by Simon Evans
I first met Mark in a wine bar in the City. I was with some friends from work and so was he. Our respective swarms edged towards each other, like midges. Mark and I broke from our circles subtly and gradually gravitated to the point of union. When we were close enough and the opportunity presented itself Mark asked me where I worked, then where I lived. He then guessed which tube lines I caught to work and then suggested some clever alternatives like the bus. He then went on to suggest that sometimes it’s easier to walk. I then asked him where he worked and what he did there. He spent about ten minutes telling me that he did things with funds. I asked where he lived and he told me. He then said that he only lived in areas of London beginning with ‘H’, as they were the only areas that really mattered. I asked if Hither Green counted. He said it didn’t.
Mark was classic TD&H, which was what my friends and I called ‘tall, dark and handsome’. His eyes twinkled like surprised coal, his hair was perfect and self-conscious and his jaw line looked like Italy would after a good feed and a lot of ironing. When his massive hairy hand ‘accidentally’ brushed my hip like a hungry turtle’s head poking from a cuff linked shell, a thousand fleeing tingles raced joyously to the forgotten corners of my body.
Mark bought several bottles of Champagne. I asked what we were celebrating and he said ‘life’. The evening reached the point where the rest of the bar was a blur and only Mark and I were in perfect focus – a clarity of togetherness. He asked if I’d like a ride home. I didn’t hesitate in saying ‘yes’. It turned out that Mark really meant ‘a ride’ as his horse was tethered outside the bar.
Mark lifted me on to his white stallion like I was a sack of pot pourri. He unlocked the bike lock which had kept it anchored to the railings and then we rode through the glistening, wet alleys of London towards his flat.
That evening he plundered me and made my eyes roll in their sockets like that of a dying race horse and made my body twitch like that of a child who has just retrieved his Frisbee from the electricity substation.
The next morning the whirlwind continued as Mark told me that he was taking me on a tour of coastal towns on horseback. He said he knew my boss and had already cleared it with him. How could a girl say no?!
Our first stop was a fairly grotty town in Kent. Mark grew very quiet as we clipped and clopped through the drab suburban streets. We stopped in a cul de sac called ‘Parc Rise’ and Mark explained that he had to visit his mother. I stayed on the horse as instructed while Mark dismounted and then ascended the twisting, wheelchair friendly slope to the front door. After about twenty minutes I heard a crash and a door slam from inside the bungalow and Mark’s voice shouting ‘IT’S NOT MY FUCKING FAULT, I’M BUSY. IT’S NOT MY FUCKING FAULT’. Then the front door flew open and before you could say ‘Oedipus Complex’ we were cantering through the bland Kentish town. Mark didn’t speak until Eastbourne.
The next few days followed a pattern. We would ride to a new town, lock the horse to a railing, check in to the best hotel, eat oysters from each other’s mouths, drink Champagne and make love. In the morning Mark would impress me with his unusual exercise regime. He could do press ups, squat thrusts and star jumps on horseback, topless. He could even do Yoga moves, like downward dog, the plank and something he called ‘Lotus Extreme’.
The last resort we visited was also our first – we were back in Mark’s hometown. When I questioned whether this was wise Mark pinched my arm until I cried.
As usual we checked in to the best hotel in town. In this case it was a Premier Travel Inn. In the morning, as the weak sun was peering through the gap between the heavy, purple curtains, I yawned and stretched out a soft, warm arm to find Mark. But he was gone. I gasped in surprise. I then gasped in surprise a second time as I noticed Mark’s horse looking at me from the bathroom. It had a piece of hotel note paper between its teeth.
I approached warily and took the message straight from the horse’s mouth. The note simply said ‘I have attached myself to my mother’s wheelchair with my bike lock and have thrown us both off a cliff. Ps Mother is in the wheelchair.’
As it turned out this is exactly what he had done.
Mark had also left me his Mother’s bungalow which is where I now live with Mark’s horse and our baby boy, which I called ‘Mark’.
I often remark on the irony that Mark worked in Hedge Funds and his son earns his money trimming hedges for the council. The other points worth making are that I subsequently became quite depressed and put on a substantial amount of weight. I can’t ride the horse anymore but I do keep it securely locked up in the back garden.