Thoughts on a napkin with circles of gin
Part 2: Enrique and Isabelle.

The bartender handed me the gin and the couple of bits of blank paper. I yawned a big yawn as I carried tonic bottle, gin, paper and a fresh pack of cigarettes over to a table tucked away in one corner, behind another of those plastic plants. A little hideyhole. I grunted to myself. Momentarily, I was a teenager again, looking for the one of a hundred ways to be snotty about this situation, this request, this imposition. Taking a long pull on the gin and tonic, I set it down on the napkin – I can’t bring myself to use the miniature paper, what the fuck was it that designer had called it just then? the doily – and hovered over the cigarettes.

I looked across the bar as I picked up the pack, slit the cellophane and pulled out the foil. I’d bought Lucky Strikes because she’d always smoked mine back then when we were hanging out, even though her brand was that terrible French shit with a winged helmet on the pack. I savour the smell of the new carton. Lighting up, I had a little lost time while I savoured the memories.

Coming back to myself, I drained off the rest of the gin, sat up and stubbed out the cigarette. Maybe that could be my tack, I thought. Turning my mind back to this memoir some Doctor from Silversmiths had just talked me into doing with no effort at all. Talk up the old cunt by way of self-aggrandisement. “What was Isabelle Bauze doing with Enrique Hemaski?…” Which would be kind of expected… I wheezed silent laughter at myself, picked up the empty glass and set it back down again. I stared down at the blank paper.

Izzy… Where were you now? She’d have had the idea like that. I snapped shut the lighter as I lit another Lucky, sat back and looked out the window through more plastic plants and thought about mortality and all that bullshit. I remembered this one time we’d been to see some new flick in the early 70s, Gene Hackman bugged out and freaking. We’d both flipped, at last, someone showing it like it was to come off, at least like we’d seen with Sergei. Not nice. He hadn’t made it as far as us.

She was pretty much best known to everyone as the philosopher that wrote Fin, which has been mostly translated as ‘The End’. The film closing, fin-ality, ticks all those Lacanian boxes Dr Jenny would probably fill up, but it’s not what Izzy meant. If it’s a rock ‘n’ roll song you need, and I do, it’s further back: the Orbison melodrama of ‘It’s over’, which sounds like the end of the world, like it is for a teenager, but has something of the seeds of hope, the idea of continuing in the face of desolation. I mean, if that’s what you need. She did a damn good job of getting all that into five chapters.

Halfway down the cigarette, the Big O reverbing around my head, it comes to me, finally. I scratch it out on the paper, laying each line down as it comes. When I’m finished, I wave Dr Jenny’s card in the air, meaning to get the barman’s attention. It occurs to me it’s like I’m signalling teacher to let her know I’m done. Luckily, he’s a gifted mind reader, this kid.

When the drink arrives I make him swerve the jolly old doily and set it down on the napkin. It makes a little figure eight with the mark the other left when finally I lift it to toast Izzy: it’s over.