Excerpt from A Boneless Kiss - destiny, fate, kismet!       Home

I twisted around in my bed, sat up and stared out of the window, it was still dark and the man alongside was sleeping the deep sleep that his vigour fully deserved. I thought back to a curiously, abstracted night. Oh he wasn’t distracted, just the opposite. But I had this feeling, all through the thundery early evening, something, some crisis was approaching. We made love accompanied by lightning flashes darting across the leaded glass of the bedroom window. Followed by the heavy, sombre rumbles of thunder. It’s a neat example of how preoccupied I felt, counting the seconds between an arcing lightning flash and then waiting for the grumbling, complaining window rattle of thunder. I counted as my lover moved inside me… he didn’t seem to notice my troubled state. No rain though, that was another sign, although I couldn’t think what it meant. I slid out of bed, the feeling of encroaching doom wrapping its unwelcome cape around my shoulders. Something dreadful was trying to trip me up, something so outrageously shocking was heading my way and I listened to its thunderous warning coming through the open window. Perhaps my already unstable life was turning into some sort of gothic nightmare, or perhaps it was just another of my grotesque hallucinations? Everything critical, every crisis in my life happened in the summer months, usually during hot spells and this was the middle of a long dry spell. I stared down at the man, took a deep breath and silently threw some clothes on.

I waved him a cheery farewell and walked out onto an already humid August morning.I glanced towards the east, heavy cloud gave no clue of the sunrise and the gates of the Parks were never opened before then. No one else alive in the world, just the way I liked it, too early for joggers and dog-walkers, even the University staff had yet to make an appearance. I was waiting by the park gates for a few minutes, before the security guard finally arrived puffing away. He unlocked the gate, sniffed the air – did he smell the sex on me? I hoped so, he ushered me through and I entered another silent, early morning world. I strolled in an anti-clockwise arc around the Parks, stopping by the footbridge I’d crossed with Stuart all of those years ago. I considered going over, but I hadn’t crossed it since that one time with him and to do now seemed a desecration somehow. I followed the Cherwell’s river edge and walked on, the sound of a cheerful blackbird failed to lift the gloom that had enveloped me.

I pulled up quickly when I saw the man. I was sure that he was dead, curled up on a park bench in the recovery position, a heavy parka wrapped around him – well he never needed that I thought. The temperature had barely dropped below twenty degrees all night. The park gates shut at sundown; he must have been on the bench all night. I walked closer, so many empty cans of Special Brew under the bench. I was surprised for a couple of reasons, finding a dead body for a start, that was a first and the drunks and deadbeats didn’t end up in this part of town, this was the exclusive preserve of the privileged undergraduate. I stared at his face, my gaze fixing on the habitual stubble on his chin and the wispy grey hair that he scrapped over his head.

I whispered to myself, ‘why do they always look the same.’ The arm of the park bench stored the habitual deadbeat’s survival kit. As if to confirm this, I whispered, ‘a packet of rolling tobacco, a packet of cigarette papers and a box of Swan Vesta matches. Where’s the hypodermic big boy?’

I turned my gaze back to the man’s face, still convinced that he was indeed dead, it looked as if all of the signs from my fearful, doom-laden night were proving me right. I edged closer, barely a few inches from him, I was about to poke him in the chest, when the right eye opened and it stared unfocused off into space. I jumped back. Despite this shock, I was still convinced that he was dead. I mean you hear of dead people’s eyes opening well after they die. I was struggling to breathe when the other eye opened and seconds later, his mouth swung open like an empty excavator bucket.

I spoke softly, ‘are you ok?’

He tried to sit up, but fighting too much beer and lungs that barely functioned had turned this into some sort of monumental struggle. Hardly King Sisyphus rolling a huge boulder up a steep hill, but the analogy worked well enough, the drunk fought gamely against his weak constitution and gravity, until finally, he managed to sit upright. Then something startled him, his eyes widened just like those of a tethered goat that suddenly spots a prowling tiger, his eyebrows raised and he stared at me. It was so obvious that he recognised me. I felt my own mouth hang open, he looked familiar.

The voice, roughened by years of tobacco croaked just two words, ‘Helen Mably.’

I stepped back.

‘Helen Mably... what do you want?’

I shook my head and whispered, ‘no.’

‘It wasn’t me.’


I hadn’t seen this man since the summer of love and yet I recognised him twenty three years later. I pushed the heel of each hand into my temples and rubbed hard, but still couldn’t remember his name.

‘Helen,’ he spoke my name like I was a long lost friend. ‘It wasn’t my idea.’

I blinked at him, ‘what?’

‘You and that bastard father of yours, both as bad as each other.’

His voice had become just a hoarse whisper, I leaned closer, ‘what about my father?’

‘He fucked me up completely.’

That’s funny I thought, he did the same to me. ‘What are you talking about?’

‘He stuck the knife into me, hung me out to dry good and proper. And as for you, you’re just a cock teasing bitch.’

I struggled to breath, it felt like something heavy was bearing down on my chest. I spat the words at him, ‘I’ll never forget what you did to me.’

More irony in that brief statement of mine, I couldn’t remember what he’d done.

‘It wasn’t my idea.’

What little colour he had left in his cheeks drained away and he turned, leant over the wooden arm of the bench and threw up in one smooth movement. I’d seen drunks perform this enough times, usually to make room for more strong lager. He wiped his mouth in the voluminous sleeve of his coat and stared up at me. I took a step closer, repelled enough by the thought of sour beer, stale tobacco and fresh vomit drifting up into my face, I held my breath. I looked deep into his black rimmed, bloodshot eyes and brought my arm back. He just stared up as if he knew what was coming; I slapped his cheek as hard as I could, turned and rushed away. His voice followed me as I walked away, wrapping itself around my shoulders like the filthy parka he was wearing, ‘you deserved it.’

I hurried on for twenty yards or so, with my heart pummelling against my rib cage, I pulled up suddenly and looked back. Perhaps I had killed him, but he was still gazing at me and rolling a cigarette at the same time. My thoughts scrambling around in my head, what happened back then? I remembered confronting three men and got that spectacularly wrong. From the first minute they set eyes upon me, I got it so wrong when they were provoking me. Just as they got it wrong, it became a dazzling delusion empty of any insight. A high farce of confusion, I go over it time and again and never find the same answer. Any common sense that may have been ingrained within me, had become overrun by the circulation of sexual clichés throbbing away inside my body. The instant ignition of sex, the noise of sex, the misery of missing out on sex.

The three men leered away at me. Unperturbed, I pulled a stool up by the bar and sat. A high stool and a short skirt made for a less than graceful manoeuvre. Their eyes never left my thighs, which I was comfortable enough with. The filth that started to come my way suddenly made me think that I should leave. “She takes it up the arse, likes to be bitten, wants you to swear at her, just a wriggling little whore”. It’s possible that I wasn’t the wriggling little whore in question, but then they laughed and pointed at me. I knew for sure that it was me and I wanted to walk away, that would have been the prudent thing to do. Walk away, but that would have only made them even more euphoric. For that’s what they were, higher than three soaring vultures, circling around me, not descending yet.

Just watching at the moment.

Watching me.

I blinked and stared at the deadbeat. He lit his cigarette, took a wheezing, shallow inhalation and shouted, ‘why did you do that? I’m bleeding you fucking bitch.’

What was his name and how did he know my father?

I screamed. This caused more chaos within, did I scream because I couldn’t recall his name? Or was it because I couldn’t remember what he did to me? But it brought into sharp focus how my father behaved, everything else was so blurred, apart from that one thing.

My father betrayed me that night.

I took one look back and my old antagonist was opening a can of beer. No longer was I his sole focus, he had more pressing things to consider.

I dragged myself away, was this the trigger I needed? Had my moment finally arrived?

‘Helen Mably,’ I whispered, ‘it’s all down to you now.’

Despite being enveloped by the heavy, early morning humidity, I shivered.