“Sir, I think
you’ve forgotten to pay!” we heard the waiter call while we bolted down the road from the fancy restaurant, holding each others’ sweaty hands.
We turned a corner and doubled over in laughter, covering our faces and desperately trying to catch our breaths. Finally, we both stood back up. His arms reached around my waist, pulling me close, and my hand pushed up his chest as I stretched onto my tippy-toes to kiss his stubbly face.
We walked home slowly, stopping repeatedly to laugh and kiss, promising one another that that would be the last time we did a dine-and-dash, knowing we were lying.
He opened the door to our cramped, ill-lit, cold, damp apartment. It may not be much - just a kitchen, bedroom and bathroom - but it was all we needed. Books were stacked up on piles against the walls, dishes filled the sink, the fridge was empty, over-filled ashtrays were all over the place, clothes covered the floor and silly posters and pictures of old friends lined the walls; yes, it was a mess, but it was our mess.
I went to the kitchen and took out two glasses, two knives, two spoons, two forks and two teacups from my handbag - we had to steal them, we had no money to buy new ones. And a roll of toilet paper - finally. We’d been using napkins from the cafe for weeks.
He was already in bed, his shirt and jeans added to the mountain of clothes that covered the creaky wooden floor of our bedroom. I pulled off my dress and threw it on.
He handed me a smoke he had just rolled and lit his own. We puffed away on our handmade cigarettes, left with nothing to talk about once again.
“What time is it?” I asked, staring at my rolly, wishing the burning cylinder was more interesting.
“Nine,” he replied.
“God, we’re boring. Twenty-two years old and home in bed by nine o’ clock.”
“Shhh!” I yelled, putting a finger up to his lips. “That’s too old..”
“I feel too old already.”
“Me too. Nine o’ clock. Ugh.”
“Well, what are we meant to do? Running out of restaurants without paying is fine, but it doesn’t work like that in bars.”
“I know,” I sighed.
“So shut up.”
“Sorry.” Same old, same old. I would try to make conversation, but he would always just get annoyed at me, and I’d always end up apologizing for nothing.
“Did you pay the gas bill yet?” he asked me.
“With what money?” I retorted. “Did you pay the electric?”
“Do we at least have some drink in here?” I asked, opening our alcohol/tobacco/condom drawer.
He bent over me and peered in. I stubbed out the end of my smoke into an old can next to the bed.
“No drink, but...” he said, beginning to kiss my neck.
“Not tonight.. I have work tomorrow. I can’t be late again. Please. Not tonight, love.”
“Yes tonight,” he decided, ignoring my plea.
There was no point in arguing - there was never any point in arguing. He always did what he wanted anyway. At least we had condoms.
I had to work all of the next day in the cafe, and then babysit all night. We needed the money: we had no food left, barely any toilet roll, no sugar or milk and almost no tobacco, and we needed to pay the bills, and the rent was due again.
“I love you,” I moaned, beginning to kiss him back.
“You too, babe,” he whispered.
We fell asleep on each other, naked. He snored all night, I shivered under the thin blanket and hugged him close.
When the shrill alarm bleeped at 6AM the next morning, he just swore and rolled away from me. Sometimes I envied him being unemployed - though he still insists he’s a ‘professional musician’, though the dust-and-cobweb-covered guitar in the corner of the room said differently.
I boiled the old, rusty kettle and lit a smoke. I looked through the pile of clothes for something to wear. I’d had all of my clothes for years; we couldn’t afford anything new. Thankfully, we couldn’t afford to get fat, either. I drank a cup of sugar-less, milk-less coffee and reminded myself to steal some from the cafe before running out the door.
I still missed my bus, and was therefore late, yet again. My boss yelled at me as I tied my apron on.
“I’m sorry, Sir, it won’t happen again,” I repeated for the bizillionth time.
“It happens every day. I’m sick of it. You’re fired.”
“No! No! Please Sir! Please!” I begged. But it was too late, just like me. I swore before walking out. We needed that money. We were going to lose the apartment for sure.
I trudged back home, trying not to worry about where we were going to live, or what we would eat for dinner.
When I slammed the door in frustration, he woke up.
“What time is it? Did I sleep all day again?” he called sleepily from bed, rubbing his eyes at the light.
“It’s only half seven, don’t worry,” I yawned, crawling into bed grumpily.
“So why you home?”
“I got fired.”
“What do you mean you got fired? How could you get fired? We needed that money! How we gonna pay the bills? The rent?”
The next couple of hours are a blur of shouting, swearing and violence. He locked me in our room, bruised and sore, so he could go out and get drunk off the only money we had left. I tried to explain to him that if I didn’t babysit tonight I’d lose that job too, but he just slapped me and left.
I lay on the bed, wondering if it was worth all this. Is life worth the effort? Is love worth the pain? Is living worth all the money?
We were broke. We would be homeless soon. We were starving, and tired, and depressed. We fought constantly. But we were in love, so it’d be okay, wouldn’t it? It had to be okay.
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