The Inferno of Passion

3:36, it’s cold, I know I’m growing old

With life’s best side on the downward slope

Done it before, do it again

Early morning cold taxi.

Thirty-six, I am too old for this shit.

I open my eyes and look across her bed to my right. Christ, she’s older than Bob Geldof. My head hurts and all I can hear is Roxette belting out “It Must Have Been Love” on the stereo. I snort out loud at that jarring un-synchronicity and suddenly worry that she’s woken up.

Nope, she’s sparko. Must be exhausted, poor thing. I wonder what her name is, what her story is? All I can remember is her repeatedly telling me about her forthcoming trip to Turkey. I think I replied about Bernard Matthews, scourge of the turkeys.

Actually, I couldn’t care less. All I can think of now is getting out of here and snaffling some food. From laying in the bed I gently sit up and spy my clothes in a pleasingly neat pile.

Bloody hell though, I need a piss. This means an extra complication in Mission Get-The-Fuck-Out-Of-Here. I decide to prioritise putting my clothes on first before taking a leak. I think I will reap the benefits of this plan.

I take one last look at the snoozing creature (Betsy? Pam?) beside me and edge out of the bed. My silken feet touch the soft carpet and I manage to dress in a well-rehearsed, complete velvet silence.

I look at the clock and it’s now past 3. I can feel my head begin to spin as I calmly walk out of her bedroom. Now for the tricky part. I like to shut the door when I retreat from the scene of a hasty post-coital departure. I have a little thing for not letting the door latch catch the lock or bang on the jamb.

The perfect door closure is a wondrous moment.  A fleeting glimpse of perfection like a well-executed Cruyff turn or the precision bombing of an alleged munitions site in a packed Middle East urban area surrounded by markets, schools and hospitals.

I close the door with consummate precision. I award myself an inner standing ovation and move on to Mission Take-A-Massive-Piss.

The hallway is cold, a sign that winter is coming. Never my favourite time of year. There’s enough light for me to reach the bathroom and the switch is a nice quiet flicker, not one of the those pull cords that always seem to turn on the world’s loudest extractor fan.

I sit on the john and it’s one of those pisses where you audibly exhale and say “ah, that feels good”. I finish and head to the sink to wash my hands and check I haven’t got the old bird’s make up all over my face.

Man, I look like shit. My hair is receding and my nose is blotchy with tiny blood vessels showing everywhere. My beard is turning grey on the sides and around my mouth and my eyes are bloodshot. To be honest, there’s more red in there than the white bits in my eyes. I should probably be quite concerned at Time’s harrowing effect and what is happening to my clearly rotting insides..

My skin is strange mixture of greasiness and paleness that makes me look like a confused teenage vampire. My breath smells of Jack Daniels’ arse. I spit in to the sink and it appears that he might have shit in my gob too.

Twenty years of doing this has taken its toll. I don’t know how many times I’ve quit drinking or promised myself not to go back with these old, usually married women. But I can never resist their openness and compliments. Yep, always the compliments. That’s what does it for me.

“How are you still single?”

“You’ve got really nice eyes!”

“You listen to me, unlike my hubby,”

It’s a little dance, an act. I know within a minute or two whether they like me and if they are going to cave in and take me back. Sometimes, if they really love their bloke they’ll stop and go back to their mates. To be honest, they may still love him, but they still drag me back to their gaff.

Somebody once said ‘remorse is beholding heaven and feeling hell’. I’m always fascinated by these pull factors and the animal instincts at the heart of it. People desire such short term gratification and all of society’s morality and sermonising can’t stop it. In a perverse way that’s what increases my lust to pick away at the scabs of convention.

One last look at my face. One last stare into those fucked-up eyes before I go. I used to enjoy these escapades, the chase and the sex and the getaway. Now I just feel tired; tired all the time.

I leave the bathroom and turn the light off. I don’t even bother creeping downstairs pretending I’m a cat burglar like I normally do. I just walk downstairs, swipe a cheeky twenty quid that I see on the table near the front door and put my shoes on. I hear a rumbling upstairs. A voice perhaps or a good old 180 degree bed spin.

I don’t care anyway. I open the front door and the chill of an early Sunday morning hits me. It’s nice and sobering and I check my phone which states it’s 4 on the dot.

Luckily this lass lived two minutes from town so I decide to head back to the high street. This is the bit I like, walking in the early hours. The cold air enveloping my face like a mask. The empty roads and silent houses. I imagine I’m the only human left and the thought exhilarates me.

It doesn’t last too long as soon as I hit the high street. The raucous night is coming to a close in town and the contrast is bewildering. Sirens and lights flash from ambulances and the dibble, girls in tiny dresses are sat on the street munching shit-in-a-tray whilst lads in terrible shirts are are messing about with their mates pretending to be Connor McGregor, hoping the burger-scoffing women notice them.

I head straight for the hackney cabs, bollocks to queueing with the hordes of kebab-munching leaky tosspots. I hail the nearest cab and enter in the passenger seat.

“Busy night?” I ask in the obligatory manner, after telling him my destination.

“Yeah, very busy tonight chief. Bloody non-stop, you’re my last fare though, then back home. I don’t live far from town which is handy,”

“Ah that’s not too bad,” I respond, “I’ll try not throw up everywhere then,”

The taxi driver laughs and the car speeds off to my end of town.

“Big night tonight?” he asks.

“Only a quiet one, met up with a friend. Got a few days off work to recover!”

“Haha, good stuff. I’m on holiday too next week with the wife. Can’t bloody wait, I tell you,”

“I can imagine. Going anywhere nice?”

“Yeah, a week in Turkey. Had it booked for ages,”

“Turkey eh?” I struggle to focus on the road ahead, for some reason my eyes are watering and my head is hurting. I can only croak “I hope you have a great time mate,”

“Thanks mate. Just down here is it?”

“Yeah, you can drop me off here,”

I pay the driver and for some reason I stand and watch him drive off, knowing full well where he is going. I feel empty.

I clearly need pizza.

by Martin O’Brien based on Early Morning Cold Taxi by the Who

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