No reason to include, since the man appears no where else in the narrative, and my behavior only underscores that I was a frisky, adventurous fill-in-the-blank. Pretty sure any serious readers have that message. But it’s a good story, nevertheless.
Fall of 1982. Senior year in college. I lived with a roommate on the fifth floor of a building Queen Victoria designated a hospital for women and children, or that’s what the inscription on the wall outside said. No major improvements had been done since 18-something and the fifth floor was up ten banks of stairs. We climbed those stairs as infrequently as possible.
Every other week, we lugged duffel bags to the University of London where the laundry machines were free. We tried to wash clothes in the bathtub down the hall, but our jeans never seemed clean and never dried right. Hauling clean laundry home was a long two miles, especially when we stopped at every pub along the way.
We met William in an antique pub on the edge of Covent Garden, one of London’s oldest boroughs and tipped on the cusp of another wave of gentrification. William and his friend were old, too. William had stringy gray hair, long enough to pull into a ponytail; I had no doubt he did that when he took off for the coast of Spain where he and his common-law wife owned a condo. We heard all about Spain and how great it was.
My roommate and I were already drunk. This pub was the last before the trek over the bridge and up those interminable stairs. Dread made us linger, not to mention they were buying our pints and egging us on to be as loud and American obnoxious as possible.
Then William went off on a rant about astrology that convinced me he was much more than an Oxford-educated barrister. He was interesting. His age didn’t matter. Age was a state of mind. He gave me his card and told me to call. He wrote down the address of our college row house headquarters in a small book he tucked in the front pocket of his stretched out plaid jacket, his quick dark eyes never leaving my face.
He mailed me a letter. It was typed. Typed! The highest possible insult. He couldn’t be bothered to write? This before I read a word. When I did, I got madder. He apologized for leading me on. He thought astrology was bullshit; but I was so gullible, he couldn’t help himself. He saw an innocence in me that was irresistible, he said. But he didn’t like what he saw in himself as a result. So we shouldn’t see each other after all. He did bother to pick up a pen to sign his name.
I called him right up, barging into his afternoon to give him a piece of my mind. “How dare you write me a letter on a typewriter?” I demanded. He stammered out something about work, how he always wrote on a typewriter; it helped him think, organize what he wanted to say.
That was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard. Typing was the last stage of writing and a gruesome one at that. “Plus,” I continued, “I didn’t believe everything you said about astrology. I was flirting with you. I was drunk. I was leading you on.” I could feel him trying not to laugh. He suggested dinner and I haughtily agreed.
I skipped class to shop for a dress. The one I could afford was an elegant take on tribal hippie chick: heavy black cotton with a high neck, deep cuffs and a thousand tiny buttons that marched from chin to hem. There was hot pink piping around the neck, around the fitted waistband, trailing into the folds of the skirt. The cloth covered buttons on the tight cuffs reminded me of my mother’s wedding dress. I liked the dress for that reason alone.
I met William at a chic wine bar for a dinner of scant appetizers. I tried not to like his quick conversation and biting humor as he ricocheted between topics. Too bad he was way too old – we were a mental match. Punishing the second bottle of wine, he confided that he was working as a consultant on a corruption case. Government corruption. His temporary office was in the anonymous block across from Parliament. Did I want to see it?
We started walking over the bridge, the stone lacy and golden in the lights. The tension of intrigue grew with each step and instruction. There’s security, he said. Don’t say anything. Try not to show your face. Act like you’re scared. Let me do the talking.
It was midnight. Only one security guard was in the bland lobby behind the vast facade, but this guard wasn’t buying what William was selling. I looked down and tried not to watch. Both men gestured towards me. I ducked my chin further. Suddenly, being scared wasn’t an act. William charged back and grabbed my upper arm. He hurled me past the suspicious guard and started down a long carpeted hallway. He stopped at an anonymous door, fumbled with a key, pushed me inside.
A view of Parliament was not behind the bars on the window of his office. He went behind his desk, opened a drawer and slammed a bottle of Southern Comfort on the desk. He motioned for me to sit on one of the ratty old side chairs facing him. “So,” he said with a leer, “let’s continue the interrogation.”
William told the guard I was a witness for his case, but that I feared for my life if certain men knew I was giving evidence. To make good on his word, I had to answer his questions. There was some exchange he worked out that involved shots of Southern Comfort and me unbuttoning one of the buttons on my dress. After only a few rounds, the rules we lost on me.
I remember we had sex. On the desk, of course. It wasn’t one of the “good ones.” This one would go into the file marked “one night stand” and “best forget.”
Too bad I can’t remember the case.
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