One Night in Clapham

Mary Thompson


So I’m in this bar with Christof when a young girl rocks up at our table. She’s a tiny thing with sallow skin and stringy hair and I’m guessing she must be on something as she has these wide, non-blinking eyes and won’t stop talking. She says she’s 28, and we’re both like “WOW,” as she’s so small. But then I’m thinking, 28 is still a hell of a lot younger than we are, although the lights are dim and she’s fucked, so we could easily be the same for all she knows.

She tells us that her friends don’t listen to her so she’d rather talk to us, even though I’m wearing crappy clothes and no makeup in a bar where everyone’s boozing cocktails with names I don’t understand. She tells us that her friends don’t care about important stuff. Like what, I want to ask.

When I get back from the loo she’s still there.

“How long have you been together?” she slurs.

“We’re not together, he’s gay.”

“Oh,” she says and we go out for a cigarette. It’s snowing but she has a thin jumper on. She tells me that her dad died when she was ten and now she’s here with this guy who isn’t right for her when all she really wants is to save the orangutans in Sumatra, and just as she’s saying this, I spot one coming out of the tube station. It’s wrapped in a blue blanket with its shaggy red fur trailing through the snow.

“How cool is that?” I say as it trudges along the pavement.

But she keeps on yabbering, telling me about the three different types of orangutan and why she prefers the Sumatran to the Bornean, and how she adores its cutesy wootsy face, and how it’s endangered and might just disappear any minute. And meanwhile the orangutan is lumbering our way, and any minute she’ll see it. Any minute.

“Orangutans are exclusively arboreal,” she says, “and they’re froo-givores.”

The orangutan stops near us, leans against a drainpipe and whips out his phone.

“And in the wild the adult males spend much of their time alone.”

So this one must be male, I think and chuck him a sideways glance. He scowls back and shoves the phone under his hair.

“Social bonds occur primarily between mothers and their offspring,” she says. “They stay together for the first two years.”

“Oh,” I say and try not to look at the orangutan, who’s doing star jumps in an attempt to warm up.

“Isn’t that beautiful.” She hunkers down and blows on her hands.

“I want a child,” she says and stares at me with her big, wide eyes.

“There’s still time you know.”

And then I tell her that I couldn’t be with just anyone which is why I haven’t had children, but as I’m saying this I’m thinking I wish I had been with just anyone as then I might have a child now, and as I’m gazing at the flurries of snow drifting onto the roof opposite, I tell her that if I were her, I would have a child now otherwise I might find myself looking back in twenty years and wishing I’d done so when I had the chance.

And as I say this, the orangutan opens his cutesy wootsy mouth and releases a not-so-cutesy skirl, and the little sac under his throat wobbles and wobbles. But she keeps on talking and talking, so he wraps his spaghetti-like arms around himself and ambles up the high street in search of froot.

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FlashJeremy Bibaud