They came to the bench by the river and sat down. Things had not gone so very well today, not nearly as well as Albert had hoped.
“So it’s come to this,” she said, sighing.
It was the kind of river that looked so beautifully English with its swans and rowers and the fading October dusk; the famous cathedral in the distance by the bend. But it was also the kind of fast-moving river that would greedily draw you under and only spit you out again when you reached the open sea.
Albert was confused and anxious. “It’s come to this” he repeated. “What has?” he asked. “What’s the it here? Are we the it?”
“The whole thing,” she said. “That’s what I mean.”
“So the it in your sentence refers to the whole thing?”
“Albert,” she said, “can you not just listen to me? Just for once?”
“I’m trying to,” Albert said. “I’m trying to understand what you’re saying. It I’ve now defined. Now we just have to work on this. What’s the this in your summary? Is this the now? Here? On this bench? By this river? Is that the this?”
“Albert, I actually wish you’d just stop trying to understand everything. I really wish you’d just listen.”
“Right,” Albert said, nodding yet more confused than ever. “Listen but don’t try to understand. Noted.”
“Albert,” she said gently, looking across, as she spoke, at the overpriced houses on the other side of the river. “Why are you such a complete dick?”
Albert glanced over at her profile and savoured the softness of her voice one last time. She carried on looking straight ahead. How he wished he could understand her.
“You’ve got me there,” Albert said at last. “In a way.”