I know what they say. I know how ‘common opinion’ judges me, judges us.
I ask you though, to consider, to introspect and ask yourself, who knows what is in a man’s heart, or in a woman’s heart for that matter?
Who can say, from a distance, from outside, what deep spirit rules in another man’s relationship.
Who can say what passes between lovers when they are all alone where none may pry into their oh-so-private intimacy?
And even if one could see, who is to judge?
Loud shouting can be heard in the piazza below. I pause my letter writing to watch an argument exploding between a little man on a bicycle and a taxi driver. The driver, a bear of a man two meters tall at least, gets out of his cab and lifts the little man into the air by his lapels. The bicycle falls into the road.
As soon as they can see eye-to-eye the little man punches the taxi driver on the nose. The taxi driver drops the little man and then lifts him again, shaking him. Once again, as soon as he is within reach the little man punches the taxi drive hard on the nose. This goes on and on for several minutes until a tiny woman in a black dress and a white apron (the cyclist’s wife perhaps?) comes tearing out of a shop doorway brandishing a broom and whacks the taxi driver hard on the back of the head.
The taxi driver bellows with rage (the sound is easily discernible from my fourth floor balcony). He turns like a cat with unexpected agility, seeking his attacker. At first he does not see the tiny witch woman who is swinging her broom with considerable force at his knees.
There is a resounding ‘thwack!’ and a bellow of, were it possible, even more maddened rage. Now the Taxi driver does see the woman, and her broom, which is whistling down in the direction of his forehead.
The taxi driver fends off the little woman’s broom, jumps into his taxi and speeds off. The little woman waits while the cyclist regains his bicycle before giving him a pretty good whack with the bristly end of the broom and sweeping, like a miniature battleship, back into the shop.
The lift pings on the landing outside my apartment.
I hear Her key in the door. Quickly I close the letter I am writing. I slip my phone into my pocket and hurry towards the door hoping to open it for Her.
Too late. The door opens and two lovely tanned arms appear, encircling a large brown paper bag stuffed with treasures.
‘Take these! Take these immediately. My arms are breaking!’
I take the package and place it on the table.
‘I thought you would have met me downstairs. You knew I was going shopping. You always leave everything to me. I bet you’ve been staring out of the window or spying on the neighbours again.’
I start to say something but She cuts in.
‘Don’t make excuses! You know I can’t stand it when you make excuses!’
I start to unpack the shopping bag and put things away.
‘Well? Aren’t you going to answer me then? Don’t I even deserve an answer when I’ve been out in the heat of the day to shop for your dinner?’
I start to say something else but She cuts in again.
‘Well the least you could do is put the shopping away!’
I continue to put things away, waiting for the inevitable, heavy sigh that will signify that She has moved to phase two of Her homecoming ritual.
She flops theatrically onto the comfortable old brown leather sofa.
Everything has been put away, I have set the enormous, ancient espresso coffee pot on the gas ring and placed two tiny bone china coffee cups on the counter and begun to steam the milk before, finally, the sigh comes.
‘Why don’t you love me?’ She asks, quietly, in the voice of little girl who has been lost in the Alps for a week.
‘Why don’t I matter to you at all?’
I start to say something but She cuts me off.
‘I should leave’ she says, ‘I should simply pack up my things and go!’
I finish making the coffee and place one tiny cup on the coffee table next to Her, within easy reach.
I sit on the floor, at her feet, and one-by-one gently remove her fine Italian high heels.
I begin to massage her feet and calves. She stretches, languorously, like a cat, and wiggles her toes.
I continue to knead the soles of her feet and her toes. She lets out a low moan, almost a groan, and leans forward to stroke my hair. Her strong fingers ruffle the spiky short cropped hairs at the nape of my neck.
I begin to stand, crouching, and lift Her from the sofa. She leans back in my arms, wanton and vulnerable.
I carry Her to the bed room and fling Her unceremoniously onto the bed. She lies limp, apparently submissive, across the quilt.
She opens Her eyes and regards me with the frank open stare of a child.
‘Are you going to undress me?’ She asks
For a moment I am uncertain if I heard Her correctly. Did She say ‘Are you going to undress me?’ or ‘Aren’t you going to undress me?’
‘Would you like me to undress you?’
‘Well not if you don’t want to.’
The waspish tone has begun to edge its way back into her voice.
I lie down next to Her and kiss Her, very gently, on Her broad generous, lips. She smiles, stretches, wraps Herself around me, and begins to kiss my neck, slowly. I caress Her back and begin to undo the tiny hooks and eyes that run the length of Her dress from the nape of Her neck to the small of Her back.
There are many hooks and eyes, and occasionally I fumble. I am attuned absolutely to Her mood, acutely aware of any impatient shifting or irritation. It’s ok, so far so good.
When the dress is completely undone I run my hand down Her back from her shoulder to the top of her panties. I allow my hand to continue on over her full round buttocks to the tops of her thighs. She is wearing old fashioned stockings. With one index finger I caress the elasticated tops noting the thin line they have made in the otherwise perfectly smooth skin.
I turn to kiss Her again, but She has fallen asleep. Her breath is peaceful and shallow, like a little girl.
I embrace Her very carefully and kiss Her again. She stirs in Her sleep.
‘I love you’ she murmurs, ‘only you, always.’
My heart aches and there is a sudden lump in my throat. With extreme care I disentangle myself and return to the balcony and my letter.
She loves me, I write, She is my Goddess.