Sunday, March 21, 2010

Unreasonable Women

Rupert believes himself beset by unreasonable women. The last one pummeled him with her fists, shocking his old-school sensibilities by requiring him to use force to defend himself. Then there was the former girlfriend he visited in Los Angeles who swooped and shrieked, her pashmina extended like a pair of black wings, until he was more than glad to pack her off in his chauffeur-driven car, back to the ghetto she claimed was bohemian but in his eyes was just grotty.

She called him, still furious. “You are attracted to romantics, girls who want to believe the best of people, because they are the only ones who could overlook your behavior. But eventually your manipulation and deviousness show through and they realize they haven’t found a savior, someone to protect them from cruelty and ugliness, but that you embody, make a skill even, of the very cynicism and selfishness they detest. That’s why they leave amid tears and recriminations.”
“You see a hard-headed girl, someone who’s a little more skeptical would immediately see you for who you are and give you a very wide berth. Or maybe they’d be willing to make a deal with the devil, but they’d certainly never LOVE you!”
“I’ve obviously upset you.” This line works well for him. Moral high-ground in the sense of sounding willing to take the blame but actually just accentuating the distance between his high place of moral certitude and the groveling emotional display at hand.

Really, he can’t understand all the fuss. A bottle of vintage champagne had caused the misjudgment of informing her about the women he had been rogering while she was living with him. One of whom was now the mother of his illegitimate child.
“You didn’t use condoms!”
“You might want to play Russian roulette with your life, but you had no right to do that with mine!”
“I had to do something! You were refusing to sleep with me.”
She seemed to consider this, then grabbed her pashmina from the back of the chair and proceeded to prance around in what appeared to be a Red Indian war dance.

He chortled at the memory. Women! Totally unreasonable. It’s the hormones. Nutcases every last one of ‘em.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Neither House nor Home

Bob doesn’t know how it happened. One day they were laughing down at the pub, the next screaming at each other. She got their daughter, he got their cat (but he, of course, pays for both of them.)

There hadn’t been much time to contemplate life, leaving college halfway through his degree to help his father with the house building company. “That’s what we are,” said his father, in his stout Nottingham accent, “Builders of houses – homes – not some swanky developer putting old ladies out on the street or buying up dockland to build yuppie penthouses. Nay, lad. Remember that we are house builders and you won’t go far wrong.” And then he died, leaving the business to his son, who would rather have continued with his English Lit. degree, but there you are. One moment you’re discussing the meaning of life in student digs, the next you are watching your mother dress a corpse in his favorite tie and walking down an allĂ©e of doffed hard hats.

Sybil, the cat, is a comfort to Bob. He can come home any hour he chooses, connected as he is to the office via Internet. Often he returns mid-afternoon, picking up Sybil and holding her close to his nose, the soft white fur tickling his nostrils and making him long for human hair, soft hands, a silk wrap…

He doesn’t know how it happened – the Bulgarian women. He misguidedly went on a site that offered, "Meet your ideal match," and instead met Eleonora, and Leila, and Mira, who insist on sending him virtual teddy bears and satin hearts on Facebook. Gemma now, she’s a bit of all right. Boobs like ripe summer fruit and legs up to her armpits, but he doesn’t know how that happened either – South African women posting pictures of themselves in jaunty sailor outfits or in scanty dresses. He supposes there are a billion women out there who consider a 46 year-old property developer (“House builder, lad, house builder”) a good catch. Never mind that he sometimes gets caught up in the mystery that we are the only animals that can contemplate our mortality, that biology has produced Shakespeare and tears and a propensity for sunsets…

He opens his laptop to find “Alexandrina has sent you a kinky gift.” The economy must have dropped another couple of points in Bulgaria. Naturally, a kinky gift warrants a second look, but Bob doesn’t really go for the plucked and oiled curves of pornography. It’s like looking at motorbikes – all sleek molded perfection but cold and hard underneath.

He doesn’t know how it happened, how he became the Master of Kittylitter and the object of affection for skinny Bulgarian women sitting in Soviet era apartments in sunglasses and jeans. “Have my own tool belt,” he types onto the website, wondering if he might snag an English girl if he baits his trap with irony.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Lover of Beautiful but Unstable Women

“Daddy, you’ve got an email.”
“Hunh?” Michael glances at his laptop, but Tilly has swiveled it to face her at the table.
“Who’s ‘LA Lou’?”
“Oh, just some work thing, probably.” Or one more desperate middle-aged woman, Michael thinks, inexpertly dislodging French toast from the frying pan. I don’t know why I let my friends talk me into it; it’s not as if I’m really in a position to start a new relationship, what with the filming schedule and Tilly at the weekends…
“It says she’s a TV drama en-enthus-iast and would love to meet you when she comes to London.”
“Tilly, don’t you know it’s rude to read other people’s mail?”
Tilly pouts. “I was just practicing my reading,” she says disingenuously. Michael wonders if this is a learned behavior or if her mother has bequeathed her with the dissembling and manipulation gene.
“Okay, eat your breakfast now or you’ll be late for school.”
“Why does she think your glasses are sexy?”


“Michael!” The very gorgeous Hazel is leaning over his desk.
“Haze! Sorry, I was miles away.” Actually, with a Vietnamese girl he’d met at Bar Italia. He was buying his breakfast bagel when he’d seen her reflection in the mirror behind the counter dipping a finger into cappuccino foam and licking off the chocolate flecks. I can’t help it, thinks Michael, I am essentially a painter, “Very visual,” then realizes he’s spoken out loud. He jabs at the set designs spread before him. “Very, erm, visually interesting.”
Hazel looks at him quizzically and shifts one hip to perch on his desk. “I don’t think you’ve heard a single word I’ve said. What’s the matter? Is it Nadja? Is she being difficult about Tilly again?”
Nadja is Michael’s ex-wife. A beautiful but unstable actress. I am a lover of beautiful but unstable women, thinks Michael, noting the exquisite landscape of flesh down the back of Hazel’s jeans. God, a black lace thong. Too bad she’s much too together to be his type.
“Ahem! I’m not your type, Michael.”
He refocuses guiltily on her face. Is she a mind reader?
Smiling, she shakes her head. “You men are so predictable.”
“Sadly, we are at the mercy of our hormones. But I’ve sworn off women, remember?”
“What about that Chinese girl I saw you with this morning?”
“Vietnamese, actually. Nice girl. A dancer.”
Hazel raises both eyebrows. “What she do? Give you a card with her number and a discount on a lap dance?”
“How d’you know?”
“About the discount?”
“About what kind of dancer she was.”
“Because this is Soho, Michael! You really are a disaster when it comes to women.”
“I thought she looked vulnerable.”
“That’s the trouble with you – you romanticize women. You have to learn that we’re just the same as you only without, you know, that thing.” She gestures towards his crotch. He crosses his legs protectively. “What you need is to meet a nice woman, an equal. Someone who can be a real partner.”
Michael thinks about all the unanswered emails from nice women on the dating website. I’m just too much of a romantic, he thinks. There’s something so prosaic about hanging out your shingle and matching yourself to someone else’s religion, hobbies, retirement plans…
Especially as he never plans to retire.


The soccer match is on full blast, Michael sprawled on the couch in a dirty T-shirt and sweat pants that have seen better days. At first when the doorbell rings he doesn’t hear it, the shrill sound indistinguishable from the whistles and the roars of the football crowd. Now in a lull he hears the insistent buzzing and jumps up, spilling the packet of pretzels. Damn! Who can it be? He runs a hand through his hair which only succeeds in making it stand more on end. Pulling the drawstring tighter around his belly, he staggers to the door. A female shape stands behind the rippled glass.
“Good afternoon. I’m sorry to disturb you, but I’m with the South Downs Flora Defense Fund. I wonder if you will join us in the fight to protect native species by banning the planting of non-native flora,” she says, proffering a clipboard of soggy signatures.
She is young, perhaps late twenties, her long black hair weighted by the misting rain and sticking in strands to her face. Tiny drops of moisture bead her eyebrows, her eyelashes, her lips, and he has a sudden impulse to kiss them away. He checks out the long, rain-darkened legs of her jeans, which are stuffed into clumsy Eskimo boots. She’s staring up at him with a rapt expression.
“You’re Michael Bessinger, aren’t you? I was a film student at Brighton and Hove College before I left to work for SDFDF. You came to lecture us on TV drama?”
“Yes, come on in! You’re getting soaked,” he says, realizing now why he recognizes her. Another beautiful but unstable woman.