Clive Firestone
Nicole Taylor

my partner is a man in a purple velvet waistcoat. his badge says CLIVE FIRESTONE and beneath his name there is a hand-drawn lighthouse. his cheeks are stippled with the kind of acne scars that might be sexy on someone else.

i arrive a little late and there are not enough handouts for everyone. the facilitator beckons me towards the front of the room and CLIVE FIRESTONE, second row centre, gestures to the empty seat beside him. he holds the handout at perfect equidistance between us, his arm twisted into a position that could not possibly be comfortable for him. he asks if i can see it all right, and i say i can. i think i can see his hand tremble slightly.

the facilitator starts to explain how to approach the text. i am a little nervous. my only experience of bible study was one winter at primary school when I joined the scripture union. scripture union meetings were held on wednesday lunch times; we brought our squashed foil-wrapped sandwiches into the library and sat around the tables trying not to drip mayonnaise into the good news bible. i went that first week because it was warmer in the library than the playground; the second week i went because laminated membership cards were promised; the third week i went because i had already paid my 20p for the laminate. by week four i still didn’t have my laminate and i began to think it was a ruse – i went back to singing ‘cheeses’ instead of ‘jesus’ at school assembly, and wrote off the 20p.

the facilitator is explaining that chavruta is learning torah with a partner. when she says the word ‘partner’, CLIVE FIRESTONE give me a smile like a hand squeeze. the facilitator starts writing on the whiteboard. CLIVE FIRESTONE lifts his glasses off his face, squints and puts them on again. he asks if i am able to read what is on the board. i whisper back that i can – i say that i am short sighted but wear contact lenses. he said he could never put something in his eye, never. how can I touch my own eyeball? he says this loudly and stares at me, evidently expecting an answer. i stare back, wondering whether he is really waiting for me to explain how I am able to touch my eyeball.

we are asked to choose any one of the five printed passages to discuss. CLIVE FIRESTONE, with exaggerated grace, angles the handout further towards me. i immediately pick the first passage, and he looks hurt for a second, as if i’m not taking it seriously.

he suggests that he reads it aloud first, and then i read it. he reads. i read. he takes his glasses off again. his naked face and unfocused eyes run the length of my body. i wonder if he thinks that because he can’t see me clearly without his glasses, i won’t be able to see him at all. i am so intrigued by this that I just watch him watching me. he rubs at the red indents where the nose rests have pressed into his skin.

Nicole Taylor is a Yiddishist, writer and film lawyer originally from Scotland, living in London.

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