David was his best friend. His only real friend. A sharp man in his mid-30s. Striking blue eyes, constantly tanned skin, always a clean shave, a tailored suit everyday, black Wayfarers day and night. An unusual mix of brains and a fashion addiction. David was the perfect partner in crime — Kim was rarely seen without him. Had they not been such notable womanizers, one could easily mistake them for a couple. They did everything together. Lunching. Dining. Crunches. Pushups. Drinking. Clubbing. Walking the dogs. Fashion talks. Women — plastic middle-aged mothers encountered at Chez Ginette. Fresh college students picked up at a DJ party. White tourists caught in a random art gallery, or on the street, taking photos of old buildings and poor Arab men.
David reached Casablanca in white and blue striped pants, a white deep, round-neck t- shirt and a dark blue blazer with a striped collar. All Calvin Klein but the shoes: brown, croc-embossed, leather high-top sneakers. The name: Alexander McQueen. A tall slim figure greeted him at the door:
Boyfriends and husbands frowned as he walked in — they were tailing their women’s eyes. Classic entrance. Any other reaction would have offended him. He sat down and nodded. The bartender knew exactly what he wanted. David scanned the room for a potential prey. He noticed an older woman in heat, perfume and Valium on heels. But it was too easy, too early. He started sipping on his drink and Kim walked in, Tom Ford from head to toe. White turtleneck, white pants, electric blue slim jacket, brown Adney Twist loafers. The male crowd was confused. Somewhere between frustration and curiosity, as some of them were his avid readers. A young couple approached and asked to have their photo taken with him. What a pathetic life those two must have. Avec plaisir. David was amused by the scene, deviously winking at the girl as she struggled to stay composed and smile as the camera flash went off.Merci beaucoup, bonne soirée!
As the first round ended, Kim suggested skipping dinner. Dining and drinking on the same night — who in their right mind would want to do that to themselves? Fred overheard and proceeded to refill without waiting for a sign. Smirnoff Raspberry with lime for Kim, Belvedere with cranberry juice for David. No. Those were not girl drinks.
The atmosphere was shifting from serious polished conversations to extravagant laughter and clinking glasses. Outside was getting darker, streetlights brighter, roads busier. And Kim just more impatient. He shivered as she crossed his mind. Then she settled there and refused to leave. “I’ll be back,” he muttered, abandoning his seat and friend to rush to the washroom. And then he saw her. No word exchange. He glued his mouth onto her lips and led her inside the bathroom stall. Breathing each other out. He turned her around, pressed his forearm against her back, forcing her to bend forward. He was already hard, thrusting it against her perfect butt. A dogged attempt to lift her skirt, a sudden resistance. And she took control. He sat down on the toilet seat. Slow motion mode: ON. A look in the eyes. A playful smile. On her knees between his thighs. Her delicate fingers around his cock. Her face moving closer. He closed his eyes.
And then a blur. A familiar voice made its way through. “Bro, you in there?” The words echoed in his mind. “In there? In there?” He opened his eyes. “Kim?” Sweat was dripping from his forehead, tiny splashes between his shoes. Knock knock. He managed to speak:
“I’m… I’m okay. I’ll be out in a minute.” Still hazy, he managed to stand up, tuck his shirt in and button his pants. He rushed out, reached for the sink and drenched his face. Heavily breathing. A person walked past him. “Excuse me sir. Oh, I love your work!” Kim tried to smile. He walked back to the bar.
They finished their drinks and asked for the bill. David handled it, leaving a generous tip as usual. Smiles, polite words, friendly nods, handshakes and manly shoulder taps were exchanged with the staff. Outside, the Valet Parking didn’t need to see their ticket numbers. They didn’t even have any. The weather was pleasant, warm and dry. Heavy honking meant heavy traffic. Heavy traffic meant longish wait. No problem. Gitanes Blonde. “Got a light?” A first puff.
“You’re right, you’re right, but that’s not the point. I mean, it’s just weird, man. I mean, I’ve managed to not care about anyone for years now. Girls and love and emotional bullshit, you know? And now I feel like this is throwing me back in time or something. It’s like I’m that weak old me again. And I thought I’d gotten rid of that guy,” Kim confessed.
It was sometime in the mid 90s, a grey cold February afternoon, and Kim was 17. An undergrad student in Fine Arts at Central Saint Martins. New land. New life. He’d moved to London a few months prior. New dreams. New self. He was panting, hair in his face, running late for class, never ending stairs. And then he saw her. Straight out from a movie scene. But he didn’t bump into her, she didn’t drop her books, he didn’t help her pick them up, he didn’t ask her out. They simply stopped. And time stopped. And everything stopped. And then he smiled. And then she laughed. Tragedy at first sight.
They say love lasts three years. They stayed together for two. Though their love lasted only one. She was trying to be a writer. They were young artsy intellectuals, hanging out on campus, in libraries and artist squats. And then the inevitable: teenage love never lasts. “That pseudo-writer guy is a bit too friendly to you.” “Will this pseudo-actress stop texting you?” Jealousy, suffocation, rage. They were wild kids in adult bodies, clumsy with their feelings, inept in their actions. Numerous breakups and make up sex, she was good at suicide attempts. He punched holes through the walls, barely avoiding her small face. Failed classes and sleepless nights. Drinking problems and neighbor complaints.
Until one day in the late 90s, on a grey cold February afternoon, when Kim was 19. They’d been on a break for a few weeks now — yet another one. The final one. Incubus’ Drive was on television, and the door opened. It was Rose, and behind her a tall boy with a familiar face — very rough features, though Kim had never seen him before. He was there to help her move out. And move on. Kim stood in the middle of the apartment as he watched them pack. Rose was chain smoking, tripping over almost everything. The boy looked uncomfortable, quietly completing his task and avoiding any eye contact. And then Rose broke the silence. “Alright well, I guess that’s it.” She moved close. A tender kiss on the cheek. The tall boy nodded politely. And they disappeared. And Rose never wrote again.
Kim later discovered that her lover was Lebanese — the reason why he looked so familiar — and a postgraduate student in Finance. Good family, obscene wealth. Rose had been seeing him long before the breakup. A way out of her miserable teenage love, a way into a peaceful rich marriage. A perfect plan. And it worked. And Kim never saw her again. A heavy armor around his heart. And Kim never loved again.
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