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I was wounded. She was lonely.
Lonely mother seeks attractive lover (45-65) with the soul of Bruce Springsteen, the mind of Aristotle and the charisma of James Stewart. ONO. Email [email protected]
Why not. After all, I’d come to terms with being christened Lorenzo and had learnt to play the piano by age 12. My ex-wife used to call me ‘The Olympian’ in bed because I knew how to rotate it in and out so well.
I could read behind the scenes. Knew the nuts and bolts of women. Was sure the description ‘attractive lover’ could be extended a little further south. Would she be somewhat surprised? Maybe afterwards she might feel strongly enough to send a letter to the editor, but anything else was doubtful.
Some men don’t know how to make love. Like some men don’t know how to play music. But just because all they’re doing is plucking strings at random, it doesn’t mean that a fella isn’t trying his stiffest. Or not, as the case may be.
We could meet at a war memorial. Or next to a churchyard. She could carry her coat over her right arm. Or I could be holding a copy of the Daily Mail. Better yet, we could convene at a museum. I might find her sitting in front of a portrait, looking for her past like Kim Novak in Vertigo. That would work just fine. After all, she did want someone with the charisma of James Stewart.
Later, we could head towards the public toilets. Lock ourselves in. Press her arse against the pan, give her some of that Bruce Springsteen blue-collar soul.
I need coffee. When I get a bonk on, I need strong coffee. Black and resilient like warm iron. Like my Maggie used to make. Drinking her coffee used to remind me of staring at sunshine from a coal mine. Helped me to keep on keeping on.
I found her outside the theatre. She looked shapeless. Not 45 or 65. Hair not really any kind of colour. Her eyes were dark and tired. Her lipstick the thickness of wall filler. She had doubtless been a genuine box of chocolates at one time. Now even her walk was dated. I disapproved but not enough to leave her standing.
The first thing she did was smile at me. And damn I felt as lonely as she looked.
‘I like your hair,’ she said.
Well, that’s clean grey for you.
I caught a whiff of something expensive. It certainly wasn’t my aftershave. Okay, so I’m no masterpiece and she sure was no da Vinci. I figured we would get on swell.
Ogling was necessary. Holding was necessary. I took her arm and we walked through the drizzle. New spaces, new places. Same old problems. Same shitty memories. She wasn’t Maggie. Not even close. She lit a cigarette, dropped it on the ground only half smoked. I imagine someone else would come along to finish it.
We picked a window table. More fool me. I could look out and see other women. Younger, better looking with tighter arses and less chin skin.
“I’m a wreck.”
“Say again?” I said.
“I said I’d like wine.”
Three Indian girls crammed themselves around a table for two. I couldn’t hear shit over their yapping about bats in their belfry. The lonely mother left me to powder her arse. I went over to the Indian girls and showed them my Lamb Balti, unrolling it from my trousers right next to their ice bucket of white wine. I’d never before heard synchronised screaming.
We didn’t stay for a second drink.
I’m no young sack rat. It’s important to roam. Even on a first date. The lonely mother trusted me. And why shouldn’t she? After all I do have twinkling brown eyes.
In a pub with plants hanging from the ceiling I ordered a coffee and a glass of their cheapest red. Enjoying a better bottle would have been a crime in her presence. She wet her lips around a glass of white and I tried to figure out what it was that she wanted from me.
She leaned on one bony elbow and stared at the table. Then she choked slammed a kiss on me. ‘I like you,’ she said.
A Mr Fixit. A Mr Fuck Machine. Take her on trips to the garden centre and lift up her skirt behind the Japanese Maples.
Maggie never stepped out of line. Damn her.
I could kick her arse across the floor. Still get a kiss at the end. I gave her one too many soldier’s farewells. Blossoming redhead. Coil of hair falling over one eye. My testicles began ringing between my legs. Crying black tears. A single man. Another single man. No woman to bring him up to date. No woman to cook him a decent meal.
Damn. I miss Maggie.
No smoking in pubs anymore so she leaves me with my axe parked.
My shoulder is crushed and I yelp in pain. Standing there is Dangerous Bryan. Red faced and warts on each eyelid.
“Prowling the crippled and wheelchair bound again are we Lou?”
“Dangerous. How’s Sue?”
“Back in again. Relapse.”
“Last I heard he was caught chasing some eastern European and a gypsy through the market place with a bloody machete.”
It’s too bad I can’t stay and talk with Dangerous. Never struggle for things to say. Always got a story. Willing to buy the booze as well.
“I need some time Dangerous. Making a good impression you see.”
Lonely mother sets herself down and Dangerous is back at the bar.
Maggie. I remember how I loved her so. I couldn’t help but flinch.
It was hard to breathe. Knocking against one another. Robot-like. The room was affordable, which made it bearable. A continuous hissing came from the radiator on the wall. As though showing us its disapproval.
I knew I shouldn’t have done it. I wasn’t going to be around for breakfast. She wouldn’t look at me. Compounding her sin.
I walked alone. Head down. Wandering the streets. Walking till dawn. Along a stretch of closed shops I felt eyes. Boring into my back like an x-ray. Behind me is a man. No idea who. Giving me the sensation, the notion of being in peril.
Walking quicker. On the fringe. The outskirts of life. Behind I hear exactly the same movements.
Through an alley. Around the houses. Turning corners. The rising din of morning traffic. Not looking again.
I needed coffee and sleep. But I was a very long way from either.
The man of doubtful integrity was gaining ground. Up ahead was a large cathedral. The main road just beyond. Wobbly knees. Out of my depth. I prayed for Maggie to come and save me. Wishing every bone in my body for Maggie in the shadow of the cathedral.
Two steps out into the road and a buffalo hit me. Pinning me to the tarmac. The man didn’t follow me into the road. A car door and footsteps come to poor Lorenzo.
A twine of red hair covers one eye. Maggie shrieks at the sight of me. “I didn’t see you. I didn’t see you.”
I’m smiling. “You didn’t see me.”
“Can you get up?”
“I can’t get up.”
“I’m on my way to my sister. She’s had a relapse. She needs me.”
“Just put a coat over me,” I tell her.
“I don’t have a coat,” she says.
That’s not her fault either.
“Let’s call it even,” I say.
“I really need to go.”
“Then you’d better be off.”
She stands. She kneels back down.
“When the police come. You’ll tell them it was somebody else, won’t you?”
“I’ll them it wasn’t you.”
I hear her backing the car up. It drives on past. I watch her leave. That’s how I know she’s gone.