Portia waited in the bar, drinking glass after glass of cheap house white, waiting for him to tip up, and so when he finally did, she was of course very drunk. It was inevitable. She’d had a couple of spliffs, too, and was on top of the world floating about. And the world didn’t seem as sharp and painful and like it was going to fuck her over. It felt softer, blunter, funnier. Nothing was normal. Not anymore. And things were spinning and not normal and happy.
‘My mother died’, she announced euphorically to the rather taken aback French barman who brought her the fourth glass. ‘And it’s funny’, she continued, ‘because I would never have imagined Mum to die that way. She was so careful.’
Finally Ben was there, wearing a trippy shirt that flashed and danced. It completely mesmerised her and he sat there for about five minutes while she laughed at his shirt, a painting on the wall, the bubbles in his cider.
‘My mother died’, she announced finally.
‘I know’, he replied. ‘I’m so sorry my love. I really am, but you mustn’t destroy yourself like this…’ then stopped as she burst into peals of laughter again, peals that jarred in his ears, cutting the air, making people nearby look up in surprise.
‘What else is there to do?’ she choked, wiping tears from her eyes. ‘Everything’s ended, messed up, twisted…’ Twist was such a funny word that she started giggling again. When she had recovered, she continued: ‘She was always so careful. So it’s all wrong.’
He looked confused.
‘She would never have eaten something with nuts’, she cried, then started laughing again at the words ‘nuts’. She was so hungry… ‘And even then, she knew where her epinephrine was!’ She looked closely at him. ‘And so did you.’
He went cold.
‘Because you see where I’m coming from’, she said. ‘Because you know right? I leave you and my mother alone together, and then she dies because of her nut allergy, and now we inherit everything. Right?’
He said nothing. But he remembered the night of Portia’s mother’s death. He remembered cooking. He remembered looking for her epinephrine. He remembered standing there, waiting just that little bit too long.
Portia collapsed off her chair. The barman peered at her over the bar, looking concerned. Ben smiled apologetically picked her and began the long walk home. Via the river.