5.5.2015 Journal Prompt

Photo by William Eggleston
Photo by William Eggleston

May 5, 2015: She was always there.

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One thought on “5.5.2015 Journal Prompt

  1. I knew her before. Years before. When we was in school and the world was small as a street then. I helped her sometimes with her reading. She said the letters on the page was like worms in a fisherman’s bucket and they was always wiggling so as she could never understand ’em. Her breath smelled of Polo mints and her skin smelled of lemons from the soap she used.

    She was always pretty and the teacher, Mrs Keeble, said as how that would be her saving grace. We none of us knew what that meant. ‘Grace’ was a prayer our mam said at table when da was not home for tea and we had to be thankful for all that we had.

    Her name was Penny. It really was. And for the price of a penny, shiny or dull, she’d let you kiss her at the back of the school; it was thruppence if you kissed her with tongues. When she was further up the school you could feel her tits for sixpence. With the money she made there was bread and milk and eggs on her mam’s table, or soap she bought, or sweeties.

    Penny gave me kisses for free and I felt as rich as a king. And we held hands under the desk in class and holding her hand was like keeping her safe. She said if I let go then she’d fall into ignorance – which was something she’ d heard from Mrs Keeble and was something we also did not understand. Now Penny’s fallen different.

    I see her some nights and she’s always standing in the same place: under the streetlight at the end of our road. She’s grown and you have to look to see the pretty that she is. It’s still there, but it’s just not so obvious. Behind her is the boot-black dark of the gasworks, and the night creaks and groans like it’s alive. And penny deals in fivers and tenners these days, folded soft as cloth – no small change if you please. And more than kisses she sells. Men in cars stop and they talk for a bit and if she has a mind to she gets in the front passenger seat and they drive off. The space she leaves behind seems bare and as though there is something missing.

    Sometimes there’s men so near still to being boys that they are awkward in limb and look, and their words wriggle in their mouths – like the worms in that fisherman’s bucket way back. Penny helps ’em like I used to help her. She makes all their words into some sort of sense. And she takes their hand and she walks ’em back to her one-room apartment, and they don’t never put the light on, nor do they undress, but they fuck fast as whippets and she charges ’em less if it’s their first time.

    And some nights she’s there on the street and no one comes. I see her then, on my way home from work on the night shift. I stop and I ask her how she is. Her face lights up, I swear it does. She says it’s nice to see me and we hold hands like we’re back in school, there under the streetlight where everyone can see. And she still smells of Polo mints and lemon scented soap. And she holds my hand tight as never letting go and she kisses me for no charge and asks after my wife and the two kids I’ve got.

    Holding her hands and taking her kisses, I don’t make no effort to hide what we do. My wife understands. She knows what we are to each other and it ain’t anything to interfere with what a marriage is. And I slip a couple of twenty pound notes into Penny’s coat pocket when she’s not really paying attention and it’s like I’m giving something back for all those kisses in school and it’s like I am helping as I always have done; and I take that good feeling home with me, and my wife strokes my cheek and she says ‘kindness’ is my middle name and that’s why she loves me, and that’s a feeling that’s worth paying for.

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