Sexy Reads – Katie in Love
After Katie Boyd meets the young volunteer doctor Tom Bridge at a party, the sex is intimate, passionate, life-changing. When Katie in the coming weeks feels as if she is falling in love, she is not certain that it is what she wants. Her reflections on life, friends, education, her tastes in music and literature, is a search for who she is and where life might lead if she follows him to Sri Lanka where Tom runs an orphanage.
If you add the shadow of death to a moment of passion you are in that instant free of all normal ties, your mind grows still and your body enters a state of non-being. Pleasure and pain, sex and death, yin and yang are mismatched twins, two fish each containing the eye of its opposite.
I wrote that sentence before my morning appointment with the doctor. It means nothing in isolation but I awoke with those words in my head and committed them to paper – the keyboard, the monitor. The winter is cold, bleak, colourless. There are no clouds, no sky, just a grey blanket like a shroud lowering over London.
The little finger on my right hand has a fracture. It is painful. The doctor spent a long time with my hand like a song bird nursed in his palm, his shirt cuff clipped with an onyx link, the gold face of his watch gripped by the strap nesting in a hairy wrist. Broken fingers are oddly intimate.
‘You do look pale,’ he said.
‘Yes, I noticed in the mirror.’
‘Are you sick?’
He squeezed my good fingers. ‘Do you want to tell me?’
I sighed. ‘I write, you know, books…’
‘Ah,’ he replied.
He nodded wisely. He understood. Writing is a sickness, an ailment, an addiction. When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about what I have written that day and, when I do go to bed, I lie sleeplessly thinking about what I am going to write when I get up and start again the following day.
I am a night person, an insomniac, the girl at the bar who looks like she should have gone home and maybe has no home to go to. A false image I cultivate. I am thin, theoretically attractive, in an abstract sort of way. I have hollow cheeks, high cheekbones, long legs, perhaps too thin, lips dry with cold, clotted with gloss. I have stopped being promiscuous and compose my work in the dead hours between two and six while London sleeps and the night planes follow the Thames into Heathrow carrying businessmen and migrants hoping to make it in the greatest city on earth. When you are bored with London you are bored with life. That’s what it says along the side of the number 19 bus Mother takes to Peter Jones.
When I do sleep, I sleep badly, in spite of the magnets under my mattress that are supposed to orientate my body north to south so the lay lines and dragon lines pass through the invisible portal at the top of my skull and down to my feet, my best feature, I would soon be told.
I have worked as a tutor, in marketing, and for a women’s magazine, which involved writing captions for interiors and combat with photographers fixated on depth and apertures. Regular working doesn’t suit me, it interferes with writing, and now I earn my rent as a waitress at corporate events where the high priests of the City banks congratulate themselves by drinking buckets of champagne and falling over. The change of job meant a dip in my salary, so I moved, from West London, where rents cost the earth, to East London, where the cost is broken streets, a fall and a fractured finger.
It was the finger that saved my life.
The story begins on New Year’s Eve. Having dumped Julian, an actor with floppy hair and lots of good teeth, I went with a girlfriend I don’t particularly like to a tartan-themed charity ball in a kilt too short and my little finger bound to its partner in blue tape. There is something oddly poignant going to a ball with another woman and she must have felt the same way, abandoning me, as she did, for the first hairy-kneed faux Scotsman to say och aye the noo over the long candle-lit table.
After dinner consisting of haggis, which I didn’t eat, I danced alone on the fringes of the swaying crowd like a stray swallow chasing the migrating flock.
A man appeared.
They usually do.
Men in the 21st century are no longer hunter gatherers. They are game players, artists, sculptors. They see me across the rainbow of fiesta lights as a blank canvas requiring their signature in a gooey splash of scribbled jism; a column of alabaster that needs to be reshaped, their sculpting hands eager to rid me of my clothes and go to work with their carving tools. I could be perfect, just perfect, if I only gave them the chance. The man, this shimmying shaking dancer, is wearing tartan socks, plus fours, like a lost golfer, and a Tam o’Shanter that gives him the earthy, intense look of Che Guevara.
‘I am dancing?’ I answered.
‘That’s not dancing, it’s just moving about.’
‘I have a bad finger.’
‘Not a very good kilt either.’
I liked him immediately. I can’t stand men who say nice things as they push back their floppy hair.
‘That’s very generous of you, seeing how the bar’s free.’
We drank whisky.
‘Twelve year old malt,’ he said.
‘You know about those things?’
‘No. I’m just flirting with you.’
‘Honesty can be very unattractive,’ I said and he shrugged.
‘I know, it’s so hard to do the right thing.’
‘Or know what it is.’
He tossed back his drink. So did I. He refilled the glasses. My eyes prickled as I swallowed the fiery fluid and the band silenced before a drum roll. A man leapt on the stage, the skirts of his kilt like a sail, and announced in a Highland accent…
‘Twenty seconds…’ He looked at his watch, paused, then counted backwards: ‘Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one…’
And we kissed.
Continue reading Katie in Love by Chloe Thurlow at:
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Image courtesy of Chloe Thurlow
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