In the morning she lay beside him still asleep. He stroked her soft white hip while he spooned her gently with his body. He took a talcum powder bottle from her bag and sprinkled it on her skin. It fell like soft snow on her bare hip and the side of her breast. He stood over her and took several photographs with his new SLR camera, he framed her torso carefully. The powder completed the composition perfectly. The morning was bright and still with lemon sunlight landing on her skin and the comfortable duvet beneath that served as a makeshift bed on the white painted floorboards. He watched her for several quiet minutes while she slept.
She had arrived on the train from Belfast the evening before. He met her at Connolly station. He was excited to see her despite all his conflicted feelings, the sight of her never failed to impress him. On this occasion she looked so beautiful in her short red dress and charcoal nylon stockings. Her closely curled fair hair reached the top of her buttocks. She smiled as she approached him from amongst the bustle of people disembarking the train. He always enjoyed moments like these, the feeling of anticipation, metropolitan commotion that filled him with pleasant expectation. Still he held back, he smiled too but pretended aloof indifference as he escorted her back to his studio a short couple of blocks away from the busy train station. It was evening just after twilight, his favorite time of the day in the city, people scurrying through the rush hour going places with determined purpose while he enjoyed the atmosphere. Moments like these promised excitement and interesting things to come.
He and she were officially split up but he took their relationship very seriously. Throughout the previous year they had lived together while attending the same Art School in Belfast. At first it was wonderful, just like a real couple. They would sleep together in the bed that she had made up, it was clean and comfortable. They shopped for groceries together. At night they nestled in each other’s arms kissing and cuddling. In the mornings she would touch his feet with hers under their breakfast table and sometimes she pressed her foot against his crotch and giggled. He felt energized, secure. At last he could work on his art without the distraction of yearning for a girlfriend as beautiful as she. Each day in college he felt good but they pretended not to be together on front of staff and the other students. It was her idea and it bothered him but he went along with her wishes.
Sometimes she would go home to her family on weekends and when she returned her mood would have changed. Eventually she would tell him that she wanted to split up because everyone said to her that they were too serious and she should be concentrating on her college studies instead. He would react by dropping into depression and would set about convincing her that their love was true and no one else could possibly understand that.
One day while in college they went to a student party. She was having fun and he watched eagle eyed whenever other guys laughed and joked with her. When they were alone for a moment she said to him “I don’t love you anymore”. He said “I’m going home”. After a while she went home with him and that evening they said nothing else to each other.
For much of that year their relationship blew hot and cold like this. Money was always tight and this made things difficult for both of them. Her situation was marginally better than his. He had to work part time jobs to keep afloat while she had some support from her father who gave her tuition fees and a small monthly allowance. His father gave him nothing; he didn’t like him very much. He thought he was as an adulterer and an alcoholic with a mean temper, a regular asshole. Her mother was a woman he didn’t like either, two faced he thought, polite to his face but bad mouthing him all the time behind his back. She insisted that he would amount to nothing. His mother had died that year and he missed her.
At the end of the semester there was another student party. Everyone was drunk including him. He was very drunk. He saw her kissing one of his classmates, he was shocked and angry. The following day the guy turned up at their flat. It was embarrassing because they were still in bed from the night before. They were both very hungover and this guy was bright and cheerful. The guy was a good friend of his, so he didn’t blame him because the guy had no way of knowing that they were an item. The guy stayed for a short while nervously waving his straw hat against his perfectly pressed pin striped trousers. The poor guy clearly felt awkward and he did nothing to make him feel any better. The atmosphere was clumsy and when the guy eventually left he got out of bed and started to dress. He said to her “We`re finished”. She started to cry, he hugged her and started to cry too but he still said, “We have to do this, it’s now or never”. She hugged him tighter and said she was sorry but he left.
Afterwards he cried for a week. He consoled himself with some friends who said usual things friends say in these situations like “Your better off” and so on. After a couple of weeks he resolved to continue afresh with his art. He told himself that he had great and serious things to do, it was his destiny. He wanted to hate her but he missed their breakfasts.
Three months passed over the summer break. He got a job selling door to door to save money for the following year in college. He wasn’t earning enough so he had no choice but to drop out of college for a year. He began not to miss her as much but he still thought about all their beautiful nights together.
One night she called to his new house that he rented with three nurses. He had his own room and fancied one of them. When she turned up at his door he was very surprised. He looked at her, she was beautiful and all his feelings for her gushed back. She smiled first and then burst into tears. He melted. He brought her to his room. They made love. She was on top of him, so beautiful but he felt like a looser. He felt weak. Later she said she needed money to show her father that she had tried to earn enough for her college fees. He told her not to worry because he would give her some.
She went back to college in Belfast and he left the house with the three nurses. He was doing better at the door to door sales so he rented a couple of old rooms officially as an art studio but he secretly slept on the floor there as well.
Every few weeks she would come down on the train from Belfast. Every time she came he wanted her more and more, but he hated her too. She told him about her time in college, about guys she slept with and how he should find girls to sleep with on the weekends because it was great fun. He hated her but still wanted her. They would get drunk a lot together. Sometimes they fought while they were drunk but always ended up having sex. He was miserable. When she graduated from college she went to an art school for a post grad in Belgium. Her father financed it. Meanwhile he continued making art in his studio and things were going well. He started having exhibitions and even got good reviews in the press.
Once he visited her in Belgium for a week. While he was there they drank a lot, they also had a few arguments but then had a lot of sex. When he returned to his studio in Dublin she wrote to him almost every day. Often he would receive ten letters at a time. They were decorated with shiny stickers and written on beautiful paper. They told about all the interesting things that she was doing there. He would read them over and over scanning them for evidence of infidelity. They were officially split up but he was very jealous all the same.
A year later she returned to Dublin. She was so thin, skin and bone, he could see her ribs while they made love, and he was shocked. Still he was happy that they were together again. They continued together, getting drunk a lot and arguing but it wasn’t all bad. He started an art business and she went into it with him. They began to make a lot of money but he also began to drink a lot too.
A few years later they were in a restaurant together ordering their fourth bottle of wine. They had argued on and off throughout the evening. It was a recurring theme about how he wouldn’t ever forgive her for sleeping with other men all those years before, even though she had said she was sorry a thousand times. In his heart he knew she was right but now he yearned for other women anyone other than her. She said to him that she even hoped that someday they might even get married. He was genuinely surprised, flattered even but still he thought about being free of her. He wanted a new life and still fantasized about making real art. When he was in a better mood he would promise her that someday he would stop drinking but deep down he knew he never could. Still he did fantasize about a life free from her, a life where he could meet someone that he could have a real love with, a life where he could really express himself, fulfill his destiny but it was all so blurry, so impossible. Fatalism became his comfort.
Their fights got worse, they existed together. Once when they were drunk again she told him that she had an abortion in Belgium and that’s why she was so thin when she came back. She said that if she had told him at the time she surely would have lost him. He felt sad for her but wasn’t sure if he could believe her anymore. One night soon after he came home sober and said “I think we should split up”. She said “I think so too”. Later she said that she never really loved him but he found that hard to believe.
He drank heavily on his own for a few more years until he eventually gave it up. He started a new life one that surprised even him. He heard later that she married some other guy.