I hadn’t heard from Max since our date on Tuesday evening. We were at a comedic rendition of Leonard Cohen songs by Arthur Smith – if it was possible to get laughs out of the morose, maudlin and moody numbers on dementia and heartache, Arthur and his Smithereens certainly managed it, interspersed with stories about Arthur’s mother and his dog. During the show M had his arm around my shoulders, his hand occasionally stroking the back of my neck. It felt friendly, familiar and comforting. He was eating a praline bar of chocolate with a glass of water and I had two glasses of an Argentinian Malbec. Earlier we had met in St James’ Square and walked through the Waterstones’ in Piccadilly, up to Soho, spotting Saul Campbell en route (it was actually Max who recognised him), and stopping for a bite to eat at a Thai cafe called Rosa’s. It was simple delicious fare and I remember the glass teapot my lemongrass tea came in.
Our meal ended, we had a little time to squander and took our time to get to the theatre. We passed several sex shops but didn’t find anything which might suit us. On the way to catch the tube back after the show, we entered one which belonged to the husband of a woman I used to play tennis with. Max told me that he had been there a long time ago. We talked quite frankly about our past experiences with pornography and he told me that pages of favourite magazines he used to wank over would get stuck together thus necessitating buying more. With the advent of online pornography freely supplied by everyone globally he had hardly needed to get anymore – we wondered who would still come to the shop to buy from the vast array on display.
After that we got on the tube and returned to mine. We talked about this and that and chatted quite easily as was the pattern now until he asked me to marry him. His actual words were – will you marry me? I didn’t reply because I thought I had misheard him. It had come at the tail end of an anecdote as though to illustrate a point. And then he went on to say something else and the moment was forgotten and I didn’t have to say anything about it. Later I might have mentioned or tried to steer the conversation back to that but not quite managed it. I had also failed to remember the context in which it was uttered. No doubt it was meant in jest. He too claimed to have forgotten the entire incident and said that my non-response was an indication that I was trying to frame an acceptable refusal which had been so devastating that he had erased the whole thing from his memory.
After he left the next day I heard very little from him, compared to the previous week when we had texted, emailed or called each other up all through the day right up to bedtime – a tad obsessive. And then the almost silence of the past two or three days. This morning though, he rang me at nearly midday. After exchanging pleasantries very briefly he came straight to the point. His tone was accusatory – he said that I had used the ‘L’ word. I was appalled and disbelieving. When was that? Was he sure? And when? And it took him until this morning to realise this? All these questions I hurled at him as my line of defence. But truly I couldn’t remember uttering the offensive term. What did I actually say?
You said … um … you told me that you could see yourself falling in love with me.
Is that all? That’s not so bad is it?
To a commitment phobe like me, those are alarming words. He insisted.
You did ask me to marry you. Even if you promptly forgot you had proposed. Even I failed to see how reminding him of that was relevant or helpful to the situation.
So we were both being out of character …
Eventually we managed to assure ourselves that neither of us was expecting an exclusive relationship with each other and despite the fact that I was growing quite fond of him, I didn’t expect him to stop dating other women just as I wouldn’t expect him to object to my other lovers. In any event we agreed that it was quite a good thing that we put the brakes on and slowed down the momentum of obsessive contact with each other.
We also talked about holding grudges – Max claimed that he had an unhealthy ability to hang on to slights but agreed that letting go of them could be seen as taking the moral high ground and taking that view might encourage him to relinquish habits which have grown out of rancour. We then made finer arrangements vis a vis our impending dates next week – in one of them he had also invited one of his old friends and his date.
A pattern is emerging now where I seem to be sharing my time consistently and fairly with four of my favourite men – Max, Jan, Lars and Goran. This week I have dates with two past lovers – R and Liam. There will be a lot to catch up on! Lars had also suggested a date next week but I’m not sure how I can fit him in. It might have to be another midnight tryst.