Why do these kind of a story always start in a café? A guy, two girls, a two hundred year old cat spirit – you know the drill. Maybe it’s because the writers of these stories are lonely and a café is the kind of social setting you want to be in if you’re lonely. Because of this it can also be a despairing place, reflecting your loneliness back at you like a black mirror. Anyway, this particular instance, I can’t remember whether it was a Thursday or a Friday but I do remember that it was raining outside, that kind of weather that, when it comes in Spring it makes your unconscious do a sort-of double-take and for a couple of seconds there you could swear it was a Thursday or Friday in November in 1942.
Maybe for a second it was. Maybe that’s how all this started…
This particular café had huge old oak tables which, if you were on your own reading a book or whatever you were doing and a young family came in and the place was filled with wet bags and sodden, muddy dogs because it had been raining all day then this family would just be looking at you like you are the worst person in the world and how dare you take up an entire table like that. Just you and you’re book on Scandinavian fairytales, you utter shit. Except this time there was no family and no dogs. There was only Chloé.
Chloé appeared in front of me like an apparition or the punchline to a very inappropriate joke. One moment I was sitting there, reading a second- (third, fourth?) hand book of Scandinavian folktales and then suddenly I was aware of a mist of colour in the vague blurry area above my book. Then the words;
“Don’t try to save me. If that’s what you think this is….”
I’d only met Chloé once before and though she made a hell of an impression she also scared the shit out of me. I’ve always been painfully attracted to broken girls – whether physically or mentally damaged – like a combination of perverted fantasy, like a Freudian thing, and a deep-seated need to protect and to save them like a Christian bird-rescuer or something. Obviously, this has resulted in more than my fair amount of whack-jobs but the jury was still out in this case. The first time we had met had been at a rooftop birthday party for our friend Chris who we both knew. It was one of those situations where you are just stuck with someone and you know you have nothing interesting to say but you have to say something and its like in The Simpsons where Homer is talking to his brain, telling it to work properly…. I was like that, but more out of awkward boredom than anything else.
“So, um, what do you do?” that kind of shit. Seems like everyone in this town is some kind of artist. Its makes you wonder how the whole fucking place stays upright. All these hippies living off benefits or the bank of Mummy and Daddy, like you’ve never wondered who cleans the toilets around here and who the hell makes all the falafels and Frapa-mapa-cino’s or whatever the shit everyone drinks around here? Someone’s got to do that shit.
Anyway, she wasn’t an artist. In fact she didn’t even answer my question. She didn’t give me shit, and as I stumbled around my own tongue for a good five minutes filling the blank air like an idiot she stared at me like a blank canvas, her white skin and blond curls gleaming off of the rooftop like marble under moonlight until Zoe and Chris came over and saved me. Obviously they’d been watching from afar and could stand no more of this self-inflicted torture. Even as Zoe spoke to her, her expression didn’t change, it was more that Zoe seemed more at ease with her than I did. “They go back a long way, to Uni.” Chris said about her later when I asked, adding, “She said she’s tired of life but I think it’s more that she’s tired of people not keeping up with her.”
You can’t get a Goddam drink in this city after 10 o’clock and sometimes that fact can be the worst thing to ever happen to your in your tiny little world. Sometimes I just walk all night and go up to the bridge and look out at the cars below until I’m too tired to do that anymore and then I go home and it takes another couple of hours until I’m asleep, Summer is the worst for this, when it doesn’t get dark until midnight and by 3am the sun is up again. As soon as the sun is up, that’s it for me. I’m awake. Well anyway, somehow me and Chloé got elected to go on a beer run. There’s only one place in t he hole city that sells booze at 2 o’clock in the morning and it’s at least a half hour walk from Chis and Zoe’s place so we set off through the park where, in the Summer the kids shoot off laughing gas canisters
So you see I was pretty surprised when she called me up out of the blue one day, saying she got my number off of Zoe and would I like to meet up. Not would I mind if we met up, but would I like to meet up…? It was like I was talking to a different person. I didn’t want to be rude of course so I said yes and did she know this little café in the junky/arty/party part of town and yes, of course she did so we arrange to meet a couple of days later then a couple of days later there she was, in my peripheral vision saying shit like…
“Don’t try to save me. If that’s what you think this is….”
She said that before she goes on a date she always tells the guy she’s bipolar as usually that kind of a statement clears the deck pretty quick. In fact she really only does the whole internet dating thing to stay connected to reality. She says that if she spends too much time at home alone she ends up doing noting but eating Cheese Toasties and playing Mario-Kart alone. She says she could beat the shit out of me on Mario-Kart but it would just make her feel sadder, to know that she came out here to make a friend.
She had told me she was bipolar but rather than scare me off it had just made me more curios. I told her I didn’t know much about computer games and I wasn’t here to save her. I told her that I didn’t think this was going very well and she looked at her hands and didn’t say a word but I told her that it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“Tell me a story from your childhood. Tell me about the first girl you ever loved.”
So I told her about Bunny…