What if I hadn’t drifted over to Melbourne on a whim, to hook up with Jim, that permaculture expert I snogged at a random party, on a random evening, in an as yet ungentrified area of London way back in 99? And what if I hadn’t moved in with Jim after one night of fucking and too many poppers? And what if I’d bothered to ask why he always needed poppers to fuck, instead of scurrying over to the fridge when he asked me to, extracting a minuscule bottle and watching as he screwed off the lid and inhaled? And what if I’d got angry when he said I was boring, instead of lowering my head and thinking that maybe he was right?
And what if I hadn’t gone to that rave in the first few hours of the millennium, taken pills and danced to Primal Scream with that bewitching girl in the black dungarees? And what if I hadn’t blushed when Jim’s mate said I was hot. And if I’d fought back when the loser called me a slag? And what if, after one too many arguments, I hadn’t called the man with the crinkly eyes, the one I met down on the beach on that warm summer’s day in St Kilda, and said yes to that date, that one by the Yarra, when the sky was so buttery and the wine so sweet? And what if I’d actually believed him, that charming young backpacker from Cork, when he declared that any man should be proud to be my boyfriend instead of laughing shyly and whispering, ‘I don’t think so,’ before staggering back to that loser’s, thumping my fist on his door and saying, ‘please, Jim, let me in.’
And what if three months later, after the whole thing was over, I hadn’t been slumped in a deckchair in my cousin’s suburban garden sobbing and trying to stop my body from shaking so my cousin, my sweet Australian cousin, who was chopping and stirring and humming away, wouldn’t see me from the kitchen window, wander outside and softly say, ‘why are you crying, honey?’
What if I’d realised that this would be the last ever day in this phase of my life, and that I’d still remember it twenty years on? What if I’d just loved myself a little bit more?
Mary Thompson works as an Academic English tutor in London. Her work has been placed and published in various journals and competitions including Flash 500, Ellipsis Zine, Retreat West, Ghost Parachute, LISP, Literary Orphans, Spelk, New Flash Fiction Review, Reflex Fiction, Flash Frontier and Pidgeonholes, and is forthcoming at Elephants Never. She is a first reader for Craft Literary Journal.