Chapter Thirty Eight: Spirit Of ‘76

 I hate him; I hate him so much I want to hit him, to punch him over and over again until I can make him look as bad as he makes me feel, I want the blood to fall like tears, the body to buckle and fall to the floor, his heart to break… I am scaring myself now; I don’t know where this latent violence comes from, but I don’t like how it makes me feel, anymore than I like feeling miserable.

  Our argument started, as it always seems to do, in my bedroom yesterday morning; it was about the usual thing, him wanting sex and me not wanting it.  One of these days he won’t even argue with me, he’ll just leave when I say I won’t; I dread it happening, but I know it will.  Maybe I should leave first, but I can’t bring myself to do that, anymore than I can force myself to give him what he wants.

  The sheets clung damply to me in the glare of the morning sun, and heat poured into the room from my tiny window, which was rammed open as far as it would go.  The room was illuminated with a pale green glow, the glaring sunlight tempered by my curtains.  I felt sticky and irritable as I peeled back the upper sheet and sat up.  Next to me, Fergus stirred and rolled over into my space as I stood up.  I could feel his eyes on my back as I walked over to the chair where I had left my clothes.

  “We have to talk about this,” he said in quiet but determined tones as I pulled on my mini skirt and secured the zip and fastener, “if we’re ever going to move forward, you have to tell me…” He broke off, and sighed a little impatiently, “There are pills for sexual dysfunction.”

  I froze and, unable to believe what I had just heard, turned to face him “Is that what you think I am?” I asked slowly, “frigid?”

  He lay on his side, one arm propping up his head as his eyes remained fixed on me “You said it, not me” he said in calm, even tones.

  I pulled on my crop top and tried to think of something else.  I didn’t trust myself to speak until I felt as though my feelings were more under control.

  But he wasn’t going to let me off that easily, “If you won’t discuss anything with me, then how am I supposed to…”

  “THERE ISN’T ANYTHING TO DISCUSS!”

  “YES THERE IS!”

  He was up now, and walking towards me as I pulled on my shoes.  “Pills,” I muttered to myself, “there are pills for bloody everything these days…” I felt him lay a hand on my shoulder, and then release me when I tensed.

   “Well, what am I supposed to think?” he demanded as I turned to face him, “that you don’t trust me, that you don’t love me, that you’re seeing someone else? That you were raped? Just what the hell am I supposed to think?”

  I could feel all the anger and tension, the fear and pain, mostly the pain, welling up inside as I said in an increasingly shaky voice, “Supposing I did what you wanted, supposing I took these pills,” I spat the word, “Supposing they made me more willing, more pliant and passive… is that what you want? Because it sure as hell wouldn’t be me!”

  I saw the frustration in his eyes as he shouted, “You need to deal with whatever’s making you run!”

  I really lost it then, anything that I’d been holding back rushed to the surface as I yelled, “The only person who’s going to make me run is you, because you keep pressuring me!”

  “You’re shutting me out!”

  “Sometimes I have to!”

  For a few moments, there was no sound in the room, in the flat.

  “Trust me,” he murmured as he slipped his arms around my waist, “trust me not to hurt you.”  His eyes were very close to mine, and I sensed the pleading that his voice was trying to hide.

  “You know I can’t”

  He released me, and I walked over to the door, “I need to know why!” he called after me as I confirmed to his expectations by picking up my things and running away.

  Tonight, as the temperature rose towards thirty-eight degrees, we played our gig at The Gates.  The venue was packed full of screaming punters in t-shirts dyed black with sweat and water, their hair dripped that same salty liquid into their feverish eyes, and it trickled down onto their eyeliner, leaving greyish streaks under their eyes.  Up on stage, I could feel my jeans and t-shirt begin to cling, damply, to me before the first song was over.  Fliss and Flora, both in strappy mini dresses, fared little better under the unforgiving lights, and Katy had made the mistake of wearing black, and was suffering accordingly.

  A still pensive Fliss left most of the between songs banter to Katy and Flora, yet managed a little smile when a voice in the crowd yelled, “WE STILL LOVE YOU, FLISS!”

  I truanted from our post gig question and answer session with the press and fanzine writers in order to locate my mum before she went home.  In the hazy darkness, I found her by the bar, ordering the last drink of the evening.  “I’m going to have to start packing up in a minute,” I explained as I refused the drink that she was offering me, “but I wanted to give you this.”  I handed her the CD, ‘My Heart Is In Your Hands’ is out at last.

  She turned the CD over in her hands, “’Ode To A’,” she read, “I wonder who that could be about?”

  I shrugged, and stepped aside to let Angel and the Razorblades past, “The fans like it, it’s been a download on our website for a while…”

  “Oh!” realisation dawned in her eyes, “Fliss’ Doris Day tribute.”

  “That’s the one.”

  “How is Fliss? I’ve been very worried about her.”

  I told Fliss of my mother’s concern for her on the tour bus later.  She rolled her big blue eyes heavenwards, and sighed heavily, “It’s bad enough that my mum worries about me, without your mum worrying about me as well.”

  “I thought you’d calmed your mum down.”

  “My dad calmed her down,” she sighed as she curled up on her seat.  Her little bare feet were tucked neatly under the blue skirt of her dress, and her gold hair lay damply against her face as she rested her head against the window, “she’s still secretly hoping that I’ll find myself a nice young man one day though, I haven’t the heart to disillusion her, and she wouldn’t believe me anyway.”

  “Nat said mothers always take it worse.”

  “She was right.”

  She seemed sleepy and fractious, so after a little while I left her to her thoughts and made my way along the bus to where Katy was playing cards with our support group, The Brave Skuds, as Sigur Ros played quietly on the stereo.

  Leeds passed in a blur, but Glasgow lingered in the mind as we drove out of town.  Maybe it was being in Scotland that did it, or maybe it was Fliss’ face when she talked about Adrienne.  I saw so much love in her eyes, so much trust, and sadness… they don’t have another chance, but Fergus and I do.  Or do we? I don’t know.  All I know is that I can’t stop thinking about him.  Everyone else has gone to sleep as I write this, leaving me to write this by the light of my torch as I realise I miss him; I miss him so much it hurts, hurts more than everything he said that morning three, four, five days ago; I need to talk to him, but it’s too late to do so tonight.  Even if I borrowed a mobile from Fliss, Jenny, Katy, or Flora, he would be in bed and be asleep; I need to talk to him in private, but I can’t find a way to do so.

(Leicester)

  Somewhere on the way to Leicester, at another service station, I found a phone and called him.  Thank God that the phone was on the wall by the women’s wash room, and thank God so many people these days have mobile phones: Both of these facts served to provide me with the privacy I needed.  My hands shook with nerves as I slid forty pence into the cold stainless steel slot, they didn’t relax when I dialled his number, and when he picked up the phone, I knew that I had to talk quickly before the money ran out.  “I love you,” I blurted, “even if you think I don’t, I do, but I’m not ready for what you want, I’m so scared you’re going to leave me for someone else, someone who’ll give you what I can’t, and…” my heart was thudding, hard and fast, in my chest, and I could barely breathe as the adrenalin surged through me like fire, “I don’t know what else to say to you, but please don’t leave me, I…”

  “I wasn’t going to leave you,” he said quietly, “how could you think that?”

  “Sometimes it feels like you’re just putting up with me until someone better comes along, like you want me to be someone I can’t be.”

  “No,” he seemed hurt, “it’s never been like that; it never will be like that… I wanted you to stop being scared, that doesn’t mean I don’t love you – I do – and I’ll wait for you; I waited before, you aren’t ready, so I’ll…” the credit was running out.  10p, 0p… “Wait” the pips were going as I tried to think of something to say, but the phone went dead before I was able to.  I hung up the receiver and rested my head against the indifferent steel of the machine; I felt exhausted.

  The phone rang, startling me out of my stillness.  I warily picked up the receiver.  “Maggie?” his voice was nervous and concerned.

  I breathed out, “Yes”

  “Oh thank God,” relief overwhelmed his voice, “I thought you’d gone.”

  “I ran out of money.”

  “I should have called you back straight away.”  It was strange hearing his voice on the phone; it made him seem so much nearer and yet so far away.

  “I suppose I didn’t give you much of a chance…”

  “No,” he sighed, “I’m sorry, Maggie; I knew I was pressuring you, and I knew it was wrong, but… I hate it when you shut me out, and I wanted to be with you so badly… What’s the matter?” He was surprised, “Why are you crying? Please, don’t cry.”

  But I was crying because I was happy.

  (Stockport, again)

He was waiting for me when Fliss and I arrived home.  Our tea was cooking, and he’d even remembered to pick Marmalade up from mum’s house.  “Not that she thanked me for it.”  He commented as he showed us a series of scratches on his hands and arms.

  Fliss surveyed his injuries briefly and dismissively, “She doesn’t like the cat carrier,” she said.

  “’Doesn’t like’ is putting it mildly,” he muttered as he nursed his hand.

  Fliss picked up Marmalade and bore her off to the kitchen for a bowl of Felix.

  Fergus and I faced each other, feeling awkward and shy now that Fliss had left the room.  “Well,” I began, at last.

  He walked over to me and embraced me, holding me tight as he admitted, “You scared me.”

  “I’m sorry” I kissed him.

  He returned the kiss.

  We didn’t go out that night; he didn’t want me to, and I wanted to be with him more.  When it was time for bed, he stayed over, and we left for work together the next morning.

  That day was a Friday, and I had planned to go to Homoelectric with Nat and Dylan.  Fergus agreed, reluctantly, to come too.  I had hoped that he would resent my going less if he came too, but I knew within the first five minutes of our hitting the dance floor that he wasn’t enjoying himself.  Neither, for that matter, was Nat; I watched her and Dylan as they danced to a soully house record that I didn’t know, and as the little silhouettes of light moved to light up their features, I could see him reaching for her, and her moving away from him.  Before the record had finished, she had made her way through the crowd to the bar, and was drinking alone as he watched, forlornly, from the dance floor.  Around twelve, Fergus made his way across the heaving dance floor to where Nat and I were dancing to Peaches, and told me that he was going home.  I nodded, and he kissed me fiercely and lingeringly, and then left.  When I arrived home at three, he was asleep.

  On the Saturday, Dylan had tickets for Mr Scruff: I didn’t even try to talk Fergus into coming with me.

  He woke me up on Sunday morning as he got up to have breakfast “Are you going out tonight?” He asked as I blinked sleepily at him.

  “No,” I stroked his arm with my thumb; “I wanted to spend today with you.”

  “Well,” he stood up, and I could sense his bitterness as he said, “there isn’t much doing on a Sunday I suppose.”

  “Don’t be like that,” I took his hand as he turned away, “If you stay, I promise I won’t go out next week at all, we can be together all week.”

  “And the week after?” he asked, hopefully.

  I smiled cautiously, “Let’s just concentrate on this week first.”

  He hesitated.

  “Please?”

  “O.K”

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