Patrick Melrose & Bikini Girl

Patrick ordered another double espresso and watched the waitress weave her way back to the bar, only momentarily transfixed by a vision of her sprawled across one of the tables, gripping its sides while he fucked her from behind. He was too loyal to linger over the waitress when he was already involved in a fantasy about the girl in the black bikini on the other side of the cafe, her eyes closed and her legs slightly parted, absorbing the beams of the morning sun, still as a lizard. He might never recover from the look of intense seriousness with which she had examined her bikini line. An ordinary woman would have reserved that expression for a bathroom mirror, but she was a paragon of self-absorption, running her finger along the inside edge of her bikini, lifting it and realigning it still closer to the centre, so that it interfered as little as possible with the total nudity which was her real object. The mass of holiday-makers on the Promenade Rose, shuffling forward to claim their coffin-sized plot of beach, might as well not have existed; she was too fascinated by the state of her tan, her wax job, her waistline, too in love with herself to notice them. He was in love with her too. He was going to die if he didn’t have her. If he was going to be lost, and it looked as if he was, he wanted to be lost inside her, to drown in the little pool of her self-love – if there was room.

Oh, no, not that. Please. A piece of animated sports equipment had just walked up to her table, put his pack of red Marlboros and his mobile phone next to her mobile phone and pack of Marlboro Lights, kissed her on the lips and sat down, if that was the right term for the muscle-bound bouncing with which he eventually settled into the chair next to hers. Heartbreak. Disgust. Fury. Patrick skimmed over the ground of his immediate emotions and then forced himself upwards into the melancholy sky of resignation. Of course she was spoken for a million times over. In the end it was a good thing. There could be no real dialogue between those who still thought that time was on their side and those who realized that they were dangling from its jaws, like Saturn’s children, already half-devoured. Devoured. He could feel it: the dull efficiency of a praying mantis tearing arcs of flesh from the still living aphid it has clamped between its forelegs; the circular hobbling of a wildebeest, reluctant to lie down with the lion who hangs confidently from his neck. The fall, the dust, the last twitch.

Yes, in the end it was a good thing that Bikini Girl was spoken for. He lacked the pedagogic patience and the particular kind of vanity which would have enabled him to opt for the cheap solution of being a youth vampire. It was Julia who had got him used to sex during her fortnight’s stay, and it was among the time refugees of her blighted generation that he must look for lovers. With the possible exception, of course, of the waitress who was now weaving her way back towards him. There was something about the shop-worn sincerity of her smile which suited his mood. Or was it the stubborn pout of the labial mould formed by her jeans? Should he get a shot of brandy to tip into his espresso? It was only ten thirty in the morning, but there were already several misty-cold glasses of beer blazing among the round tables. He only had two days of holiday left. They might as well be debauched. He ordered the brandy. At least that way she would be back soon. That’s how he liked to think of her, weaving back and forth on his behalf, tirelessly attending to his clumsy search for relief.

He turned towards the sea, but the harsh glitter of the water blinded him and, while he shielded his eyes from the sun, he found himself imagining all the people on that body-packed curve of blond sand, shining with protective lotions, playing with bats and balls, lolling in the placid bay, reading on their towels and mattresses, all being blasted by a fierce wind and blown into a fine veil of sparkling sand, and the collective murmur, pierced by louder shouts and sharper cries, falling silent.

Edward St. Aubyn, Mother’s Milk (The Patrick Melrose Novels, #4), 2005.

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