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FlashNano Day 6: Undressed

November 7, 2018

My ex-wife has been sitting naked on the bare stone floor, smoking my cigarettes, listening to the songs of Leonard Cohen. It’s the coolest thing that I have ever seen.

The last time we met was in December, a chance meeting at the bookshop in Bloomsbury. She was wearing high-topped boots, a tight sweater. Thumbing through Victorian poetry, she had told me that I was the devil. I’ve missed her only fleetingly since then. She cultivated her own life.

She told me, last Monday, on that first night of her return, that she’d been working at a university in Chicago, teaching ‘Historical Printing Techniques’. I knew this to be untrue because I’d seen her in disguise serving at the Starbucks in Leytonstone just a fortnight before. I didn’t mind her deceit greatly, just the muffins and coffee that she achingly placed out of reach. Maybe she did recognise me, if she did, some things never change.

Sophia left me because I got too big. Not in the career sense, I’ll always only be published in small presses (a pamphlet here, an overwritten review there), but around the waist. I did not suit her ‘new view’ any longer. She became decisively cruel, nicknamed me ‘the room darkener’. Those comments only outraged me to eat more.

She did not talk much in her first few days back, the odd mumble. She’d would sit on the sofa, eyes darting around the room, perhaps searching for a mark on the wall. In the other hours in between, when Sophia was not drinking wine in her nakedness, she busied herself by making soup for us both, using odd ingredients purchased from health shops in Kentish Town.

When she did start talking, she told me of her new plan. She explained that these fragrant potions would shed pounds off me and cleanse her entire, weary body. This was typically strange of her, a continuation of her neediness. I matured more in our interlude, I thought.

I became hungry, and I knew, that in the larder, rested an unopened jar of crunchy peanut butter. My heart beat faster when I closed my eyes and addressed it. In those ravenous moments, I could feel her eyes me, convinced that I was having a spiritual awakening.

Yesterday though, when I came home from the college, Sophia led me into a candlelit living room. She swapped Cohen for Dylan and was wearing one of my old shirts, glossy red lipstick. On the table stood a family bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, an ice bucket filled with strong beer.

She took me by the hand and waltzed with me to the song, ‘All I Really Want to Do’. It’s one of my favourite tirades; I used to send her the lyrics in desperate letters.

Sophia kissed me, encouraged me to her boned back. She told me that she was in love with me. That she has been a vile liar. Her ways had to stop.

We went to the bedroom, sweating pure salt and history. That song played within us.

At dawn, I threw the uneaten fried chicken away, along with the jar of peanut butter. I walked from Stoke Newington to London Bridge station in the slanted rain. I caught the silent train to Lewes in Sussex and visited her gravestone for the last time.

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