Six hours said the book. Only six. For once I was dead set on not slipping into ‘the slows.’
I’m not good at one-night-stands. I would lose the numbers game to any averagely successful pick-up artist. I’m too slow. I need several hours of psycho-analysis. Digging into each others’ childhoods. Did your father hug you? Did your parents treat all their children equally? When did you first masturbate? Building a connection. Too big a connection to leave it at one time. I don’t have the technique to walk up to a stranger, have sex with her the same day and never see her again. Not that I never want it that way. Do the monkey, hey? One of my PhD friends’ biggest dream is to be a monkey. And I sympathize.
Most women scare me until they open up mentally and emotionally. And after that point, when you know her father was a drunk, her mum has severe breast cancer, her grandfather touched her sister in inappropriate places, you come at the fork: a friendship or a relationship. The in between of a one night stand evaporates when you take conversation too far. It’s a bad habit. Good for getting to know people, not a bad introduction to setting up shop as a therapist maybe, but bad for a sex life in the fast lane.
It’s time consuming to ‘score’ sex that way. I don’t always feel like so much conversation. And I’ve never really worked up enough nerve for putting the quick hook-up theories in practice. I know them only in theory. If my seduction tactics have any semblance to war strategies, I’m a guerilla fighter who’s in for the long haul. Hit and run, bide your time, get them when they are vulnerable. I know the theories. How you basically just need 6 hours after meeting a stranger to get to sex. How to fill those six hours. What to say. How to start off a conversation. Seemingly by accident. Total stranger. Waiting at a bus stop. But what do you say to passers-by? I always look for far-fetched excuses. Telling them I need a model. Or an actrice. Asking writing advice. Whatever. Throw ’em some candy, you know.
I’m a non-smoker. That also doesn’t help. Smoking is a conversation starter. I used to carry around a lighter, even though I didn’t smoke. Just to be able to respond when asked “do you have a light?”. Highly recommended by the way. If smoking isn’t a turn-off.
With Wendy I tried. I really tried. I went to the library. It was premeditated seduction. Meant to be a one-night stand. ‘Victim’ picked randomly. Though I did keep a look on the foreign language sections. I have a thing for the intellectual type. I like some conversation when the beast with two backs gets disentangled.
I stuck to the rules. The casual remark. We were on the fifth floor. Way down below was a park with a fountain. The window was open. We heard some kid screaming in a very shrill voice. The kid didn’t stop. I said: “Why do I suddenly want to read a book about a paedophile serial killer?”
She didn’t quite smile. But she shook her head disappointingly. But so emphatically, you could tell she didn’t really mean it as a truly disapproving gesture. 5 hours 59 minutes 55 seconds to go, right?
The kid was helpful. It finally stopped screaming. She kept her eyes on the back of a book but she said: “Looks like your serial killer got him.”
“What’s your name?”, I asked, being too fast now.
“Ok, so you’re the serial killer”, she said.
“Don’t worry I’ll buy you dinner before I kill you.”
She turned to walk away.
“Wait, wait, I was joking.” I brought out my most silly this-guy-is-too-dumb-to-be-a-serial-killer-smile.
“Seriously, what’s your name?”
She bit her lip, looked for the exit.
“I have to go teach a class in 10 minutes”, I said to hurry her up a bit and to reassure her I’d be gone in a second.
“Wanna do something fun?”
“Picknick in the park. It’s really nice weather out there. And the kid is dead, he won’t bother us no more.”
“Picknick in the park?”, she said incredulously. “You mean today?”
“At six. You don’t have to get anything. Just meet me at the fountain.”
She didn’t say anything.
I said: “I really have to go now. At six, ok? Just write me down your number, just in case I get held up at school.”
She jotted it down on my wrist, with a pen I’d slipped in her hand.
I took off. Fast.
‘Wait, what’s your name?’
‘It’s on the pen, I said.’
For some reason people always, always ask me to repeat my name once or twice, when I introduce myself, so if I can avoid it, I will. My name was on the pen. A fancy pen, a gift from a wealthy ex-mother in law. Slipping her an expensive pen and leaving it with her, was not a bad tactic.
I didn’t have a single class to teach that day. I went shopping. Picknet-basket, dried slices of melon, a bunch of chocolate, crunchy Italian bread I don’t know the name of, two bottles of wine, one red, one white. Some cheese. Olives. A whole bunch of stuff I forget. I always overdo these things.
We had 5 hours 50 minutes and some seconds to cover.
I took a risk. I sent her a text message. “Is it wise to go and pick-nick with a girl who so easily hands out her number to strangers? Well, I suppose you won’t kill me in broad day light. I’ll be there at six. Am done teaching for today.”
She was sort of wicked.
“Don’t worry. They are bushes in the park”, she answered.
This was going too smoothly.
She was almost ten minutes late. But she came on her bike and she was red in the face. Looked like she’d been rushing. Good.
When she saw me with the traditional pick-nick basket and a dumb smile, she said: “You’re crazy.”
I even brought a big blanket to sit on. Red. Very red. Red gets you going.
We picked a spot. Close to bushes.
“Mmm, olives and…”
She did know how the crisp Italian bread was called.
5 hours and 30 minutes to go.
The next four hours flew by. She was studying history. I was teaching history. She was writing her thesis about the book burnings before and during the second world war. I love books. I love the second world war. I love pick-nicks. I love beautiful girls. I love summer days. I was all carefree giddy smiles.
We started fantasizing about her being a Nazi serial killer who was just waiting for the cover of darkness to horribly hack up my body. I often catch myself having conversations like that with women I’ve just met. It sort of empowers them, gets the initial fear out of the them, brings out their self-confidence, gives them initiative, seems to assure them you’re not one of those guys who think talking exclusively about themselves and their oh so praiseworthy achievements is gonna do it. I can’t say I do it very consciously. It just happens. It flows naturally from my attitude towards them, I want this to be more about you than it is about me, you are as much in control as I am, if not more, I’m not out to take your freedom. Something like that. Is it manipulative? Let’s say ALL human behaviour is manipulative, mine is just more effective.
One of the last phases of the six hours has to be some swapping of emotional confessions. Getting some emotional depth after the ice-breaking banter, the sending out of ever cheerful skirmishers on the frontline of attraction. Time to hit closer.
That’s the phase I tend to protract way, way too long. I had 1 hour and 30 minutes left, not two days to dig into her soul as a means to overcome my fear of rejection. Stick to protocol. Trust the protocol.
She had a mentally disabled brother. Good, good, let her talk about that. I have a mentally disabled aunt. Plenty of emotional stuff to share. Half an hour to go.
She had a huge complex about her ‘mosquito bite breasts’-her words.
Good, still good. Of course, she hadn’t. I said she was exaggerating.
“Yes, you are right, mosquito bites are bigger”, she quipped.
I had a theatrical sigh of frustration. “I am really, really, really sure you have great breasts, ok?”
She put both hands on her chest and said with mock indignance: “You’ve been staring at my breasts? I’m shocked. I am going home.”
“You’re going home?”
“No. But it is getting cold.”
Something like ten minutes to go.
I moved closer. Held her. We lay there. For more than twenty minutes. Was this six hours meant ‘on average’, or did it really have to be exactly six hours?
I said she had an amazing scent.
She told me the name of her perfume.
“I don’t mean the perfume. I mean you.”
She fell into that silence I like. The good kind of silence.
I started caressing her. Slowly. Hair. Cheeks. Upper arms. The insides of her arms. Her side. The ‘safe’ part of her thigh. She didn’t pull away. She kept the good silence going.
I gave her a small kiss on her forehead. I gave her more small kisses. I moved lower. She buried her head in my chest. Clearly a move to avoid my lips. I rubbed her back and slipped my fingers through her hair.
I got that pulling sensation in me. Like internal waves breaking against my skin from the inside. I wanted her.
We were ‘working’ already more than 45 minutes overtime.
Something had happened to her, I heard her whisper. I made her repeat it, because I wasn’t sure. She sounded very fragile. Like she’d been stitched up everywhere and the slightest move I’d make could cut her up.
“What sort of something?”, I asked.
I don’t know from whence it came, but I guessed.
Her father had done stuff to her.
Now TV-movies had been telling me, me who grew up with TV, that incest victims end up like anorexic, self-slashing, heroin addicts who sell themselves cheap to old fat guys, so this girl, so beautiful, so serene, so full of smiles, well-educated, so warm and full of humour, and so witty, she just didn’t fit the profile.
And the six-hour-theory was of no help whatsoever now. And I felt that this girl should never have met me.
I kept holding her. And I kept caressing her. And no one will believe me, but in that instant I loved her. I was all love for this girl. Who had suffered, still suffered, and hid it so masterfully, and had somehow managed to build a very pure, very classic even, very attractive femininity. She was wearing a flowery dress. White dotted with small blue flowers. Like she’d just walked out of a great fifties drama movie. I didn’t try to kiss her any more. Though I still wanted to.
And if I never tried again, it was because of my great big fear that I wouldn’t treat her right, the way she deserved to be treated. And it was a stupendous decision. Because until then I’d never met a girl who was more right for me. And I felt I could have healed her wounds. Somehow. With enough love. But I saw myself too much like a certainty for disaster, disaster in any sort of important situation, and so I let her slip away. And it may have been the least selfish decision of my life or one of the most stupid.
I saw her only once after that night in the park. I was in the library with a friend. We were flipping through some comic books. He looked up and poked me in the side. “Look man, there’s a girl that looks exactly like your type.”
Yup, there was Wendy.
She didn’t see us there in the comic book corner.
We went down.
“Well, isn’t she exactly your type?”
“So aren’t you going to do something about it? She’s exactly your type.”
“Girls who are exactly my type deserve better than me.”
It took over four years to decide to be the guy who’s worth to be with girls exactly my type, no matter the responsibilities that come with that kind of commitment. But Wendy was long gone by then. Held firmly in some very loving, very confident and very un-egocentric arms, I hope.