Finding Dominika’s flat involved asking lots of directions from lots of people. Fortunately a secure side door wasn’t (secure), because she wasn’t in to buzz me in. I left the cactus house present and the two torn halves of almost a whole haiku tucked into others pinned to her door. I wasn’t disappointed, possibly because on leaving I saw a woman coming to the exit through the car park beneath the complex who looked like and was Dominika.
We had some of the cava I’d brought before she arranged to meet Naiem, a good-looking Dundonian, to pick up paint and a fire door which took up most of the room in his car, so that I’d decided to walk back before being asked to, meeting Dominika at a lift.
I put down paper to catch the drips in the kitchen though not intending to do any house painting myself. People, David and Agnes from Cambridge, Oscar and his now-friend Holly, arrived. Bernadette too but she went to bed. David has a mole on his upper lip left and a stack of hair but his outstanding feature is his back. “I like your hairy back.” I’ve a long tongue, as Dominika put it, not disclosing what caused the break with Joe except to say she’s older, and drink had loosened it. Agnes exhibited a remarkable embonpoint I also remarked on and a tight short black skirt I wanted to loosen any white emulsion from with copious dabs of something wet. Oscar has narrow eyes. They all came prepared to paint, Holly especially, in an overall dark, paint-spotted track suit. She’s pale with bruised red under her eyes, a teacher. I left them to tackle the kitchen with a will and thought myself to do the bathroom over bath and sink until my head was feeling pleasantly funny and my feet starting to stick on high places like the bath rim. Oscar had no such problem in the kitchen. He was poised aloft stretching with animal confidence and grace to an undone spot atop a cupboard. I brought a chair for him to stand on.
A young man who looked like a more worn, still pretty Joe, his black hair shorter under a cap, arrived after the work was done. “Joe!” we hugged and kissed, his long lashes thankfully intact. I said how lovely they all were. “But boring,” he said, prompting me to perform the tale of my relationship with convict John until the audience’s attention wavered and I stopped.
Dominika’s cooker doesn’t work and, despite having a most attractive figure as seen from behind, hasn’t yet deployed an electrician to sort it out but she does have an electric plate with two rings and while she cooked in a cauldron on that, Bernadette made up a salad. Lisa, a neighbour, arrived and I went with her to collect plates and bowls and a corkscrew to save Naiem pushing in another cork with his thumb and creating another red eruption. He and Bernadette ate early before leaving for a masochistic show where men hung from pierced nipples or razored their clingfilmed brows that gave them – I was unable to determine which – sadistic or masochistic pleasure, with or without an orgasm. Did I say David is the vulcanologist? Not Naiem.
A table was laid in the living room and candles lit. Beside me, Dominika was subdued by Joe’s presence other side the table. Lisa was sitting on the low bed out of it and I moved her into the body of the kirk, giving her my chair, myself taking a high one she didn’t want, not myself minding looking down on everybody, I said. On the wall, Joe’s shadow was eating out of somebody else’s throat while David’s loomed in our platonic cave. It’s because he was nearest the flame, he explained. “Trust you to spoil the mystery,” I said, but, in retrospect, he is so self-deprecating he felt the need to excuse the egregious size of his shadow, this clever boy, and that makes him, out of the cave, at a safe distance, a little desirable – that, and the hairy back.