glenohumeral ligaments. As I’m sure you know. Hence the sling.’
‘Ouch indeed.’
He smiles at me again.
‘I must say, you’re a little more relaxed than your colleague.’
‘Jane? I’m surprised to hear you say that. But then – I suppose you have to realise – a single woman, coming into a flat with two men. When it’s dark outside. I think if I was her I’d be a little on edge.’
‘Oh please!’ he says. ‘On edge! Look at her. She should be so lucky.’
He adjusts the hem of his bathrobe, then very casually lifts his chin and says: ‘I wouldn’t give her to my son.’

3 thoughts on “on edge

  1. Oh my goodness that made me laugh so much, I nearly spat out my Port an lemon! Beautiflul writing as ever and thanks for your stories.


  2. Good job you didn’t, A – that would’ve gummed-up the keyboard good n’proper (would’ve smelt nice, though…mmmm… port n’lemon….)

    I know, TLM! I was so shocked when he said that. Showed a marked lack of empathy (amongst other things). Nice bath robe, though. If you like Scotties. Which I do.

    Cheers for the comments x


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