Janet Charman


economy class

i don't watch daytime television

oh     you mean opera
three times
fell asleep twice
once at La Scala
                                  this woman is drunk
                                  i can usually tell
                                  she lays down her fork and smiles at me
                                  while i'm
                                  gliding Songs of the Auvergne
                                  out of the CD              Bach
have you got Blondie?
                                  more coffee i parry
                                  and drop the mint salver
                                  with the closed till receipt
                                  into the satin opening
                                  between their candles
last diners
early finish
empty by eleven
a person
it's her
phones up after midnight
something left in the ladies

on the basin
a dark gem in light gold
red stone    yellow metal as they put it on the police job sheets
no sign of it maa'am
sliding the cool circlet
onto my middle finger
where it slops elegantly about
as if it has just come home

the bright lump vanishes
in my fist
all you see    is an anonymous wire
i deadlock the doors and get upstairs
she's on a tour
leaving today
i've taken her home address
it might turn up
sentimental value
maybe someone will hand it back

maybe they won't
i slip the ring into the static
in the earring saucer
and undress

perks    my legs
ache    tauten the feet
toes stretched wide in a fan of flesh
and curling them in i can usually fall
straight to sleep after this
thinking about the bins out the back
layered leftovers in the cold cabinets
i've armed the alarm
and now comes the time with the plane man
a suit
a bit fat but sweet
for relaxation    for drifting off
dull but delicious but suitably dangerous to finish the day with
in a peremptory way
let me get that for you he'll say
and swing my holdall up
before i can pull out the novel
i make him take it down

when he's used up all the tissues
he mops at the rest of my spilt tea with his handkerchief

tonight the hinged lid of the hotwater pot flops up turbulence
and scalding water drenches the trays
as always
but the smiling hostie
leaning to fill our cups
gives an animal cry
in the galley
they're still pouring chilled soda over her forearm when i come back from
the toilet
she's whimpering    her face in a snarl

i wait beside him in the baggage claim
i could ask
but i want him to
mother isn't expecting me till tomorrow
no one will know
i like his room
a big bed
and hardly anywhere to move around it

he's clumsy to start
quite able to get the clothes off
but fussing
and probably that's because he's used to paying

sometimes this thought delays me

tonight i skip straight to how he plucks up handfulls of flesh
pummelling my shoulders
and back
till pleasure comes in a grunt
and the warm little pillows lips point

soon i might phone someone and say i'm here spending the night at the airport
when i wake
he's sitting beside me
'you haven't listened to a thing i've said' he whispered
i lean over the side of the bed
and extract the other condom
after a while we descend     to the restaurant
and land in the gift shop while they clear a table
he buys the greenstone bar brooch with gold end stops
very expensive
'have it' he says
'i want you to'
and     pins it on me

we eat
i say
i won't go back up with you
i have my stuff
and this is the part i like the best
that puts me to sleep and keeps me awake
he lunges out and snatches my wrist
'i gave you more'
the plane man hissed
always then i set down my fork
and reach with my free hand
up to the pin on my collar
working it loose from the stiffened wool
leaning over i slide it cleanly
into the worsted of his lapel
                                  there you are
                                  i say

© Janet Charman 1996