It was a conversation neither wanted to enter – like a door into a dark tunnel where there were dragons. They were both on their own. Not lonely. Not alone, just, in themselves, content. No wives, no lovers, no sons and daughters, just two old mates who met sometimes. Whenever they met they both looked at the door to the tunnel with dragons recumbent but neither acknowledged it. Until today that is.
Do you ever think about Katie?
You should have married her.
Why? You told me she was no good.
You shouldn’t have listen to me.
Why didn’t you like her? Why was she ‘no good’?
I shouldn’t have said that. I’m sorry.
Bit late for that now. I wonder how she is?
She married a guy in the Navy.
How do you know that?
I don’t know. I thought you knew. She lives in Perth.
Australia or Scotland?
Australia. Did you two ever make love?
What sort of a question is that?
Well you were so innocent. So many old fashioned hangups. I bet you never did. I bet you were keeping yourselves. That’s what she told me, any way.
First of all, No! We never did. And secondly what makes you ask?
‘Cos we were mates and I just thought it’s something I could ask.
Well now that you’ve asked, the answer is still ‘No’. And I didn’t marry her so that’s all there is to it.
I should never have told you she was no good. You should have married her.
Well I didn’t. It’s all in the past.
You shouldn’t have listened to me.
Don’t worry about it. It wasn’t your fault. It just didn’t work out. You didn’t do anything wrong.
You didn’t. You didn’t make me. It was all my own doing. We just didn’t work out in the end.
That’s not what I meant.
There was a long silence as though the dragons were settling down to sleep and the doors of the tunnel were closing. A long silence. Neither were looking at each other. Just sitting. Thinking.
You did what?
I made love to her. That’s why I told you she was no good. It was ……..
Don’t interrupt me. I need to tell you. It was that time when we went down to Rye back beach and you had to go home for some reason. We were both feeling a bit….
I don’t want to hear. Don’t say anymore.
I have to tell you. It’s been fifty years and I have to tell you ….
Don’t tell me anything. We’ve been mates for fifty years. Don’t spoil that.
But I …
Shut up or I’ll go. I have to go now anyway. Look at the bloody time.
Look mate. I’m sorry.
You’re a bastard.
See you next week?
Yeah. I suppose.