After dinner you invite me back to your apartment for coffee. You live on the top floor. It will be too hot in the summer, but the view over the city would make up for it, and from your balcony we’d be able to see the river. The lift is working but we take the stairs, and I don’t ask why. You take them two at a time, telling me again that you like what I’ve done with my hair.
When you go into the kitchen I take my chance to read you:
- The bookcase is in the corner. It’s not prominent, but it’s not hidden, either (and there’s a pleasing absence of show-off hardbacks and poetry on the coffee table, just ringed cup-stains on the wood).
- There’s a half-hearted attempt at organization, partly by genre and partly in alphabetical order. The system has broken down because
- The shelves are crowded. The first row on each one is arranged neatly, but after that they’re piled on top in crooked lines, like a walled garden that’s been left to grow over.
- There’s a small selection of non-fiction. Some travel guides (Paris, Switzerland, Romania), along with some biographies (Mandela, Churchill, Nixon). But mostly it’s
- Fiction. There are some old classics (Dickens, Austen, Hardy), along with more modern ones. A new copy of Ulysses, apparently unread. The Dan Brown in the corner is disconcerting, but at least it’s been bought from a charity shop, and I let you off entirely when I see a line of Virginia Woolf, all cracked spines and folded pages.
The coffee is black, with no offer of milk or sugar. It’s too hot to drink, but I sip it anyway. You join me on the couch, and when you put your hand on my leg, I don’t pull it away.
Anton Rose lives in Durham, U.K. He writes fiction and poetry while trying to finish a PhD in Theology. His work has appeared in a number of print and online journals, including Structo, The Alarmist, and Jersey Devil Press.