Friday, May 12, 2006

Too many walls

So there I was, pushing gamely on with my extremely boring (I want to stick pins into myself) novel, because I had just read the letter from Julia Cameron (Letters to a Young Artist) to whit, if you cannot make good art, make bad art, when she walked in.

I don't know why I noticed her. Maybe it was her black knit top, tight enough to be sexy, yet not overly slutty. Maybe it was the confidence of her stride and proud carriage of her head. She was attractive. And there was a youthful freedom about her movements. One I recognised but no longer shared. She walked into the place fully confident of her own power to charm, to attract, to hold attention. Which is why the following seemed so funny, almost to the point of absurdity.

There she was chatting amiably on her mobile, sashaying towards one of the tables. Which one, I wondered as I swiveled around (I know, busybody, but what to do?) to have a look.

It was the one with a solitary ugly older man. Still chatting on the phone, she glided into the seat opposite him. And he glanced deliberately at his watch. There was thunder in his face. No welcoming smile. Even his unsightly eyebags looked threatening. I felt the waves of hostility from all the way across the room.

Oooooh drama, I thought gleefully, as I stole into my bag to retrieve my notebook. I had just been about to leave but this was too good to miss. (I know, I know, busybody, but what to do? We deprived ones who don't watch Desperate Housewives must also have our fun).

She finished her conversation and smiled up hopefully at him, assured of her reception. It was then she realised things were not going to go as planned. He looked furious. And not the hot fury that burns itself off in words but the cold variety of wounded pride. She leaned her head enticingly on one hand as she looked up into that heavily jowled face, but he was unmoved. They ordered drinks.

When his root beer arrived, he stuck a straw into his glass and concentrated on sucking. He didn't look at her. She was embarrassed. She ventured a few words. He ignored her. This was getting ridiculous. She glanced round the Delifrance to see who else was watching. I could see her eyes dart nervously in my direction, but there I was studiously scribbling away, apparently oblivious to what was taking place.

All the other tables were filled with talking, laughing groups, or solitaries, reading a newspaper, a book or gazing abstractedly into place. Except for me. Writing.

He continued to suck. She continued to look around. Silence can be so heavy. She had the stunned look of one who has been slapped in the face and doesn't want to cry.

OK, so she was 20 minutes late. So what? When he saw her trim young body encased in the snug sweater, the tasteful black trousers, shouldn't he have melted? Wasn't she worth the wait?

Apparently not. There was a newness, a discomfort about this relationship. Probably he hadn't even tried her out in bed. Maybe he was jealous of the person she was chatting with. A young man. Possible handsome. With roving hands. And here he was, a fool, alienating the girl. She already looked sorry she had come and glanced at her watch several times, wondering how quickly she could slip away. She had not bargained for this.

The light glinted off his wedding ring. But of course. A man needs young blood to remind himself he is young. Probably his wife didn't wear these snug black sweaters and even if she did, her breasts wouldn't press against the material quite so perkily.

But the girl looked tired. She sighed. She wanted out. She picked up the menu and pretended to glance through it, placing a physical barrier between them. At this, he thawed and leaned forward. Still sucking on that straw however. But he was running out of root beer.

She has tried to chat lightly to break the silence. He remained obdurate. The ball was now in his court. He said something to her. Gave her a half smile. She looked up, uncertain. An olive branch? After being treated to a 20 minute freeze, she was not so sure.

He continued to chat, words flowing like water, thawing out the ice between them. She started to reciprocate. A half smile. Soon, she was chatting, exclaiming loudly as something he said. By the time I rose to settle my bill, you couldn't tell there had been anything wrong.

I wondered if he was going to buy her a present. Something small but thoughtful and expensive to make her forget the torment of the past half hour (after all, moneyed older married men looking to have affairs with attractive younger women are a dime a dozen... what did he have to offer that the next guy wouldn't?)

Maybe a Sony Ericsson walkman phone...


that girl in pink said...

or maybe he'll get her some sexy lingerie to wear under that black top.
win win situation, as far as i can see!

David Cho said...

yet not overly slutty

slutty, but not "overly" slutty? LOL.

The moral of the story is, I need to wait another 20 years to have a chance at a young sweet thang. 40 still doesn't quite cut it.

In the meantime, I would be looking for a sugar mama, but most are in the market for 20 somethings, so 20 years too late for me :-(

David Cho said...

Upon further review, I am so sorry to have been reduced to talking about myself after reading such a masterpiece.

Anyhoo, it is still amazing to see guys my age who find that women that they can "connect" to are always 10 to 15 years younger and 15-20 pounds lighter than their wives.

goldennib said...

Strangers are so fascinating.

And it's amazing in what directions our needs lead us.

part-time buddha said...

I'm glad you hear that your willing to make 'bad art' because you have a knack for description that rivals Thomas Hardy, and your s-o-c posts are intriguing and inspiring.

If you ever need a 'novel buddy' let me know.

Jenn said...

Pink: Haha...I can just imagine...give him a reason (I mean another one) to tear away the top to reveal the loveliness within.

Oh dear, I just got a mental picture. And if you had seen him, you would ewwwwwwwwwwwww along with me.

Dave: You seem like a nice guy. A really nice guy. I honestly cannot picture you in that "geriatric in need of a pacifier" situation. These things are such a sad fact of life here that no one even raises an eyebrow. I assume things are a little different over there.

Nessa: Need? I dunno about that. She seemed to satisfy some ego craving, but I dunno about need.

PTB: OK. I laughed out loud at this. And then blushed. Aw shucks. You are too sweet. And don't offer to be my novel buddy. Unless I throw out what am presently working on because it's so bad I want to throttle all the characters myself. Especially the supposedly nice ones.

A thinker said...

Jen, you are an amazing writer. You have a real gift of seeing beneath the surface, of observing carefully, and writing well, that makes a captivating story out of a seemingly commonplace incident.

Very well done.

Jenn said...

a thinker: Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am overwhelmed. Literally. I crawl away and hide under my pillow now.