He was deeply hung over as he woke up. He looked around the room. He was lying on the floor , a sheet thrown loosely over him.
His capacity to recall did not surprised him. When on a spree he would just get drunk and try to get drunker . And like many with his affliction he remembered through the haze every last significant event before sleep. And sleep was the elusive thing he chased , and he chased in in vain.
He stood up and his head ached all the more. Looking down on the table he saw the ring. She was not yet awake. She was asleep in the bedroom of the apartment. The sun was already hot as it streamed in the window, and from the fifth floor he could hear the revelers at the swimming pool which lay between the four , holiday apartments all of which fronted one another .
He went to the fridge and took out some fruit juice then boiled the kettle and made coffee.
He sat down at the table and he looked at the ring. He didn’t want to go into the bedroom and awaken her. But he needed his Solpadine .
She heard the movement and came out of the bedroom , the sleep still heavy in her face . She sat down , looked at the ring and then looked away.
-I suppose you know you made a fool of yourself again last night ?
He didn’t answer. Just crushed his aching head with his palms
They’d had a row. It was supposed to be a romantic holiday . She had chosen this time to judge him. The two week holiday hadn’t lasted a week before the first row, It was about his commitment , as usual. She had been determined to make him aware that she had an offer , and that she wasn’t going to wait forever.
Last night she’d put it to him.
She’d told him about a fellow she was seeing back home . His grandiose sense of omnipotence with women left him puzzled . Now she was offering him an ultimatum.
She was demanding a commitment . But it bothered him to that she’d developed her relationship with him since he left three months ago.
They had been having dinner when it came up . Again she told him how she wasn’t going to be another wall flower. Another of his easy lays . She had told him how much she appreciated the devotion her lover showed her . His care . His thoughtfulness . And by contrast what would a life with him mean. she didn’t want to waste any more time in some vague anticipation .
- how serious are you - he had asked
- Well… he is at least serious ... He’s asked me to marry me.- She left thing unfinished .
- Since I left I suppose ?
- Yes , But I knew before that he would .. - she looked away.
-I see ,
He’d said nothing for a while . He had already drunk two bottles of wine and was sipping a brandy now after dinner. He had that far away look which always unsettled her. She never knew what was on his mind when he just seemed to gaze deeply into the night .
He was still handsome , but would quickly go to dissipation,. He smoked and drank to excess. His face was swollen from his weeks drinking . It always gave him away. But his deep suntan hid the red blotches .
The slow ebbing tide of the Mediterranean rustled with the drag of the flotsam just below the restaurant. .
- Are you sleeping with him .?
It caught her with a start.
He was still looking away.
- He’d asked me a few times .
- Are you living with him ?
-No !- how dare you! what do you take me for ..!
He looked at her with an intensity which unsettled her ,but she gathered her composure before that penetration could unravel her well rehearsed speech..
-Anyway , she said turning away - He has asked me to marry him.
Now . She’d said it . She’d laid the challenge boldly before him
- What’d you say?
She could look into those deep penetrating deadened eyes , which though glazed now with drink would defeat her all her efforts to lie .
- I didn’t give him an answer. I said I’d wait
- Until you came out here ..I suppose .
She turned to him and asserted herself again .
- The least you owed me was a holiday !
- I see. And now I ve been on some kind of a trial for a week .. I see - he lit another cigarette , and inhaled deeply holding the smoke till it nearly burst his lungs..
- And how did I rate ? . Poorly I suppose. It must be very reassuring for you to have ..a - he hesitated before adding
- a banker ,I suppose .. Anyway I was going to do this,
He took a little box from his pocket and slid it across the table
Of course she knew it was A ring. It was all she wanted. Just for him to ask. She never really thought he could commit himself to one woman, and now she had conquered him . She had all she ever wanted, .She could play him slowly now.
- Open it .!. Its just a bloody ring , and yes I am asking you to marry me.
She opened the box . It was a sapphire .
- You’re’ not even sober
- I wont be in the morning either if you accept.
- I cant accept a proposal like this
-Why not. Or did you not expect me to propose ? You didn’t did you.- he spoke slowly , his voice husky from the drink .But his concentration seemed unimpaired as he went on
- if you didn’t intend to accept a proposal why did you come out here . ?
- Don’t you think I deserved that much ,
- Not if it was just to goad me into proposing . But ok . Now you’ve done it. Two proposals in the bag . Are you happy now. That what you wanted .? Well there’s my hand .. Im cashing in my cards.
She had this situation just where she waned a moment ago. And now it seemed to be slipping away.
- You haven’t asked me yet- --look at me . She turned to face him.
- Its not going to be any more romantic . I am asking you. I could have picked a better moment than this . Sure . But you’ve been at me for a week now telling me about your prospects and how you weren’t getting any younger . And how he’s so much easier to live with and so on. .. all that. Yes I was going to ask you , but I’ve been thinking . Maybe you just wanted two offers in the bag so I’m asking you ,- he slid the little ring across thee table under her plate .
-Will you marry me .?
It wasn’t to be like this . Now she didn’t seem to know exactly what she wanted
-I’ll have to think it over..
-Well you have my ring ,and my proposal ..but Mags , Is this is all a scam. a bloody totem polling or some fucking thing .. You had no intention of accepting did you ? - He leaned back in his chair laconically.
She looked away but she knew that her abstracted gaze couldn’t deceive him from knowing how she might be calculating . He was perceptive to the point of clairvoyance even when he was like this.
- You think about it. I’m going to the club. Come if you want.
He got up and paid the bill . She remained sitting as he looked back and headed across the street to the night club.
He had drunk a bottle of vodka but his mind just got number. He gazed at his reflection in the mirror at the bar . He was in one of those drunks where he just got number and more introspective . Not less clear in a particular linear thought .
He drank just so that sleep would come .And he drank knowing he was just punishing himself .
A couple of strippers came to sit with him . They looked at the face which the practice of their trade cautioned them against. He was.not the type who needed company. Just a determined drinker . No prospects there . They moved along.
Eventually he got up and to his immense relief , the room began to sway. . He left the club when he was sufficiently numbed . Coming up to the apartment he’d fallen down the stairs and knocked over a thrash bin.
He yodled as he got to the top of the stair well . The echo made him laugh and as he lay in a backward abandon he sang out boisterously..
-She taught me to yoodle yoo hhoo ho di dee hoo didi did hee !! He did de did dee !!
He fumbled for his keys and she had to get up eventually and let him in. He fell in to the room .
- My God ! Look at the state of you ..All the people ... They all heard you!!. I’m disgraced Just look at the state of you .. Those people will all be round the pool in the morning..Oh My God ! - she wailed ..
- Aha !! My lover ! My sweet thing .. Anyone looking for me …- he said in his stupefaction
He got up holding the table
- Forgot my swim today.. Must have a swim.. Yo do ho di di diddle dee.
- Get into bed you idiotiotic drunkard ...Oh God I‘m mortified - youre drunk as as a skunk
- Oohhh ! Nooo !- not before my swim
She tried to stop him but he took his trunks from the balcony and headed back down the stairwell in an echoing clatter again
She saw him dive in to the pool below. -That’s how it’ll be she thought. He’d drown or get a heart attack.
She watched his splasging about in the pool below and thouught .She had control - she had a personna which commanded respect -over every man she'd ever been with.
But he was different . Despite her guile , charm . her sexuality he remained beyond her immediacy ; her allure .And this bothered her more than anything else.
But now that he'd offered her the ring she found herself in an unexpected void.
Conquered - she thought .yes - she had .. but not controlled , Not as she'd been led to presume since her early teens.
I had drunk to the extent that it was only like drinking water , the well was full and my brain wouldn’t settle down, too far down to get up now. And tomorrow would be the same . I knew she was using me , I knew she resented the hotel. She didn’t like the neighbors . The wrong class. She wanted to be among the higher professional classes The tattooed louts around the pool revolted her.She had a particular design . She had been Miss Queen of the May .. .been asked to take a fashion photo trial. She got fixated on the idea of becomung a modle . She dragged me to one beauty contest after another . She won a few of them , but I detested to whold charade.The girls; their shamless ambition ; their detestable vanity .
I knew the holiday was over now , Damn if I was going to stick another week in that complex with her. She was right about one thing , they sure would know my face.
After our sunny little discussion I went down and got an early bracer, two I think then went down to the harbour.
I knew this Greek guy from a previous holiday. I’d hired a sailing boat from him previously. Sometimes he had a free boat. If he’d hired it and the hirer tired of it after the sail down to Lyrica usually ; seasickness usually ;the party would have rung to say they wouldn’t make the return journey. While he’d been paid for the round trip , his boat was down the coast, and he was often more than happy to have someone sail it back for him. And it often happened that he needed a boat brought down to Lyrica ,when he had a client down there .
I called him Aristotle , but his name was Chris
I saw him now tending to the rigging of one of his boats .
We chatted for a while .He could see the shake in my hands and he offered me a drink from a chilled wine sitting in a silver bucket . I shook my head
- You Need something stronger -he indicated the cabin where he kept a large stash he kept in his operational hold .
- No I’m coming down ,- I need to dry out.. that’s why I was wondering if you had anything to take down or bring back..
As it happened he did have We went through the usual banter he saying I had to pay him and I saying- no - he should pay me. So we bartered , both knowing how it would go . It suited us both in equal measure . And we ended up where we always did before I would take the boat down the coast free . I would have to stay with the flotilla , which was a pain but I could live with it,. It only meant keeping the boats within a five hundred yard sweep , and count them into harbour , then overnight in this little cove and on for Ladica in the following morning.
So the deal was that I would take his boat down the coast to the port at Lyrica . It was a new boat and he gave me a trial run at it .I took her out around the harbour just motoring her , she was bigger than his usual 4 berthers ,but it suited me just fine and having signed the insurance papers I headed off.
I don’t recall when the plan occurred to me . Perhaps it was there for a long time . It just seemed to go along as if I’d planned it meticulously .
When I arrived in Lyrica ,docked and paid the mooring fee I rambled up to the village.
It was damn hard to avoid the temptation to take to the bottle and I fought it off with all the dread of a dependent drinker.
Later that evening I rang the apartment block. She answered and I was convinced tere was someone in the room with her. One gets that sense from the slight hesitations and changed pitch of voice , but it could equally well have been my paranoia.
- I’ve been thinking - I told her.
- Its all a bit of a waste . You and me. Can we forget about last night ?.. I’m just realizing how rash I’ve been.. The couple of days has cleared my mind . Sorry…
I waited , still convinced she was with someone but I persevered
- Its really beautiful down here .. Why not rrop everything and lets give it one more chance.. You’ll really enjoy the boat.. Separate cabins.. Separate loos , showers .. Very palatial.. What do you think..
Her pause was enough.
I knew I had her. Did I expect her to drop everything and just drive down to meet me again for more of the same old same old..
- You’ll see.. No tattooed rowdies here .. Very chick.. .. fashion modles .. you should see the boats .. a half million each .. awesome !
I had her . She could not resist the temptation to see what I was or might be tempted to do . Should she drive down ?
- No .. No too much trouble , just take a few things and take the bus down.. don’t say anything to the apartment manager .. Just come .
-.I miss you..’
- terribly ..
I arranged to meet her on the warf , as the bus stop was quite near. She could just stroll leisurely down to the harbour. She would be enchanted with the place.
So that was how it came about .
I met her that evening. I rowed a dingy in to the pier and picked her up.
We had that enchanted evening and set sail the following morning with the flotilla .
All very enchanting. I was on my best behavior and didn’t drink a drop, as I cooked up evening dinner at the stop over.
- You see- she said -
- You can be romantic after all. You just don’t try .. I would love to be with you like this .. I would love to have your children.. They would be so pretty .. Such a pretty family- she fanaticised as the scorching sun set in a splendour of red and crimson into the deep Mediterranean sea.
We made love that night , more passionately than ever before, She came twice at least. I ejaculated but there was no orgasm. Just a spilling of unwanted seed. Like a bursting balloon deflating its air. That’s how it felt . But I faked it. That amused me . Its usually the other way , but that’s how it was . Twice.
Sometime before dawn as the flotilla party were revelling up I followed the plan which I didn’t even now seem responsible for. Just obeying orders which seemed to be like instructions from elsewherein my head. Cool calculated and precise.
I had laced her wine with Nembutal and she didn’t feel a thing.
I saw the ring on her finger as she awoke when her feet slipped into the water , and she gasped before she went gone down with the ballast weight I’d chained to her tender ankle .
The investigation was a terrible experience . Who saw her last. Well , that was me. Why would she have disappeared from the apartment . Where would she have gone . All of these questions remain unresolved .
It was as I say a very sad time. Not to even find a body. Yes .. So Sad ..
And we were so close - engaged ?
Yes .! Would I ever get over it .
I doubted it . I read a short homily at her mass . One I’d written on the way down to Lyrica.
It was a very moving ceremony.
True love sometimes ends in tragedy as Shakespeare has so often told us .. So the celebrant said .. And there was a corollary of this in today’s gospel.. The priest was a most learned and pious man.
He shook my hand at the service , and told me I would get over it in the end .. But for now I needed closure.
Where do they get these clichés ..? ‘’ closure ‘’
I often sail by that spot now . I have my own yacht which I now keep in Lyrica .
It was a very sad time .
I have had many relationships since , but it’s never been the same . The fishing is particularly good over the spot I dumped her - no ! - let her slip away.
I can never understand why I didn’t come that last night of passion…
I see the experience in the luffing sails as I go through the eye of the wind before the boat takes its surge and charges forth on another tack. Oh yes . I’ve seen a psychiatrist about my sexual problems , just to be sure.
He tells me it is called something called an-hedonic or something and I will recover after the post traumatic shock has passed . This might take up to three years he cautions me and this confession to my lovers make them struggle all the more to give me some little gratification. It is quite amazing how sympathetic my lovers endeavor to rid me of my trauma .
Had I known this I would have been much more assiduous in playing this unbeatable card but I play the thing down . I am a survivor , I tell them .
I will persevere