Extract from novel Temporal Sentence


Oh don’t, please don’t make me laugh. Too late. Warm and wet. Noisy on the tiled floor. What does he think? He’s looking horrified. For once in his life at a loss for words. Disbelief mingles with disgust followed by anxiety. Action. Always the action man. He grabs a towel and wipes up the puddle. We go into the bathroom. Orders of course.
“Get your clothes off. Have a shower. Put that in to soak.”
I’m under the shower looking at the dials and knobs. Which one do I turn or press first? They’re different to the ones at home. He’s back again.
“Are you all right? Turn the shower on.”
“I don’t know how to do it.” That look of disbelief again. He’s getting angry. I hope he doesn’t go off in a huff.
“Ouch! That’s too hot! Too cold!” The water like needles on my skin.
“Move out of the way then!” I shuffle down the bath. If only I could do things by myself. He was so cross when I woke him up because I couldn’t get my room card to work. He cheered up when we had gin and tonics on the balcony. If only he hadn’t told me that joke. It’s worst when I laugh. Most of the time the special pants soak up the urine.
He’s fiddling with the dials, testing the water with his wrist.
“Right you are, under you go.” He’s smiling now, master of the situation. The water’s soothing. It pours over my head, coursing down my cheeks like tears. He’s rinsing my dress in the basin. My pretty new dress. The one he chose. It’s tartier and gaudier than I would have chosen but he was so enthusiastic in the hotel shop. I get out of the bath leaving the shower running. The pants are in the suitcase in the bedroom. I walk out of the bathroom and he glares at me from the balcony. The gin bottle is half empty.
“Put some clothes on, Catherine!” He stomps inside, grabs the curtains and pulls them across. It’s too dark to find anything. I don’t know where the light switches are. He presses a switch and the central light comes on. I can’t remember what I’m supposed to be doing.
“What’s the matter?”
I get into bed. The sheets are cool on my damp skin. He’s looking puzzled.
“Not getting dressed for dinner?” While I’ve been in the shower he’s changed his shorts and t-shirt for trousers and a short sleeved shirt. Dinner. That’s what we’re doing next. I get out of bed. He’s looking at me as if I’m mad. I wish he wouldn’t drink so much. He gets so irritable. One minute he’s charming as anything and then two drinks later he’s cross as two sticks. Why two sticks? Why would sticks be cross? What am I supposed to be doing? He’s wrenching open cupboard doors now, rifling through my clothes.
“Put this on.” It’s my pink dress. The one that’s slightly too tight. I wonder if the pants will show underneath? Pants. I need to find my special pants. I go back into the bathroom which is hot and steamy. The floor is slippery. I pick up my pants. They’re heavy. He comes into the bathroom.
“Not those ones, Catherine. They’re sopping. Wait, I’ll get a new pair.” I hear ripping of plastic and he’s back with a fresh pair. I put one leg in and hold on to the basin to stop myself from falling down. The pants fall on the floor and get a bit wet. I pull them on, hoping he hasn’t noticed. Back in the bedroom I put on my bra and step into my dress.
“Let me zip you up. Oof! Getting a bit podgy aren’t we?”The zip catches my skin as he forces it up. I can feel the material straining against my tummy. I look in the full length mirror. I am getting fat. The dress used to skim my bust and hips, now it wrinkles over them. He’s rummaging in the cupboard again.
“Here—your pins always look great in these.” I sit on the bed and strap on my silver high heeled sandals. They do make a difference. He’s looking at his watch. Oh, if only I could just take my time. It’s so hard to do things quickly.
“Ready!”
“You’re joking! You’re going out in public like that?” I don’t understand. What now?
“You need to dry your hair, put some makeup on.”
By the time we get down to dinner he’s cross that we’re late for our booking and I’m exhausted.
There’s music blasting out from all of the bars. Crowds of youngsters thronging the streets. They make me feel old. Must make Geoffrey feel ancient. I’m looking at bikinis in one of the wee shops on the strip. I hold up a turquoise blue one to show Geoffrey but he’s vanished. My stomach twists in knots. He was there just a moment ago. Chatting to the store owner. Trying to work out if he should buy gin in the shop or at Duty Free on the way home. Tapping away on his calculator. How the fuck am I going to get back to the hotel on my own? Meeting place. The bench beside the church. He said we were to rendezvous there if we ever got separated. Take a deep breath. Fuck, I can’t breathe properly. Dizzy. Sick. Oh, hell, mustn’t be sick in public. Better get outside the shop. Why are they shouting? Get off me!
God that was scary. I didn’t realise I was still holding the bikini…so many questions. They’re all gesticulating and shouting in Greek.
“She’s not drunk, she’s ill. Give her some space. Bring her a chair.” Thank God, it’s Geoffrey.
“Am I glad to see you. Where the hell did you get to? I’ve been up and down the bloody street. You mustn’t just take off like that Catherine. The place is full of dodgy people at this time of night.”
Geoffrey takes me by the arm and shoves some Euros at the shopkeeper. We walk back to the hotel.
“Come on, I need a brandy after all that.”
“Can I have a cup of tea?”
Geoffrey orders at the bar and I settle into one of the comfy sofas. My hair feels all sweaty but my stomach’s beginning to settle.
“Don’t ever do that to me again, Catherine, my heart won’t stand it. Look we’d better just stay round the hotel for a few days. Take it really easy. Why did you go off without me?”
“Me? But it was you who went off. I turned round and you’d disappeared.” Why’s he looking at me like that? Oh, hell, he’s gone for another brandy. Now he’ll snore all night and I won’t get a wink of sleep. I’d better go up now, see if I can get to sleep before him.
It’s this floor I think. Yeah. There’s the pot plant. Um, number 209. Bugger, key’s not working again. Oh.
“What are you doing in my room? It’s your room? Oh, sorry.” Weird.
“Catherine!” He’s looking really cross. Must be that second brandy.
“Ow! Let go!”
“What are you playing at? I was only up at the bar. Don’t keep running off like that. You must have got out at the wrong floor, you sausage. We’re on the next one.”
I was right about the snoring. It’s lovely out here on the balcony. Look at those stars. The pool is so peaceful with nobody in it. All floodlit. Bet it would be refreshing. Pity Geoffrey made me give back that bikini. Just the same colour as the water. Suppose I’d better get the ear plugs out and try and get some sleep. He looks much younger when he’s asleep. All soft and relaxed. I mustn’t worry him. I’ll be fine after a holiday. We both need a good rest.

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4 thoughts on “Extract from novel Temporal Sentence

  1. Love this. It drips with the BS Johnson influence, which is a very good thing. Have you read any Ann Quin? She was a lady BS Johnson, also before her time, also a suicide.

  2. I have no idea who BS Johnson is, but I adore this!

    The opening paragraphs are so full of tension. I take it she’s suffering from dementia or bipolar or similar? Or perhaps Alzheimers 😀

  3. thanks, Mark and Chris. This is me trying to imagine what goes on in the head of someone with dementia gathering inside her brain. It is VERY difficult. I will investigate Ann Quinn.

  4. Oops. I should have known! I know your PhD topic after all 😀

    Well I think you got into the head so well. Disorienting (in a good way) and disconcerting for the reader.

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