A section of the Rowning diaries I have been attempting to write.
‘This seat taken?’ I rolled my eyes from the article on base rates and stared up at him. He was no Guardian reader.
‘Go right ahead.’ Sighing, he nervously placed himself without doubt in my presence. Analysing him with short glances I noticed grey hair in a small pigs tail sealed with blue ribbon, his eyes even in the darkness illuminated the smoke-filled air with green irrationality. I folded my paper and slid it onto the table as he sipped his steamed mug and stared out on the city like a puppy’s first sight of the great outside. It warmed my belly like his I assumed, must be from the liquid he sipped.
‘So what, may I ask, led someone like you to London?’
‘Nothing.’ He replied without so much as a second look, the city had hypnotised him quite calmly like the ground would always captivate a horse’s hoof. ‘Have a cigar if you want one.’ Throwing them from his blazer jacket he continued to look everywhere but me. It was utterly surreal. I took two from the packet and rolled one his way whilst placing the other in my mouth, one swift motion. ‘I don’t smoke, Rowning.’ The cigar practically fell from my well practised lips as I stared at him, one brow raised. Few knew my surname, only close associates. I made it my informal duty to provide false identities wherever possible. A reputation was not something I gladly took with my Rowning name.
‘I do not smoke.’ He reiterated, now staring at me with those green pools as if I were deaf. I observed the lips he wore, dry and course as if he had suffered a sluggish few days. There were wrinkles that attacked his skin but not in an uncomfortable way, in a way of wisdom. I wanted, for a moment, to test out whether he was wise to me.
‘I heard that. Do I know you?’
‘Possibly.’ He smirked, licking his lips before throwing out his pale, dry hand. A black suit did nothing for him; he just looked like a corpse, a rotting one but there was something in his smile... ‘My name is Crisp. Arthur.’ I studied his complexion for a moment whilst taking a deep drag of the cigar.
‘Rowning, but I suppose you already know that.’
‘I don’t have one.’ I smouldered. No one knew my first name, and I certainly wasn’t going to offer that to this devil with dead eyes. Did he know me from Adam? Or was this a simple raise of knowing the family. He looked old enough to be enriched with my father’s presence. Bar the green eyes there was a catastrophe of grey hair upon his head, dull and raspy like a lonely sailor’s uncut rope.
‘No,’ He laughed, creases forming round his retained youthful eyes. ‘Do you want to come back? With me?’ I consumed him and his offer, glaring at him with an egotistical flair before nodding pricelessly.
I left the paper on the table; he left me to pick up the cigars whilst pulling a taxi off the dully lit street. It must have cost him arm and leg, Soho trains ended early so the taxis could stack the stakes up on prices. We sat, silently in the back of a black cab, the driver ogling not only at the road but the tasteless heat that flew feverishly between us. Crisp tipped double the usual price without a bat and I tried fruitlessly to hide the awe. My reliance’s for funds were sourly paid by dirty deals on East End market and the backstreet run-ins with thieves and vagabonds. Arthur opened his own part of Notting Hill similarly to a circus master’s infectious introduction. His apartment was filled with ancient artefacts, a bar, a beautiful, well, Crisp set of green seats that needed reupholstering on the veranda. He was ubiquitous that evening, he was like lightning on a placid naive village and he filled me with rapture. We pulled, we moaned, we moved and in that monumental stage of bliss I was at harmony with my ego, both agreed in the pleasure of another being, another object of fascination. We were also both agreed that the enchanting urn of quiet would end the following dawn.
Crisp flicked out a cigar from his box as we lay sprawled and perspiring upon his Egyptian cotton sheets, I was observant if nothing else.
‘I thought you didn’t smoke.’
‘I was unfilled then.’ He spoke of me like a piece of a puzzle he’d just slid in to slide out until the void was comfortable in its loneliness. I hated him. He reminded me of me. Crisp flipped his legs off the side of the bed and walked gracefully to the balcony lighting up as soon as he reached the door. ‘Let yourself out when you’re ready, Rowning.’ I gulped, like I had gulped down his wine, gulped down his liquid overdose.
‘Excuse me?’ I stammered. He sighed, a long raspy sigh as if I was not getting that I was the butt of his joke, literally.
‘Keep in mind, Rowning, I have years on you and your bold attempts to suck in even the wealthiest and most educated partners. You may leave when you wish but this was of little consequence to me. I needed a wick to light and you were present, easy.’ I had never in my twenty seven years been deemed easy, bearing in mind fifteen of them had been spent sexually active.