“You’re very beautiful,” I say. I do not know whether, by their standards, she is beautiful.
She looks surprised. Flustered. Perhaps because I met her only a few seconds ago. Touched her arm at the crowded bar and introduced myself.
“Thank you,” she says, and giggles. I can see that she thinks I am beautiful. Handsome, they call it.
“I like your eyes,” she says. I have learnt to smile with my eyes. Learnt that they like that.
“Yes, I have two – the normal arrangement,” I say. I am aware that they find that funny. She laughs. It’s a good sign. I ask her what she’s drinking. Vodka with something. I have the same. It’s easier. The barman pushes the drinks towards us. I give him paper money. She puts the glass to her lips. I do not drink.
There are two seats at the back of the bar where we can sit. Briefly I hope.
“Are you English?” she says.
It’s not the first time I’ve been asked. My accent is not completely accurate.
“Yes,” I say, “But my father was Swiss.”
She nods. And smiles. Asks about Switzerland. I mention the Alps, clocks, gnomes. It’s what I’ve learnt.
I say I am a financial broker – working for animal welfare. Money and a conscience. That I have a hybrid sports car, using electricity as well as petrol. And a riverside flat.
“With a view to die for,” I say.
“Nice,” is her reaction.
“It’s only a few minutes away.”
And in those few minutes we are there. And she has drunk more vodka. This time straight. She has let her fingers linger on the Kelim rug. And admired the kitchen – white tiles with stainless steel. It’s in the kitchen that I ask her to add her name and address to my system. I must monitor.
“For the gift,” I say.
“Gift?” she asks.
She says she’s never seen a computer like it. I agree she hasn’t.
We walk onto the balcony. Stand a little apart. Listen to the noises of the air. I stare at the darkness, the bloated sky. And home.
She looks at the side of my face. I turn and smile. We kiss. These days I kiss well.
She says she’s never met anyone like me. That I am unusual. I smile. Tell her that someday people may say the same about her.
Soon she is naked in my bed. I say that I will use a condom. I act it out under the sheets. I penetrate immediately. And finish.
She insists she would like to stay.
I say that really she wouldn’t. She dresses. I close the door behind her.
I report progress towards the target. Change the sheets. Choose different clothes and walk to another bar. Find another woman.
“You’re very beautiful,” I say.
JOHN HOLLAND is a prize-winning author from Gloucestershire in the UK, and the organiser of the regular event, Stroud Short Stories. Website – www.johnhollandwrites.com
Image: Gerd Altmann via Pixabay