Friday, 21 January 2011

A Will And No Way - Part Two

Will put his arm under mine and kept me from walking into traffic I didn’t see hurtling towards us because I was too busy trying to imagine the night ahead. I was meeting his family – anyone else? Where were we going? Should I be leaving bread crumbs to re-trace my steps?

‘How long is this portion of the evening going to take?’ I didn’t want to sound ungracious but I hate surprises. I was jogging to keep up with his long stride.

‘Oh. Ten minutes.’

Ten minutes! Ten minutes. I could stand anything for ten minutes. He had to give his cousin a tenner or pick up a racing tip, then we’d be off.  I relaxed.  Will nodded at my bike as I wheeled it along the wet pavement.

‘It's like having a horse. You have to think about it all the time.' 

We dodged the swarming pedestrians. He glanced down and behind his right shoulder to talk to me.

'Normally what would follow would be a dissecting of the film but I can't dissect that film. Do you know why?'  

'No,’ I said, trotting.

'Because it's just too sad.'

‘Well, it’s beautiful as well as sad.’

'No. No, you're wrong. No beauty. It's just sad.'

'But he was full of love. For his children, for his imagination - ’

‘He was paralyzed and then he died. He lost everything. It was just sad.'

Water gushed up into the porous crepe soles of my wedge high-heels. Will didn’t seem to mind getting wet. I blinked up at him, glad I wasn’t wearing mascara.

‘Oh yeah, your philosophy. Life is a bitch and then you die. You told me. In the hallway. Between Othello and Macbeth.’

'What? me? My life's not a bitch. I have a great life.'

We turned a corner. I had a vague sense of hanging baskets and candles in the windows of a pub, a news agent. I didn’t know this part of town. Will strode as through his own back yard. We were obviously in his ‘hood.

'For instance. You took me for a walk onto Waterloo Bridge, after our dinner, to look at – the - the vista, never would have done that, and you took me to this movie. Lots of unexpected things.'

I felt touched, in a particular way. It took a moment then I realised – I felt important.

It was a nice feeling.

'You want the unexpected, don't you?' He seemed pleased.

We were approaching our destination. He slowed down and I looked for a place to park my bike as he chatted with passers-by who knew his name, some of them taking me in. He touched my elbow and steered me into a very noisy pub, bursting at the seams, overseen by a huge television playing a repeat of Match of the Day .  A series of women sat on the laps of men at the bar and loud techno-pop competed with Gary and Alan.

Will made a bee-line for a table where a young and very open-faced Scandinavian-looking man sat, two empty beer glasses already in front of him. He saw Will, leapt up nimbly, threw his arms around him then turned to me, his hand extended.

‘This is Raj,’ Will beamed.

Raj – who could not possibly have looked less like a name evoking Indian sands – grinned and pumped my hand enthusiastically.

‘Very nice to meet you, very nice indeed. Well done, cuz, well done.’

We sat at a table that began filling up with acquaintances and friends – a woman sat in Raj’s lap, de rigueur in this postal code it seemed – and I was only slightly surprised when Will went to the bar to buy a round. I’d seen him drink before, he put it away pretty fast. We could still make our ten minute ETD.

Raj and I chatted about Alan Shearer and ice hockey behind the back of the very attractive blonde who swung her legs on his knee while I, studying Raj, ruminated on how much he looked like my Uncle Harold. Who had bright blue eyes, was half-Swedish, barrel-chested and bald. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but these qualities came together nicely in Raj.  He was fresh and scrubbed-looking -  vital.  The perfect contrast to Will’s rangy, maybe-Cherokee looks.

Will returned with drinks, sat down and announced

‘Raj is half Norwegian’ as though confirming my thoughts.

‘I’m a quarter Swedish,’ I exclaimed. ‘We’re the Scandinavian portion of the bar.’

Will shook his head. ‘Not me. I’m related to his dad. Uncle Sid.’

I wondered if this was the Native American connection. All was revealed when Raj announced

‘How sharper than a serpent’s tooth to have a thankless child.’

Ah. That uncle.

‘He dealt drugs for an Arab sheik. He denied it of course, but that’s what he did.’

‘He wouldn’t have done time for security,’ Raj shook his head.

‘He said he offered security.’

‘Not a chance.’

‘But this sheik had a son called Rashid and he liked the name.’

‘That’s my name.’

‘We call him Raj. We’re like brothers.’

Will put his arm easily around Raj who let his huge bulk be embraced. As much as I felt our very separate worlds – my family had made some criminal fashion choices, 1968-1977, but no one, as far as I knew, had ever actually done time – I liked the world of these men. Fond. Affectionate.

Raj turned to tend to the friendly girl on his lap. Will leaned forward and stroked my neck.

Ten thousand volts rushed through my capillaries and nerve ends. He watched his finger on my skin.

 'It must be boring to just sit in a pub and watch other people drink.'

I thought 'Not if you keep stroking me...'

And, obviously, he was right, it is excruciatingly dull to sit in a pub watching other people drink but I knew we’d be back outside and en route to the Third Date chapter of the evening very soon so for that I could withstand this detour. I wondered if he lived nearby.

It was too noisy to talk so I watched Match of the Day while Will drank in silence. I saw people necking in corners. I wished I were necking in a corner. I looked around to see if there were any quiet and unused portions of the pub to which I could quietly lead him but it had grown even more crowded since we’d sat down, so unless we were going to wedge ourselves under a table, Will and I would have to neck in the light of public scrutiny.

The way I was feeling, this did not seem like an unacceptable prospect.

Will waved at a few people, shouted to Raj and introduced me to someone on crutches called Messiah. I asked several times, thinking I’d misheard. I used his name, unnecessarily, just for the thrill. ‘Do you live around here, Messiah? Does your mother know where you are, Messiah? If you leave this pub, are you coming back? Messiah?’ He didn’t speak English so my ability to entertain – or offend him – was minimal.

Alan Hansen and Alan Shearer discussed the match.

Raj and I discussed more hockey – being half Scandinavian, he had a degree of expertise.

Will and I made eye contact now and then. Beautiful. Thrilling.

And that was it.

For forty minutes.

I went to the bathroom. Someone inspired by Amy Winehouse was shellacking her hair with spray in front of the mirror. I went into the loo then came back out and gazed into my reflection that was, at that moment, undergoing a dawning realisation.

Ten minutes. Ten minutes. Ten minutes didn’t mean how long we’d spend here. It meant how long it took us to get here. We’d walked for ten minutes.

We could be here all night.

I felt panic rise in my throat. I heard a desperate voice begin a chant in my head. 'I just want to get laid, I just want to get laid, can it be so hard to get LAID??'

I put a hand on my solar plexus, watched my breath to the count of ten and thought ‘I just need a bit more information.’ Then I could make a decision.

I returned and sat at the table, Will and Raj smiling at my return. At 11:30, as Match of the Day that Had Actually Happened on a Day Last Weekend wound down, I turned to Will and, in the spirit of research, shouted over the crowd. 'What sort of schedule do you have? What is your vision for the night?'


'What do you want to do?'

He blinked, looked down at his watch.

'Well. I think a great deal more drinking.'

I inhaled sharply. From deep, inner reserves I found the strength not to shriek ‘What???’ I waited. Will looked around.

'Another - hour at least.'

As the rats leapt off the deck.

Because I knew, the way you know when your dog has died or you’ve failed chemistry or you’ve handed over your boarding pass at Stansted and they tell you your flight leaves from Luton – I knew what the evening was going to be. A continued application of alcohol then drunken congress. That I couldn’t face. I made my decision.

I looked at Will, gazing at me fondly and suddenly I was Harry in Harry meeting Sally. How long did I have to sit there before it was polite for me to get my things and say “I've just got to go?” I liked Will a lot, and I wanted him even more but there was no option.

It took thirty seconds.

'Will, I've got to go.'

He didn't look surprised.

'Do you?'

'I've - I've got to go. I'm going to go.'

He nodded and stood up with me. I put on my coat, shook hands with Messiah again, hoped his leg got better (suggesting he try healing himself and winking at his non-English speaking face), and we made our way out of the pub, looking for Raj.

'He's probably outside, having a spliff.'

I told Will not to follow me into the rain but he stepped out onto the pavement to stand in front of me. He put his arms around me and I thought 'Okay, well, I'm getting kissed good night I guess' trying not to weep in disappointment. 

He reached around to put his hands on my rear and yanked me up to him and kissed me and tried to put his hand under my shirt. My head spun. I couldn't figure it out. Why this interest now and why here?  I pushed him away. He reached for me again, pulling me back into the building and kissing me against the railing along the stairwell.

By this point we were blocking the very narrow passage into the bar. Large men said 'Excuse me', not looking at either of us. Will didn't notice, didn't care or thought it was perfectly right. I finally broke away and whispered 'Can't we go somewhere and do this horizontally?'

The idea seemed to confuse him. I turned to go.

'Thank you, thanks, really - I've just - ' and he reached for me again. This time he just held me, close, and my head was next to his ear and I thought ‘Oh God. What have I got to lose?’ I took a deep breath and said, quietly -

 'Will, I really really want to have sex with you but I'm not sure how we're going to make that happen.'

He pulled away, laughing. I could see I'd desperately wrong-footed him. I asked if he hadn't thought we might be having sex.  He said he was more of a spontaneous guy, things happened organically, there was a time and a point when you kind of decided that happened. Yes, he thought it might happen but it wasn't a plan.

'Well,’ I said. ‘I guess we just have different schedules. Because I'm not going to last another hour.'

He seemed content to grab me again and just sort of maul me on the sidewalk and I pulled away and took his hands and was about to say goodbye when Raj approached us from across the street.

'What's going on, why do you have your coat on, what are you doing?'

'I'm leaving.'

Raj looked at me.

'No, you most certainly are not. You're not leaving, what are you talking about? Will, she's leaving? You're not leaving. She's not leaving.'

I sighed. Will stood back, shoving his arms into his trouser pockets, looking cold.

I looked at Raj's friendly, Uncle Harold face. In for a penny, in for a pound. I shrugged.

'I would really really like to have sex with Will but I'm not sure how that's going to happen.'

Raj’s eyes went wide, huge with appreciation, and he turned to Will.

'And WHAT are you going to do about this?? Are you going to do something about this? Because if you aren't going to do something about this - I AM going to do something about this.'

Will threw his head back and laughed. 'I can't believe we are having this conversation. Why are there three of us, having this conversation?'

'Do you want privacy? Is this too intense?' Raj examined my face.  'No,’ he said, intrigued. ‘This isn't too intense.'

'No. Nothing's too intense for me.’ I said. Sadly.

'Will, what are you at? Look at her.' He looked at me. 'She's beautiful, I think you're beautiful, sweetheart, you're lovely, don't go - he doesn't want you to go.'

Will tried to defend himself. 'It's organic. I'm spontaneous. It can't be contrived.'

'I get it,' I said, trying to get it. 'There's an order, a step in between and that involves - '

'A great deal of heavy drinking.'

'You know, don't you, that I don't need to drink to be keen and available.'

'Doesn't matter. If half a dozen naked and nubile dancing girls were cavorting about me saying 'I want to have sex but I won't drink' - it wouldn't stop me.'

I couldn't figure out what was stopping him. Frustration was mounting.

'I can't believe it. I'm a woman trying to convince a man to have a one night-stand.'

Raj looked alarmed. 'Not a one night stand. Don't say that.'

Will left.

I looked up at Raj. I think my lower lip stuck out and trembled. He reached out and stroked my face and my chin. 'Ohhh...' he said, tenderly. ‘I would never walk down my cousin's road, but, darling, if you wanted, I wouldn't but if you wanted  – ‘ managing to sound gallant, not lecherous.

Will came back in his coat with his drink. Even through the haze of misunderstanding, I could see he was trying, he was really trying. I was touched. 

He saw a piece of ironmogery. He picked it up and showed Raj and me.

'That is a three-inch single-thread screw.'

'Just what I need, ' I said.  'Well. Maybe more than three inches.'

Raj laughed and, beaming, gazed at Will. Will put the screw down.

A figure materialised out of the evening mist, someone who looked far more media-type and familiar, and stood, for a moment, with the three of us. I could see that he wanted to get into the building but Raj was so big he was hard to navigate around.

 I said 'Hello.'

'Hello,' he said. We immediately had more in common than I did with anyone else on that stretch of pavement.

'It's raining, ' I said, noticing he had a really intelligent face, quirky and handsome.

'Yes, it is.'

We stood there. Four of us. In the rain.

'At least it isn't windy,' quirky handsome guy said.

'No, that is the truth, it isn't windy,’ I agreed.

'It could be rainy and windy. It's not.'

'Thank god for that.'

Will looked at us, his features bland. 'Scintillating conversation we're having.'

'I'm just saying,' handsome guy said. 'On Tuesday, if we'd been standing here in the rain, there would have been gale force winds. Very windy. Not tonight.'

'Where I come from it's snowing, ' I said.

'Where do you come from?' He looked at me. 'Lapland?'

'It doesn't snow in Lapland,' Raj offered. Being Norwegian.

'Too many reindeer,' I said, nodding. Somehow imagining a Jacob's ladder of reindeer that kept the snow on the ceiling of the sky so it couldn't fall out.

I took out my bike lights. Preparing to leave.

'Ah you cycle, very commendable,' said quirky guy.

'I come from Canada,' I said. For the second time Will left. I felt a spasm of fear that he was hurt and jealous of the quirky handsome guy with whom I had far more in common and I grabbed at his coat tails as he passed. He stood in the hallway of the pub.

'I'm just standing here to get warm, darling' he said. Now the two of them blocked the door.

Quirky guy seemed to pick up an unspoken signal and decided it was time to move on. He forced his way between them, turned to me and said

'Did you know Vancouver has more telescopes per capita than any other city in the world? People on one side of the island are always watching people on the other side.'

'It's absolutely true,' I said never having heard this before and sure it was a blatant falsehood. Nodding at Raj and Will. Who nodded back, interested.

'A lot of people spend a lot of time naked there,' handsome guy said.  And left.

Will downed his drink. 'Right. I've finished this, I'm going to take you back and give you a right good seeing to.'

Almost an hour a head of his time. Raj slapped him on the shoulder.

'I knew you'd come through! I knew it.' He took my hand and kissed it. 'He really likes you darling, I love you, you're a sweetheart, remember you have a back up in reserve.'

We waved and I wondered about this victory I'd scored.

Nothing was going as I'd hoped.


From next week's (final) instalment:

I was looking forward to my bed. I was trying to remember how to get to my bike. I zipped up the first boot. Will grabbed it.

'You're not putting the boots back on.'

'Yes I am,' I said, cold and angry.

'No, you're not,' he said.

I pushed him away, found the other boot and put it on. I was looking for my coat when he reached for my knees, pulled them to him and started undoing the zip again.

'This is more like it!' he said. Wrestling with me now.

Holy fuck I thought. It's 1950. And I'm not being coy. I'm furious.

But he  - he was having fun. And suddenly he was into it. And I could - feel that he was into it. In a way I hadn't felt earlier. Oh God, I thought. I have wanted this so much and for so long and look, here I can have it. 

With someone who wants me because I want to go home.

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