:: Article

Roman Road

By Celia Forbes.

We moved into the house next to the fire station on the fifth of November and all night the sirens raged.

Our ritual began that first night. As I lay in bed reading Lydia Davis, you put your head around the door. “Can I sleep in here tonight?”

“OK,” I said and turned over to face the wall.

You deposited your loose change on the broken chair next to the bed and climbed in fully clothed.

Our transaction continued in this way, a few loose coppers in exchange for sleeping next to me. No kisses, no sex, no affection, just uneasy sleep.

When I woke up, you had already gone. Making elaborate coffees in the kitchen or back in your own room smoking, fermenting. The smell of tobacco lingered where you had slept.

The night he arrived, you didn’t come. You and him sat in the kitchen, the smell of weed drifted through the house. You introduced us formally and then I went to bed, taking a Valium that I had found in the bathroom cabinet which had belonged to a previous tenant. I felt my arms melting at my sides and was soon asleep.

I woke suddenly in the early dawn. The edges of the covers had been made slightly damp by the contrast between my body heat and the cold of the room.

I heard a noise and realised it must have been this same noise that had woken me a moment earlier.

It was a vibrating loudness, as if furniture was being moved against the walls. I lay still and alert, wondering what of the little furniture we possessed was capable of creating such sound.

Again the noise. This time I sprang out of bed and went down the stairs.

The kitchen door was slightly ajar. I looked in and saw you, your face red as he grappled you with his arms around your waist. Trying to push you across the kitchen table. You seemed resigned to it or too drunk to fight back. You were both bare-chested, his with tattoos, yours with fresh red welts across it.

“Are you two OK?” I asked. He looked up; he looked just like you, except he had the beginning of a downy moustache growing on his top lip.

“Sure we are,” he said.

I turned and heard you whispering angrily at him as I went back to bed.

When I came down the next day, the table had been moved back to the middle of the kitchen and the ashtrays lay washed and draining on the side.

I barely saw you again after that, he left, but you never came back to my room. I moved away from the fire station as soon as summer came.

Celia Forbes is a writer of short fiction and teacher of youth based in East London.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Wednesday, March 21st, 2012.