Portrait (Writing Exercise 1)

He always feels cold. I always feel hot. In the winter he is forever shivering like a child in Auschwitz even though he is all wrapped up. I am always turning the heater down or opening a window to let the snow in.

He likes fruity desserts. And he eats ice cream only on very special occasions. When we are in America we eat ice cream by the pint. At least a pint a week. Haagen Daz is so cheap there. He says he wants to put on weight. I want to lose weight. Both of us want to do so without any effort.

In restaurants, he goes for the creme brulee. And I the chocolate mousse. I buy him a creme brulee torch for his birthday. He gives it back to me. Well of course.

When we work on our proofs he is completely absorbed in his work. A fly could land on his nose. Someone could run stark naked across the room and he wouldn’t bat an eyelid. When I work on my proofs I lounge about waiting for him to do our homework for us. It is an efficient system. I get twice the leisure time and he gets twice the sense of achievement.

He sings all the time. I hardly sing, not even in the shower. He sings hits from musicals, and pieces I practice on the piano. I ask him what he is singing and he looks at me confusedly – didn’t I play that song minutes ago? I can never tell. He sings well, but piano music is too difficult for singing. It meanders, and you don’t know whether to sing the harmony or the melody.

He is also impossibly ticklish. Just a tiny poke, imperceptible to a common person, would make him dissolve into fits of giggles which turn into a pout for showing up his vulnerability. I am not ticklish. Even as a child I was rarely amused by things.

I have a weak spot for cats. I like all sorts. Tabbies, calicos, gingers… although no manxes for me. He likes blue fighting fish. We both like carnivorous plants. So much more aggressive than pale green waifs that twine passively up fences.

He likes children. Children like him. Children and I have a strong mutual dislike for each other. They do not understand why I do not, like everybody else, agree that they are the cutest things to inhabit the planet. Children clamber all over his lanky body like it is a playground, until I teach them how to tickle him. Then he doesn’t like children so much.

He is a very kissy person. There are photographs of a five-year-old him kissing his cousins. Big wet smacks. On cheeks and elbows and hands and foreheads. I am not a kissy person. No saliva, no sweat for me. He’ll just have to find something else to kiss.

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