I telephones her Thursday. I meets her Friday.
End result – she never wanted to see me again. Ever. Period. Full stop. Ever.
Although I deleted her telephone number on the way home from the sacking (piqued, I was), I rediscovered the darling digits by searching through the ‘sent’ text message folder. The last message (pre-sacking) I had sent her was ‘I’m not mental’.
On ‘phone, Rosalind was initially unsure whether we should meet. She said that I had seemed ‘fragile’. She said she didn’t want to suffer more hours like Wednesday afternoon’s. Rescuing me from the Thames had been traumatic, she said, and wet. She was lucky not to have caught a cold. I told her (again) that I was a perfectly able swimmer and she had jumped in unnecessarily. Rosalind remained convinced that I had tried to kill myself. I explained my actions by claiming that I had dropped my wallet in the Thames after seeing a ghost. The feebleness of this excuse only further solidified her assurance that I was suicidal.
To force her agreement to a meeting, I stated that I would definitely attempt suicide once more if she didn’t agree to a drink.
We met in a pub in Islington. 1900 hours.
North Londoners are a lot more attractive than the Londoners found in the South-East (down my way). Northerners are also a lot wankier looking, but they don’t possess that grey hunch of the shoulder (and neon t-shirt and angled teeth) that you’d find in the Lewisham Burger King. It’s all socio-economic, of course, but I’d rather be a wanker than a grey. I’d like to have money.
Wandering to the pub, I wondered whether I’d live in Islington any time. It would, of course, cost more in rent. I’d be forced to buy trendy haircuts and wear cool glasses too. It was all extra expense. And money was something I purposely didn’t think about. Rent was due to leave my account in three days. I had taken all the money I possessed (£245) from the bank and deposited it in a now bulging edition of Doctor Faustus. The landlord’s direct debit was condemned to bounce.
The Old Queen’s Head was an oppressively trendy boozer on Essex Road. There were punk portraits of the Queen on its walls. And the exorbitant cost of a round of drinks excluded those (grey) bastards of the lower wage spectrum from patronage. As I suffered from an absence of any income, I was forced to drink lemonade.
Rosalind was impressed. She thought I was ‘detoxing’. She laid her dainty hand on (masculine) mine and said it was ‘a good first step.’
God, she looked fine. It was as if she’d swallowed the Sun - her skin radiated blonde goodness. She hadn’t even applied any make-up. Reader - was this because she was completely comfortable in my company or because she couldn’t be bothered to make an effort? I don’t know. I attempted to find out by asking:
But Rosalind only frowned and took a sip from her goldfish-bowled glass of dry white wine.
“Why did you want to meet?” she asked after we’d talked about Islington, the weather, some rubbish book she had been reading (I forget its title) and Sienna Miller.
I found this question hard to answer, as she had only just finished telling of a night out she’d shared with SIENNA MILLER.
“Sienna Miller?” I asked.
“Yeah. Sienna Miller. You know …”
I knew who Sienna Miller was. Teenage memories of her filling of an Oscar ceremony dress were forever burnt into my memory.
“How do you know her?” I asked.
I ensured I kept my voice low, to avoid sounding excited. Rosalind didn’t play along.
“Why did you want to meet, Kay?” she asked.
I manfully dismissed all thoughts of Miller. Rosalind’s question had a straightforward answer. We live by lies, however, so I invented some spurious explanation:
“I was feeling low. I wanted to talk to someone before I jumped into another river. I didn’t know who else to turn to.”
I stirred my lemonade with its neon-pink straw.
Rosalind spoke at me. She told me that I was a handsome sort; that my problems were self-created. She said I was charming and, if things were different, she’d like to ‘get to know me’*. But she also told me that she wasn’t the right person to speak to about suicide. I should consult a professional, she said. Killing myself wasn’t the right option, she said. She had her own problems. Her eyes fuzzed with tears.
“For fuck’s sake,” I said propelling lemonade from my mouth. “I wasn’t trying to kill myself. I was trying to do Julian over.”
Rosalind reacted. With a blink, her eyes cleared of tears and opened fully.
“It was you who threw Julian into the Thames?” she asked, unamused.
I explained everything.
It was hard to fully judge Rosalind’s reaction. Her face remained as blank as a cloud. My monologue continued. I explained that I had always planned to rescue Julian. I explained that I didn’t accept that my behaviour deserved dismissal from Macbeth. I explained that I was doing Julian a favour – that he needed his ego reduced. I thought the Thames might achieve this. I even explained that I had half-hoped that my heroics might spur Julian into giving me my job back. That’s why I was acting weirdly outside the Menier, I said.
There was a pause of five seconds. I sipped from my half-pint of lemonade and waited for Rosalind’s response.
“You’re too much,” she said. I smiled. She smiled. That sounded good. “Don’t ever ring me again, Kay. I never want to see you again.”
Her eyes fuzzed further and my smile mutated into grimace.
I was a liability and she was a professional. Her career demanded that she made a success of Julian’s play. Dating (or even solely being friends with) a walking warzone like Kay Richardson would jeopardise this success. More importantly, Julian had forbidden her from sharing my company. He said that I was a wastrel. She wasn’t entirely sure that he was wrong.
Rosalind claimed that Julian could have died in the Thames. I tried to tell her that I had a tree branch hidden nearby, but she wouldn’t listen.
She continued by conceding that her life had grown more exciting in the few weeks that she had known me. She told me that giving Julian a dildo was one of the funniest (and most offensive) sights she’d ever seen. I was definitely trouble, she said. But, sadly, trouble was exactly what she didn’t need.
“This is my career, my first break. I can’t take risks.”
Her voice broke as if she weren't convinced, but I had no defence to offer.
“I am what I am,” I told her. "Like Popeye."
Rosalind stood from the table. She leant over my lemonade and kissed my right cheek and departed. I remained seated, staring at the space where she had sat.
Bollocks, I thought, and finished the remainder of Rosalind’s white wine in one gulp.
I found a bottle of Ouzo when I returned home. It was an opened gift from a friend who’d holidayed in Greece. It had remained undrunk, despite my love of alcohol, because of its taste. I managed half the bottle before my eyes turned into my skull and I passed out.
I woke in hallway at twenty past four. I had slept on my back, grasping a collection of Raymond Carver stories to my chest.
*Sometimes this means sexual intercourse.