Go! Go and don’t look back. Don’t pretend you give a shit. Keep walking. Keep shallying up that street, shaking it all, showing everyone what you’ve got. Go on, and don’t stop. Find yourself some other sucker who’ll put up with your detached silences, your cold indifference. Keep walking, go straight into the next bar and sit down. Don’t go up to the bar and order a drink first. Don’t do what other people do. Just go straight to an empty table, preferably one near a window, one where everyone can see you, where you can glance out but see no one. Never look at someone directly in the eye, not even the barman when he finally realises you’re too good to come to the bar. Don’t dare look at him when he comes over and asks if you want a drink. Keep staring at the air outside, the distant horizon, the empty spaces that no one else sees in a city filled with tar, cement, bodies, metal, earth and glass. Look right past it all, do not engage with any aspect of it, and give that barman the quietest of words, the shortest, softest, of words, and do not, never ever, add any word of politeness. Don’t say please, or thank you, or may I have or could I have. Choose your single word carefully and breathe it gently, just loud enough for him to hear, loud enough so you never have to repeat it. Don’t ask for vodka or whisky. Avoid hard consonants. Keep it short. Keep it to gin. If he asks if you want ice, or anything in it, don’t reply, simply shake your head and go back to looking between all the bodies that pass, the people who glimpse you in the periphery of their vision then take a second look. Continue to ignore them, continue your life as if they don’t exist. And when someone, a friendly chap, someone with purely good intentions, sits next to you because there is no other seat in the bar, do not glance at him. Do not acknowledge his presence. Do not reply to his simple question of whether the seat is taken with a polite answer. Instead, wave a hand like you don’t care, like maybe your elderly mother was sitting there and had to go to the toilet but you couldn’t care less if the poor old woman has to stand in a crowded bar collapsing further into her arthritic hips because there is no way you will engage with the person next to you beyond a regal wave of the hand. Even when the person takes his seat and asks if you’re waiting for someone – only so he knows how long he can remain in the seat – even then do not speak to him, do not give him the courtesy of acknowledging his existence. Never do that. Sit there. Silent. Drink your gin. Ignore every attempt at conversation. Then stand, leave your money on the table, do not even think about taking it to the bar. If someone steals it, too bad, the barman should’ve been watching. You’ve done your part. Now go. Go, and don’t look back. Don’t pretend like you give a shit.


(Exercise: write a story fragment made up of imperative commands as you contemplate the rear end of the woman who is walking out of your life. 500 words)

Book editor with, considering the links between therapy and fiction at and reviewer for @bookmunch.

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