The Weight of Ten Pound Coins

The sea was still; it shimmered and at its edge small waves massaged the beach with white fingers. In the distance the sea curved back on itself and became the sky. There was a soft wind, cool, not cold, and we walked towards the pier, which H— had chosen, preferring the penny arcades to the quiet of a path pointing in the opposite direction. It was off-season in my hometown, so the pier was quiet; shuttered doughnut stands, seafood vans, ice cream parlours; the sand that lay on the path had been carried by the wind, not by feet. A group of teenage girls lingered on bicycles at the foot of one of the arcades mounted on a hill, they spoke & giggled loudly, then set off whirring.

The end of the pier was closed for works. ‘I saw some of the rides being dismantled on our way.’ Instead we walked around the arcades, amongst the flashing lights and sounds. Old wood creaked beneath our feet but we couldn’t see the water. We in Rome, at the change machine.

Ten pound coins.

We both agreed we would play some of the games, giggling in anticipation & competition. It seemed terribly couple-y to me, that we should be playing arcade games together, but I liked it — more accurately, I realised I liked it — and found an unexpected delight in being couple-y. I adored her when she was like that, when we were like that, both furiously bashing buttons and shrieking with excitement.

The weight of ten pound coins in my coat pocket. We wandered between all the amusements. I survived longest in the zombie shooter game (although we both kept accidentally shooting civilians in the face with our bow & arrows); she beat me at the game where we had to throw balls at targets (destroyed me); the racing game was close (but she picked a slow car) (no mercy).
My dad returned from the fruities—‘I won a tenner. Let’s have a drink.’

The bar was at the back of the arcades, behind all the blinking neon, next to the fruit machines where a solitary man slouched against the hefty belly of cherries & peach. It smelled of table cleaner and damp carpet. Posters advertised meal deals and a small queue of women had formed at the coffee counter. We ordered a round and sat down next to the window; grey Sunday had a habit of looking in longingly. The heating had gone out in the whole building; in the corner a jet fan and a beautiful glowing coil blasted hot air into the centre of the room; a gas cannister held hands. I smiled. It hummed in the background.

I looked at the prices of coffee. Soon the weekend would be over, and H— and I would return to the city, and it would be closer to her going back home. She held a conversation with my mum. There were still four pound coins in my pocket; I fingered them. Sleep passed me by as I attempted to enjoy as much of our time together as I could. Never did I really believe that she would be between my parents, drinking IPA in my hometown, beautiful, so eager to hold my hand and walking like she’s looking for a fight. ‘We’ve both changed,’ she told me during one of our quieter moments, ‘become better people.’In the evening we went for a meal in a nearby seaside town, fifteen miles through fog-darkened country roads. It was so good to be there with her. She wrapped up warm when we went for a cigarette between courses—‘I like getting to know the people in your life.’ She had a particular way of interlacing her fingers with my own, so that if I didn’t correlate, she would separate us, arrange my fingers, and then we would be just right according to the gospel of her.

‘It’s lovely seeing you together… I mean, it’s weird, but it’s lovely.’ I grinned.

She kissed me. A man stumbled out the public toilets and crossed the road, passing through a spine of light the moon had cast on the wet road.

Back inside the glowing windows she resumed the bottle of champagne she started with my mother. Every now & then I took it from the cold bucket, dried its drips on the white napkin, and topped up both glasses; a movement that gave me pleasure. She looked forward to dessert most of all.

On the way back, H—, a little merry, argued with my brother, also a little merry. I squeezed her hand, egging her on. In front of us were the fractured white headlights as they perforated & tore through the grass verge and overhanging trees. A comedian performed on the TV; she laughed. I watched her undress, and tasted the champagne second-hand as she held a pillow over her face. 

In the morning a blue light came through our blinds. They’d been my blinds once upon a time, installed in the guest-room I occupied when I visited, but now I supposed they were our blinds.

On the train she rested her head on my shoulder; it was all these things that I disagreed with, but she put them upon me until they felt natural, until I felt natural, the way things were supposed to be. The sun shines in strongly on that side of the carriage at that time of day. Back when I lived with my parents I knew that sort of thing, how the sun interacted with the train, but had forgotten in time. I put my skull against her skull. I drifted in & out of sleep. Through her coat and mine I felt her heat and she the same. I wanted the tracks to go on forever.