At 5:00 in the evening, I went to Iris’ home. Gin cried on the phone when he called to tell me that Iris hadn’t been eating. So I took some cold sesame noodles from shanghai town; the one near the flyover, not the one next door. The noodles from next door are dry and salty and Iris hates dry and salty.
Iris’ home has a very musty smell. I don’t know what musty smells like but it’s the only word that seems to know what I smell there, so, musty. Iris was in the bathtub when I walked in. She gave me a tired, almost irked look when I knocked twice on the bathroom door and entered.
‘Get out’, she snarled.
She was smoking. The smell of vanilla mixed with smoke and all the steam knocked me out. It wasn’t musty any more.
I left the food on the table and waited outside. I smoked 6 cigarettes before finally getting tired of waiting and marched back in. It was 5:50.
She was watching TV now. She hadn’t touched the food. She was lodged on to the sofa, still in her bathrobe, one leg on the back rest, the other arched over on the table in front.
I was used to how pathetic I feel about myself when I am around her. Today I saw how pathetic she makes inanimate objects feel around her. I could feel the existential in the remote bounce off and fall on me. Every object in Iris’ presence loses meaning because she doesn’t believe that they exist. I don’t know how else to put it. The way she overlooks them; holds them – doesn’t feel them. That’s how it is. I feel like a void when she talks to me even in those rare few moments that our eyes meet.
As pointless as it was to have asked her, I like to nurture hope and that tiny niche of masochism so I took the bag of food and placed it in front of her.
‘Eat?’ I begged.
She was still watching TV.
Some rerun of The Simpsons.
Now and then, she would snort while the laughing track ricocheted off the newly installed woofers.
‘So’, I began in another lameass attempt at conversation with her, ‘I er, I am going over to Gin’s tonight.’
Iris heaved another dead look at me.
It was weird now. Even I, who have been so used to her calm nakedness couldn’t ignore the hairless expanse between her legs. Maybe it had nothing to do with her. Maybe if there was hair, I would have been less nervous.
But as Iris would put it, ‘What do I know?’
‘Hand me that packet, Marge’, she said pointing her toe at the pack of cigarettes that were on the far end of the table.
That was Iris’ second and last sentence of the evening.
We smoked. The musty smell grew stronger.
At 7:20 her eyes finally gave away and she fell asleep.
I walked to the sofa and kneeled next to Iris. She smelled like vanilla and coconut.
I missed Iris.
I missed watching her sleep, holding her in my arms and kissing her. She looked strangely invulnerable today, even in her sleep.
I brushed my lips against hers and whispered ‘I miss you’. I held her face for some time and wept quietly.
I covered her with my jacket and left.
It was freezing cold outside. But I carried the warm must with me so I didn’t miss my jacket.