Closer (Piano Man Chapter 6)

Lying there, on a patch of wet grass in St. James Park, holding hands with a near-perfect stranger had made the day go by. When I finally arrived home that night, with a green stain on my white t-shirt, I took delight in crashing on my bed.

My bed. One big comfort blanket. After David died, I spent weeks lying in bed, not moving, not wanting to come out from under the comfortable duvet. It provided a warmth that had gone missing with David’s passing.

But as I fell asleep that night, I couldn’t help feeling quite lonely. Like I needed someone to hold me and whisper random things into my ear. Like the life span of a garden gnome…

For the next week, Tim stayed remarkably present in my life. He would come over to make me food and talk about random rubbish with me. One thing became clear: Tim was a remarkable cook and made the most comforting food I had ever eaten.

On Thursday, after making a truly enormous quantity of pumpkin and tomato soup, Tim left me for the night with the parting words, “I’ll see you very soon, my precious Jem.”

I spent all night hoping that he would appear at my doorstep the next day to whisk me off on a new adventure.

When he didn’t appear the following morning, I thought he was late. By lunchtime, I was starting to get worried. I ate a bowl of leftover soup, hoping in vain that it would send some kind of message to Tim about me needing him. To cook for me, of course. Why else?

At nine pm, I gave up and went to bed. He hadn’t even called.

Nor did he call the next day. And the next.

Monday morning, and I was in despair. I had no clue where he was, and, to tell the truth, I was getting very worried.

I kept checking my phone every five minutes. The realization that this was getting slightly ridiculous was a slow one. How could I be worried about someone so erratic as Tim? Maybe he just decided to bugger off. Maybe he was playing piano on a cruise ship in the Maldives now.

But why did it feel like I needed him? What the hell did I need him for? To cook me more soup?

The other option wasn’t one that I wanted to think about. But maybe I just got addicted to the thrill of life with him. To that warm sensation in my chest whenever I was around him. And all that in the space of a little more than a week…

Out of sheer despair, I decided to head down to the bar again. Taking my usual seat, I waited for Tim to appear out of nowhere and take his place behind the piano again.

Hours went by, and I must have nodded off, because I was woken up by a member of staff.

“You alright, miss?” he asked.

“Eh… yeah, I’m fine. Just waiting for someone.”

I grabbed my stuff and was about to stand up, when the guy said, “That piano bloke? I can imagine you waiting, he’s away! Gone off for a gig somewhere.”

“Oh. Any idea when he’s coming back?”

“Any idea when who’s coming back, Gregor, m’darling?” said a familiar voice. From behind the stage, Tim appeared. “Oh, hi Jem!” he said, waving.

I stalked over to him and hissed, “Don’t you hi me! Where the fuck have you been all weekend? I was waiting for you!”

“I was doing a gig in Ireland! Did I not tell you?”

“No, no you did not!” I said, and to my utter horror, I started sobbing.

“Hey, don’t you cry, Ms Jem! I’m here now, in all my fuzzy glory.”

He pulled me in for a hug.

“I hate you.” I whispered into his ear.

“I know. But I’m still here.”

***

My unexplained frustration with Tim was mulled by the fact that he was here now, sitting across from me in a burger restaurant.

“I’m so incredibly sorry that I didn’t tell you I was off for the weekend.” he said, his mouth full of chicken hamburger. “I just have a silly habit of disappearing.”

“Do you do that to all girls?”

He sighed, and I knew that I had struck on something sensitive with him. “No. Girls just seem to do that to me.”

The slight tension created by this particular question was quickly set aside when I asked, “So, how was Ireland?”

“Ah, Ireland, so emerald, like your beautiful eyes. I thought of you, you know.”

“Did you now? Not enough to send me a message.”

“Ah, Jem, Perdona. Pardon me enormously. Rest assured, you were on my mind. And I assume you missed me an awful lot, judging from your reaction to me.”

I felt caught out, because it occurred to me that I did, sort of, miss him.

“Ah, you did! I can see it from that tiny little smile on your face. I missed you too, Jem. This burger is excellent, by the way.”

All through our meal, Tim kept commenting on how everything was amazing. I couldn’t help forgetting all about my food again.

Later that night, he walked me home and gave me another hug.

“Remember, garden gnomes are vegetarians, so leave out your spare broccoli tonight, for they might be hungry.” he said.  

I chuckled. “And what if you don’t have broccoli?”

“Oh, any veg will do, really. They’re not exactly picky little fuckers.”

He leaned in and whispered, “I missed you. A lot.”

His lips so close to my ear was another strange sensation. I could feel his hot breath on my skin and my belly did a flip when he said he had missed me.

I didn’t want to sleep on the bed that night, for some reason. I wanted to be wild and sleep on the couch, something I hadn’t done since… since a very long time ago.

Waking up the next morning, I caught myself smiling in the mirror.

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2 Comments

  1. Losing contact with someone new is a very common phenomenon and you capture the frustration and fear perfectly, and present this part of the storyline in a way that is consistent with what we’ve come to know of the characters so far.

    Is this the first confirmation we’ve had that David died? I suspected – it’s heavily implied in the earlier chapters – but I don’t know that it’s ever been explicitly stated.

    Garden gnomes make an excellent recurring theme. Very well done.

    Reply
    • Thank you. I know the feeling all too well, sadly 😦

      I think I’ve skirted around the word “died” a few times. I was going to keep it till Jem eventually reveals this to Tim, but her coming to terms with it and actually acknowledging that he died seemed a big thing.

      Why thank you. By the way, I have no idea how I came up with that.

      Reply

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