I Love You Crazy by Naomi Alderman

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So I’m lying in bed and suddenly I find that I’m thinking about you which I haven’t done for I don’t know how long but I’m remembering how you used to love it when I slept naked just like I’m doing right now. I’d keep it for special occasions when I wanted to know that I’d be able to drive you wild in a moment and otherwise wear pyjamas and you used to undo the buttons while you were kissing me and not even looking. [private]And that makes me think about the sofas in our best room when I was growing up which my mother always kept the plastic covers on except when the priest came for tea or for Sunday lunch which he did two or three times a year and the rest of the time the covers were on so that if I sat on the sofa with bare legs or in shorts they’d get sweaty, a pool of moisture creeping up under my groin and when I stood up there’d be a sucking noise and the almost-pain of my skin unpeeling from the plastic. And almost-pain brings me back to thinking of you and the way I hardly ever did sleep naked all that time and now you’re not here to be driven wild by it and how you used to say that to me: “you drive me wild, baby”.

So I get up and I make coffee which is strong and black and just what I need and I think about calling you and I wonder how I’d get your number. I try to remember where I put that address book that definitely had your last number in it or maybe if I can remember the name of that place where you worked you might still be there and I’d call like I used to and ask to speak to you in my business voice and you’d answer the phone saying your first name and second name and the name of the company just as if I was anyone else in the world. And then I’d say hey, it’s me. And you’d recognise my voice and suddenly you wouldn’t be all first-namesecond-name-company-name any more, you’d be remembering love in the middle of the afternoon in a work place which is not a love kind of place at all.

And thinking this I decide to call you because it’s the afternoon and it’s a thing I always used to like doing in the afternoon, so I start to look for that address book which I know is around here somewhere. I find a shoebox full of receipts, which I always keep because once you told me that it’s important to keep receipts, I think they can fine you if you don’t. I’m pretty sure that address book is in a shoebox somewhere. I have a distinct recollection of that, I can see it small and black with the gold half rubbed off the edges of the pages and with an elastic band stretched around it. I will have put it somewhere with important things that’s how it feels, I know it’s an important thing so I would have put it in a box with other things that you told me I ought to keep.

I dump the receipts out onto the bed and start rummaging through them although it’s pretty obvious to me from the get-go that the little book isn’t in the box, but somehow I find myself liking looking at those old receipts because I don’t keep them so much any more but when you were here I always used to. So those receipts are from places we used to go together and things we used to do together. And I find that looking at them I can remember suddenly in so much detail it hurts exactly how it was each time. I find a thick silver paper from the outside of the ice cream you bought me in the park. It’s folded over itself which I must have done, I don’t know why I kept it but I know the ice cream was mint choc chip and that the pigeons fought over the end of my cone which I dropped by mistake. I’m wading through those scraps of paper, staring at each one like it’s a photograph with a memory embedded in the centre and I find myself alive in each of those receipts with you walking in the city or eating or going to the movies which you always called the cinema or taking in a show. I look at each one like it’s you.

And what I find is not the address book at all which now I think about it was in that bag that got stolen that day when we went to the open-air market and I put it down in the dressing room because I was trying on a pair of black jeans and then forgot and because you paid I only remembered after we’d had our coffee in that café with the wooden floor that dips out over the canal and when I went to my bag to get the cigarettes I didn’t have it and when we went back to the jeans shop it had gone. What I find is your card. From your work. The card that you gave me the first time we met and I kept it for almost a week before I called you because you’d been so crazy for me that night and begging me to give you my number and I thought I should hold out for a long time just to make you crazier.

And that card flips me right back to that first call I ever made to you I remember you sounded so surprised when you answered and I had to remind you who I was and you said oh and then again, deeper, oh. And I said I was in your neighbourhood and if you wanted to have a coffee we could and you said you were really busy and I said OK some other time then and you said no no. And ten minutes later we were having coffee and you paid. And I know that if I call you right now it’ll be just like that again, that it’s been so long and you always said that no one could make you crazier than I could and I know that you’ve been waiting for me to call.

So I pick up the phone and dial. Someone else not you answers the phone with the name of the company and I put on my best business voice with the good accent and it hardly wavers at all when I say your name but they can’t seem to understand it so I try again, saying your name just like you do on the phone, first name, second name, name of the company. And I wait to hear your voice, crazy for me like you will be after all this time.

And there’s a pause, and then they say, no, you’ve moved on. And I say oh. And they say was it important? And I say, no not really. And they say is there anyone else who could help? And I say no. And I ask if they know where you’ve gone but they don’t.

And I sit down on the bed and then get up again and make myself another cup of coffee. I smoke a cigarette and I think that somewhere in the city there you are and maybe you’re smoking one too but you always wanted to give up so maybe not at all.[/private]

Naomi Alderman’s first novel Disobedience won the Orange Award for New Writers and the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year. In 2009 she was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award. Her most recent novel, The Lessons, was published by Penguin in April 2010. She also writes online games and has a weekly column in the Guardian.

One comment

  1. I D Thomas says:

    I like this. The long sentences have echoes of Joyce and Easton Ellis and lend themselves to the engrossing suspense and I read the thing at a single stroke and descriptions of bare legs are never lost on me. Good wishes. IDT.

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