If anyone had told me that I would one day be seated across a table from James Bond at a fancy restaurant with three full pages of the menu dedicated to French and South African wines, I would have scoffed at them and walked off. Yet he had called me out of the blue to propose a business venture. My real estate holdings needed a pick-me-up after six dry months in a black hole of obscurity and the usual weekend company, Lisa, had run off with another group of friends for a weekend getaway I wasn’t feeling up to.
Saying his name without leaving behind a trail of curiosity about my manner has always been a challenge. I had a flared red hot crush on him exactly eight years ago, but there had never been a chance at anything more than the usual strained platonic relationship. I was seeing someone at the time, he was living with someone, we had too many mutual friends. Simply put, it would have been too messy.
One warm October evening, right after he had come over for a Sauti Sol performance at the Graduation Square, we went back to my room. The lights were off. Molly was not going to be around all weekend, but I had expected Hellen to be there. I started the needless search for keys in all the jacket pockets which I knew did not have them. Reading into my hesitation, he had suggested walking around until we had company. I should have listened.
He sat at one end of the room and I went out to get sachets of coffee. The first time I walked out the door, I had left without the money. The second time, I had discovered that my wallet did not have any money. I was embarrassed beyond words when I had to come back a third time without the coffee. The coins in my jacket were not enough to make the intended purchase. That was when he, out of absolutely nowhere, came up behind me while I fiddled with my dirty jeans for loose change, since I also couldn’t find my coin purse and I was too flustered to open my underwear drawer and fish out crisp notes from a pile of brightly coloured cotton knickers and lace.
Neither of us said anything. He placed his palms on my waist, at the sides, and ran them roughly to my tummy, right over my navel. I touched my forehead as if to wipe off non-existent sweat, then used both my hands to wipe my face and press against my temples. Maybe that would help me think of something. I didn’t know what else to do. His lips brushed against the nape of my neck before he kissed me over and over, eventually turning me around so I would face him. Obviously, I couldn’t look at him. He unbuttoned my shirt slowly, stopped halfway, reached beneath my blouse and ran his fingers down my back. My hands fumbled over his belt and zipper while he moved closer and let his breath blow on my left ear. My hand slipped into the new space between the button and open fly and toyed about with the engorgement I had found waiting eagerly. He squatted a little and put his hands around my thighs, raising me from the ground and landing me on my study table. My breathing was irregular. He was calm. Too calm. It unsettled me. I squeezed and stroked just enough to get him doing the same with both his hands underneath my blouse. Just as his hands went up my skirt and touched the seat of my whet appetite, the cold tip of his finger slipping closer inside of me, while my free hand guided him. I heard Hellen talking on her phone along the corridor. The trance was broken.
“I like a woman with ambition. For anything really, but that raw urge to do more than simply exist.”
“I see. And what drives you?”
“Passion. I love what I do, and before I had a choice, I made sure to love what I did.”
“And what was that?”
“Are you a reporter?”
“In my dreams, yes. Mostly on Sunday nights when I am less thrilled than usual about a lurking Monday behind a bright computer screen in a lifeless office which smells of warm plastic and scented garbage bags.”
“You hate Mondays.”
“Immensely. And I know it’s cliché. My weekends are a welcome break from the exhausting routine that sums up my life. Although I have quite a bit of fun too. Anyway, what did you do before financial consultations?”
“I was also in I.T. for a while.”
“Yes way. And designing websites was great, but I had always preferred crunching numbers.”
“Why not become an accountant?”
“Accountants are boring people.”
“Hey! That’s stereotyping!”
“Now, now, I know your uncle M. is a fantastic guy, his life bursting at the seams with endless adventure…”
“Don’t be a smart ass. Nobody likes a smart ass.”
He was supposed to say something. And when he didn’t I began to feel the awkwardness seep in and take up the place of words.
“What’s your favourite wine.”
There had been no point of pretending to start over. I could not play back the thoughts I had held to myself all these years, the relief that came with the end of his relationship, the indifference to the close of my own dull romance.
“Really? Because as I recall, you bought me a bottle of that same brand every year after your first job in college.”
“Yes, we agreed that we would be starting over, but how exactly will this work if we also pretend not to know what we do?”
“Okay. Fine. Uuum, I think I’d like to have..”
“The dusted mushrooms. Or chicken ala kiev…”
“Stop. Please stop.”
I hoped I sounded irritated. Genuinely irritated. Yet I only stared at the menu because I feared that he would read the glee on my face.
“Let’s go watch a movie.”
“The cinemas are closed, I think.”
I finally had a chance to look at my watch without raising his suspicions. As far as I could remember, he disliked it a great deal when I stole glances at my watch.
“At my place.”
In that instance, I wanted to leave with him and do something reckless, perhaps as penance for all those times that I had flirted with him on phone while another man lay entangled in my sheets a few hours after we had made love.
“You know that’s a bad idea.”
I had raised my voice. I was frustrated. It felt as if I had no control over anything. I had planned for this evening for several days, what to wear, what not to say, how to behave. One hour with him had taken a different toll on me than from what I had imagined as a worst case scenario.
“Let’s eat and then go to your place. For a movie. Just a movie”
“Don’t you dare. I decide how this ends henceforth.”
“That’s okay. It’s on your terms.”
“And yes, I will have the dusted mushrooms. I’m not big on chicken anymore.”
He smiled. I bit my lower lip lightly while scanning through the menu for something to drink. I knew he’d see it and know what it meant. Besides, that one night in my college room had changed everything between us already. What was the point of holding back so firmly?