by Leo Lichy
When it comes to heartbreak or cuts and sores, time is a great healer, but in terms of the ageing process, what time does to one’s body is heartless.
This morning I had a very inauspicious start to the day. When I climbed out of bed, I experienced severe back spasms. A consequence, I assume, from standing at an odd angle the previous day watching from my bedroom window my scantily clad neighbor exercise in her yard for half an hour. Then, after idly glancing at my calendar and noticing it was my thirty-fifth birthday, I felt my left leg give out on me. It was only the fleeting glimpse of my handsome reflection in the hallway mirror that enabled me to avoid collapsing onto the carpet.
While I might not quite look every bit the old graying man in Herringbone tweed, clad in jacket and jeans at weekends and struggling out of bed shortly before noon on my days off work, time is surely catching up with me. If the average life expectancy rates are to be believed, in a few years’ time I will be middle-aged. My diet of Earl Grey tea and fruit for breakfast, Greek salads for luncheon and steamed vegetables for dinner, may have preserved my skin, but some day decrepitude will sneak up on me, pinning me to my chaise longue and sucking away at my face until my smooth pink skin looks like a shriveled prune.
“Remember, inside that youthful, slender, muscular frame is a withered, portly man in a Noel Edmunds sweater who would gladly trade his eighteen-year-old girlfriend for an afternoon spent reupholstering his favorite arm chair.”
These were the kind words I found penned inside the birthday card that arrived in the morning post. Unsurprisingly, these tactless words were the work my former roommate, Gilbert Pesto.
I chose to ignore his churlish comments. Ever since I entered my thirties, birthdays have ceased to be happy occasions. I find I dread them even more than I dread family get-togethers, or Valentines Day, or any event held in a church.
However, despite the agony of plunging ever further into my thirties, I was determined to maintain a positive outlook for the entire day. In fact, after spooning five teaspoons of sugar into my mug of Darjeeling and listening to classical music for thirty minutes, so buoyant was I that when I left the house I had great hopes that this birthday would prove to be a triumph.
“I picture you lumbering to work in a pair of worn Burberry slippers, clothed in nightgown and dressing robe.”
Gilbert’s jibe skipped along in my mind. As it was, I was my usual grey-suited self, though with more spring in my gait—the consequence of a shiny new pair of white Nike pumps, given to me as a birthday gift by my sister.
Thankfully, my day improved drastically at noon, just as I was exiting a local bakery. I noticed a delightful girl wearing a hairnet and galoshes. I have spotted her about six or seven times, and each time I’ve watched her exit the sandwich bar I notice she looks back at me. With longing, or with fear, I couldn’t say. Platonic relationships are my least favorite ones, and unrequited love is a big turn-off. I’m also not a fan of the shy, romantic fool. The act of coy glances and giggly flirtation is best left to spotty adolescents. My feelings about this girl were that if she had a clandestine longing for me, I wish she would just get on and do something about it.
Despite being rather heavy-set, thankfully her bosoms were noticeably larger than mine, maintaining a key gender difference that, I believe, is so psychologically important in relationships between the sexes. Instinctively, I could tell she was from oversees—she was wearing a Legia Warsaw soccer jersey.
Having previously dated a Polish girl, I am inclined to notice these subtle giveaways. I could also tell that she was eyeing me with a look that bordered on lust. Then again, it might easily have been a look of disbelief, as I was depositing an entire jumbo sausage roll into my mouth at the time. Managing to swallow the half masticated sausage without choking was my first great success. I followed this remarkable feat by spitting in Polish the words, “Hello, my name is Sebastian and I am a lawyer.”
My previous relationship had proved useful to this situation. My Polish vocabulary and pronunciation is considerable, and I knew from previous experience that this line is good for securing a second meeting. One might say that Claudia, my former love, had gifted me with the necessary powers to woo one of her fellow country folk.
After she had had time to digest my forceful charisma, she giddily approached me.
“You speak good Polish,” she said to me in her native tongue.
“I might say the same for you,” I replied in her language.
As she was Polish, this was perhaps not the smartest comeback.
“Sebastian, would you like to join me for lunch?” she asked.
So began a hurried exchange of romantic intercourse. For forty-five minutes, I watched her devour two slices of pizza and a Viennese Whirl. Despite a hunk of cream landing in my lap, I have never seen anyone eat with such grace.
I spent the afternoon lost in romantic thought. Considering I had a court appearance that afternoon, this probably wasn’t the best use of my time. Nonetheless, I felt better that afternoon than I did on any previously. I even toyed with the idea of inviting her to come mountain climbing with me. If she was halfway up a mountain with me, there was less chance of her abandoning me during our date by climbing out of the bathroom window.
However, as cunning as this strategy was, there was always the possibility that the date could still end in disaster—either by my having a heart attack during the climb, or by my date throwing herself off the top of the mountain in order to get away from me.
In the end, I decided against mountaineering, at least not on our first date. I also didn’t want to plunge into the usual fiasco of dinner and a movie. Typically, these activities put an end to the romance. Movies are so anti-social. You sit there for over two hours in complete silence, flatulent from all the popcorn, desperately hoping the lead actor will die and that soon the credits will roll. As for a dinner date, there is something off-putting about watching your potential wife struggle down a cheeseburger with a face covered in ketchup.
I resolved instead to come up with a new and original first date setting, one which would both impress my Polish honey, Cecylia, and elevate the occasion from being merely another awkward, disappointing waste of time and energy. It didn’t take me long to hit on a brilliant idea. I would integrate our first date with my familiar weekend hobbies. That way I wouldn’t have to give up my enjoyable weekend routine for the unpleasantness of dating.
If only one could skip forced dinner conversation and faked etiquettes for the more satisfying practice of fornication. All that work trying to dodge indiscretions and grovel on bended knee in order to win a second and third date. I’ve never quite understood the whole business of courtship. It has always seemed to me a matter of following outdated customs and protocols—pointlessly checking off a series of boxes in the correct order. Does the woman know you any better after that tenth date than she did after the first? We are all such liars and fakers that I strongly doubt it.
Moreover, wouldn’t it be more sensible to get the lovemaking out of the way from the onset. I know it would be a great leap for me in the dating arena if I could start at fourth base and work my way to first. I could immediately purge myself of the horrible nervous desperation that, by and large, repels women, and, instead, get down to the serious matter of actually wooing the lady. Once the sex has been had, one knows far better if the other person is truly worth pursuing.
“Cecylia, how would you feel about accompanying me on Saturday afternoon to a soccer game?” I said over the phone, a few days later. “Perhaps on the Sunday we could also meet and wash my car together.”
There was silence on the other end of the phone.
“Cecylia …Cecylia…are you still there?”
“I have to go,” she replied, at last. “I have something cooking on the stove.”
The line went dead.
I phoned back twenty minutes later and repeated my earlier invitations. So eager was she to see me again that I didn’t have to spend too many hours trying to persuade her to accompany me on our hot date. It was to be her first ever soccer match.
Now, I do not as a rule have an addictive personality. That is to say, people are not addicted to my company. I do not smoke or drink. I do not drink coffee or have a sweet tooth. I’m also not a sex addict, primarily because I rarely get it.
My one weakness, if you might call it that, is the desire to see my favorite soccer team do well. The day of our date, I followed my customary Saturday afternoon ritual of placing a large bet on the outcome of the match. I then did an uncustomary thing—I arranged for the half-time announcer to read out a love message to Cecylia.
The message, lovingly composed on our drive to the soccer ground, went something like this: “Will the owner of a delightful buxom figure, wearing a Legia Warsaw jersey and galoshes, please kiss the handsome lawyer who’s presently fondling her magnificently fulsome bottom.”
Unfortunately, Cecylia went to the restroom during the interval and completely missed the announcement. My team also lost.
Despite having got through our first date together without an argument or a punch-up, it ended up being rather a miserable afternoon. Naturally, it closed in much the same way as many of my dates—devoid of any passion or romance.
When I dropped Cecylia off at her home she gave me a quick peck on my cheek and then hurried into her apartment without glancing back. I don’t know what my chances are of securing a second date with her, but the fact that she declined to meet me on the Sunday to help me wash my car, shows they are long odds indeed.
Leo Lichy’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in 971 MENU, The Binnacle, Birmingham Arts Journal, The Blotter Magazine, Mosaic Art & Literary Journal, Twenty20 Journal, Unlikely 2.0, Static Movement, The Legendary, The Momo Reader and elsewhere.