Boy and girl.
The boy’s name is David. I once knew a David who lived in the bottom of my street in an old
bungalow sailing over the lawn. At the Christmas party, He said he owned a pet shop three suburbs over to the left because he always wanted to work at the zoo, but there was no money in caring for animals that people can lust over but never love. His face was made of plastic and his smile was wedged into a hole in the plastic. He swung is plastic champagne flute wildly in front of him as if to fend me off as we spoke. When he laughed, which was a lot, each little laugh burst from his stomach like a belch. We talked for a while. I told him about my senior manager’s position at the supermarket and how I spent my evenings drinking port and writing fables and that one day I will be published. He topped up his flute and slowly filled with bubbles until he floated away through the gap between sentences. Later that evening I heard him tell Mrs. Colchester from three doors over that he managed a charter bus company. Then he laughed and laughed. I like the name ‘David,’ but I feel that the boy will be tarred by my impression of the only other David I knew. I know this is completely unfair. California
The girl is Phoebe. Phoebe is my half sister. She is ten and lives in the corners of my mother’s house. When I visit her she hugs me in her arms and drools her big sloppy smile into my cheek. She likes horses and fairies and ignorance and one day she will never grow up. My mother works on business trips to
Asia and Europe and so she can afford the top floor of her house. Malcolm looks after Phoebe. None of us mention the other women dressed in tits and pubes and speaking little clichés that smell like cider, because my mother tells us she is happy and time feels as though it is standing still. The Phoebe living in my ink is twenty three. I think she is happy. America
David meets Phoebe behind the counter. She is marooned between the reefs of women’s clothes on the second floor of the department store. There are racks of identical dresses in every size to fit every character. She wears the black skirt I saw in a junk mail catalogue and a blue creased shirt with a name badge. She is beautiful.
David’s ankle is bandaged. I’m not sure why. He fell while running or he tripped over a staircase or he got out of bed the wrong way. It doesn’t really matter, but he winces with every step. He doubts every step. He hopes there is something worthwhile he is walking towards. He is determined that there will be.
Phoebe speaks first.
“How may I help you?” or “would you like a hand?” or “You alright there, darling?” But which one? She is sweet and beautiful and perfect.
“Hi,” she says.
“Hi,” he says.
But what do they say next? They will fall in love. But how? What do I know of love? I met Margaret when she dressed up in her black skirt and blouse just for me, to impress me, sitting behind her résumé, smiling sweetly. I invited her back for a second date. One day she will love me too.
But this is perfect love. It is inevitable.
“You’re beautiful,” he says.
“How may I help you?” she says.
But love isn’t simple. Love is a series of tragedies where lovers find solace in lovers so that they do not feel so alone. Love is as messy as real life.
“I am looking for a skirt,” says David.
“That’s lovely,” says Phoebe. “Who is it for?”
“My fiancé,” says David.
I don’t think David is a bad man for leaving his fiancé for Phoebe. He is in love with Phoebe, so he no longer loves his fiancé. It would be cruel of him to marry the woman he does not love. Nor is Phoebe a bad woman for loving David.
Phoebe leads him around the racks until they come to a row of black skirts.
“These are my favourites,” she says.
But how do they fall in love? I know that they love each other. I know they will marry and have three children and a dog and a big house with a second floor and they will love each other until they die.
So I tell them.
“She loves you,” I say to David. “She thinks that your thick eyebrows and cleft chin are cute and masculine. She is charmed by your voice, soft and gentle against her skin. She can see through your eyes into your mind and finds passion and compassion and some flawed perfection that speaks to her and soothes her and leaves her feeling as though there is no other reason to live.”
“He loves you too,” I say to Phoebe. “He thinks you are beautiful.”
The couple turn to me, standing between the racks of dresses in every size.
“Who are you?” They ask.
“I don’t know,” I say.
Then the roof falls in and the walls crumple and the floor scrunches into creases and folds and together they are crushed to death.