I came in quietly, flicking on the light switches. I couldn’t hear Archie anywhere. After six months of throbbing jets and tropical steam and blue shadows in the begonia-scented dark, the mists had at last blown out of the lounge room; the couches and kidney-shaped coffee table on their awkward little wooden peg legs had a sort of sparkling clarity, as though they were souls new-born. Now instead of the sonorous roar of shower jets the only sound that could be heard was the drip-drip-drip of the condensation running in streaks down the wood paneling. Dare I dream that it would stay this way?
‘Well?’ he said. He was wearing little more than a bathrobe and a fine mantle of Cheetohs cheese dust.
‘She’s gone,’ I said.
Sniff. ‘Did… did she say she was coming back?’
‘Never in Hell.’
‘Hell. Damn. Christ.’
He spat on the rug. He looked around with blind eyes. He scratched himself. Then he said, ‘Oh Nancy…’ great dark voice trembling on the y. And then he started to weep.
It is hard to watch a man cry. It is a very raw sight, like a snail unshelled. His shoulders shook with sobs, making his bald spot gleam like a new penny at the bottom of a fountain. The tears ran in streams down the rivets beside his mouth and then pooled in the muttonchops that he grows in order to disguise his jowls. The snot gathered in points at the end of his attenuated nostril hairs. His freshly pink speckled hairless thighs wobbled on the couch like those of a fat lady in a frilled bathing suit too nervous to get in the pool. On either side his cocoanut tanning lotion was forming deep dark parabolas on the upholstery.
This went on for a while; for a long time he couldn’t speak except to say, ‘Nancy, oh Nancy…’ as if hugging the word to his pink speckled cheese-dusted chest.
I shifted from foot to foot. I looked longingly at the clock and the shag pile being ruined with dripping condensation and emotional spit. Then I had to say, ‘Cheer up, pop. Maybe she will come back. Maybe I remembered it wrong. Come to think of it, her intentions were rather ambiguous. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if in another minute she came on a-walkin right through that door.’
Continued here: Young and beautiful ad nauseam.