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  • Writer's pictureGabriel Berm

The Other Night in Piccadilly

short story


“When did we stop doing that?” Charlie asked while pointing at a group of friends —probably not older than 20— drinking beer and laughing under the statue of Eros or well, as Charlie always obnoxiously pointed out, the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain. “I’m sorry to inform you we’re not too young to be kids nor too old to be adults,” I said. “You’re such a granma Claire,” Charlie said. He stopped holding my hand to get a cigarette that he ended up choosing not to smoke, but rather throw into the tip jar of a guy singing Sinatra songs. We kept walking. Charlie’s plan was to go and eat something in Chinatown, I on the other hand simply wanted to get some takeout and eat it while watching whatever was on the TV at the moment. “Do you ever think about where you will be in 30 years?” He asked. “First, I don’t know if I’ll be alive or if there’s still a planet. Second, I would hope, settled, maybe with a family, not sure,” I replied. “You see? I would hope to be in the middle of Thailand taking street photography or in the Middle East eating some local food. There are so many things to do, places to be, people to know,” he said. For the record, Charlie has never been anywhere further than Birmingham, and it was by accident. “Since when do you want to do all of that, we’ve been together for 8 years and I’ve known you for 10,” I asked. In the past months, he’s been acting like his time is running out, as if he needed to do everything now. “Precisely, I’ve been the same Charlie forever. It’s been Charlie and Claire for God knows how long,” he said, not looking at me. “Eight years,” I noted. “Well yeah, eight years! That’s a kid in primary school,” he said. “You’re acting like it’s a bad thing we’ve been together for that long. I don’t have you tied up, you could’ve left,” I replied. “Could I? Could I, Claire? Eight years,” he said under his breath. I felt like crying, not entirely out of sadness but out of anger. “You’re such an idiot, Charlie,” I said aggressively wiping the tears off my face with my hand. “Perhaps it’s best if we…,” he said. “Perhaps,” I replied looking away. Charlie tried to reach for a hug but instantly regretted it. He kept walking, I turned around and walked in the other direction. I went back to the statue of Eros. One of the guys from the group shouted: hey you! Come with us. My first instinct was to ignore him and keep walking, but I didn’t want to go back home and explain to my mum everything that happened, so I turned around. As I was approaching them one of the girls said to the guy who shouted: don’t be an ass. “I won’t,” he said. “So, why are you crying, love?” He asked. “I don’t think she wants to talk about it Michael, shut up,” the girl said. “You’re right. Let’s drink to that,” Michael said while handing over a can of cheap beer. I opened it and chugged the whole thing. I hate beer. “Woah, I was not expecting that!” Michael said. “Are you from around here?“ she asked. “Yeah, Camden, my whole life,” I replied. She approached me and whispered in my ear: was that guy your boyfriend? “Yes, eight years,” I replied. “Men are such idiots,” she said. “Amen to that,” I replied. “I’m Katie by the way,” she said as she opened another can and handed me one. “I’d like to make a toast, to…—” Katie said while looking at me. “Claire,” I said softly. “— Claire. We often find and lose love at unexpected moments,” she ended. We sat around the fountain for what felt like an hour, I’d already had three beers on an empty stomach. We talked about politics, musicals, flamingos, and death. “I’ve got to go, my mum is probably worried about me,” I said simply wanting to go back home and cry my eyes out for hours listening to Taylor Swift or something. “Bakerloo line?” She asked. “Yeah, but then I’m taking Jubilee,” I said. “That’s alright,” she said. Katie said goodbye to Michael, she kissed him. “Text me when you’re home, love you,” he said. Michael stayed there with another guy to whom I didn’t talk to. We got to the station and boarded the train. “Was that your boyfriend?” I asked. “Yeah, we’ve been together since high school, I love that crazy man,” she replied. There was a moment of silence, the only thing we could hear was the rattling noise of the train and a group of — probably— lost Spanish tourists talking. “Do you know what hurts the most? That Cha—my stupid ex, virtually said that being eight years with me was somehow a bad thing, like a waste of time,” I said holding back my tears. “People who’ve been lucky for too long stop thinking they’re lucky and just think that’s how it’s supposed to be,” Katie said. “Baker Street,” the voice from the train said. We both got out. “It was lovely meeting you,” I said. “Me too,” she said. I walked towards platform 10 and she walked to another one. As I turned around to ask for her number or Instagram I could no longer see her.

© Gabriel Berm

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