She plays pinball and she feeds the jukebox. She’s done this for going on for an hour. A pound in the jukebox, careful, lip-biting, brow-furrowing deliberation, then walking but subtly dancing to herself back to the pinball machine. A pound in there and she plays and plays.
And it’s a constant effort to not look at her.
Nothing about her demeanour suggests that she’s noticed me, she seems totally, joyously unselfconscious. The pub is sparsely populated. A few old soaks drinking silently together. They’d be here alone, if they had to be. A couple of students from the university drinking the strongest cider they sell. Me, waiting for a perennially late friend. And her. And her.
Pretty and slight and pixieish. Jeans, an old t-shirt that she could fit into three times over, some dainty little flats that just make her seem smaller, no makeup. An absence of effort appears to have gone into her look but she is utterly, intoxicatingly at home with it.
I pretend to concentrate on some pointless smartphone game but i’m just tapping a blank screen. She stands, one foot on top of the other, toes turned in, in front of the screen as she, yet again, chooses the soundtrack to our afternoon.
Her fingers start pressing the buttons quickly, decisively. She’s hit a rich seam and a heartbeat later, the jangly, jagged sound of early Bowie floods the bar. Grinning to herself, she walks back to the pinball machine and plays, her hips flicking in sympathy with the flippers.
I watch her moving, more intently now that she’s so thoroughly absorbed. The hips, obviously, the t-shirt draped over them. But the line of her bowed head, her exposed neck. I imagine my hands, my lips on her. I imagine taking a fistful of that t-shirt and pulling her close, bending to kiss her before even knowing her name, before even hearing her voice. I imagine pulling her jeans down and taking her over the pinball machine. I imagine the feel of her lips on me, pulling me deeper into her. I imagine the taste of her and how her hands would feel knotted tightly in my messy hair.
I down my drink. Not because I want to, but because I want an easy excuse to talk to her. As I approach I hear her singing quietly to herself…
“…torn your dress
Rebel rebel, your face is a mess
Dumdeedumdee, how could they know
Hot tramp, I love you so…”
I pause as I pass her, timing my line so she can hold the ball in a flipper.
“Excuse me, could I buy you a drink?”
She frowns, ever so slightly.
“No, you’re alright. thanks though.”
I buy my beer and head back to my table. But it’s changed, she knows that she’s being observed and she’s still, her hips aren’t moving, suddenly conscious of herself. I’ve ruined it. My friend arrives and I’m grateful for his presence. We talk of work and sport and meaningless stuff. Soon, I look up and she’s left, her half-finished beer next to the pinball table.