Short Psychonoire (part of my Male Gaze series)
42, 6, 1. That’s the buses she gets to Croydon. At 6.55am, 7.02am, 7.15am. She should walk the last one but she doesn’t like the man at the market following her to the office. 34, 25,34. That’s her measurements. She lives in Thornton Heath, but you won’t find her in her lodgings often. She has lovers. Kensington, Fulham, Chelsea. They give her perfume that you can almost taste on her neck.
Chelsea is grotesque, but she likes his lineage. He sprawls on the bench at the top of the high street and runs palms at her thighs. She calls him Georgie but he lied about his name. That’s his brother’s. Easier with the missus to keep up the cobwebs. He’s a banker, like every fifty three year old who likes his women twenty years younger than himself. He asked her to dye her hair black for him, but he didn’t tell her why. She looks like his mother in 1921, he confided with a friend over a green cocktail in a nameless bar.
He drinks too much, so she prefers Fulham. Garish and lean, new money and ready with stockings and sweets at her tears. He’s done well off the war so he’s living fast. She’s one of four; the wife of his boss, the sister of a friend, and a young man he makes love to in a studio by Fleet Street. And her. She’s the best. But he doesn’t know it. He barely looks at her body as he takes her with swift hands shaking for time. He’s a fool, those seconds are worth all of Midas and more. I make love to prostitutes with my eyes shut for pretending, but their skin betrays their identity. She is soft and untoned, with an innocence she could never afford to have. But that’s why Kensington likes her, if only for that.
He’s the oldest, grey hair slick with grease and old fashioned suits in an old fashioned drawing room. She was his assistant at the factory, but now he undresses her for twice that wage to paint her nude. He says it’s artistic but she knows better. He keeps the pictures and hides her from his wife. They shake hands but he tastes her skin with his lips when she leaves, tracing each digit with a tongue that could never quite commit the whole sin.
And me, although she doesn’t know it. I am her shadow between breakfast and sirens, dressmakers and apartments. She smiled at me once, across the 6. She has a dimple in her cheek on the left, not the right. There’s a trust in her eyes that there shouldn’t be. I have stared through her unshut doors and heard secrets through walls that she thinks no one knows. By windows I take glances and beneath balconies I listen for her breathing. I sometimes wonder if she every questions the presence of something in the smog as she walks home alone. If she ever took the time to realise her whoring went witnessed.
But who would suspect the plump housewife in blue florals?
This short story is part of my Male Gaze series, where I challenge and explore masculine narratives and perceptions of the feminine. If you’d like to read more of my work in this theme, please read ‘Regret; Susan’.