It was a beautiful evening for a walk. A walk along the quayside. Plenty of other pedestrians enjoying the still warm evening air, the bars that line the historic cobbled riverside busy with noise and activity. We hadn’t reached that stage of the evening. We had not yet sat beside the smooth waters of the river and ordered drinks as we talked and watched. We had not reached that favoured bar. In fact, it was the bar that we had first met in some fifteen months ago and now here we are over a year later and the throes of the despicable devaluation surging around you, although you have yet to understand what it signifies. This evening though is meant to be some respite from the machinations and manipulations, a return to the golden period, so long as you behave and comply.
I watch you stumble on the cobbles. Your choice of heels (my choice of heels as I directed earlier what you should wear) is elegant and fashionable but ill-suited for venturing across this section of the quayside. I of course suggested that we should take a taxi to the bar direct (at least this is what I will say during the post mortem which will invariably arise) and then walk a different way, but you wanted to promenade along this particular section and look what has happened.
I watch you stumble, ankle twisting as the sharp stiletto heel slides, like a young fawn’s spindly leg on the smooth stone, polished like ice by the passage of so many booted feet. Your left leg shoots out as down you go, unable to maintain your balance. I have not reacted quick enough to grab hold of you as you stumble despite being stood close to you. I was distracted by somebody passing who happened to smile at me and furnish me with a dollop of fuel. I will, as I so often do, revise history to explain I was further away than you thought and therefore unable to prevent your ungracious fall.
I watch you stumble as your right knee strikes the cobble and you give a sudden cry of pain. The twist of your ankle and the laceration of your knee both causing you hurt. I stare at your features, twisted in pain, mouth open and eyes starting to well with tears no doubt driven by a combination of injury and embarrassment. I feel the first surge. It leaps inside of me as the contempt soars. Look at you, useless and pathetic, slipping over the cobbles in those stupid heels, a testament to your vanity. Why am I with someone this clumsy? But is not these thoughts alone which drive this contempt. No, it is the fact that the emotion which is now etched across your face, the twisted pain, has been caused by something other than me. Such wasted emotion. The watering eyes, the cry, the anguished features. Ordinarily I would be the catalyst for this but I am not and this irritates me. You are so pointless you cannot even get upset in the right way.
I hear someone give a short gasp and realise that others have witnessed your tumble. The façade! The façade! I ought to do something in front of this gaggle of strangers. I look at you as your almond eyes turn to look at me. I know I should feel concern for you at your mishap. I know I should care that you have slipped and hurt yourself but other than the contempt I do not feel anything. There is nothing there to propel me into assisting you, no innate desire to act. It would be instinctive for others who are not me, but I am me and therefore I must assess and evaluate before I decide what should happen next. I know I should be reaching down to you, lifting you up and making suitably concerned noises as I reach for a handkerchief to apply to your bloodied knee. I feel no compulsion whatsoever to do so. Why should I help you? Will it profit me? Perhaps it will but I know there is a chance for fresh, delicious negative fuel first. The situation has been assessed and my response has been determined.
I watch your eyes alight on me and then it happens. The flames leap as I see that the physical hurt has now been joined by your emotional injury as you give me a puzzled and then hurt look at my failure to act. There it is. That is what I wanted. Your emotional attention as the surge of contempt becomes mixed with the rising sense of power as your response at my inaction fuels me. Your irritated hurt has been caused by me and thus the fuel flows. That is good. I let it hit me, racing upwards, my eyes still fixed on yours as those blue eyes shift from hurt to puzzlement at my continued hesitation. This remains good. How long can I hold this for? The fuel flows but I am mindful of the façade. A damsel is in distress and needs a knight and no interlopers shall be allowed here. No crusading passer-by shall intervene and steal my scene.
In the corner of my eye I see a gentleman move forward making to help. Not today sir, not today! I burst into life and dart to you.
“Goodness me, are you alright?” I ask as my hands take your arm.
“Is she okay?” asks the man who is still pressing his claim.
“She will be, I will help here,” I answer turning to him and flashing a short smile at him. The teeth have been bared pal, the smile is there but the stare says back off, not that you can see my hostility to this intervening hero. He gives an uncertain nod and moves away. Message received and understood.
I help you to the nearby bench and produce my handkerchief with a flourish, dabbing at your bloodied knee as you wince slightly. I continue with soothing noises since a couple of people continue to look. I turn and see the two women smile in reassurance at my chivalrous action and the fuel is gratefully received.
“That hurt,” you say softly. I see the two women move away.
“It was your own stupid fault, “I hiss quietly. I catch your hurt gaze and drink up your reaction as more fuel is provided.
Observe. Assess. Evaluate. Act. Fuel.
This is our world. This is our perspective.
The repeated reward of fuel has been obtained.
And all of this was done in just ten heartbeats.