When her marriage ended, Lynn decided that the only way to have sex was solo. There was too short an interval between having sex with a man and picking up his socks. And after seventeen years of picking up the socks of someone who’d treated her as a human mirror in which to view his charming reflection, she felt it was no longer worth the effort.
Three months after David left and moved in with Agnieszka, a twenty-seven-year-old Polish facialist who’d given him a deep-cleanse, Lynn took a train from Woking into London and visited a subterranean shop in order to select her new sex partner. The shop wasn’t actually underground, but Lynn felt so odd, so removed from herself, on entering it, that it was like being on an escalator to the underworld. With the help of a perky girl with an array of piercings, she selected a piece of pale pink rubbery non-flesh with odd attachments, had a cup of tea at Waterloo, and headed home to get better acquainted.
Solo sex worked for Lynn. She had a couple of screenplays that she filmed on the inside of her eyelids – one involving John Travolta and a log cabin, and another featuring a troupe of feather-clad dancing girls and a large female body-builder. The best thing about it was that the only clothes left on the floor afterwards were hers. Since she now lived alone, she could choose whether to leave them there for a few days in an ecstasy of slovenliness or collect them and do a small low-temperature wash for one.
Life in the days after David left passed very satisfactorily for Lynn. Fortunately, they had not had children, so she had no-one’s grief to manage and didn’t have to hide her palpable relief from anyone. Her mother, enjoying a bout of dementia in a local old-age home, didn’t notice his absence and of their mutual friends only a few had taken her side. The others had followed him to Agnieszka’s Twickenham love-pad, where she imagined them drinking Bellinis on a rooftop terrace and watching the sun set. No-one at work knew him either; although he’d worked at the estate agent’s down the road, he had not been the type to pop into the hobby-shop of a morning and meet Lynn’s fellow crafters.
However, Lynn began to feel it would be pleasant to have a male companion – someone who liked going for walks, enjoyed sitting in front of a fire listening to music and who might enjoy sharing a pot of tea at her favourite cafe in Wisley Gardens. These were all things David had not enjoyed, being far too busy sculpting his abs and selling houses, so it would be nice to find someone who did, a kind of male version of a blanket; warm, cosy and friendly, but with no interest in sex whatsoever.
She scoped out a few potentials. There was the tall sandy man at the Woking second-hand bookshop. They had enjoyed a few conversations about PG Wodehouse and Barbara Pym – her favourite authors – but she suspected that his professorial twinkle might indicate that he was less prepared to be a blanket than to want to get under one.
There was the lovely ruddy man at her garden centre, but he was too jolly to be single. And his attention to detail when she asked about the blight on her roses, and the way he insisted on carrying her plants to the car and tenderly laying them in the boot, indicated that he might want to be tender with certain parts of her that she preferred keeping to herself and her new plastic friend.
As Lynn did some shopping in Woking town centre, she looked at the men around her. Were they all thinking about sex? Or could there be one, just one, amongst them who’d like only to hold hands while going for a country walk?
After giving up on the few single men of her acquaintance, Lynn decided that the way forward was to advertise. She realised too, that she would have to be frank. She placed the advert in the Sunday edition:
“Middle-aged single woman seeks male companion (45 – 60) for country walks, fireside chats and pots of tea. No sex please.”
When she read her own advert in the paper, she decided not to expect any response at all. She hoped, but didn’t actually believe, that there was a man out there who would consider a sex-free relationship. It was not in their make-up, Lynn felt.
There was a torrent of responses. They flooded out of the post box that the paper had recommended she use instead of her home address “to avoid harassment”. Lynn stuffed them into her handbag and into the carrier bags beside the shortbread biscuits, Earl Grey tea and Kittibix, and took them home.
She piled them neatly on the dining-room table, made herself a pot of tea and sat down to read. The first was startlingly graphic, so she quickly threw it on the fire. So were the next five. Lynn began to wonder if she had done the wrong thing: just by mentioning sex, she seemed to have awoken in her respondees an urgent need to persuade her that they were the answer to her sexual dreams. Except that her sexual dreams were only about John Travolta or dancing girls, whom they clearly were not. Also the tone of the early letters was not exactly appealing: the writers were all obsessed with their size and their ability.
Lynn decided the only way to manage the situation was with practical speed and to not let the graphic and bizarre suggestions upset her. She opened every letter and made two piles: those that mentioned sex and those that didn’t. All the ones that mentioned sex, she consigned to the fire. Then she made a fresh pot of tea and started again.
To Be Continued …
(Copyright Charlotte Otter 2010)