Lijuan’s story, excerpt one: Florence

I can’t find the lightswitch. It’s 5am and this guy’s black-out blinds are stopping what little light’s around at this time from illuminating any of last night’s mess.

My pants are nowhere to be found. They’ve flown the nest. Fucked off. Scarpered. Gone without leaving a note. Same goes for one sock, both earrings (who takes off their earrings for a one night stand?) and, of course, my fucking driver’s license. That, at least, I remember losing sometime in between getting into the club, and trying to get back into the club. The earrings, pants and sock are somewhere in this room, however. But I can’t find the lightswitch. It’s not by the door. This room, like its inhabitant, is a little weird, a little annoying, and to be left as soon as possible.

Giving up on the lost items hunt, I howked my jeans up and slipped out the room, down the hallway, past a large and unflattering mirror – my reflection goulish in the light filtering through the front door’s green glass; so eighties – down the three flights I suddenly remember falling up last night, and out into the dawn light of Rose Street (or was it Ramsay?)

I could feel the beginnings of a hangover setting in, made worse by the ageing smell of sex on my fingers as I went to light a cigarette. No one was around, so I smelled my hand again. It was nasty, but belonged somewhat to me and so – despite it making me wretch a little – it was still oddly pleasant. Like the smell of your own sweat.

The air was cold and full of the rain of yesterday. The hole in the sole of my converse (on the socked foot, thankfully) was taking on puddle water at the rate of the Titanic. I ran my free hand up my arm and found a clump of hair stuck together. Flashbacks of handjobs and apologies. Gross. I was glad the street was empty.

Well, I say empty. On the other side of the street a fat black and white cat walked parallel to me, skipping with surprising agility from bin lid to window ledge but never averting its eyes from mine. He might have been the spitting image of the cat my ex and I had lost last year, except for that this cat had a tail.

I missed Tom (the cat). I did not miss Alex (the ex).

The rain started up again, but I could see clearer sky trudging my way, so I took a squat in a doorway and lit another cigarette to wait out the clouds.

My fat feline follower stopped, too. He tilted his head, as if questioning my hesitation. Maybe he was thinking what a pussy I was for hiding from the wet. One floor and one window up from the cat’s sill housed one of the few beams of light to be seen for blocks. By the glass a man, a young man, was sat at a desk, ninety degrees to the window. Why you wouldn’t face the desk out the window I don’t know.

It took me a second to remember that it was still only half-five in the morning. A strange time to be up, I thought. Especially when all you’re doing is writing (which was all he was doing), and not, for example, escaping the clutches of an awkward morning sat across the breakfast table from a guy whose name you’ve misplaced.

Since it was still raining, and I had surprisingly still several cigarettes left from last night, I found I had nothing better to do than to observe the writer in detail.

Seen from only the waist up, he was not much to look at. He had a full beard, likely hiding a double chin judging by his gut. Plus it was patchy in parts and, probably because I don’t think he’d showered/slept, it stuck out at random. His hair was thick and two weeks too long. He’d pushed it off his forehead with his fingers, using grease or sweat or something to keep it from falling back over his eyes. He wore a baggy band t-shirt. Not that my eyesight’s that good, but there was a flaming skull and some writing in that font reserved only for death metal, so I assumed. His arms were covered in grey and mute tattoos.

The man pounded away at a typewriter, pausing often but briefly before returning to his industrial tapping. I was glad I couldn’t hear the sound; not in this state. For that, I presumed also that he lived alone.

Suddenly my view was blocked. A large oval of black fur positioned itself aggresively in front of the man’s head and shoulders. The cat glared at me. I could swear it glared. Before long the man stood up, swung the window open outwards, and let the cat climb on in. As he was closing the window – realising the ramifications of exposing his desk and typewriter to rain – he caught my gaze and held it for a second.

I couldn’t read his face. He could have been shocked or intrigued or entirely indifferent. Turning away from me, he sat back down in his chair. I must have interrupted his flow though, because without touching finger to key again, he rose and walked further into the room and out of sight.

I waited maybe five minutes or more, even after the rain stopped, but he never came back. The cat returned to prance back and forth: warm, at home, gloating. I slipped my shoes back on and headed towards Frith Street, lighting my last cigarette as I went.

***

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