If you’re a girl who is bored, lonely, or just upset at her father for moving to an odd, foreign city, do not despair. If a strange woman who is not your mother is wandering around a flat that does not feel like your home, do not despair. If her even stranger daughter seems to elicit too strong a response in your father, do not despair. Never despair because there’s a game you can play, one that can kill both time and the uneasy feeling in your stomach.
The game is simple. You get on the Northern line of the tube, preferably at Kennington station. Then, from Elephant and Castle to London Bridge, you whore yourself up. You put on aggressively red lipstick, try to apply eyeliner with shaking hands, brush your hair until it hurts and slightly pull down the front of your top. After that, always look at your reflection in the tube’s windows. Carefully inspect the woman staring back at you and ask if she’s attractive, or at least good enough. You look just like her. But, like the sun, it’s not wise to stare at her for too long, lest you hurt yourself.
Calm down before you get to Bank station. Take a deep breath and relax. After all, you’ve done this before. Stand opposite one of the doors so you have a good look at the black clad, pale faced men who swarm in. Before you strike, look at their left hand to find that magic piece of metal. If it’s not there move on, no matter how good-looking (for a man your father’s age) he may be. He can’t tell you anything you need to know.
If it is there then that’s your cue. Look at him, look away, look at him again. Catch his eyes and give a smile, wait for him to smile back. They always do, even if you don’t want them to. Once he bites make your way towards him. Always move slowly because you know he’ll miss his stop because of you and it’s the least he deserves.
Say you’re lost, you don’t have friends or family here, that you want to see the British Museum. Say that you’re stressed out and don’t understand how the tube works although you’ve lived in London for at least a year, but you’re not sure because time has flowed funny since she left you. He’ll be concerned, but you can’t tell if it’s real or not.
Allow him to comfort you and offer lunch, his treat. Wherever he takes you never sit outside or near the windows. He’s eager to escape his office. He’s eager to escape his home. He’s eager to peel off the City suit he’s been rotting in since morning. But most of all he’s eager to taste your skin and bury himself in your hair and between your legs.
When you’re done eating he’ll give you his number and hurry back to work. You’ll stare hard at the digits, first on the paper and then on the screen. One time you threw it away, but went through the rubbish bin to get it back.
You will stand in the cold, grimy tube station (even if he has a car). You will wander around straining your eyes in the dark to find the right flat. You will ring the bell and briefly consider running away. You never do.
His place is clean of course, maybe a way to impose order. Occasionally you step on a toy car or trip over a dollhouse, but he assures you she’s out with them. Sometimes he makes you something to eat or tries to start a conversation, but most of the time he hustles you into the bedroom because he’s in a hurry.
You won’t be able to remember these next moments well, but that doesn’t matter since it’s always the same. You’re crushed under their bodies and ground into their beds, hoping the comforter will swallow you up so you can disappear. But don’t worry too much, they never last long.
When he’s done with you it will all move very quickly. He’ll find your clothes and walk you to the door while you put them on. Sometimes you notice your panties lying quietly in the corner of the room but you say nothing, almost wanting them to be found.
By the time you’re back on his front step you make a mental note. Once again he’s proven a point that will linger in your mind the next time that cute boy smiles at you, the next time you see your father again, the next time you see yourself in the tube window.
Of course, you tell yourself there won’t be a next time. You have already learned the lesson so much that it’s spread across your girlhood like cancer, the one that devoured your mother. But we both know what you will do when your new sister smiles at your father. We both know what you will do when your new mother avoids your glare. We both know what you will do when they all go out and forget to bring you. You will get on the Northern line of the tube.