We both knew it was never going to last. We just didn’t know when it was going to end. It’d been two years already.
“How much longer do you think we’ll be together?” she said.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Six more months? Another year?”
“Will we carry on being friends?”
“You say that,” she said, “but we wouldn’t move in the same circles. You don’t like my friends, and I don’t like Malcolm.”
“What’s wrong with Malcolm?”
“Ask Malcolm – he’ll tell you himself. He’s probably worked out a whole list.”
“That’s what’s good about him. He’s aware of his own shortcomings. Try asking one of your mates what’s wrong with them – they’ll draw a blank. That’s their problem. Too arrogant.”
“Exactly. We’ll never be friends, Franklin. You’ll just have to enjoy me while I last.”
She smiled and cocked her head to one side in that kittenish way of hers.
We kissed until neither of us could breathe.
When we talked about love, it was usually a joke.
We were standing in the queue for the Mud Club one time, having this little exchange of insults and compliments, mainly to provide some entertainment for the other members of the queue.
“I love you,” said Kez. “I love you like a slug loves salt.”
“I love you like a target loves a bullet,” I said.
“I love you like a seagull loves an oil slick.”
“I love you like Richard Dawkins loves God.”
“I love you like a diabetic loves chocolate.”
I turned cockily to the lad standing next to me, who was listening to our conversation with uneasy amusement. “Where’s our Valentines, eh?” I said. “This is the sort of thing the greetings card industry’s really missing out on.”
Kez glared, unaccountably furious that I’d involved a total stranger in the conversation.
“I hate you,” she said. “I actually fucking hate you, Franklin.”
“Really?” I said.
“No,” she said. “Not really.”
“What’s keeping us together?” she said.
“We love each other,” I said.
“Fuck off,” she said.
“I’m being serious.”
“So am I. We both know this is going to end. We’ve always said that.”
“I know,” I said, “I agree. Can you really imagine the two of us getting married and having kids?”
“Can’t think of anything worse.”
“Exactly,” she said. “So why don’t we just call it a day?”
“Because I don’t want to.”
“Neither do I.”
She took her top off, somehow managing to remove her bra in the same swift movement.
I was sitting up in bed. She sat on top of me.
“Why are you with me?” she said.
“You’re sexy,” I said.
“So, just for the sex then?”
“Don’t take this the wrong way, babe, but it’s not about the sex at all.”
Later she said, “Who do you think you’ll settle down with? If it isn’t me?”
“No one,” I said. “I’m going to die alone.”
“Don’t say that.”
“It’s true. It’s a personal choice. I like being on my own. It’ll be days before anyone finds me. Eventually the neighbours will report the smell to the council. They’ll send a couple of guys round. I’ll be lying there decaying on the couch, infested with maggots, flies buzzing off me. There’ll be papers scattered across the floor – all my unpublished fiction. I’ll be like Orwell – I’ll save the best stuff until just before I die. I’ll have my whole life to practise. I’ll finally have struck upon pure unfiltered truth. The guys who find me will read it and they’ll forget the horrific circumstances in which the papers were discovered. They’ll say, “What shall we do? Surely other people should read this stuff.” That’s when the success will start. As the cliche goes, writers are always more interesting when they’re dead. Just like we’re much more interesting when we’re alone.”
Kez didn’t say anything. There was no reason to reassure me that things could work out better.
“Who are you going to settle down with?” I said.
“I’ll marry a rich man,” she said. “I won’t love him and I won’t be happy. For a short amount of time I’ll be a respectable figure on the art scene. Then one day, I’ll run out of ideas. I won’t be able to paint or create anything. My mind will be completely blank. I’ll be twenty-seven years old. My final piece of art will be me, standing naked in a white room. I’ll be exhibited at the Tate Modern for six weeks. After that I’ll be put up for auction. The highest bidder will be a Russian billionaire who’s three times my age. He’ll outlive me.”
“Seems pretty tragic,” I said.
“Is there anything we can do to prevent it?” she said.
“No. I don’t suppose there is.”