I met Johnny in a pub in London, he had a leather jacket on and light blue eyes with a darker ring round the iris. He asked me for my number in front of my friends, which was a bit brazen. I gave it to him to him as I was lonely and he reminded me of someone I used to fancy years ago, who never deigned to talk to me.
He came down to Brighton to see me on a wintry Saturday night, on his motorbike. When I answered the door, he kissed me straight away, and I could smell the tarmac on him. He said it had only taken him forty minutes to get there, he’d broken the speed limit all the way.
He made it clear his motorbike was strictly for one, no pillion riders allowed, they unbalanced the wheels, made it difficult to turn corners. I ride a push bike and have a fear of motorways, so the lack of a seat for me on his motorbike wasn’t something I cared about.
I offered him soup when he arrived, but he wanted to go straight out and get a drink. I missed out on dinner, which was an error.
In my local pub he talked for twenty minutes about cocaine, saying how disgusting it was that women filled their stomachs with it and flew over from the Caribbean, often getting caught at customs and spending years in prison. Buying the next round, he said to the barman ‘Two pints of lager please mate, and do you know anywhere I can score?’ The barman shook his head, it was obvious he wasn’t used to that kind of question.
‘Why did you ask him that, he’s only young. And what about the ethics?’ I said when Johnny sat down.
‘I thought he looked high, his pupils are massive, like he’s on something.’
‘He just looks tired to me,’ I said.
He had a son, who was twelve years old, but he hated his son’s mother.
‘Why?’ I said.
‘Because she didn’t want to have sex with me, after the boy was born.’
‘Perhaps it would have hurt her?’ I said.
‘No, she was doing it to make me suffer, because she had suffered so much giving birth.’
‘It seems like quite a long time to hold a grudge’
‘There’s other things, too many to mention.’
There was a lot of space between his nose and his top lip, it increased when his mouth dipped. He hardly had any top lip, just a line of chapped skin.
Johnny lived on a boat on the Thames. One time he fell overboard when he was looking for his phone in his pockets. ‘I’m not very good at doing two things at once.’ he said.
‘Isn’t that just one thing?’
‘Two, walking along the deck of the boat, and looking for my phone.’
I laughed. He raised his eyebrows, there was something about this expression that was very sexy.
After three pints, or maybe four we went back to mine. We had sex. It was good. His body was lean and long, his hands were sensitive, making me come, and when we fucked I went somewhere new, somewhere unforeseeable.
We spent two more hours awake, until we both fell asleep from exhaustion. I woke up, desperate for a pee. The bathroom is upstairs. As I sat on the toilet I felt dizzy. My stomach was rumbling. I arose, walked out of the bathroom, the lino was sticky under my feet. I stood at the top of the stairs, my legs started feeling numb, like they were going to collapse and everything went darker. I fainted, but of course I don’t remember that bit, falling to the bottom of the stairs where I came to, feeling like I was going to be sick. Johnny rushed out of my bedroom, helped me up and into the room, guided me to the bed. There was a strange ringing sound in my ears. I think I cried. My face hurt, my back hurt.
‘Did you hit your head?’
‘No,’ I said, ‘I don’t think so.’ I managed to sleep, after taking some painkillers. I moved away from him in the bed so our bodies weren’t touching.
The next morning, I was lying on my stomach as my back hurt so much. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the curve of my swollen cheek. He was already awake, and pretty soon was trying to fuck me.
‘Stop it please.’ I said.
‘What’s the matter?’ he said.
I took some more painkillers and went back to sleep. He woke me up with a cup of tea. ‘I’ve got to get back to London, I need to fix a few things on the bike,’ he said. I put on my dressing gown to see him out. He tried to kiss me as I opened the door, I dodged out of his way. ‘My face still hurts,’ I said.
He nodded. He stood at the top of the steps looking up and down the street.
‘What’s the matter?’ I said.
‘My bike’s not there. It’s been fucking stolen!’ He ran down the road and disappeared. He came back about an hour later. ‘I’ve been to the police station, they said it happens all the time. The bike will be in London now.’ He left to catch the bus to the train station, his eyes watered with the wind blowing up from the sea.
A week later he rang me. ‘Can I come and see you tomorrow?’ he said. He didn’t wait for me to reply. I held the phone away from my ear, as he ranted on about his son not talking to him and his stolen motorbike. I listened to his voice for a while, then I left the phone on the arm of a chair and went to make a cup of tea.
Rachel Wild is a writer who lives in London, England. She has been published in The Forge Anthology of Flash Fiction, the Nottingham Review and the Bristol Prize Anthology. She has been an editor at the Forge Literary Magazine, an international online publication, since 2016.