Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Ferrari And The Rainless Summer

"If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got" said the fortune cookie at the end of a particularly rich Chinese meal. I was MSG'd with an incipient throbber of a headache and staring across at CJ, a woman I had met online and who had persuaded me to meet her in Chiswick.

CJ was an artist and sometime writer, who messaged me one day at random. We had talked on and off for several weeks. She drove a fabulous red sports car, a slim, low-slung rumbling red Ferrari, in which she met me with a flourish at Turnham Green station as I stood in the warm ending of the summer afternoon, watching the shadows lengthen. I got into the car and she drove to the restaurant, chatting easily.

It was a date, I was single, she was single, and we were having somewhat overpriced fun in this somewhat posh district of west London. CJ told stories in her cute ex-pat German accent with British irony and a throaty laugh, her long red nails waving around her as she punctuated her speech with European emphasis. She wore a long black designer dress in some unnameable rustly fabric from Kensington, which showed off her Rubens bosom and ski-slope cleavage to good effect, funky black sandals, and interesting and expensive perfume. I guessed, something from New York, since she told me she had just returned from there.

The meal ended and it was 10pm, still light at this time of year. Replete and wishing I wasn't, I suggested a walk along the river, which is pleasant that far west, but CJ suggested her place so strongly that I conceded without a fuss. She drove enthusiastically fast down three streets, then spent longer parking than we had journeying. She had a beautiful garden flat situated in a leafy street full of nice family cars less smart than hers. We entered into dark rooms crammed full of intricate objets-d'art, books both contemporary (Houellebecq) and classic (Crowley), and lots of photographs, paintings, relief sculptures, which I quickly realised were hers.

"Let's have tea in the garden," she said, that most British of phrases. She made it sound like that guy who chops up cadavers in public - "Let's heff tea in da garten." The small city plot, strategically lit with candles, oil lamps and hidden electrics, a large table under two mature lime trees, was secluded, almost entirely protected from view. The main surreal feature of the garden was the chaise-longue, half-buried and covered in astro-turf. I sat upon it and wished I hadn't - water soaked straight through my thin cotton Pierre Cardin slacks and I felt embarassed enough to go to the toilet and pat myself drier.

CJ was busy boiling water in an eccentric copper kettle and talking non-stop, saw me go past her, noticed my arse-disaster, and I saw her smirk. She was pouring tea into cups when I came out, and when we went back into the garden carrrying our steaming brew, she indicated a seat which was dry. We chatted, I relaxed, tried to lose my headache and my full belly. She had cats, they came, they were petted. She remarked glowingly that they LIKED me! All animals like me, wild, tame, you name it. They can smell that I am one of them. It was coming up to 10.30pm. She put on some Nick Cage at low volume, leant forward so that the night shadow deepened the crevasse of her ample bust, and spraying pheremones like a garden sprinkler, started to make it very clear that we should spend the night in the garden, perhaps later retiring to her bed.

I liked her, but I knew from moment #1 there would be no physical relationship. She was clearly a. lonely b. neurotic and c. (from her many stories) totally messed up about men, relationships, and sex, not necessarily in that order. Good material for art, bad material for a lover. Also, she was just too damn big for me, so I couldn't even enjoy the one night. I can admire a woman built like that, but my sexual responses require some basic prompts, like decent muscle and skin tone, and although I have occasionally romped with and fondled fuller figures, the dimpled, corpulant excess of a body used to eating, drinking and smoking just does not do it for me. Still, it was a pleasant summer's evening, CJ was witty and intelligent, she obviously found me charming, we got along for a few hours without being bored, and I didn't want to offend her. I explained gently that I was tired, it was late, and I wasn't that kind of boy. That was when I realised she had no intention of letting me go.

Her first tactic (unwise) was to ask me if I was Man enough, or what? This fatal beginning is guaranteed to lose me every time. My simple answer is: No. I am Deek enough for anything, anyone, anytime, but Man, no, sorry, I don't do Man. That took five minutes. Then she changed subject and started talking intensely about Atomised, one of the books on her shelf. Had I read it? No. I really should. Doubtless. (I since have - it's a good book.) It questioned social mores. It was sexy. What sort of sex did I like? My head clanged like a dustbin lid. Why wasn't she non-smoking and slender? I would have knocked back a couple of painkillers and spent the next 5 hours expertly removing all traces of lust. I like all forms of sex, I announced calmly, with the exception of bondage, which bores me. Her eyebrow arched, she slightly narrowed her eyes (unwise) clearly calculating what to offer in order to keep me.

She abruptly rose, and said, "More tea?" and I said, just as promptly, "Well, I have to be going soon, the last train leaves in 15 minutes.." and she stopped on the path to the kitchen and turned, legs planted wide, looking suddenly operatic. "Why do you have to go?" she demanded, petulantly, like a child. "Do you not like me?" "Um, yes," I said, "just don't want to hit the sack with you right now." "Then stay!" she cried.

I knew then that with the train leaving in 7 minutes, I needed to insist on getting out, so I made up a story about having to rise at 6am the next day for an important blah, and speaking at breakneck speed to confuse her, I moved past her into the toilet, locked the door. I breathed, ran the cold, splashed my aching temples. Exiting, she was sat in front of her computer. "You know about these, don't you?" "Yes." "Can you help me with it?" All innocence. "Another time, I have to get to the station now." 4 minutes. "I'll give you a lift." I almost declined, then realised that I didn't know where I was exactly, so with some misgivings I said, "OK, but we'll have to go now or I'll miss it."

She wasted time, changing shoes which she didn't need to do, and we left. She wasted more time getting out of the parking space in a series of fast, miniscule moves which felt rather like the jerks and shudders of an injured not-quite-roadkill. Finally, she set off, turned a few corners, and I had the sinking feeling she was going to drive me anywhere but the station.

As we came to the bridge, I saw that she had artfully organised her route so that we were sitting at a red light on the opposite side of a wide road to the station entrance as the last minute approached. She was sort of crooning now, and I realised that she thought she had done enough to delay and keep me. My head was bang-bang-banging like she wanted me to, and I knew I was vulnerable. "Did you ever try anal sex?" she asked out of nowhere. Jesus, full marks for trying, I thought, but her manipulative neediness was blotting out all considerations apart from escape. "Sure!" I said, suddenly bright with hope. I had seen a gap in the traffic in the rear-view mirror. "Bye!" I kissed her on the cheek, just missing her too-late attempt to plant her red-lipsticked mouth on mine, leaped out of the open-top without bothering to open the door, ran full-pelt across the road narrowly missing an oncoming truck, leapfrogged the ticket barrier, ran down the concrete steps, jumped onto the last carriage of the final train home, and collapsed on a seat as the doors went peep-peep-peep-peep-peep and closed.

My heart was pounding, but as Chiswick receded and Islington neared, I thanked my lucky stars for Ferrari and the rainless summer.

First published 20th May 2005

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