It’s Damian, coming up the stairs as I go past. I don’t have a ready answer and I say ‘I don’t know’ – an answer I’m fast coming to loath. Why don’t I know? Why do all these things happen the way they do and I don’t know why?
‘I don’t think Lucy is that keen on me being...’
‘Forget it man...’ he says jovially. ‘She’s very fond of you – told me herself. Come and join us.’
I’m not at all sure this is a good idea but in the spirit of not wanting to make a fuss, and wondering what she’d said about being fond of me, I follow him through, realising too late that since there seems to be a torrential downpour outside, they’re in the bar. I sit down, warily, across from Lucy, beside Matt, who gives me a jolly double thumbs-up and welcomes me back. I rise to go to the bar, but he pushes me back down and asks what I want to drink. Lucy smiles and says ‘Hello’ in a friendly enough way. What was I expecting? To be ignored? Some sign of regret or embarrassment? Something. Anyway, my discomfort is short-lived because, as Matt reminds us when he gets back with a bottle of champagne, my recent triumph over “The Pork” is a cause for serious celebration, and there’s hearty congratulations and loud re-enactments to be done. The rat pack fume and glare. They are so pissed off. It’s very satisfying.
Eventually we get tired of that and take our drinks up on the deck where the night sky has cleared and everything is shiny and clean and the air is fresh. There is the dark outline of land not far off to port. I can see lights. We get some deck chairs and settle down for the evening. I ‘casually’ end up sitting next to Lucy. The conversation goes on as usual around us – idiotic banter and snatches of songs when Matt gets his guitar out.
‘It’s a beautiful night’ I say, as easily as I can to her. She just nods and I look up again. I feel so tense, waiting...
‘Are you ok?’ I say after a while. She shrugs. ‘Yes’ she says – why wouldn’t she be?
I know there was a small, cool, mature part of me saying ‘Just leave it now’ but a much larger, more insistent part of me needed an answer, was still convinced there had simply been some misunderstanding that I could still put right, if I could say the right thing. ‘The other night...’ I begin. She is silent, dark, unreadable. ‘I just... I just wanted you so much.’
All the ways I had rehearsed this conversation. The word ‘wanted’ I thought sounded mature, passionate, strong, but I knew as soon as I’d spoken – there was a pleading note in my voice and it was wrong.
‘And so you thought you could have me’ she says, still looking up at the sky.
I want to mention her being naked, and being in my room alone with me, giving me those looks, and all the conversations about oral sex and female orgasms. They’re evidence, surely, that she wanted it too, or at least that it was a reasonable assumption. But obviously they weren’t – otherwise we wouldn’t be here, would we. All my rehearsals are wasted, because, in my fantasy, she’s facing me – I’m able to see her face, and, more or less, she wants to sort things out as much as I do. Sometimes she’s tearful and grateful of the chance to express her feelings (which are essentially the same as mine). Other times she firmly but kindly tells me that although she likes me and she’s flattered, she doesn’t feel that way about me. But in none of my scenarios am I quietly pleading with someone who can’t even be bothered look at me when she speaks. I’m not prepared.
I try again ‘I thought, you know, there was something...’
‘What gave you that idea?’ says her silhouette, barely visible now against the night sky.
‘I don’t know, I...’
We sit in silence for a long time. She laughs at things Damian says. I don’t know where to go next with this.
‘You know you’re just so predictable, don’t you?’ she says eventually, quietly, conversationally. ‘Typical man – can’t have what he wants, so he sulks. Why does a man imagine that just because he likes the look of a woman that she must inevitably submit to him, or there must be something wrong with her, hmm? Why do you suppose that is?’
I have nothing to say. I’m glad it’s so dark, because there are tears again now.
‘It’s a cliché I know,’ she continues ‘but it’s true – men really do never grow up – you’re all just little boys crying “Mummy” and demanding sweeties.’ All this said in a whisper whilst “the boys” opposite mess about with the guitar. A fractured rendition of “Hey Jude” covers my disgrace.
I sit for a while in the dark with her there. I want to go but can’t face saying my goodnights whilst so obviously distraught, having to make an excuse. Part of me doesn’t want to believe she just said what she said. Mostly though I take it in, this judgement. We had talked about feminism as if these “Men” who did all this damage were somebody else, not me, and I hated them too, with their sports and their cars and their profits and their weapons, none of which I could relate to, and we were together, Lucy and I, against them. I was a new sort of man, on the women’s side. I knew what a clitoris was and I wasn’t afraid to have a go at using one.
But now apparently I am just another man, just like them.
I control my tears and get up. ‘Just going for a walk’ I mumble, but no one is listening. We all seem really drunk tonight. I look across the water at the string of lights on the coast, the black craggy skyline above, visible only because of a faint glow from beyond. The water’s ripples barely reflect it. Everything is just dark on dark except those lights. I wonder who lives there? I have a very strong sense that it’s time to go. I can’t wait to get off this thing.
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