Non Starter (Fiction)

Respite from the winter
5 foot 4
Of sin and serendipity and
Self consciousness
Steps into
A bar on the edge of Sloane Square;
Rain rolls down vintage Rovers and redbrick
Rain like constellations garnish
Paving slabs and parquet floors
Beautiful part of town.

A man smiles at me and I
Grin foolishly and narrowly miss
Colliding with a
As I watch him walk away
My shoulders and feet are damp from rain
God I need a-

“Cocktail list, madam?”

The bartender hands me a
Leather bound
Catalogue and I pick

“A G and T with Cotswolds gin? Please.”

You enter the bar and stand to my left
As I
Covertly survey you;
You look how I feel.
And dump a long, cane umbrella and
Rain wrecked briefcase
Under the bar.

A nesting crow in a
Damp rain coat on the
Darkest day in December
Your cuff falls back to reveal an
IWC on your wrist
You are tall
Brown leather shoes
Crew neck
Big nose
Sad eyes
The waiter returns with my receipt
Just as the moment passes.

“Would you like to open a tab?”
You reach into your pocket and pull out a black slim leather wallet,
(Smythson I think)
glancing at me

“Alright Harry Potter?”
I shoot
Smiling at you
You stand there fiddling uncomfortably with the edge of your glasses.
Then it happened
Jesus finally
Waited 20-something years for this
You deserve
A pat on the head and a BJ:
A sober man
Who looks capable of ironing his own shirts
Decided of his own accord to
Offer to buy me a drink

In the real world.
Must be the lockdown effect.

I turn my shoulder slightly so you
Can’t see,
Get my phone out
And begin typing furiously under the bar
(Very uncool)
My french manicure slamming the screen at
Ludicrous pace
And press send.

Coolly, I turn to face you;
I suck on my Gin and Tonic and you tell me some things
None of which I think are lies
You are a hotelier
You live in Cambridge
You used to think you were liberal but now you’re
Not so sure
You have three children a grandchild and a dog named Casper
I tell you we shall have to get
Rid of the dog as I am a
Cat person
You tell me Casper is a very sweet natured beast
Get out your phone to show me
Photos of a small
Black haired cockapoo
Running around on a beach with its tongue hanging out
“You fancy me because I look like your dog!?”
I ask in a mock-accusatory tone
Grinning at you.

You say you often holiday in Portugal or Monaco and you
Quit drinking 20 years ago so you’re having a soda and
Lime and many years ago
When you were living in the States
One of your
Favourite girlfriends
Looked just like me and
You like my shoes
“But anyway Billie, what are you doing in here by yourself talking to an
Old man,
Where is your boyfriend?”

I imagine having sex with you
As a beautiful thing.

We are walking down Kings Road.
Have an umbrella
In one hand and my
Denim clad
Arse in the other

I quite like it.

Suddenly and
Just before we reach The Botanist,
You bottle it,
And hail me a taxi,
“Have a safe journey home, Billie.”
I jump inside
Obediently and wave

The road more travelled by).

I watch you slowly disappear:
From a man
To a smudge in the distance,
To an unforgettable and
Regrettable memory,
To a poem

Martyna has text me back a series of smiley faces and love hearts.
“Tell me what’s happening?!” she implores.

I exhale and reply.
“Non starter.”


Thoughts and notes on this poem:


This is a re-draft of a poem that I wrote maybe 3 years ago. I was reminded of it in a deja-vu type experience, and decided to find it (harder than it sounds – I have poems hand written and drafts here and there in old phones and email accounts, or saved on Word under un-useful and difficult to remember document names like “Document 3”).


This poem is about the “sliding doors” moments we’ve had in our lives (I’ve had plenty) where a decision is made, not to start. A “non-starter” in this context of this poem is about dipping your toe into new friendships or relationships. A few times in my life I’ve thought – I wish that thing had progressed. This poem is about the split second decisions we make in life, to choose comfort zones over the unknown, and routine over adventure. “You picked the road more travelled by” is a reference to “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost – he talks about being at a fork in the road, in the woods, and deciding to take “The road less travelled by” the less worn road – as a metaphor for not taking the predictable, common path in life that most people take, and instead doing something different.


Unlike Frost, in this poem the spectacled agonist takes the path more chosen by – to stop the adventure in its infancy – or run from it. I really enjoy French cinema, and one of the things I like is how some films stop with no conclusion – you can be in the middle of a scene and then it cuts and the credits roll and that’s it. This is so true to life – not everything gets cleanly wrapped up and concluded – sometimes the story (or rather the lesson) is in the things that don’t happen, not the things that do. I try to build the poem from a micro level of exact times, heights, raindrops, to a macro level of whole whole moments and ideas, and then cut it off, abruptly, as life often does – without the luxury of closure or explanations.


The poem is a modern tragedy – an ode to the things we don’t do, and what those things could have been.


Billie x