He pokes my side and passes me another bottle. I turn away and smile into the basket where we keep the oranges, where I think he won't see (he will).
I think maybe this is a chance. I think of an Arctic Monkeys song. I think of the oranges. My friend gives me one look and laughs as she pours some more drinks.
“Anna, ma tu sempre così te li trovi!” Anna, you always fall for the same kind of guys.
She’s seen this scene before. Different set, different time, different clothes. Same me, same longing. It’s a strange kind of longing. Something more than just an itch but less than a real need. There’s no need, just want.
Like I wanted someone to break my heart in November. Like I wanted someone to remind me what butterflies feel like. Like I tried to ignore it, avoid it, and then deny it, until I went home one night and got in bed with my clothes on, and I couldn't breathe right, and I wanted to punch something, or run away. And it was over.
This is short-lived, and less painful. This is good. This is what it's supposed to feel like.
A bar, a garden, oranges.
I think of that song again.I can't keep the smile off my face. I walk back to the bar and the guy behind the counter gives me a look, are you okay? I don't know, sir. See, I'm in too deep. I'm not used to this anymore, I've forgotten what it does to me. And I want to remember.
I've got this stupid smile on my face and my heart aches for something more. I want to remember touches. Tender, light, almost a whisper. Just to prove I can.
He flirts with the girl in the leather jacket and it's suddenly November again, and Curly is sitting opposite me but there's another girl in his lap and I'm talking about greek philosophers, and why am I talking about greek philosophers? His hand on her leg, her fingers tracing his jaw.
It's November again and I'm desperate and lonely and I don't want to be there.
I smell oranges.
I'm back. It's May and I'm light and I'm free, Curly's long gone.
I bump into him on my way back. I touch his back just to see myself do it, because I want to know I can. It's carefree and fun and something I need. Just to feel something.
I'm never gonna see him again and somehow that soothes me, it makes me feel safe. It eliminates the possibility of running into him in Liverpool Street when I'm wearing leggings and no makeup, so at least that's different from last time.
He calls me over and motions to the drink behind the bar.
"Look, I kept that for you."
"It's a strong one."
A pause. I take a sip. It's a good one.
"Your name is Anna, isn't it?"
I nod. He already knew that.
My friend laughs again, yells "Sei impossible! Tutti così!" You're impossible, they're always like this! She makes another drink. I take another sip from mine. Then another.
Back in November I'd told her I could never be with Curly because he's the kind of guy who crushes your soul and spits you out before you've even had a chance to figure out what's going on.
It's been six months and that doesn't scare me anymore, it almost makes me laugh.
It's almost what I want.
We hug and say goodbye at the bus stop, and I watch him turn the corner and disappear from sight. I look up at the sky, and it's still bright blue. The sun is still out.
It's late on a Saturday evening in May and the sun is still out. I am light and free and glorious, and November is just a distant memory, something I can't relate to anymore. Now I smell oranges and I feel butterflies, and I can't remember the last time I wanted someone to break my heart. I am anew.
I notice a group of teenagers staring, and then laughing. I instinctively think I must have something on my back. On my jeans. Maybe my shoelaces are untied. Oh god, did I have something on my face the whole time I was talking to him? One of them comes up to me and says, "Excuse me, I don't mean to be rude but... Why are you so happy?" His friends laugh. I look puzzled. "I don't mean it in a bad way, I just haven't seen anyone look that happy in a long time. You were walking around with this big smile, looking like you just won the lottery." A pause. "Did you win the lottery?"
I laugh. You know what, kid? Maybe I did.