11 P.M. 17TH NOVEMBER 1978


You know when you get morose drunk? When you have left your friends on the route home, and suddenly thought, I don’t want to go home? That’s the sort of feeling that gets you into trouble. So it’s 11 p.m., and I’m sitting on the stairs one floor above Mary’s flat. It’s been a while since I’ve seen her. In fact the last time I saw her was the wink. As a consequence of that little dalliance, I had caught scabies, and had suffered agonies because the doctor had not told me that I only had to paint the ointment on my skin once. I had put it on every day for a week, with the unforeseen occurrence, that I looked as if I’d been flayed. When I presented my skin for the doctor’s perusal a week later, he thought I was a complete idiot. You only use it once, no wonder you look like a lobster.

Luckily, the skin settled down relatively quickly once a curative balm had been administered. However, since that fateful night, I had decided to stay clear of my Mary, as she wasn’t particularly good for my health. Well, when I say I stayed  away… this wasn’t the first time I’d been sat sitting on the stairs above her floor, waiting to see if she came home alone. I had sat there maybe three of four times before, but as she had a guy, probably the army guy with her, I’d hid above and listened to see if he went in. He did, and I went home.

So this stalking behaviour had become a habit. What did I want? I wanted to make everything and everybody else just disappear. I wanted her to be with me forever. I think I wanted to make one last effort. I had a dream that if she knew how I felt, she would see what I could see, we were made to be together. I know a facile thought, but I was 18 and I loved her. I knew she loved me too. So why not?

I heard steps coming from below. No voices. A good sign. It was a long wait. 12 series of stairs take a while, even when you are young and fit. I looked over the parapet and saw her mop of crazy black hair below. She was alone. As she pulled on the fire door to her floor, I stood up. She stopped stark still, as if frozen in time.

“Hello” I said.

She looked down the stairs to see if anyone was there.

“Come in quick”. She looked afraid.

She shepherded me into her flat.

“You shouldn’t come here.”


“He’s out on Monday.”

“Who’s out on Monday?”

“My husband. He gets out of prison on Monday. You need not to be here.Seriously.”

“It’s Friday, I think it’s safe.”

” He has people watching me. He wrote me a letter, saying if I didn’t ditch the squaddie (english slang for soldier), then he would.”

“He would what?”

“Put him in a ditch. He would do it too, you don’t know the people he goes around with.”

“How did he find out about soldier boy?”

“I told you he has people watching me.”

“For fuck’s sake Mary, why don’t you just leave? You don’t need to be around this creep.”

“I can’t. He’d find me. You don’t know what he’s like.”

I hugged her. She didn’t push me away. She was shaking inside. I pressed my head to hers and felt the tumult inside her mind. We had that kind of connection, we could feel each others emotions. She hugged me so tight, we felt like siamese twins. I stroked her hair. We sat on the side of her bed… still in the living room.

“I’m here, I will always be here.” I said.

She sobbed heavily.

“That’s just it you can’t be here, I can’t bear you being here, don’t you understand?” I held her tighter and kissed her eyes.

“I love you, Mary, you know that, why not just come with me, I will look after you.” She looked into my eyes. I knew she felt the same, how could she not? We had been through so many other lifetimes together… (but that’s for another story)

“He will, kill you. You are still a boy.”

“I know people…”

“You don’t even know how to tie your shoes, my beautiful boy. You are my dream, my hope of happiness. I got myself into this shit, I will get myself out of it. You will go and have a happy life without me.”

An air of finality. She hugged me. I hugged her. I cried. I cried a lot. We undressed. We held each other into the night. We never let go of each other. It was a pure moment, a pure moment in a lifetime of madness. We relished it until finally we fell asleep.

I awoke about eight. My leg across her legs, my arms around her waist, my nose engulfed in the mass of her hair. I wanted to sneeze. I didn’t want to sneeze, I needed to sneeze. I wanted not to sneeze. I wanted the moment to last forever. The watery sun burst through the window, casting her long legs in light and shade… Always with Mary, the light and the shade! She was the most beautiful intelligent woman I had ever met, she was love personified, yet always she brought in the shade… The dark moods, the drugs, the ridiculous lack of faith in me… warranted I grant you, to some extent. She at that age had taken me to heaven and hell. And the men and women she paraded in front of me.

But as always, I wanted to scoop her into my arms and take her away. To look after her all my life. I wanted to protect her. Yet, she insisted on protecting me. I stroked her perfect skin, I held her perfect breast. I tried to slip my hand inside her knickers.

She grabbed my hand.

“No. None of that. Time for you to go now.”

I got up.  I got dressed. I had tears again, I tried to hide them.

I waved to her prostrate form as I made for the door.

“Dale. Don’t I get a kiss.” She leaned on a elbow. I lent over and kissed her on the lips.

“I love you with all my heart, Mary, won’t you come with me?”

“I love you with all my heart, Dale, I can’t come with you. I have to sort my life out, and you do too. Please don’t come around again, he will seriously fuck you up.”

I walked out of her life.

For 33 years.

It’s a funny way to live don’t you think.




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