“How well d’you know Pippa?” I ask.
“I’ve seen her around for years. Sometimes we’ve said hi. I’ve always felt kind of sorry for her. She seems so alone, and ever since she was a teenager those big green eyes of hers have always looked like they were just crying. I never saw her apartment till the other night. It was a bit creepy in there, didn’t you think?”
“Yes,” says Alaia. “The space was all wrong, somehow. Can I pack anything else?”
Shigem looks around, considering this. While he does so, I have an interesting idea … and as you stand in thought, Shigem, I take a look at your memories of first meeting Kim. To my surprise, though, I find that your first sight of him was not inside the club where he first saw you; for your memory is instead from a week before that club night, downstairs in the First Out Café, where he never noticed you but you most surely noticed him. In the corner, there he was: a handsome masculine blond boy, slightly sad-eyed, deep in thought, biting his nails as he read the menu. You were startled, as you watched him, to sense across the café the erection of his penis and his nipples, as their heat spread towards you—no it didn’t, you correct yourself whenever you remember this scene—that couldn’t happen! Anyway, then he ordered a veggie-burger, nothing else, and his voice was deep but also tinged with a blush of immaturity, as if newly broken. You started to realise you were not going to be able to get out of summoning up the guts to approach him (such approaches not being something you did often), and this prospect straight away made you feel so young and vulnerable that you laughed at yourself inside. “Get it together,” you thought, as you got up, but already your body had that tight invisible all-over quivering it gets when emotionally naked, as if pressed close under your skin against your clothes. Your throat drily gulped and clunked. “For fuck’s sake,” you shouted within yourself, “enough with this nerviness, you’re not fifteen. You are not going to faint, you are not going to faint,” and you frowned and walked purposefully towards Kim’s table and towards it some more … and then straight past his table and upstairs and out through the door of the café while you slapped yourself inside and then carried on slapping all the way around the corner to Charing Cross Road.
But you saw him a second time, by chance, in the nightclub one week later, on the occasion of Kim’s first memory of you; and then for you, just as for him, a new continent inside you began to unfurl while you watched it.
One night, early on at the Elephant & Castle place, you dreamed that you and Kim would have to split up soon, because for some stupid reason the two of you just weren’t going to work. You groaned in your dream: was yet another incipient relationship over, so soon? Had you flamed, for a moment, with another blond boy—had you danced as a pair, for an instant, in a daydream? So bright you’d been, the two of you, together for a brief spell. You’d crackled and you’d shone with possibility and hope against the usual grey backdrop of everyday life. There’d been magic in the air around you, visible to all: the promise of a new and rich adventure! Circling each other, you’d been flaming creatures, butterfly-lions, but it seemed that the flat winds had blown you apart now. What a drag, if so. Once again, not your fault, but how commonplace, predictable—and didn’t you feel the temperature descend again, the lights dim to grey as they had been before he came along? Would you not see Kim again?… Oh well, how sad. You would always remember him, at least. “Turn and walk away, Shigem,” you thought, “and dance alone tonight. Tomorrow it will hit you and you’ll suffer. Then you’ll mend, for sure, for you’ll have no other choice—but once again, what a drag. Shigem, you’ll not forget Kim, but turn and walk away now, and dance alone tonight…”
But later that same night, you had a much better dream: you both were alone on some deserted level of a multiplex cinema, trying to find the exit. You came across an older gentleman, who stood in silence holding out a tray of mints. “Oh look—we get a mint!” you cried, and grabbed Kim’s hand. You scampered up to the man and both curtseyed and both took a mint. The man smiled, then with just a trace of irony he watched you both running off away down the escalator giggling and whispering in unison, “My god, I think we’ve just met the Mint Man! Tee-hee-hee!…”
For more about "The Imagination Thief" by Rohan Quine, see
For some great reviews of it, see
And to pick it up from whichever retailer you may prefer, the retailers’ links for the paperback are at
and for the ebook at