Will you write about this? She asks, leaning back into her seat. Her eyes gather the light from some setting sun reflected in mirrors for sale. You will won’t you? He knows that denial here would be pointless and anyway there just may be a story in here somewhere. She continues, tells of love gone wrong, a man, an ex, actually. Now funded by another’s trust fund, house sale and possibly better career choices. This last not spoken but created between sentences that hang as she waits for him to ask how she feels about them… He doesn’t, having learnt painfully over the years that to ask another how they feel about, stuff, feelings, can be a disaster zone. Especially when they may also have some negative feelings about the askee. Such is the situation here. He will go to great conversational lengths to avoid possible ‘feeling’ moments.
This is not cowardice, oh no, this is valour. Cowardice is fear of possible consequences, valour is the recognition that consequences exist and are painful.
She speaks of babies. The unthinking transactions that occur when ex’s move into new relationships, the sad burden that children from ended couplings carry, how quest for new delivers pain for those who once held promise. He settles in his seat, feeling wood under buttock, cold spoon in warmed fingers, cake crumbs under elbow to grate. This is the long haul. Will he be spoken of in such ways and days to come? He guesses so. He wants to be, how else are our days counted on this journey of souls schlepping on to death or freedom?
She trills sweetly for moments as her eyes catch his, they speak of moments that have been, could be and were. Those dark eyes lit by light from distance unmeasurable now deflected by glass and time, eyes that he had seen closed during orgasm only to open, unguarded, little girl innocent’ed, wide in unpurpose but joyed. He loves her now, then and from time before this. None of this matters for they will not be together, if they were to be, then history and future hold place. All love needs mythology. Lust has no lasting record; all is in moment.
They are parting, slowly as glacial ice moves to the sea, cracking, dirtying on its journey downward to end. She mentions endings, this in reference to his reticence to acknowledge the pain created between them. He knows feelings, owns them, but in moments such as these desires not to own up to them. Tears may be close but are held in check, for what he knows not, but still, cannot release. For all his growing up, his maturity in emotion, to talk now of them is to admit loss and the purposelessness of chasm he creates between them.
His coffee grows silently colder as she questions by glance his attention, his motive, and attribution of her sentence. Her shoulders, slight in cotton sag, as her tale unfolds, he could raise them, hold them up by making what she wants, so. This he cannot do. Time has moved on, she has moved on, they are no longer whom they once knew. He has changed also, no longer earnest in his needs, twisted by moments unfurled. What once was there between them exists in memories held by them, only. No others can, could, or maybe would want to know.
Other diners supposedly face deep in vegetarian fare and heavy wholesome cake, look over until their eyes are caught. They too cannot openly recognise what invisible lurks at their table. How many times had he, they too eavesdropped from such tables.
A blonde, stick thin and ugly in careerism, castrating her male, he overweight and polyester’ed in loud losers tie, eyes cast down into Darjeeling, as she bollocked him for not standing up to bosses, men, colleagues when they ‘put upon him.’ She strident over bills, impending divorce, shrill in the whispered tones that middle class privately educated pony girls are. That the divorce was theirs and issues over his backbone were to the fore, no doubt.
He had been still to his core then, listening, embarrassed at another male held to ransom by womanhood in some unspoken knowing higher position. Now he stilled himself in this encounter, having no rebuttal for love and logic held by beautiful women. Poignantly more distressing, knowing that silence damned him further but knowing of no escape other than time and distance to resolve issues. Fellow feeling does not help such situations but compounds them.
She talks of him, her care, love and of people held in common regard or disregard. People who will have things to say, intuit and imagineer over this ending, he feels sure that there will be some too who will be glad he will be gone, for men there always is, such is this age of feminine supremacy. Men can be dissected in ways other men would be squeamish to contemplate, power in the tribe eternally is held thus.
He talks of careers, moves, consistency of cake and life, drawing metaphors from the air as he speaks, anything to avoid the vapours that hangs between them. Then he asks, fatally how she is about…
Tears form in the corners he once delicately kissed, they do not fall. Her nose suddenly needs dabbing. Bag opened, tissue sought, dabbed. Oh, those precursors to speech that women surround themselves with, gone for men the days of pipes to fiddle. Cigarettes, snuff and linen lawn ‘kerchiefs. Women ascend with these fripperies, these wiles to beguile as they gather words to ensnare.
He mentions another to break the spell, for moments they talk lightly of this and that, knowing that avoidance can but delay spells once created. Silence resumes, she dabs again, begins to sigh, then speak. She feels badly she tells, about how once they had a love that cut through like a razor, her voice, low now, beautiful in its seduction of his senses and meaning. How their relationship will be transmuted, they will continue in friendship: a different kind of love. He hears a heart coldened in protection, barbed wire to keep him out in case he damages further.
Somewhere behind he hears a meal finished, as chair scrapes back on tile. Hushed voices appreciating what once had been a feast, now laying in scraps and crumbs on plates with knives, forks placed, just so, to establish completion.
He is a lovely bastard she tells, accurate in his truth and jest of their being together, lovely for his artlessness of being, delightfully cruel in accuracy of thrust, how she fears for him in that others do not recognise beauty, seeing, hearing only their own hurt instead of the helping. Nobody before has spoken of him in these ways, tied in tongue, he listens, ears open to drive tears away. How could he reject such love? Placating internally he suggests, It is not a rejecting, more a wind that pushes them, timing ripping what once itself created. He knows that here he encounters love in ways he never has before experienced and never knowing, had not developed grip to grasp. Too trite he accepts, he has waited for so long to be taken from comfort zone, but this rain he cannot soak.
He cannot despise his lack, much as he cannot stop love, cannot continue with what was once here. She stops, alert to him, waves her hands slowly in futility, knowing she has said what was needed, now she, perhaps they can move on to friendship. Somewhere inside, gut, head, deeper? There rises protest, practised as he is in subsuming emotion, he nods and smiles thinly in acquiescence. He knows as he has always known, that it is women who design relationships, they may deny, pretend otherwise, but these strings have never felt male fingers guiding them. Only events to come can judge accuracy of such statements as these.
It is time to leave, cake and salads consumed, chocolate and water drunk, napkins wiped and discarded, they consider a tip, work out percentages, decide against and standing prepare to leave.
“You’re such a lovely sod, I wonder if one day you’ll even write about this?”
Smiling, they leave, entering a louder world of commerce, cars and ignorance of their affairs.