I am not subject to sudden, unwarranted fits of emotion. I am the logical sort. I am analytical and phlegmatic. I like to think of myself as stoic and taciturn. I have been called aloof. It has been suggested that I am pompous.
It is therefore something of a surprise to find myself pondering a range of possibilities that have never previously entered my mind.
I have recently begun a relationship. With a woman. She is fifteen years my junior, but she is not the usual sort of silly flibbertigibbet that one meets. She is serious, well-educated and well read.
We met upstairs, in the pre-loved section of Berkelouw Books in Leichhardt. She was perusing a copy of Miller and Mundy’s ‘Painting a Map of Sixteenth-Century Mexico City’. I told her straight out that a hundred dollars, even for such a rare manuscript, was far too much! I said I would gladly loan her my copy.
I also suggested the collection, ‘Their Way of Writing: Scripts, Signs, and Pictographies in Pre-Columbian America’ edited by E.H. Boone and G. Urton.
Her name was Consuelo Rosa Gálvez, which I thought a little florid. However I asked her if she was any relation to Maria, the playwright of the same surname. She explained that she was not, though she was impressed that I knew the lady’s work and invited me to call her ‘Chelo’.
I mentioned that the strawberry and balsamic vinegar gelato was very good at the gelataria across the way.
- Why did I offer to loan her my copy of ‘Sixteenth-Century Mexico City’ which I had obtained at no small cost and which I had not yet finished annotating in the margins. Why on earth did I say I would do it gladly? I hate lending books, one never gets them back. Of course I do not question my interjection regarding the exorbitant asking price – that was mere courtesy to a fellow bibliophile.
- Why go on to recommend ‘Their Way of Writing’, was that not intrusive, presumptuous?
- Why mention strawberry and balsamic vinegar gelato? What possible relevance was there?
- Why form a relationship? At forty five years of age I am scarcely in need of a housekeeper.
I find myself unable to answer the above questions in anything like a convincing manner. Further, I am at a complete loss to explain my current preoccupations.
Whenever she goes out, which she must do and which I completely understand and accept, tiny fingers of fear and doubt begin to caress the out edges of my mind.
I begin to worry that some danger may befall her, she may be waylaid by the sort of oaf that hangs around street corners smoking cheroots.
An injury could befall her, perhaps a fall or a car accident. One never knows.
Perhaps she will come to her senses and realise that an intelligent, personable and fine looking young woman such as herself could do better than me. I begin to fear abandonment, I begin to realise its inevitability. I suspect that she will tire of me, that in time she will feel revulsion.
I am not used to this sort of disturbance, I cannot accurately describe it and I am lost for the right word to encapsulate it.
I cannot work. I cannot concentrate. I find myself watching the clock. Ticking off the hours, the minutes, even the seconds until I hear her key in the lock.
I jump up and switch on the Concordia espresso machine. I set out two tiny coffee cups and saucers. I place four biscotti on a little plate.
She sweeps into the room in a flurry of bags and jacket and scarf, all cast onto the floor in her hurry to stroke the index finger of her right hand through my graying temple, caress the spiky short clipped hair at the back of my neck, and kiss me softly, and slowly, without any other thought, or intention, or place she wants to be.
‘How was your day my love?’ she asks
‘Flat out!’ I reply, ‘Haven’t had a chance to scratch my own behind.’
We have coffee together, in silence, except for the crunch of the biscotti.
A moment of revelation.
‘Agony’ I mutter under my breath. ‘That’s what it’s called’.
She looks up.