A woman sitting alone in a bar tends to attract the attention of men, and women, whether they are themselves alone or with other men or woman. Even though this is only my third or fourth visit to this particular lunchtime watering hole, I’m aware that I’ve become something of a curiosity.
The barman treats me as an old friend, already reaching for the coffee cup the moment my hand settles on the door handle at the appointed time. I won’t be surprised when he starts handing me by own special mug.
“Hello Miss. Nice to see you again,” he says, even though I know he’s seen the gold-platinum ring on my finger. I enjoy the swift sexual frisking as his brown eyes wash over me.
The other regular drinkers and semi alcoholics look up and acknowledge my arrival with a vague , lukewarm welcoming smile, like dogs who’ve sniffed each others behinds before, no longer bothering to repeat the whole kaleidoscope of the time worn greeting.
There is couple to my left; he bald, as a polished egg, with the face of a chubby baby; expensive three piece suit and blue and red striped tie. She is blonde from a bottle, her hair piled precariously on top of her head, a few strands in carefully arranged disorder; tight silk blouse unbuttoned to show a small indecency of cleavage, and a short tight skirt that she constantly pulls down to hide the tops of her plump white thighs. He’s speaking in a quiet voice, words that are making her smile and slowly squirm on her seat, causing her skirt ride up again.
The two banker boys are in their usual places, mobiles at the ready, fingers poised for swift retaliation. They blatantly eye-fucked me as I walked by, carrying my coffee and small lap-top. I avoid their gazes.
They go into a little huddle and I know my ass and pussy are the topic. I may have to find some other watering hole that has free Wi-Fi, where the coffee is just as good or better.
Anyway, to continue my sad tale………………
Off-white walls were the back drop to metre wide canvases of coloured geometric shapes and swirls, malformed Dahlia-like objects, waxy caricatures and primary coloured splashes of paint spread thickly, as if the artist had been an alcoholic chimpanzee. I was unimpressed, but I’d heard of art critics, who supposedly knew their business, rave over stranger creations.
Pretty, stick thin girls in white blouses, dark skirts and sensible shoes roamed the room dispensing glasses of chilled pink champagne and slightly edible finger aperitifs, that had probably been left on someone’s window sill too long to defrost in the sun.
There was a low buzz of conversation and muted laughter.
I saw the skinny tart Christian had mentioned, she did indeed have a lip hair problem, but her dress wouldn’t have been all that bad if she’d gotten it in her size.
The round art-critic was squinting at a painting of wobbly looking clowns holding hands, while they danced in a circle. He was mopping his leaking brow and chinless neck with a pale blue handkerchief the size of a tea-towel, while he stuffed a fist full of vol-au-vents into his fat lipped mouth. Now, there was a subject for a caricaturist, I thought, hoping that his tightly stretched trousers weren’t going to give under the strain of containing his huge ass as he bent forward.
“He’s over there,” Christian said, indicating with a nod of his head, the broad shouldered back of a tall man, deep in conversation with a beautiful blonde in a tight, blue close fitting silk dress and expensive pale blue leather pumps.
“Are you sure he’s gay?” I asked.
“I didn’t say he was gay, I said he was beautiful in a totally savage sort of way. “All I know is that the thought of him doing things to this white boy is sending delicious shivers running up and down my spine.”
“In that case, I wish you good hunting.”
Christian flicked his hair to one side again, and moved off in the direction of his quarry.
I accepted another glass from a passing silver tray and took an anticlockwise course around the room trying to look interested in the artist’s outpourings.
Leaving the main gallery, I wondered into a side passage and was looking at a painting with the particularly uninformative title of “Red on Canvas,” which was just that, blood red oil paint roughly brushed from end to end on a metre wide canvas. The price tag would have swallowed almost all of my month’s wages.
“A horrible abortion. Don’t you think?”
Turning I looked up into a pair of intense black eyes that glinted beneath a high forehead, capped by the thick, wavy black hair. Along his temples a few fine streaks of white indicated that he was older than the impression given by his smooth, unlined, complexion. His English was perfect, and if it wasn’t for his sultry complexion I would’ve said that he’d been born and educated in England.
“I beg your pardon?”
He raised a dark eyebrow and nodded at the canvas, “That thing that’s not even worth the price of the paint he wasted.”
“I can’t decide,” I said.
“Some people think that just throwing paint at a canvas makes it art.”
“I’m not a critic. You obviously know more about the subject than I do.”
“We’re all critics in one way or another. Anyway, I’d judge that you’re a lady who knows what she likes. And you certainly don’t like that.”
“How can you tell?”
“I read faces, and yours says that you’re unimpressed, tired, bored and hungry.”
“Is that all my face tells you?”
“Yes… at the moment.”
“Well, I admit that I’m tired, it’s been a long day, but I’m neither bored, nor hungry.”
He smiled, his eyes crinkling slightly. “You stomach would beg to differ; you’ve been rubbing it for the past fifteen minutes. Added to that, you arrived at six thirty, which means you’ve come straight from the office and haven’t had time for dinner. And looking at your figure I’d guess that all you had for lunch was coffee and a celery stick.”
“You’ve been watching me?”
“Because you are the most beautiful woman here.”
“Do women ever fall for that line?”
“Every time. That’s why I still use it.”
“I see, you’re not so much here for the art, but to pick up women. What happened to the blonde in the blue dress you were talking to?”
His left eyebrow arched as he smiled. “You were watching me too then.”
“Watching is too strong a word – I first noticed the stunningly beautiful woman and then I saw that she was talking to you – that’s all.”
His eyebrows arched again. “So, you are here to look at women too, and not to appreciate the art.”
“No, I’m here because my friend Christian-,”
“I’ve met him, an interesting character.” He winked slowly, lowering his voice. “I believe he has designs on my body. I like him, he’s different. But my perversions don’t lean in that direction. Would you like me to introduce you to the blonde? I don’t think she’s into women in that way, but you might be able to persuade her.”
“You are assuming that I am….interested in women in that way?”
“Have I miss-understood?”
“I don’t think you’re the type of man who miss-understands anything. But you were wrong about lunch – it was Coffee and half a prawn sandwich.”
He laugher was soft and warm. “How could I be so badly mistaken? A veritable feast then. Do you have a name, Signora?”
“Why do you need to know?”
“If we are going to be friends, I can’t keep calling you that beautiful friend of Christian’s.”
“No, I don’t suppose you can. It’s-“
“I see you’ve already met, Marco,” Christian butted in, linking arms with the stranger, almost proprietarily.
“Not officially,” I said. “We were just about to-“
“Has he got around to asking you if you fuck men you hardly know?”
I wasn’t as shocked as my face might have shown, over the years I’d grown used to Christian’s blunt sexual hand grenades.
“Now Christian,” said Marco, “I don’t think the Signora is like that.”
“And you’d be right,” I said, trying and failing to stab Christian with a hot stare.
Christian grinned, and made a small theatrical bow. “In that case I apologise to the young…Signora.”
“Apology accepted,” I said.
“Now that’s settled,” Christian went on, “which of you homophobes is going to buy this gay-boy dinner. I’m absolutely starving, I hate fucking vol-au-vents and this lot don’t know art from the ass-end of a buffalo.”
The taxi dropped us off outside a Thai House in the West End, where the meal came in a series of small dishes; hot, aromatic delicious.
Christian flirted outrageously with the Marco, despite knowing that he was entirely hetero-sexual. Marco easily and politely fielded Christian’s suggestive innuendoes, while at the same time keeping us laughing with risqué tales of his travels, which seemed to indicate that he’d been to almost every country on the planet, twice over.
Four bottles of wine came and went, mostly down Christian’s throat.
About ten o’clock, I rang home and told my husband that I’d had a few drinks and that I’d be staying in town with Christian, and would be home in the morning – something I’d done several times before. Christian had his head on the Italian’s shoulder, his hand on his knee and was already half asleep a minute after we climbed into the taxi. I’d seen him demolish a full bottle of whiskey and several brandies and still be able to walk along a tightrope, but wine always went straight to his head, and that night he’d sunk more than two bottles on his own.
“He’ll be out till noon tomorrow,” I said, trying to apologize for my gently snoring friend.
A slow smile lighted the Italian’s face. “Good. Then he’ll be completely oblivious to what we do tonight.”
“What we do? I don’t understand.”
His eyebrows arched. “Don’t you?”
“Yes, I think I do,” I said. “Well that’s not going to happen. Not tonight! Not ever!” I held up my hand so he could see my ring. “And that ring on your own finger tells me that there’s a wife waiting for you at home.”
He laughed softly. “Yes we’ve both vowed to forsake all others, but some things are inevitable, Cara Mia. You can’t deny the attraction that’s been growing all evening. I’ve seen it in your eyes. And I’ve never been one to ignore my desires. As for my wife – she understands me that am a man.”
“Non in un milione di anni,” I said, falling back on the Italian I’d picked up during my gap year in Tuscany when I was nineteen.
One of the banker boys is talking very loudly on the phone while the other tries to suppress a girly giggle. The words ‘megalithic bonus’ and ‘a shit load’ and ‘fucking a’ are followed by ‘you bet your sweet b’Jesus I will’, makes everybody look in their direction. He presses the disconnect button and the two of them go into a fandango of knuckle touches and funny handshakes.
Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock. Got to go back to work. I’d love to stay and chat but bills have to be paid.
**Non in un milione di anni…….Not in a million years.