Random Writing 12

The three of us sat on the wall, passing the can between us. I hadn't drunk ginger beer since secondary school, and I took too big a swig and coughed as I drank it.

"Can't hold your drink, eh" Magnus said archly.

"Just hotter than I remembered," I sputtered, then seeing Roger frown I added "picante, not caliente".

Roger nodded in understanding.

"There's no ambiguity here," Magnus contended.

"There's a lot of ambiguity in three men sharing a can," Roger said. "It would be some kind of homosexual menage-a-trois in Japan."

I passed the can back to Magnus and checked my mobile. Still nothing.

"There's not the same distinction in English between picante hot and caliente hot," I explained, "but in Spanish there's two different words for it. Also, Rog, what?"

"Well..." Roger started, but Magnus spoke over him.

"There's a word in English," he said. "Spicy, that's what picante is. That's how they define it in the Spanish to English dictionary, if you look it up it says 'spicy'." He mimed flipping open a dictionary.

"What about caliente?" Roger asked.

"Hot, for god's sake, hot! That's what hot means. It doesn't mean spicy, spicy means spicy."

I took the can back and took another swig, then looked at my phone again. Still nothing, and the battery was down to its last segment. I ran over our last conversation in my head again - what could I have said? Or rather, since I knew what I said, what could she have heard?

"It's ambiguous," I insisted. "Hot can mean two things, it has two meanings in common usage. If you look that up in an English to English dictionary it says 'spicy' or 'warm'." I thought about that for a few seconds. "Warm. Damnit."

"What do you keep looking at your phone for?" Magnus asked. I didn't want to tell him, but Roger saved me.

"He's checking the time."

Magnus snorted.

"Why don't you wear a watch, man?"

There was a brief moment of silence. I turned to look at Roger. His eyes were wide. We both looked back at Magnus.

"You wear a watch?" Roger asked, incredulously.

Magnus frowned, then rolled up his left sleeve. There was a steel-coloured Rolex there, with an analogue face. He tapped on the glass. I examined it carefully - ten to eleven, twelfth of May.

"He wears a watch," I told Roger.

"He does. He really does."

We looked at each other, then back to Magnus.

"Why do you wear a watch?"

"Uh, well maybe to tell the time?" Magnus replied.

"Magnus," Roger told him. "You have a mobile phone."

"You carry a netbook," I added. "An MP3 player."

"You cycled here on your bike," Roger continued, "which has a cycle computer."

Magnus stared at us.

"...and?"

"And, Magnus, every single thing you own has a motherfucking clock in it. Why would you wear a watch which only does one thing - and badly, I might add." Seeing me frown, Roger pointed to his own mobile - 10:47.

I nodded, then nodded at Magnus and showed him my own mobile. 10:47.

"Network time, Magnus," I said. "You can't argue with network time."

"It's set like that deliberately," he said.

"You deliberately set your watch wrong," Roger said slowly. He pulled a face, and tucked his mobile back into his pocket. I glanced at my own, and immediately cursed myself. I'd been holding it in my hand all this time, I would have known I'd got a message. But I just couldn't stop myself checking. Jesus, I thought. I've got it bad.

"What's the deal there," I asked. "You're reliably three minutes late for everything, so you set your watch three minutes ahead so it'll cancel out?"

"No, it's a security thing - like a PIN for your phone. He's making it unusable in case it falls into the wrong hands." Roger paused for a second. "Falls onto the wrong wrist," he amended.

Magnus shook his head, and rolled his sleeve back down. The three of us fell silent, and the can did another round - I finished it off and passed it on to Roger. He tipped it up, then shook it next to his ear and gave me a narrow-eyed look at my breach of protocol. Jumping down from the wall he walked over to the recycling bin, lifted up the lid and threw it in.

"There's a pizza in here," he said.

"I'm not really in the mood for pizza," Magnus grumbled, wrinkling his nose.

"I'm not talking about eating it. It's in the recycling bin. Some people."

He leant into the bin and emerged again holding half a pizza, which he flipped into the food bin. I leant down to give him a hand back up onto the wall, and the three of us sat there in silence again. I wanted to look at my phone - I desperately wanted to look at my phone - but I couldn't while the other two were watching me, and at any rate, it was unhealthy. I could wait.

"An indirect kiss," Magnus said.

"What?"

"That's what Roger was talking about," he explained. "We were drinking from the same can, it's a thing in romantic cartoons in Japan."

"Japan, is there anything you don't do weirdly?" I asked.

"It's no more weird than cyber-sex," Roger objected, and Magnus nodded.

"Which is very weird."

"Listen. A physical relationship that can't be consummated directly is continued by the medium of technology - either the internet, or the equally advanced engineering of a coke can. It's engineering and science enabling love, isn't that the sort of thing your sister is always going on about?"

"You've never chatted dirty?" Magnus quizzed me. "You've never sent a salacious text?"

I shook my head.

"Never phoned Alice and told her you love her?"

"Not the same thing," I said.

"Why is it not the same thing? It's exactly the same thing. You're not telling her you love her, you're telling the phone. And the phone sends a signal that her phone translates into sound again, and then her phone tells her that it loves her using your voice. Two Japanese teenagers' lips touch the same can one after the other, that's just as much a kiss as you telling your phone you love it is a touching confession of love."

At that moment, the restaurant door opened and Joseph emerged.

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