Ink on 10"X 7" 170 gsm Watercolour stock
My understanding was that Gilda never really liked me.
Not that I thought I ever did anything to merit her dismissal but sometimes personalities clash and one had to accept the illogic!
Since childhood, although I liked her, she would not acknowledge my existence. A few days ago, we meet by accident in Rome. I was there on my way to Pittsburgh, she taking some friends for lunch to celebrate her divorce ruling.
After a few awkward moments staring at each other with furrowed brows we both heard ourselves saying: "Is it you… ermm…Gilda… isn’t it… errr Ray!?
Hugs and kisses and smiles were followed by introductions to the surrounding fascinating, flirty ladies that looked dangerously tipsy and undeniably mischievous.
After some pleasantries and embarrassed small talk I leant over to kiss her good bye and as my mouth came close to her ear I heard myself ask whether she would have tea with me later that afternoon.
To my surprise she said yes but it had to be the next day, Saturday, and she thought dinner would be a better as she expected to part long and hard that day.
I left for a prearranged meeting conscious of giggles and thinly veiled playful suggestions to Gilda from her small entourage. The day felt unnaturally happier under those overcast skies. I went trough the day with a lighter gait and copious tumbling silly thoughts I had not experienced for decades.
It was a cold rainy night when she picked me up from the Aberdeen Hotel. I picked a rose from a Pakistani vendor just down the road in Via Nazionale. I snipped all the thorns, bar a few, from the stem with my manicure scissors.
It was dark and had drizzled unceasingly all day as I strode over to her car in the middle of road on Via Firenze.
We fit rather snuggly in her over-heated “Smart”. The hint of sophisticated perfume embarrassed my utilitarian “Aqua di Gio” as the heat and closeness interrupted my thoughts as I was trying to give directions to a favorite restaurant.
So, at Costanza, we chatted trough Antipasto, Primi and Secondi piatti for what seemed like hours.
I had been in different countries most of my life, she married, divorced… twice and was living in Rome where her latest ex-husband lived.
I never had time for a wife and the once I thought I was ready resulted in a 3 year bad dream lasting 3 years.
She designed for various known fashion-houses collecting a few lovers and the odd husband as well as a daughter, now 22, who, it seems, was the most vocal, and the most drunk when we had met only yesterday.
We played with words and stories, some pretty could have been suggestive and risqué were we young but relatively benign that we were this age.
So when my Sorbet, and her Fra Angelico came we were close and familiar with fingertips rarely more than inches away from intertwining.
The conversation slowed enough for me to find courage to express unconscious thoughts I had toyed with for many years.
So I asked the question, with an air of someone hurt and retiring why had she given me the cold shoulder for all these years. I hated the insecurity but I felt hard done by as I thought myself quite a catch and had not done badly in the romantic stakes; and being treated as a virtual untouchable offended my self-respect.
“Well”, she said, eyebrows lifted, turning away just slightly and pinning me with a disapproving stare over her Fra Angelico. “Now that is a surprise!”
The sexual tension between us was so much that I would have been oblivious to the anything and anyone beyond that breathing space between me and her ageless self.
I could have been very dangerously indiscreet that night. My interest in any previous intricately made future plans suddenly rested on the answer to this one question.
She plotted her way relating how when we were children I had been one of those obnoxious boys that was oblivious of the feelings of others and less caring of girls. I was recounted as having been overheard comparing her to a rabid dog, just when she had a crush on my early untidy self. She said: “I was 7, you were 8 and you laughed at me every time you saw me after that!”… “You Sir are selfish, uneducated, pompous prig!” she spat haughtily.
I thought a little and fumbled with the amaretto cookie in the saucer. It was then I decided on recollecting the day that it was not “Rabid Dog” I had said but a Chocolate Log which lay tantalizingly beckoning in the Patisserie’s window when she walked by in her baby doll dress with her “pink unicorn” lunch box.
Relative unromantic but at 7 years old I was comparing her to what was my tastiest unaffordable dream. And I thought smiling every time I saw her should have allayed any other intended consequences.
She looked down her nose at me with narrowed eyes and I knew she did not believe me.
For long seconds her eyes bored into mine trying to torture out the real truth! I shuffled a little and attentively stared at each crumb on the table-cloth till I ran out of crumbs… then looked up and nervously grinned.
Just then we both broke into long giggles of unintended laughter. The cruelty of a wayward friendship renewed 50 years after a lifetime of disappointment… but could it be just too late?
We walked out wrapped in each other’s arms, tight as snuggled puppies in the gusting wetness.
Copyright © Raymond Agius