The party was already thinning when I arrived and the remaining partygoers looked up at me with sudden hope in their eyes. Maybe I had a rucksack of beers with a few going spare, or a new bottle of whisky to hand around? Feeling vaguely that I had disappointed everybody, as if a throng of ducks had surprised me without any bread, I retreated to the quiet of the kitchen.
A plump, pleasant girl with thick spectacles was smoking a cigarette over the stove and we got talking. She did not so much give an impression of being young as of being still disencumbered by age. Schoolchildren would have bracketed her with those teachers who are like a sympathetic big sister rather than a substitute parent. I would say that she had taken a few bold steps into her thirties and perhaps she was aware that her youth should be beginning to flag, but the world even today held a sort of residual wonder for her. She was the sort of person who would fill a busy secretarial role in a charity or a trendy government department; she would occupy a rented flatshare and have a social life which was more hectic and organised than her work. She laughed as she talked to me, her eyes very intent, as if to say “at this moment there is only you and me in the world and everything else is a hum.”
“Miriam,” I repeated happily. I let her name echo around my mind, hoping that it would last. There is nothing worse than talking to a girl for three hours and then realising that you cannot remember the name that she gave you at the start of the conversation. At parties, everybody should be obliged to wear name badges. Miriam was basically Spanish, although experts somewhere would have no doubt confirmed the truth of her conviction that she belonged to some ancient regional nation. I have since forgotten the corner of Spain in which it can be found, but I can be hardly expected to remember both her name and that of her homeland.
We talked about how our lives had led us around Europe and through various educational systems and up to the point of being in Edinburgh and at this party. We smoked another cigarette and I then remarked with the apparent carelessness of an old hand, “Shall we go back to my apartment? I’ve a very jolly bottle of whisky for us to splash about.”
Miriam agreed and I could have punched the air. Out in the street we captured a taxi and we had scarcely settled into our seats when Newington was rolling up outside. At this time of year, an apartment which has been left alone for the evening no longer greets you with slimy, stinging cold. Miriam waved away my offer to turn on the heating; the first sip of whisky is like placing your head inside a dazzling sunbeam.
We drank and talked and then Miriam followed me into my bedroom. We kissed in the doorway and she led me over to the bed and inspected it with the eye of a critic. Perhaps if the sheets were too greasy she would have made me wash them, and we would have had to sit beside the tumble dryer for an hour waiting for them to be ready. Miriam’s hand was burrowing into my pants to retrieve my cock. She tittered at the sight of it and mouthed “wow,” as if the idea of a man for once having a large cock was very comical.
She kissed my balls and took my cock in her mouth and I did not mind. This is the revenge of pornography and the drawback of everybody being more educated about sex. We no longer snuggle together like teddy bears and making love now requires an exhaustive, laborious exercise regime. Renata, for example, always wants us to begin with a charade in which I am delivering a pizza to a naked housewife. By the time that we are finally within sight of congress, I am trying to discreetly fall asleep.
Miriam stripped off and for a brief moment I wondered what I was looking at. All of her white flesh seemed to blur into a huge blotch of lichen. Yet her body was so warm it was like sitting beside the open door of an oven and I was amazed as desire in all of its stunning clarity flooded into my brain.
She lolloped into my lap, nimble for her size, and sank her teeth into my shoulder. We both rolled breathlessly on the bed for a while, as if we were wrestling underwater, and then I was on my back and she was riding me cowgirl, her thighs pounding against my body with awesome power.
Yet although the slaps were still ringing in my skull, she had actually stopped. She was examining something across the room on the far wall. I followed her eyes with my mind, but there was only a calendar which featured scenes from the Scottish Highlands (Loch Garvie this month) and an illustration from Tychy which my editor James had presented to me at our last meeting.
Miriam began again, her hands exploring my chest. “Is that original artwork from the Tychy website?” she inquired.
For a moment, I could not breathe and my mind scrambled for words. “My website!” I gasped. “You’ve heard of it?”
Her laughter was like a thunderclap. “Your website?… Oh my God!… Are you really Tychy?”
I grunted, and I was then desperate to shake off this interruption. “Let’s keep going baby.” I began to fuck her aggressively, albeit rather with the effect of a woodpecker tapping at an oak tree, but she chattered on regardless. “I didn’t realise that Tychy was a real person. All of this is real!”
I was annoyed to find myself stopping again. “I didn’t realise that our website had any real readers!”
She rocked on top of me absent-mindedly. “I check up on Tychy every day. I’ve been doing so for years.”
“I never believe any of the statistics which James gives me. I had assumed that I was writing for nobody.”
We both resumed in a contemplative mood. “So what do you like about the website in particular?” I hazarded. She took to the air like a butterfly and when I sat up she was waiting for me on her back on the other side of the bed. Naked in front of her, I felt myself suddenly slipping into my orgasm, the engine quickening until it broke into strangled yelps, and I fought back with a fury. Once it had subsided again to an uneasy purr, I plunged into Miriam and buried my face in her breasts.
“The Noctes Ambrosianae…” she panted. I did not know where her voice was now coming from, but I felt her take a handful of my balls. “I love those pictures… the “Wanderers I Knew Not Where” pictures.” She kissed my balls with a loud smack and the tips of her fingers dug into my arsehole.
A thought occurred to me. “I’ve realised that I don’t like people I know reading my website. It’s an invasion of my privacy. You must know me much better than I would like.” I took her very roughly in my arms, as if to announce “the foreplay is over.” We both fucked with deliberate concentration. The orgasm flared up and for a moment it was unveiled flaming white like the sun. Miriam cried out from faraway like a seagull. Afterwards, I peeled off my condom and we lay stinking in each other’s juices.
“So do you really have a fourteen year old wife?” Miriam asked, sitting up and peering around as if she was expecting a third head to pop out from under the duvet.
“She’s at university now. But yes, my wife was very young when I married her.”
“And she was… fourteen?”
“We never connected sexually. There was a time after Marcin left the city when Polly and I became close companions. A bit like Plato and Socrates.”
“And did you murder Marcin?”
I realised that I had definitely heard the question, but I was so astonished that I had suddenly lost any opportunity to be outraged. “He’s still alive,” I replied in an even voice.
Miriam eyed me sceptically and stood up. She was now hunting for her clothes, walking around the room as distantly as a figure on television. “Is James a nice guy? I must meet him.”
“He lives in poverty. He thought that the website would make us rich. I keep waiting to hear that he has expired of tuberculosis.”
“Is he gay? He seems a bit camp.”
“I actually don’t know very much about him. I think that he has a Chinese girlfriend – I once met a woman in Harvey Nichols who was trotting him around like a Pekingese.”
To my relief, Miriam appeared to have decided not to stay the night. She was now padding out into the corridor, grunting “I’ll call you one day” over her shoulder. I bathed in contentment.
Yet when Miriam had reached the front door she found me at her side.
“I don’t think that it’s feasible for you to leave,” I announced quietly.
She blinked at me from behind her spectacles. There was still a patch of mist on one of the lenses.
“Yes,” I continued. “You are now trapped in Tychy fiction. You are doomed to become a minor character; a fourth around the table at the Standing Order with me, James and Tori. You may appear now and then in a short story in which you inherit a haunted house or something amusing befalls you whilst you are working for an employment agency. But this is your world now.”
Miriam sniggered uneasily. Under her waves of voluptuousness, there was the briefest flicker of fright. Her hand found the doorknob and she stepped back as the door swung open without any obstruction. The world waited as usual outside in the stairwell, completely unremarkable.