“Will you put on your nurse’s uniform for me?” I plead with Rob. “You know, with the push-up bra and the fish-net stockings and the little red fuck-me pumps?”
“And the bare behind,” she adds, egging me on.
“Ooh, and the bare bottom, too,” I coo.
And then we have a little chortle, and I swallow my cough medicine, and she tucks in the sheets, because I am in bed on the day before Valentine’s Day, with a horrible cold, a head full of cotton-wool and gunpowder, and enough phlegm in my throat and my nose to seal a doorway.
That’s one of the things about living together, for almost a decade: the old jokes become ritualised. Their humour is in the repetition, the reminder: they have become a code, a bond, a staple. So, how many times have we played this movie? We smile at our own foolishness.
And we smile also, I suppose, because we are older, and the temptations and fantasies that might have quickened the blood in our thirties or forties or even our fifties have turned into stories: not life, but memoirs.
Meanwhile life does go on, and when I rise from this sick-bed I’m going to make it up to my wife, on Valentine’s Day.