Title: Lunch Hour

Author: Louise Wrightson

In: Sport 17: Spring 1996

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, November 1996, Wellington

Part of: Sport

Keywords: Verse Literature

Conditions of use



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Sport 17: Spring 1996

Louise Wrightson — Lunch Hour

page 113

Louise Wrightson

Lunch Hour

You always buy a pastrami sandwich
from the cafe on the corner called GHERKIN.

Today is no different from any other day.

As you pay for your lunch, you hear
a thin thread of music above the rumble of the traffic.

You stand on the corner listening,
chewing your sandwich
(wishing you'd chosen wholemeal).

The music reminds you of a shiny satin ribbon.

Because you have nothing better to do
you decide to find the source.
And as well, there is something haunting
and unusual about the music.

You track it to an apartment block
around the corner. The sound is pouring
from an open window, sixteen floors up.

The foyer is dark and smells mouldy.
There is no lift, so you climb the stairs.

page 114

You are surprised to find a long queue
of people with their faces turned up
towards the sound like bright buttons.

And although the queue moves forward
all the time, it's obvious that if you wait
you will be very late back to the office.

The next day you tell your boss a lie.
You say that in the night you had toothache
and have to see a dentist urgently.
You'll have to take an early lunch.

Behind the green door, on the sixteenth floor,
the room is bare except for a small bed.
A young man is sitting on a chair
wrapped around his golden saxophone.

In front of him on the wooden floor
is a hat full of money and sandwiches.

As you bend down to put a coin in the hat
the young man stops playing and looks up.

All your life you have waited for this moment.

You fall immediately and irreversibly in love.
The young man smiles, gets up, and locks the door.

page 115

In the narrow bed, the young man explains
how he used to practise on his saxophone.

He was so bad at first that the neighbours doused
him through an open window with a fire hose.

He had to resort to playing in a telephone box at night.

But as time went by, he got better.
He no longer busks on the street.
Now, he simply gets out of bed andblows.

You tell him how you first heard his music
and how much you love and understand him.
And before he puts his hand there,again—
Could he ring your office and pretend to be the dentist?

You share a ham sandwich from the hat.

He plays his saxophone when he is not making love to you.
(Just for the record, sometimes he manages both.)

After a while you have to admit to something very important.

The young man you love can only play one tune.

And he can only make love one way.

You say you should pick up a change of clothes
and maybe some beer and that you'll be back shortly.

page 116

Instead, you go home, shower and go back to the office.
(You feel bad whenever anyone asks about your tooth.)

The next day you stand on the corner
chewing your sandwich, listening.

The music soars above the traffic like a kite.

And although you are completely sure
of the way you feel—you start to cry.

A nice man in a raincoat stops and offers you
a clean handkerchief and a cup of coffee.

Because you have nothing better to do
you decide to accept.
And as well, there is something haunting
and unusual about his eyes.

He is, of course, your future husband.

He gives you a large diamond to show off at the office.

At the wedding reception the guests cluster like penitents
around the white altars of candles and lilies.

You sip Chardonnay with an underlay of grape.

The marquee walls shift and creak like the sails
on a great galleon, ready to set off into your future.

page 117

All your life you have waited for this moment.

After the speeches, the band introduce their star turn—
your young man and his golden saxophone!

He dazzles the guests with a wide variety of tunes.

His performance is so polished and professional
that one of your new husband's relatives
who works for a large record company
offers him a contract to play in nightclubs in Europe.

Just before you leave for your honeymoon
someone introduces you to the young man.

You thank him for his music
and say how much it has meant to you.

He compliments you on your white dress,
your new husband and your radiance.

You both think of that lunch hour
and what happened in the narrow bed.

And as the young man surreptitiously
writes his phone number on a serviette,
he murmurs that practice makes perfect.