It wasn't the sort of thing Nigel usually noticed, but he couldn't
get over her skin. Kath was 15 years younger than he, and she had
that flawless, creamy complexion that you only see on soap commercials and supermodels. Her hair was shiny and straight, and she spoke with a Glaswegian lilt that alternately charmed and befuddled him. He asked her if she liked Lloyd Cole; in particular, did she like that song "Perfect Skin"? No, of course not, she'd be too young to remember who the fuck Lloyd Cole
was. Kath laughed a tiny tinkling laugh, and pushed a few strands of hair carefully behind her ears.
At 36, Nigel was tired -- no, exhausted -- of the London dating scene. All the women he met seemed normal at first,
but after two or three months it became clear they had an agenda. Marriage, kids, flat in Hampstead, the whole lot. He couldn't blame them, really; after all, he wanted kids too. Someday, at least. Kids sounded good as a concept. His brother Barry had three boys and he said it was all right, apart from the fact that he, Barry, never had sex anymore. Anyway, these London women drove Nigel right 'round the bend, with all their silly hysterics about careers and biological clocks, chattering away on their mobile phones in the middle of Prada and Harvey Nick's. They all looked like a version of Princess Diana, and he was bored by them and their plotting.
Maybe it was her youth, but Kath seemed different. She laughed at his jokes, she liked her job at a popular women's fashion magazine and she seemed perfectly happy with Nigel just the way he was. She'd come from a huge Catholic family in Glasgow and, overlooking the odd temper tantrum around the first of days of her period, she wasn't like those moody bitches he used to date. True, the sex wasn't very interesting (OK, downright boring: lights out, him on top, occasionally if she were very drunk she'd go down on him, but that was rare), but maybe that was the price you had to pay.
He had to woo her. It didn't take very long -- maybe two months of getting his secretary to send her flowers once a week -- but in the
beginning it seemed like an eternity. There were days when he'd sit in his office in the City, chewing on his hangnails, wondering when he'd see her again and what she was doing and if she was seeing anyone else. She was distracting, this Kath bird; his mates thought he'd lost his mind the way he was mooning over her like some lovesick dog. In the pub at lunch, he'd try not to talk about her -- he was starting to disgust himself, for God's sake.
Then, suddenly, he bagged her. He didn't know how or why, it was
just that one day he realized that he was in control again. She returned his calls -- in fact, she'd begun calling him all the time. When she met him at a restaurant, or when she'd arrive in a cab at his flat late at night, she'd throw her arms around his neck and kiss him numerous times, leaving half-moon crescents of her brown lipstick all over his face. He realized he didn't really think so much about Kath during the day as he used to.
After 11 months, they were a couple, an Official Couple. They
were Nigelandkath, or Kathandnigel; they had mutual friends and were invited everywhere as a twosome -- to weddings, parties, drinks and the like. Nigel wondered what it had felt like to be a single person; he couldn't remember. He knew he should probably marry Kath and somewhere he felt that she was waiting for him to ask. There was, after all, no reason why he shouldn't. She was pretty, lively, she was perfectly presentable. His friends all liked her, and she'd mentioned in passing one time that she wasn't in a rush to have children.
But sometimes he would wake up in the middle of the night and stare at her sleeping beside him, wondering if this was the way he was supposed to feel. He thought about how people always say you know if it's the Right One, and while Nigel couldn't be certain if this was the Right One, he felt he also couldn't be certain if this was the Wrong One. It was all a leap of faith anyway, or at least that's what his brother Barry said. If it were left up to the men, nobody would ever get married and the human race would die out. What did he want, Barry asked -- to be middle-aged, sitting in a pub alone every night in his checkered cap drinking his pint with his dog sleeping at his ankles? Well, no, Nigel said, but did his relationship with Kath have to be so bloody, well, public? Every fight, every reconciliation, every holiday, every event they attended was noted and discussed ad infinitum by their little group of friends. He didn't know how it had gotten this way. He couldn't remember a time when it was just
the two of them, foraging around in each other's minds, finding out their respective likes and dislikes.
So he broke up with Kath. He didn't even feel he was that serious
about the break-up, it was just something he wanted to try on and not really own, like a friend's father's cardigan, or a Stetson hat. Kath, by all accounts (he'd of course get daily updates about her through the grapevine), was devastated. She was crying, she was sick -- how could he have done this to her? He was just about to ring her up and get her to meet him in their local pub, and maybe try out a reconciliation, when he went to a drinks party in Chelsea one evening and ended up fucking some woman in the bathroom.
Why did he do it? Anna was loud, funny, talkative, smart -- not at
all the kind of woman he was normally attracted to. She was the same age as Nigel and had an important advertising job in New York dealing with celebrities; Nigel was sheepishly impressed. Most surprising of all, Anna was fat. Well, not fat exactly, but definitely plump. He'd never gone out with a fat woman before, even though he himself was a little soft around the middle.
But the sex -- well, he couldn't believe it. She'd actually dragged
him into the bathroom, stuck her tongue in his mouth, put his hands on her enormous breasts and then fucked him right then and there against the sink. He looked at Anna's buttocks -- huge, round, like giant grapefruits -- reflected in the mirror as she sat on the edge and he was ramming inside her, and briefly a vision of Kath's skinny little bottom floated through his mind. He shuddered and came.
He fully intended never to see Anna again. He wasn't attracted to
her; she was too smart, too old and not the sort of woman he would ever date, much less become involved with. No, Kath was better. Much better. This was it -- a sign, he decided. He phoned Kath the very next day and they reconciled on the phone after 45 minutes of tears. He didn't think she'd hear about Anna -- nobody would dare tell Kath, and not that many people knew anyway. But Anna stayed in London a few weeks longer, and as hard as he tried, he couldn't get that image of her buttocks out of his mind. He found himself phoning her desperately, and arranging to meet her: Today? Tomorrow? The next day?
What on earth was the matter with him?
(To be continued.)