Saturday, February 4, 2012
Diary of a Silly Young Thing
They discussed it, late at night, over shortbread and pots of tea. What would it be like? To go out, dance, eat, no strings? "If sex happened, that would be good," he added, biting daintily, no crumbs.
Lil nodded seriously, not too eagerly she hoped.
"It would have to be monogamous."
"So that is a commitment."
"To a certain extent, yes. There's commitment. Mutual respect is a commitment."
"And what about work? The other girls?" She lowered her voice. "I know about Eileen ... "
He looked surprised, then slightly abashed. She saw the smile under the dip of his head. His Roman nose seemed to curve over his lips. "That just happened. I didn't realise anyone else knew."
"The girls ..."
"They look down on everyone," she sighed.
"Well. They would have had a fine time with that one. Eileen's lovely but she's not really my type, not like you. We were at a party, she gave me a lift home. She just pulled me in her front door. It was ... well, I hadn't had sex for six months. When she rang me the next day - Sunday I think, I brushed her off. I wasn't rude but I didn't want to take it any further. She said, 'What's the problem? Didn't you enjoy yourself?' But that wasn't true. I loved it! Just ..."
"She would have felt awful."
"She wanted the same thing as I did, at the time. She's still ringing me. She's pretty upset. The last call was quite abusive."
"May I ask you why you didn't go back?"
"You may," he smirked. "Okay," when she prodded him. "There was a middle aged desperation about her - "
" - Oooh, ouch!"
"Let me finish. She was divorced a year or so ago. She's at a bit of a loss. Perhaps her husband left her for someone else. She's angry. But with me, she covered it all up. She fell all over me, made herself instantly available, hid all her anger with flirting and flattery. She sabotaged herself so that I'd behave in a way that supported her dislike of men."
"Mmm, tidy. And you obliged?"
"Well, I been drinking that night."
She used to like pacing his beautiful house, studying a painting, his antique clocks or the philosophies of Marcus Aurelias, while he hummed in the kitchen making tea from the little jars he had labelled according to their variety.
Someone anonymous cleaned for him, another ironed his clothes. Everything in his kitchen was new. She liked the spare life he'd cultured. No photographs, only paintings. She liked his remove from the personal. He avoided intimate references with a card shark's sleight of hand.
They would have dinner and then see a movie or a festival show. He was traditionally attentive, paying for everything, opening doors for her. Later, they had sex, always in his room. Even the sex was a dance of prefigured steps. She knew he was displeased if she broke his code of behaviour. She floundered trying to second guess him. She tried to behave in the same dispassionate manner as he did to survive the experience.
In hindsight, she thought she could have challenged him, shaken his sense of self.
He didn't like her to sleep the night. He'd drive her home at four in the morning. On Tuesday mornings when she returned to work, he'd politely ask about her weekend. A look of pleasure crossed him at her hot panic. She had no idea whether, or what he thought of her. Once he told her that he liked the way she moved. She kept telling herself that this was something she wanted: someone who could take her out and satisfy her body, who wouldn't require a restraining order when she decided it was over. It was an experiment, she told herself. She wanted to see if she was emotionally capable of such an affair.
She went alone one night to the old pub at the top of the hill. It must have been the moon. Small town intrigues between men and women were sparking all around the bar. Matured minstrels played Stevie Ray Vaughn, Van Morrison, Dire Straits. Eileen was there with friends from work. Her ex husband was dancing with his new lover.
She shouldn't have been drinking at all. Her head was imploding with a threatening cold and she was bleeding heavily. She had to go and clean up in the toilets. She edged, shoulder first through the crowd of glittering, toothy divorcees and lurching bachelors who stood too close. In the disabled toilet, the one with a sink and a mirror, she wet a paper towel and smudged the blood from the inside of her thighs, changed, washed her hands.
The music roared as the door opened outside. Two women were shouting as they came in and lowered their voices as the door shut.
"I just don't want anything to do with him. He's supposed to have the kids tonight."
"Don't worry about him, love."
"Did you see the boss? He just walked in."
"On the prowl again?"
"You know he's been seeing Lil?"
The toilet flushed next to her. She stood at the sink in her cubicle, frozen. She felt Eileen outside, frozen too.
Then "Typical. She must be his daughter's age. Stupid slut."
The other woman exited and Eileen went in.
Lil flushed her toilet and turned the tap on, again. She stood with her hands in the sink, water running over her fingers and looked at herself in the mirror until she finally heard the music burst through the opening door. Then she turned the tap off.