Read by Clive Greenwood
This is a women's thing, right? Women of a 'certain age'? Blokes don't suffer from it do they? Well, not unless they're pissed and I'm certainly not pissed. Fair enough, I've had a drink (a small one, very small one) while I wait for Tess to show but I'm not pissed now and I wasn't then, when it happened for the first time. Or the second time. Or the third time.
I hope she's not funny. Dave said Tess has got a good sense of humour. That doesn't necessarily mean funny does it? (my ex, Jane, was funny - sarky cow) Having a good sense of humour doesn't mean Tess will make me laugh does it? Oh God, please don't let me laugh. If I laugh I'm fucked and I don't mean literally. If I laugh I'll piss my pants (literally) and then she'll probably piss her pants (not literally) or maybe she'll be disgusted and leave. Then there'll be no chance of a fuck.
Shit, shit, shit. I can't laugh. I mustn't laugh. Even if a miracle happens and she does go for forty-five-year-old, short, skinny divorcés with three kids, how long is she gonna stick around if she sees piss leaking down the leg of my jeans?
Squeeze-release-squeeze-release. Fucking internet. Fucking Kegel exercises. They haven't made the slightest bit of difference but I'm doing them anyway. Jane, she used to do them. I'd walk into the living room and find her flat on her back with her arse in the air, squeezing and releasing in time with her Cindy Crawford video. I'd take the piss (of course) and she'd glare at me and ask me how much I'd be laughing if I'd squeezed a watermelon out of something the size of a marble. Then she'd tell me to fuck off and I'd laugh and her arse would hit the carpet and she'd laugh too.
Oh, shit, Tess is here and she's better looking than Dave said. Yeah she's got a few pounds on her and her face has seen better days but she looks alright. Okay, she looks a bit better close up - nice smile, long brown hair, good chest (smaller than Jane's though). Am I okay? Am I okay to stand up? Yeah, no leakage. Good, good start.
Do I shake her hand or give her a kiss on the cheek?
"Hi, you must be Tess? I'm Geoff."
I give her a kiss on the cheek but there's an awkward moment when I move away and she goes to kiss my other cheek. I lean forward to try and kiss her again but it's too late – she's just she's sat down. She's smiling though. Smiling is good. Yeah, that's good. I think. Drink? She wants a drink. Shit, didn't offer.
"White wine okay?"
She's still smiling. White wine is good, but not for me. I'd better not have another drink. Ah, okay, she's telling me about her journey here and she's kind of giggling to herself. No, no, don't giggle to yourself. That means there could be a punchline. I don't want punchlines. Okay, no punchline. Self-deprecating humour is fine. As is a lack of navigational skills. That's fine. Jane had no sense of direction either.
And she's still talking and she's waving her hands around while she talks and I'm staring at the gold rings squashed onto her ever-so-slightly plump fingers and I'm thinking about the internet and about artificial catheters and pumps and prostate removal and God knows what and for a change now my sphincter is tightening too. That's all I need, to piss AND shit myself now. God, Jane would laugh. She'd really fucking laugh if she saw me now. "Not taking the piss now are you Geoff?" that's what she'd say and then maybe "See, told you you were immature, you've actually regressed back to potty training." Cos Jane was kind of witty like that. Snappy as hell (with all the fuck offs) but witty. Made me laugh.
No danger of me laughing now – Tess is still talking and she's not smiling anymore. Something about her mum, some illness or other and I'm not listening. I'm sitting here wondering if this is how Jane felt when she had this problem - if it took over her life, if it was all she could think about.
And now the waiter is here and I'm ordering food but I'm not all that hungry and I'm squeezing, I'm squeezing and I'm squeezing. I'm squeezing it all in and I want to let go. But I can't.
I want to call Jane.
I want to tell that I'm sorry for being such a prat, for not paying her enough attention, for ridiculing her instead of telling her how much I needed her. I was scared. I didn't want to become an old man who couldn't laugh without wetting himself. I didn't want us to become two old buggers, married for fifty years, decrepit and smelling of piss.
I want to call Jane. I want to explain. I don't care if she laughs at me – not any more.
I want to let go but I can't help from squeezing, squeezing, squeezing, keeping it all in. Old habits are hard to break. I'm not sure I can let go.
Full to Spilling was read by Clive Greenwood at the Liars' League Cigarettes & Alcohol event on Tuesday June 26 2007.
Cally Taylor lives in Brighton and works in London. Her stories have been published online, in print and have placed in fifteen competitions. When she's not writing Cally goes to gigs, the cinema, museums, galleries and the pub. She’s currently finishing her first novel.