The Women – S.E. Lynes

The light in Rome is like no other. Like yellow dust it falls over the restless queues that coil around the Colosseum, over the flaking ruins of the Forum, over the traffic cop who stands signalling in the middle of Piazza Venezia. It falls over the hordes on the Via del Corso, the tourists gasping at designer windows in the Via Condotti, over the pietoni on the Piazza di Spagna, the hand-laid cobbles hidden now beneath a thousand feet; other feet, bare, cool themselves in the fountains at the Piazza del Popolo. Only April, but my God, how hot it is today. There are ghosts too, ghosts everywhere, retracing their steps through the threepronged fork of the old artists’ quarter: Via Margutta, Via Ripetta, Via del Babuino; the ghosts of Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, names that melt in the mouth like the ice cream at Bar San Crispino, served gravely by men in gloves to gastronomes who, sun on their faces, Trevi Fountain at their backs, knees sagging in ecstasy, giggle in disbelief at the taste-bud-defying gelato, licking creamy trickles from their cardboard cups, wiping with greedy fingers at their chins. Try mine! Taste this! It’s like you’re eating actual strawberries … The yellow light falls. Lands on lesser sights, lesser ruins, on the Santa Maria in Cosmedin church, where newly-weds Peter and Samantha Bridges and their baby, Emily, have taken their place in the chaotic queue. It is cooler here in the shade of the vaulted arches, beneath the towering minaret, where a human mass edges forward, fidgeting and twitching like children on a school trip. ‘So, the Mouth of Truth,’ Samantha reads from Peter’s tattered guidebook, once she’s sure he’s listening, ‘La Bocca della Verità, as it’s known locally, is a huge stone mask in the portico here, which is part of the Chiesa di Santa Maria in Cosmedin.’ She looks up, checks her bearings. The multilingual din all around and the damp heat of the baby against her back make it hard to concentrate. ‘The square we’re standing in now,’ she perseveres, as a group of twenty or so Chinese sightseers presses in behind, ‘is the Piazza della Verità. It’s the site of the ancient cattle market, the Forum Boarium.’ Her arms are flattened against her sides, the guidebook almost in her face. She can smell traffic fumes and cigarette smoke, feel Rome’s greasy black dust coating her nostrils.

She glances at Peter to check that he’s still paying attention and sees a bead of sweat trickle down the right side of his face. He is overheating. Poor man. He nods briskly at her to continue. Coughs into his fist, wriggles the rucksack from his back and digs out the two-litre bottle of water. ‘The massive marble mask,’ she goes on, ‘is said to depict the face of the sea god Oceanus. Let’s see … ah, you’ll like this … historians aren’t sure what the original purpose was, but it was possibly used as a drain cover near the Temple of Hercules Victor, which had an oculus in the ceiling … that’s the round hole, isn’t it, like in the ceiling of the Pantheon?’ Peter has the bottle pressed to his lips. The water chugs. His Adam’s apple bobs. The plastic implodes with a loud crack.

She should keep going, lay the historical information on thick. With Peter, it’s all about the credentials. ‘It’s thought,’ she reads, ‘that cattle merchants used the mask as a drain cover for the blood of cattle sacrificed to the god Hercules.’ She imagines the blood. A bestial red flood, gallons of it, running thickly down into the mask’s open mouth. The memory she has had so often since giving birth to Emily flashes: helping her father pull a calf for the very first time – the hooves in the amnion, the viscera clotting in the hay, steam rising in the predawn chill of the barn. Her father had patted the cow’s sweating flank, nodded at her as she licked her calf clean. She’ll take it from here, he had said in his thick Yorkshire accent. All the bull does is leave his seed. It’s the mothers that do the rest.

She thinks of her own primitive shock as her baby writhed out of her, their shared animal state; the pain, the blood, the strange lowing sound she made. Peter is still glugging water. He has drunk almost a litre. ‘Save some for me,’ she says, one hand at her breast. ‘I need it for milk.’ ‘I’m parched.’ Awkwardly he wedges the nearly empty bottle back in the rucksack. His forehead glistens. ‘Go on.’ ‘That’s it really.

In the seventeenth century, the mask was moved here. You put your hand in the mouth and legend has it that if you’re a truthful person, nothing happens. But if you’re a liar …’ She takes his hand, rubs the new wedding ring with the tip of her finger and fixes his deep brown eyes with hers. ‘If you’re a liar, darling – are you listening? – the mouth closes and takes your hand clean off.’ The crowd surges, pushing them forward. Peter flushes an even deeper crimson. He coughs once again. Too much red at lunch. Too many home-made tortellini. And he shouldn’t have had the tiramisu.

‘Superstition,’ he almost wheezes. ‘Hocus-pocus.’ ‘Of course. But it’s amazing how many people will make a pilgrimage on nothing more than that.’ She gestures to the jostling bodies around them, their latest iPhones, their selfie sticks, to the stout Italian woman immediately in front whose son is poking his sister in the back. ‘These people aren’t here for the history, are they? They basically want to put their hand inside the mouth and see if it closes, even though they know it won’t. Ninety-nine per cent of their mind knows it won’t. But it’s the one per cent that brings them here, isn’t it? That tiny, illogical sliver of doubt.’ She smiles up at him, but he doesn’t meet her eye. ‘Superstition’s like suspicion, I suppose, in that sense.

A feeling you can’t put into words. A one per cent of something you don’t quite know.’ The babbling rabble advances a pace, two. The tonal highs and lows of Mandarin quicken in the hot air. They are getting closer to the entrance, where two male officials stand sentry. Peter looks towards the square, where once cows were bought and sold and slaughtered. Blood gushing on the ground. Blood running thick into the stone mouth. Sacrifice. ‘We could go back to the apartment,’ he says, ‘if you think it’s nonsense.

’ ‘I didn’t say it was nonsense. I was talking about the power of superstition. Anyway, we’re here now.’ He pulls at his collar, wrinkles his nose. ‘It’s just … it’s just so touristy. A bit naff, isn’t it?’ ‘We’re tourists. Tourism is naff, essentially.’ ‘Yes, but if we go back now, we could … take a nap.’ He raises an eyebrow but it doesn’t look convinced. Like a dodgy cheque; she’s not sure he can cash it.

‘You’ll be looking after Emily while I sleep, so I wouldn’t get too excited if I were you.’ She lifts her face to his, attempting with a peck on the lips to unravel her confusion: the urge to apologise still comes to her, but she knows she should not, that it is habit, nothing more. She and Peter are going to see this damn mouth if it’s the last thing they do. In their entire honeymoon, it’s the only sight she’s requested. ‘Giorgio!’ Immediately in front of them, the stout Italian woman smacks her annoying little boy over the back of the head. The boy bursts into tears. Mamma! is all Samantha can make out from the self-pitying wailing that follows. The boy is spoilt, she thinks. That’s why he behaves badly. Spoilt boys become selfish men.

The woman and her children go ahead. Peter pays one of the guides, his expression begrudging, harassed. They step out of the shade. Heat comes at them as if from an open oven door. A hard Roman sun shines on a large stone disc. This is it: the mask, the mouth of truth. It is smaller than she has imagined when she has pictured them both here. The bearded face is monstrous, the eyes wide and staring, a deep fissure scarring the right eye. The mouth itself is a grotesque silent scream into the void. For a moment, she falters.

But steels herself. Peter drains the water bottle, wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. He looks, more than anything, appalled, though his colour is still high. The gargoyle is disconcerting, she admits. But the urge to put her hand inside the mouth is almost overwhelming. At the same time, she imagines the mythical severance, the bloody stump of her own wrist, the horror on the faces of the crowd as she staggers, bleeding, onto the street. ‘A gargantuan gargoyle,’ says Peter, but his expression is preoccupied, possibly due to his thwarted amorous intentions. In darker moments such as this, their relationship feels to her like a constant effort to appease him: to keep him fed, watered, sexually satisfied, conversationally engaged. Soothed. Emily has slept for most of the day, which means that when they return to the flat, she will wake up.

And Samantha, desperate for sleep, will be faced with two sets of demands. Peter and Emily. Two children, in a sense. They wander over to the monstrosity. ‘You first,’ she says, nodding towards the waiting mouth. ‘I don’t think I’ll bother.’ He coughs again; his hand flies to his chest. Samantha waits for him to recover. She wants him to watch her. He looks up finally, and, holding his beautiful brown gaze, she slowly, resolutely slides her hand into the cool marble hole.

An involuntary shiver passes through her, a shiver born of the sudden chill of the stone, of ancient legend and something like triumph. Peter takes a photograph with his phone – if it’s possible to do this sarcastically, then that is how he does it. ‘There,’ she says, withdrawing her hand and wiggling her fingers at him. ‘I’m obviously incredibly truthful. Now you, Mr Grumpy. No getting out of it.’ He glances towards the crowd, back to her. Frowns. Clears his throat. ‘Let’s go.

’ His voice is thin, his breathing a little laboured. ‘I need some more water.’ ‘Peter. Just put your hand in and let me take a photograph. It’ll take one second and it’s not like it’s really going to bite you, is it?’ ‘It’s just not my cup of tea, all right? I don’t like these overt tourist traps. They make me feel used and … a bit grubby.’ He pushes the heel of his hand to his chest and wheezes, looks again towards the entrance. The only way out is through the church. He will have to force his way back through the queue. ‘Get over yourself, will you?’ Her patience is all but at an end.

‘I hardly have any photos of you from our honeymoon.’ ‘You don’t need photos of me,’ he snaps, then opens his mouth wide, as if to loosen his jaw. He grips his shoulder, rotates his arm. His face is the colour of red wine. ‘I’m old and ugly.’ ‘Don’t be silly. Haven’t you seen Roman Holiday? Come on! I just really wanted to do the Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck thing.’ She takes out her iPhone. ‘Please? Put your hand in.’ ‘No.

’ The follicles of her hair lift. ‘It’s just a stupid drain cover, for God’s sake. Put your hand in, Peter.’ ‘I didn’t get involved in art history to become a dumb sheep.’ He pushes his fingers through his thinning brown hair. Still he doesn’t look at her. ‘Peter.’ Her bottom lip stiffens. From the hovering throng comes a shush of voyeuristic curiosity. ‘Put your hand in.

Put your hand in and I’ll take a photo and then we’ll go back to the flat. You’re being … vain and … stuffy and, I have to say, a bit foolish.’ One of the guides calls something to them in Italian. ‘Momento,’ she calls back, holds up her hand. ‘Look.’ Peter takes a deep breath, continues in a stage whisper. ‘I’d feel exactly the same way if you asked me to ride a roller coaster or … or hire a gondola in Venice. It’s no better than putting your head through the slap-and-tickle comedy boards in seaside towns. I just don’t like this stuff. I don’t do this stuff.

They fleece you for the privilege of lining up like a … like a chimp and doing what every single other human being has done before you. And meanwhile … meanwhile they’re laughing all the way to the bank. It’s humiliating. Come on, Sam. You’re an intelligent—’ ‘Put your hand in the fucking mouth.’ They’re both stage-whispering now. They are both ridiculous. The people waiting will have heard her swear, but right now, she couldn’t give a— ‘You’re making a scene,’ he hisses. ‘You can’t bully me into it. Sam, this is beneath you.

It’s beneath both of us.’ ‘No one’s bullying you, Peter. No one’s bullied you in your entire life. I’ve trailed round after you our whole time here. I’ve listened to Caravaggio’s entire life story and your theories about everything from his homosexuality to the availability of paint pigments in the sixteenth bloody century. This is the only thing I’ve asked you to do, and yes, it’s because I saw it in Roman Holiday, and I know you don’t think that’s a valid reason, but it’s my reason. I mean, do you think you’ll actually lose your hand? Or is this because it was my suggestion, not yours?’ From the doorway comes a murmur laced with delight: the honeymooners, having a fight, here, in public. ‘Signora?’ The guard stares at Samantha. Again, she holds up her hand. And then, glaring at her husband, ‘Peter.

’ Peter has taken a handkerchief out of his back pocket and is dabbing at his forehead. ‘For Christ’s sake, Sam, give it a rest. This really is beneath you. You’re an educated woman.’ An eruption of coughing. He holds the handkerchief to his mouth. She is about to reply with something flippant, an allusion to the fact that much of her education – albeit outside the classroom – has come from him, so many years her senior, but he turns away from her and staggers. Drops forward, hands to his knees, and gives a loud, rasping inhalation. The back of his shirt is soaked. ‘Peter?’ He straightens but almost immediately lurches forward once more.

‘Peter?’ He raises a hand, coughs into the other. Tourists chatter on long necks; there is the click of a dozen iPhones. One of the guards raises his arm at them. ‘Calma,’ he says. ‘Un po di calma.’ Peter is lunging into the crowd, pushing through, his cough hacking, raw. Samantha runs after him. The guards stand back to let her pass; they shout and gesticulate at the tourists to make way, but still the people push in, bleating like dumb sheep. ‘Scusi,’ she hears Peter say. ‘Scusi.

Scusi.’ The raspberry-coloured bald patch at the back of his head zigzags a short distance away. He staggers up the steps, through the wide arched door of the church. ‘Peter,’ she calls out, almost slipping on the shiny tiled floor. ‘Peter!’ He stops dead, as if he has heard her. With a great sucking sound, he clutches his shoulder, reels back and falls to his knees. She runs to him and she too drops down. In the backpack, Emily jolts against her shoulders. ‘Peter?’ He collapses, his hands against the tiles, his chest against the tiles, his cheek now against the tiles. His mouth is slack, his eyes glassy, his forehead spritzed with perspiration.

Shouts echo. Strangers are running, running towards her – from the altar, from the doorway. ‘ Aiu t o!’ s h e c rie s t o t h e m. ‘ A m b ula n z a! S o m e o n e c all a n a m b ula n c e!’ TWO LONDON, OCTOBER 2016 Samantha Frayn sees Professor Bridges before he sees her. At least, that is how she will recall it later, in the light of everything that happens. But for now, nothing has happened, and all she can see is him. He is drinking red wine from a plastic cup on the far side of the English department foyer. His hair is a deep chestnut brown. He is slim. He dresses well – how she imagines an American academic might dress: soft blues, fawns, tan brogues.

Would risk a burgundy V-neck, possibly has tortoiseshell glasses in a case in his breast pocket, though Marcia would say this was Samantha’s whole Gregory Peck thing. She knows Professor Bridges teaches art history, here at University College, London. She knows he drives an old midnight-blue Porsche. And she knows that most of the female student population would give their last tenner for one look from him. Right now, he is talking to a girl from the year below Samantha. The girl laughs, knees sinking, looking down at the floor, only to glance up again. And there, look: she’s tucking a loose strand of honey-streaked hair behind her right ear, better to expose her perfectly flushed cheek. The thumb of jealousy in Samantha’s chest is a surprise. Ridiculous. There are about seventy people here.

It is the beginning of term; autumn’s nip is in the air. She misses the Yorkshire countryside in all its colours, the wellington boots in the stone porch, the smell of damp soot in the chimney stack, though these things haven’t been part of her life for a long time now. Around her, chatter amplifies against the hard surfaces, brings her back to herself. She should move, mingle. She should at least smile. If Marcia were here, she would have got them both a drink by now. But Marcia has a hangover and is watching I’m a Celebrity … back at the flat. Samantha glances towards the door; beyond, to the lifts. She could go, actually. She could just leave.

It’s not like she’s interested in any of these people. Well, if you don’t count one, and he is miles out of her league. Yes, go – turn and wander away, back into anonymity, onto the Tube. She could be in Vauxhall by— ‘I took a chance and brought red,’ a man’s voice behind her says. She startles, turns, finds herself looking into fathomless brown eyes, crinkled at the edges: the eyes of Professor Bridges. Oh God. ‘Ah,’ is all she finds to say – more of a noise than a word – fighting the heat that is climbing up her neck. She did not see him cross the room. ‘I’m Peter.’ He presses a plastic beaker into her hand.

His lips are dark pink, the bow almost pointed, defined even against his weathered skin. The wine is warm, like blood. ‘You’re not first year, are you?’ ‘Final,’ she says. ‘I’m Samantha.’ She offers her hand, which he shakes. ‘Pleased to meet you, Samantha.’ His hand is warmer than the wine. ‘You too.’ He takes a slug of his drink, grimaces as if offended. ‘Christ, the wine at these things is awful, isn’t it?’ ‘Oh my God, yes.

’ Samantha rolls her eyes. Not that she’s tasted better. Or worse. She really has no idea about these things; she’s just trying to somehow throw a ring fence around the two of them, make some sort of lightning intimate connection. ‘I’m not supposed to be here,’ he says, glancing about before returning his gaze to her, as if the others are of no interest. ‘I’m an interloper, strictly speaking.’ ‘Careful,’ she says. ‘You might get caught.’ He raises one eyebrow, as if surprised, before throwing her a suggestive smirk. ‘Let’s hope so.

’ The quip goes right through her; her belly folds over. She has fantasised about a moment like this, but now that it is here, she has to look away. It’s actually a bit embarrassing. A bit stressful. In her fantasies, she is much more self-possessed. She manages to get herself together enough to look up. He is nodding towards the crowd, to someone; she doesn’t see who. ‘I’m good mates with Sally,’ he says. ‘She got me on the guest list.’ Guest list is ironic, Samantha gets that.

It’s not like this is some trendy club. She wonders if Sally is the young girl he was talking to, before realising that, doh, of course he means Professor Bailey. ‘Head of English,’ he adds, as if reading her mind, his pink mouth turning up at one side. ‘Yes, yes,’ she says. ‘I mean, yes, I know who you mean. You’re … you’re history of art, aren’t you?’ Her face burns. Shit. In her surprise, she has revealed her hand. But it isn’t, apparently, a disaster. At least, his smile tells her it isn’t.

His teeth are even, creamy, a neat lacing of gum. He takes another sip of the terrible wine, his mouth immediately puckering. Beside them, a group of students from her year let out an excited shriek. She winces with embarrassment on their behalf. I am not like them, she wants to say. But can’t, of course; that would be lame. But he must pick up on exactly what she’s thinking because he widens his eyes, leans towards her and whispers in her ear, ‘What an amazingly exciting conversation they must be having.’ Oh my God, the telepathy! She giggles, tries to choose a spot on the floor, fixes on her DM boots, wonders if he finds them childish, finds her childish. She doesn’t want him to find her childish, not nerdy and shrieking like the others. She wants, she realises, to appear older.

When she’s seen Professor Bridges around, in the uni cafeteria sometimes, she’s put him in his late thirties, maybe as old as forty, but she wonders now how old he actually is, how much older than her. How much more experienced. It is not a question she can ask, nor does she, because he is lifting her beaker from her hand. ‘Listen, shall we go and get a better drink somewhere quieter?’ In his eyes there is no doubt, none whatsoever. It is as if he is saving her from something, as if he is teasing a bottle of cheap cider from the grimy hands of a homeless person and offering to take them to a hostel for the night. He knows she is not like the others. He’s identified this in her. That’s why he came over. He wrinkles his nose and she knows exactly what he means. ‘I’ll put these back, shall I?’ No objection makes it even as far as her throat.

Why would it? He has chosen her. He, Professor Bridges, has chosen her, Samantha Frayn, a nobody with knobbly knees and flyaway dandelion hair. Out of all these rosy girls who know how to tuck their thick, shiny hair just so behind their ear, how to laugh on sinking knees when he hits them with that laid-back irony, he has chosen her. With no real preamble, no small talk. He has seen that she’s someone who can ignore the petty, wheedling internal voice of reason, who is not afraid to rise to life’s impetuous moments and meet them square on. Someone who can understand someone like him with no real need for words. Shall we go and get a better drink somewhere quieter? Er, yes. She watches him return the wine. The crowd parts for him. Girls throw sideways glances, meet each other’s eye with almost imperceptible smiles.

His blazer is smart, too smart for an academic, his deep blue trousers the perfect length against his tan brogues. At the back of his head is the hint of a bald spot, no bigger than a ten-pence piece. He has combed his hair over it and she thinks about him doing that – the secret vanity, the vulnerability in the act – patting the hair down with his hand, maybe using a second mirror to check it’s covered. She has no idea what she has said or done to make him choose her, knows only that he has, and that possibly he intends to seduce her – properly, calmly, like a man. The thought fills her with a precipitous sensation. She is unbalanced, falling, the cave of her chest flaring with anxiety. He is standing in front of her. His smile almost makes her panic. ‘Let’s go,’ he says. His Porsche is parked on Gordon Square.

He unlocks the passenger-side door, which he holds open. ‘No central locking,’ he says as she lowers herself onto the cream leather seat. ‘Makes me appear much more chivalrous than I am.’ Chivalry is a sexist anachronism, she so doesn’t say. What she says instead is, ‘Don’t Porsches usually have, like, a fin thing on the back?’ ‘Like a fin thing?’ he teases before strolling around to his side and getting in. His cologne smells expensive, a little like wet grass. ‘This is a 1985 Porsche Carrera Coupé M491. No spoiler. No like a fin thing. I’ve had her a long time.

’ ‘Was she new when you bought her? It, I mean. I mean the car.’ He laughs. Her face heats yet again. If Marcia could see her right now, she would freak. ‘Just how old do you think I am?’ Still chuckling, he starts the ignition. The engine gives a throaty growl. ‘She was second-hand when I bought her. Now she’s vintage.’ He glances at Samantha when he says this, and his brown eyes twinkle – oh my God, the cliché of it, the actual cliché.

She imagines telling Marcia later – or tomorrow! Marcia, she will say, I know this is a cringe, but his eyes actually twinkled. ‘And which are you?’ she dares to ask. ‘Old or vintage?’ He grins, his canine teeth a little raised against the others. ‘I’d say I’ve had a few too many careful owners.’ Cheesy, she thinks, but laughs despite herself as he pulls out into the city traffic. The pinkish blue of dusk has darkened to soft navy. White headlights flash and fade; red tail lights lure them forward. ‘Where are we going?’ she asks. ‘Anywhere you want. There’s a little pub I know not too far away.

It’s in Soho. Used to be … well, not a brothel exactly, but it’s an old prostitutes’ hang-out and it still has the original booths, which back then had curtains you could pull across when you were … you know, busy.’ He glances at her, returns his eyes to the busy street. ‘London pubs have such great history and some of them are beautifully maintained.’ With the palm of one hand he spins the steering wheel, heads left towards Tottenham Court Road. ‘And most of them serve a passable red.’ A passable red. Lol. The urge to giggle itches at her throat. She would text Marcia right now, but he would see.

Soho is dense with bodies. The car gives a low thrum as it slows to walking pace. He appears not to notice, asks her which modules she’s studying. ‘Eighteenth century,’ she tells him. ‘The Romantics and an option on Icelandic literature.’ ‘So, Pope?’ he says. ‘Addison, Fielding et al.?’ She laughs. Like all academics, his breadth of learning is intimidating, as if he has an entire library index stored in his head. ‘Sheridan, Goldsmith,’ she says.

‘Loads. There’s loads of reading.’ ‘Loads.’ He gives a brief chuckle, though she’s not sure why. ‘You’d expect that, wouldn’t you? Reading English? Clue in the verb there.’ That laid-back irony again, the gentle tease of it. They are circling now around the packed Soho streets. Sharp-suited men and chic city women dawdle across the road without looking, spill from the doors of bars and restaurants she can’t imagine ever being able to afford. ‘Chaucer?’ he asks, turning right into Frith Street for the second time. ‘That was last year.

It’s all Vikings this year. Eddas and sagas and all that.’ She is downplaying her knowledge so as not to appear too up herself. She hopes this will make her seem more intelligent. A double bluff, that’s what she’s going for. That’s the idea, anyway. The car stops. In front is a pushbike rickshaw, a polite chaos of pedestrians. ‘Human traffic.’ She frowns wisely. This time, an attempt to appear worldly, like someone who knows about these things. He too frowns, mirroring her. ‘This is hopeless, isn’t it? Thursday’s the new Friday; I didn’t think it would be so busy.’ He adjusts his position, leans against the steering wheel; one arm stretches over the back of his seat. He is looking at her. He is looking right at her. ‘Tell you what, seeing as you’re such a fan of all things vintage, why don’t we blow the dust off one of my bottles of red, pour it into some decent glassware and talk where it’s quiet and calm? If you don’t object, that is.’ Oh my God. This is it. And so much better than Hey, I’ve got some cans in my room if you want. ‘I don’t object,’ she says, attempting a small shrug. ‘Fantastic.’ He settles back into the driving seat, pushes his index finger to the stereo. Soft music fills the car. She thinks about her flat in Vauxhall. Marcia is literally going to die when she hears about this. She reaches into the footwell for her bag, but then remembers that Peter threw it onto the back seat. She should definitely text Marcy, let her know she won’t be back, possibly not until tomorrow – eek. She’ll do it when she gets to his place. Definitely. Oh my God, she doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing, why she’s in this car. And yet she does know; she totally, completely knows. From the stereo Marvin Gaye asks, ‘What’s going on?’ Too right, she thinks. What is going on?

.

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