lipstick on his collar

Saturday night, I am East bound via the West End. The tubes are heaving, the carriages vacuumed packed. Football supporters are made up, St George’s Cross’ flag their cheeks. There are chicken headed tourists and surly teens. The Christmas rush is on and this ordinary oyster bearer feels squeezed.

My entire body is pressed against hers, theirs, but mainly – his. He smells of soap and fresh sweat. His jacket is loosely tied around his waist; my outward breath ruffles the hairs on the nape of his neck. We are vertically spooning. The carriage jolts forward and my lips meet his collar.

There is lipstick on his collar, red lipstick.  I say nothing. The doors open, I alight and sense the beginning of a story.

He says, – I’m on my way.

She says, – You’re late.

I’m always late.

It’s a surprise party, the guests are meant to arrive before the host.

Do you want me pick anything up?

Speed.

Was that meant to be funny?

It’s Saturday night in London and my lips are stained with mischief. There is wine to be drunk, merry to be made. There are kisses to be pressed. I raise a glass of red. We toast the future, salute the past, we recognise the silent pauses. I left my mark on a stranger’s collar and this glass in hand.

She may not notice until the morning. She may not notice at all. She may spot it later that very evening at the party. He will be talking to a women she has always felt slightly jealous of or threatened by. She will think he has been up to no good and his protestations will only serve to further provoke her. He will not understand. He won’t get it. His clean shirt so expertly branded. Her shackles may rise and she might give voice to a seething anger that is only heard on the rarest occasions or perhaps clouds of tears will gather and mascara stain her cheeks.  Still he will not understand. He still won’t get it. All will be denied bar his innocence.

I have winter on my breath and a kindling heart.

Later to quell the storm his lips will seek out hers; begging forgiveness, a stream of reassurances, perhaps even a love ever after.
Passion will arise from a misplaced kiss.

My lips are sealed.  On the homebound journey I travel in an empty carriage, the Sunday papers lie in the seat to my side.


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©Mark O’Rourke