An Analysis of Random Phenomena

by Cath Barton

The probability is that it is worthless, the coin which I have just picked up, picked up as we were walking along the street. Maybe it’s an old Roman coin, I say, and you laugh, because we are, after all, in Rome, and there are ruins all around, and of course there would be very old things that found their way onto the street, into the gutter. Wouldn’t there? Don’t you think? I say, turning to you and putting my hands on your shoulders, your really very lovely shoulders. You’re wearing that yellow dress with wide shoulder straps and there are freckles on your arms after just two days of sun. How did that happen? I say. What happen? you say. How did you you get freckled so quickly? And you laugh. You laugh at everything, especially in Rome. Anyway, you say, the probability is that it’s brass. I rub the coin between my fingers and I think of biting it, that’s what you do to find out whether something is gold, and I’m just about to put it in my mouth when you see what I’m going to do and you cry out No! And I know from your face that something’s changed.

The probability is that we will have an argument over supper tonight. We will go back to the hotel and you will take a shower and I will say, How about? And you will say No, there isn’t time. What do you mean, there isn’t time? The night is ahead of us. I’ll say. And you will shrug, I know you will and that you’ll say No. Just No. I’ll lie on the bed and watch you dress and you’ll sit and brush your hair, your long auburn hair, looking at me as you pull the brush down, slowly. I will want to pull you onto the bed but I won’t do it, because you said No and I’ll respect you for that. But when we go out you’ll walk fast and I’ll have to run, almost, to keep up and I’ll get annoyed. The restaurant that you’ll choose (because you do always choose) will be crowded and we’ll wait a long time to be served and the probability is that you say something to the waiter that will infuriate me and then it will happen, the argument. Our first (very big) argument.

The probability is that this time next year you will be in another city with another man, or it could be a woman, and that I will not go on holiday because I won’t want to go with anyone else, so I’ll stay at home and eat and drink too much and read your old love letters and make myself miserable thinking about how it didn’t have to be this way, I could have made it different, could have avoided those arguments. I will text you and say something about Rome, and that will annoy you. You will text back, saying that it is a ridiculously insensitive thing to do, texting a former partner while she is on holiday. With someone else who doesn’t know you or anything about you. I’ll text again and ask why you’re denying the past and – I’ll know this even as I’m doing it – the probability is that that will annoy you so much that I’ll never hear from you again.


Cath Barton (she/her) is an English writer living in Wales. She is the author of two novellas: The Plankton Collector (2018, New Welsh Review) won The New Welsh Writing AmeriCymru Prize for the Novel;  In the Sweep of the Bay (2020, Louise Walters Books) was shortlisted for Best Novella in the Saboteur Awards 2021. Read more about her writing on her website She tweets as @CathBarton1


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