The last instalment of Kool-Aid…
It was last night. I can’t tell you what time, as I didn’t pause to check my phone. The sound so large, so near, it woke me from my sleep.
It was a car. Obviously a car, though the sound wasn’t that of a normal driving scenario. Too ragged, too, too… something. I leapt out of bed, to the window. Drew back the curtains. Normally sleep with them open. I like to watch the sway of the brambles by the moonlight. Helps me get to sleep. Yet it has been too cold of late.
There was nothing in my view but a stream of light, reflecting on the patch of ice on the road.
And then I saw it. And heard it. A car, engine revving as it sped past my view. A squelching of brakes indicated a sudden stop somewhere down the road. The slow turning of wheels. And then the stream of light. Widening as the sound of the engine grew. The car moved past my window at high speed. Out of view. A pause. A turn. Speeding past again.
On and on this went. On and on. Back and forth, back and forth.
Had not seen the car before. It wasn’t a new vehicle. Cripes, don’t ask me what type. As we have already established, am hopeless when it comes to cars. Looked like kind of thing James Bond would drive. Not Daniel Craig. Sean Connery.
Wasn’t really thinking anything as this was all going on. Was too peculiar for thought. Is strange, though; didn’t feel fear. I felt pained if anything.
And then came this bizarre realisation: as the car passed again it hit the patch of ice at speed. Time slowed. Enough that as the back tyres of the car slid sideways, I had a kind of psychic foresight, I suppose, that this is exactly what the drier of the vehicle had been hoping to do all along. Slip on the ice. Crash.
And so it happened. The car spun rapidly; a complete 360 degree turn, facing the way it had come. Yet it continued to slide, and soon was out of sight.
I wasn’t dressed for the cold, but it didn’t matter. Raced to the front door, feet bare, waiting to hear the inevitable screeching of metal as the car hit many of the targets in its path. Yet all I heard was a small, insignificant thump.
I raced outside, the cold stinging my feet as they slapped against the icy ground. The car was resting up ahead in a duvet by the side of the road.
The howling came before I reached the vehicle. Horrible, anguished sobs. I opened the door of he car. Landlord was slumped over the steering wheel, crying hysterically. In between the cries he asked himself over and over: why? Why? Why?
I said his name. Quietly. Did not wish to alarm him. He looked at me with strange, glassy eyes. Straightened in his seat. He extended an arm towards me, like he was a show-girl at a car expo. ‘And here she is! Come to rescue me!’
Very, very drunk.
Yesterday, it appears, was the anniversary of Mrs Landlord’s death.
I could hardly move him.
The incoherent mumbling. The change between laughing and crying, exuberance and sadness: getting Landlord from the car to the gatehouse was one of the most emotionally taxing experiences of my life. Have not really witnessed raw pain like that before.
I hand’t a clue what to do with him once we got inside. Could only think to get him warm. To get myself warm, too. My feet were numb. I got Landlord to the couch, where he slumped forward, his chin resting on his chest in apparent sleep.
I lit the fire, quickly, because I am quite the expert at it by now. I knew this would not be enough to keep Landlord warm, and so collected a blanket from my room. I covered him, and took off his shoes. I arranged the cushions so his head wasn’t at such an awkward angle.
As I turned to head to bed I felt his hand grasp at my leg. I looked back to him. Landlord was awake, his eyes searching.
‘Stay,’ he said.
He clutched at my leg, tight behind my knee. The force made me lose my balance, and I felt into him.
Suddenly, Landlord’s arms were everywhere. All over me, smoothing my arms, my legs, my back. Tracing my collar bone.
‘Stay with me.’
He nuzzled at my neck with warm, whisky breaths.
‘Stay with me.’
Light kisses began. He peppered my skin so lightly, goose pimples erupted, trailing down my spine.
I gave in for a moment. I did. I let his kisses circle my jaw from my ear to my chin. I pretended for a moment we were two normal people. That one of us was not drunk and confused, the other cold and bitter. I returned, if just for a moment, to that girl by the Thames, entwined with a handsome, healthy man. I let Landlord’s kisses reach my bottom lip which he gently plucked at with his own.
And then reality.
A man in pain. A man in mourning. Intoxicated. A man who had only just tried to recreate the accident which had his his wife after taking her from her lover. Her lover, who had also been mine.
‘Stay with me.’
Alarm bells sounded in my head. My body stiffened. Extricating myself from Landlord, I stood up.
‘Stay with me.’
I took a breath, starting down at my sad and lonely neighbour.
That can’t be it? You’re right. There’s more to the Kool-Aid story. Stay tuned to giorgethomas.com to learn how you can read the rest.