‘Thanks. Just here at the corner will do.’ She thanked the Uber driver. She turned to walk up the cobbled one way street. She was fairly sure that she remembered which house was his. The moon was hiding this evening and the street lights weren’t helping but as she got closer she heard the primal beats of his electronica music. She messaged him, ‘I’m here.’
He opened the door and stood to the side to let her in ‘Hey. Long time no see.’ His gravelly voice and soft smile put her immediately at ease.
Following him up the stairs into familiar scents, she stared at his hips, her mind imagining them rocking against hers. She ran her hand along the large piece of street art that he had commissioned for his staircase wall. Its orange and yellow swirls almost seemed to loop in time to the music. She could feel the bass beat in her chest, filling her from inside. The gas fire glowing in the corner and the cream shag pile rug in front of it added to the porn set feel of his bachelor pad.
He resumed his position perched on the edge of a dining chair, its white plastic seat cold on his naked thighs though he didn’t feel it. All his concentration was on his hands, shaking as they rubbed the bud between his fingers sprinkling the herb evenly across the tobacco. Talking at her, she could only just distinguish his voice from the glitch electronica samples that permeated the room. A door and window were both open trying to help ventilate the smoke from the room. The gas fire kept igniting trying to keep the room at an even comfortable temperature.
She sat unmoving, contained on her chair inches away from the table. The wine she’d brought still in its crumpled brown paper bag on the edge of the concrete table. His special plastic container had its illegal contents spewed upon the surface; small plastic bags and paper parcels with varying chemicals and substances. She didn’t know exactly what they were or how they were ingested and she was content to remain uninformed.
He’d had a tough week and was looking for a distraction. She was happy to be that distraction. Without asking, she poured them both a glass of the French rosé she had picked up from the shop on the corner. She knew he didn’t drink much but she needed a prop to help things along. He lit up and steadily drew the smoke in. It was as though she’d caught him mid-conversation.
‘I can’t believe some people can do this. What makes anyone think they’ve got the right to hurt another human being?’ He was choosing his words carefully. He knew that he couldn’t talk case specifics. He could be in trouble for a simple stray word. She could see the pressure of the knowledge he held inside. He had no strategy for containment and the pot wasn’t helping. She kept repeating, ‘I hear you.’
She knew she couldn’t say that she understood because she knew that she didn’t. The bottom of the wine glass showed itself so she grabbed the bottle to remedy the situation.
‘This dj, he splices samples of Austrailiana into the tracks. Listen . . .hear that bit. It’s “Skippy”.’ He cocks his head to the side a wry smile slowly growing on is face. Tapping her glass, the ambient layers of rhythm build and swirl with the heady smoke, the room crushing in on her. She breathes deliberately and deeply anchoring herself in the chair.
‘You don’t know what it’s like to hold the fate of another human being in your hands. You can’t even imagine what it’s like. I have to do this thing. It’s my duty as a member of this free and democratic society. We all have to do this thing. It’s hard and it’s exhausting but we can’t just walk away.’
Not knowing whether to distract or allow him to ramble, she nodded and ventured, ‘I’ve always been kind of fascinated by the process and felt that I’d like to do jury duty.’ Shaking his head slowly, ‘You don’t want to be on this case. It’s violent and it’s bloody. It’s just awful. We got taken out to the crime scene yesterday. It’s a whole other world out there.‘ He licks his lips, leans forward and swigs some wine to assuage his dry mouth.
His head hangs forward as he takes another drag. ‘Six weeks. Six weeks we have to be there. And they made me the fucking jury foreman.’ Through the pungent smoke his red, creased eyes betray his anguish. He coughs, straightens up and forces a smile her way.
‘Did I ever tell you about when I renovated the bathroom? I thought that between work and the public toilet opposite, it would be fine. One morning though it wasn’t fine, was it? One morning I really needed to go. I grabbed whatever clothes were on the floor, launched myself out the front door and crossed the road. Approaching the loo from behind, everything looked okay. I only saw the ‘out of order’ sign after I’d pressed the button a few times. What now?
I looked around the park. What now? Then I saw it. The council had just installed a dog litter removal point. I grabbed one of those small plastic bags and found a bush big enough to provide some camouflage. Bag spread as wide as I could, I pulled down my trackie pants and assumed the position. Oddly, the council hadn’t provided any paper product to finish the job so I sacrificed a sock to the greater good. As I exited from behind said bush, an older couple walking their dachshund passed.
‘“Nice morning for it,” we said as we passed each other.’
She laughs, drains the wine from her glass. More coughing as he sinks back into his chair. ‘I think it’s time for some coke.’