"If you and Frank want to go out on your own on Thursday," I venture amiably, "I don't mind." (Frank is coming from Lincoln to spend the night. We were all going to go out, but we can't get a babysitter.)
"I wouldn't mind if you did mind," Jonathan replies, maddeningly unmoved.
"But luckily you live with the sort of person who makes these gracious and kind offers."
"There you go!" he comes back. "Trying to make capital out of your own philanthropy as usual."
Bereft of a cutting reply, all I manage to come up with is, "Piss the piss off."
He laughs and, with purposeful alacrity, leaps from his chair, pins me on the carpet and kisses my nose. "God," he says, suddenly scrutinising my face. "Look at all the lines you're getting. Maybe I'll go off to St Tropez, get a bimbo."
"Any bimbo you'd find in St Tropez would be well on her way to being lined," I retort with (I think) some elan. Well, we all know about the sun, don't we?
"Who cares?" he retaliates, getting up to sort the washing. "When she gets lines, I'll throw her away and get a new one. Women should realise that all men need and want is an available, permanently young bimbo."
He goes out to play squash. I kiss the kids and wander the house uneasily. Finally, I eat a whole bag of prawn crackers and paint my toenails Las Vegas Red. Very dark, very nice. If they weren't so big, my feet could easily pass for the feet of a disposable bimbo.
"What sort of colour is that?" Jonathandemands on his return - beaten, drenched, beetroot-cheeked, sipping Coke from the can.
"Las Vegas Red."
"It looks black."
"Yes. It's very fashionable."
"Black toenails are fashionable?"
Saturday. Forget bimbos, he must love me, because he takes me to look at the hammocks in Peter Jones. All my life I have coveted one of these lush, padded swing-seats with a floppy awning. In the same category as cocktail umbrellas and kidney-shaped
dressing tables, you worship them as a child and then you grow out of them. Or you don't. In which case, you save up.
It's a hot afternoon. The children race through the garden department and hurl themselves at the recliners, knocking a barbecue over in their wake. The salesman tells them to take their feet off the seats.
The hammock comes in green and white stripes or an incredibly repulsive apricot and lilac floral.
"Stripes," I say.
"OK," says Jonathan, squeezing my knee, "You'd better get one."
At home, he sets to work assembling it, lining the pieces up on the lawn. It takes almost two hours and, inevitably, the weather changes. I watch the black clouds bleed into each other and become one. It is almost dark by the time the thing is erected. It looks wonderfully, painstakingly decadent in the purply light.
I make celebratory coffee and we sit on it defiantly. Bliss. It spits with rain.
"Happy?" Jonathan asks me and I say yes. I am in heaven. It is raining fairly heavily now. Even the cats have gone in. "We must look like morons," he remarks finally, and we go inside.
Monday. I change tubes at Kennington - the train terminates - and see that a man has remained on the train. He's asleep or unconscious or dead: filthy, matted hair, no baggage, head between his legs, blackened fingers pointing stiffly in the air. The doors are open, the train has emptied, everyone has crossed to the other platform. Everyone except for one man - striped shirt, swanky briefcase, withered Daily Telegraph under his arm.
"Poor bugger," he remarks, leaning a little too close to me with his lunchtime-pub breath. I look around for a guard. "We ought to tell someone."
"Oh, they'll kick him off at the depot," says the man, so uncharitably that it strikes me as odd that he's stopped at all.
"The depot? You don't think they'll see him till then?" But even as we stand there, the doors close and the train moves away.
"I like the way you do your hair," the man remarks, with a final, conclusive leer. I move away, haunted by those stiff, pointing fingers, my depressing ability to attract boozy bankers - and the fact that I did nothing.
Tuesday. My 35th birthday. I spend the morning at the dentist, while he "cosmetically bonds" the blotchy stains I've had on my front teeth since I was eight.
The dentist is young, ginger-haired, with the obligatory muscular dental forearms. He shoves Born in the USA into the CD player, confides that he's been away on holiday but was longing to get back to Teeth.
"Give me strong coffee, Springsteen, French cigarettes and Teeth and I'm happy," he chirps.
My bill says, "Beautiful Front Teeth: pounds 100."
"Notice anything?" I ask when I get home.
"What?" Jonathan - once also a Springsteen man - doesn't look up.
"I've got beautiful front teeth."
"Yes. Perhaps I'll go to St Tropez now."
It is my birthday. I should get back to work, but I don't. Neither do I go to St Tropez. The sun has seen fit to shine, so I retire to my hammock with the new Jane Smiley and a bottle of ginger beer.
I lie there for as long as possible, shoes kicked off, all gloomy black toe-nails and white teeth - thoroughly disposable.Reuse content