Thursday, 14 April 2011

Voyage VII – Redheads

Paul has been hanging around again. I think he got disillusioned with the other bunch he was hanging out with. A couple of them threw themselves over the side recently and he’s been somewhat quieter than usual ever since. He plays pool with Harvey and Trevor in the forward lounge quite often and gets to sit with us. We are usually reading, in between turns at the table. I can’t say I like him but he can be funny, in a crass sort of way. Quite often we’re laughing at him when he thinks we’re laughing at his jokes.
‘What do you call a good-looking Pakistani?’ he says for example. I don’t know.
‘As if’ he says. I look at him. ‘Assiv. Get it? It’s a Paki name. As...if.’
I observe this pale, pockmarked, rat-faced Englishman grinning at me, and I have to laugh. He doesn’t have a clue. There’s a little group of Asians tend to occupy a table near the bar not far from us. They’re all better looking than we are.
‘I’m not a racialist or anything’ he assures me.

He’s confirmed my suspicions about Fiona anyway, by way of telling me he ‘wouldn’t mind a poke’ himself. I look at him, incredulous. I hadn’t heard that expression for a while. ‘How old were you?’
‘Never you mind’ he said elbowing me in the side in faultless nudge-nudge, wink-wink style. ‘She’s definitely up for it. I bet she’s a grubby cow that one.’
I have an image of a Frisian standing in a field, chewing the cud, splattered with shit. I let it pass.
‘She’s a bit thin for me’ I say, trying to be tactful. She is a friend after all.
‘Very Patty Smith’ he says, narrowing his eyes at her. I look at him. He’s quite Patty Smith himself. I tell him they could be brother and sister and am a little disturbed by the lascivious leer that appears on his face before he realises what that implies.
‘Who do you fancy then? he says, sliding closer. I think for a while. For some stupid reason I don’t want him to think less of me. I’ve always had this weird need to impress your ‘typical bloke’ – even when I know he’s a complete jerk, like Paul. Cathy would be a safe choice but Andrea is gorgeous. I’ve never talked about her to anyone. I feel like a dirty old man even though we don’t actually look more than two or three years apart here. I decide to come clean.
‘What, the fat redhead?’ he says, clearly appalled.
‘Well. I don’t think she’s...’
‘Here, Trevor, guess what’ he calls over to them. Trevor is about to take an easy shot and puts it down hard before looking up. He leans against the table with the tip of the cue by his face. Harvey is half listening, lining up his shot. Trevor has left him in a hopeless position. ‘What?’ he says.
‘Gabe’s got the hots for the fat redhead.’ Harvey’s ball goes wildly off and he groans resignedly.
Evidently she’s been a topic of conversation before.
‘Fat?’ I mumble, lamely. ‘She isn’t...’
Trevor looks doubtful and chalks his tip. ‘If you say so’ he says and bends to the next shot.
Sod it, I think. I’m going to defend her. What the hell. Cathy and the others are listening now too. Bloody Paul and his bloody big mouth.
‘She’s boticellian’ I say ‘and that is a fabulous cleavage, you have to admit.’
Harvey nods appreciatively. ‘Oh yes’ he says with feeling. I nod back in fellowship.
‘Humungous arse to go with it though’ says Paul.
‘Oh...’ I say, affronted ‘Do you think so?’
‘Have you seen it lately?’ asks Paul.
‘Difficult to miss’ comments Harvey.
‘Not the way you’re playing’ says Trevor.
‘Well I like it’ I say. ‘She’s in proportion. She’s quite tall...’ but the conversation has moved on. I can’t believe they think she’s fat. She’s not a classic beauty I admit but she’s certainly got something. Oh who cares? This is why I don’t try to talk to men normally. Paul is talking about his taste in women and I hear him oozing on about a woman ‘with an arse like a ten year old boy’s.’ We all squirm a bit at that, but we’re used to it by now with Paul. He’s totally incorrigible. As far as I can tell he wants a woman with two (at least) enormous but not necessarily real breasts, various orifices (for the use of) and some sort of minimal frame to hang them on. He leers at Fiona, and I’m amused to see her enjoying it. Well at least that’s me off the hook where she’s concerned.

‘Redhead?’ says Cathy, distractedly a little later on.
‘What’s that love?’ says Paul, now in the middle of his game.
‘Why do men insist on categorising women by hair colour?’ she says. ‘It’s like in the paper – “Attractive blond mother of three....” or “Petite brunette, twenty two” blah blah blah.’
‘The personals do it too’ adds Fiona. ‘They always want to know if you’re a blonde.’
‘Have you done that then?’ asks Paul, smirking, ‘answered a personal ad in the paper?’
‘Online dating, you twat’ she says with a grin. ‘We all had a go, the girls from the shop.’
‘Any luck?’
‘We had a laugh.’
‘Did you meet many weirdos? Is that how come you’re here?’
‘Sicko’ she says but can’t hide her amusement. Weird.
‘Look at the porn site categories’ says Trevor unexpectedly and we all hush up. He laughs at our reaction. ‘Look. No, it’s true. It’s all done by hair colour. You go for a certain type, based on hair colour. I always go for blondes. I don’t know why.’
‘Blondes are soft and easy’ says Bryony, looking up from her book. ‘They don’t mind what you do to them whereas brunettes are sultry and mysterious and predatory.’
We all look at her with surprise and some new respect.
‘What about redheads?’ says Paul, winking at me.
‘They’re all perverts. They’ll do anything’ she says, matter-of-factly.
‘And what about me?’ says Cathy, challengingly. She has brownish hair. ‘What am I?’
Bryony shrugs. ‘I don’t make the rules.’
Harvey says ‘You’re just normal I suppose’ in a conciliatory way. Cathy does not look consoled.
‘What about black hair?’ says Fiona, grinning.
‘We’re just evil’ says Bryony ginning manically.
‘Does it matter if you’ve dyed it?’
‘Only if you have short spikey red or green hair’ I say tersely. ‘Means you’re insane...’ Nobody laughs.
‘It’s all crap of course...’ says Bryony, going back to her book.
‘How about men? How are we categorised?’ asks Harvey after we’ve had a chance to reflect. Paul stage-whispers something about penis size but Cathy simply says ‘Income’ which shuts us all up. Evidently that’s not so funny.

It frustrates me though, all this talk about women’s tits and arses. It’s all getting a little too much. I thought I’d left all this behind. It had been a relief when I started into my forties and realised I wasn’t as fit as I had been and nobody was likely to fancy me that much any more. Of course sometimes I missed that cool, sexual, wide-awake, slightly nauseas feeling I used to have, as I sensed something was in the air and my life seemed like it could so easily slip into a new and exciting direction. I’d been the perpetual teenager, perpetually waiting for my life to begin in earnest. In particular there had always been the prospect of a woman – the woman, intelligent and sexy, who would come along and take the trouble to see me as I really was and make everything complete. I never quite gave up on her.
And then one day when I was about fifty-three I realised I hadn’t had a wank in more than three months and I sat down on my step and looked at the autumn sun behind the trees on the embankment and I thought ‘Well thank God that’s all over’. What’s that quote – being a young man is like being chained to a maniac? My maniac had been in chains too, raging and thrashing pointlessly through four decades. No I wasn’t sad to see it go, my libido.
But now here he is, at it again, with no greater chance of satisfaction than before. Does she realise what she’s doing to me? Andrea I mean. I don’t think so. I can’t help feeling it’s more for her entertainment. All the other guides seem rather sex-less, buttoned all the way up the front of their smart grey tunics. Andrea seems to be almost completely unbuttoned most of the time, with that bright pink top on underneath, and the short skirt.

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A life backwards

It's in the nature of blogs of course that you come across the latest postings first (or you find yourself in the middle.) Normally it doesn't matter but if you want to read my novel in order, the first installment is as you'd expect, the oldest posting.
Thanks for your patience.