I leave my hotel room for a breath of fresh air, seeking distraction from the day’s work. Work is work, wherever it is, but there seems a cruel torture when a sea view beckons from the balcony and I am forced to stare at a laptop screen.
The bar is a cool haven from the warm Mediterranean sun. I order a beer and find a table and sit as close to the air-con unit as I can get so it forces a winter breeze down my back. A couple sit across from me in deep conversation, two coffee cups between them. She is angled slightly towards me affording me a more direct view. I don’t believe I am prone to staring at every pretty girl I see, but either her warm smile or the long open neck of her loose blouse, makes me look again.
Whether she notices me or not behind her dark glasses, I have no idea, she certainly doesn’t show it as she continues her conversation. Her hands are an active part of the exchange. It could be nerves or subconscious. When she pushes back sways of red hair into a bob, tying it neatly she reveals a tanned and freckled forehead, above striking brown eyes. Unfortunately, the dark glasses are replaced quickly spoiling my indulgence.
Perspective is a master of delusion, for it offers a supposed scene of shared desire. From the relative distance of the next table, she appears natural, relaxed. Her garrulous Spanish flows tunefully, though I understand not a word. Her hands follow her voice in an organic flow. Like her, he’s fallen from a magazine cover. His has a natural tan, is slim, wearing light blue t-shirt and khaki shorts giving him an aesthetic charm, as if the soft pastel colours of his clothes are a uniform of sophistication. Here is a man who will never fail. A sports car would surely be waiting outside; his house no doubt a villa with a gorgeous sun terrace. His mother has taught him to cook the best tapas.
The delusion is complete, an attractive couple talking of love in the hot summer sun.
Yet something is missing. Perfection suffers from a poor track record and rather cynically I decide if I look hard enough I will find a problem. It’s not that I want them to fail, and it isn’t that I am sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to snatch her away the moment fate delivers its crushing blow. It is simply that love does not float in smooth waters. It buckles and sways in eternal motion, yet these two are struck like monuments formed in tribute to each other.
Imperfection makes me believe that I can address the world and a beautiful lady, without feeling I need to have ironed out every crease in my flawed personality. So under his carved exterior I need him to be wrong on some level. I want his car to be a 1994 Vauxhall Nova with custom mud-flaps and blue flashing lights or even to have no car at all, wouldn’t it be wonderful if he has to search for change in his pocket after a romantic dinner out and the bus driver tells him to get off? I want a stream of duped lovers to walk up in turn, slap his face, before she follows suit as a stupendous finale.
But for the moment I am left to follow love, forming its symmetrically mirrored patterns, patient for the flaw to surface. She continues to weave her artful hands in and out of his, tipping her head as necessary, her lips relaxed in an open smile. The spell is hers, and, as with me, he is being led. The question is whether he is conscience of her dalliance. Does he take the steps she offers in full knowledge of where she is taking him, or is he masked with the same delusion as me?
I look away, take a drink of cool beer, refresh my perspective and look again.
I want her to lift her shades and see what her eyes say. Can they reach beyond his perfect skin? Do her eyes tell the truth or offer just a glimmer of hope.
He leans towards her, in his first obvious advance. His reward is a kiss and I am forced to look away. Perfection is winning the war, and I am contemplating tearing up my betting slip. But not yet. Have faith I tell myself. Maybe there’s stain on his trousers, maybe his breath stinks like a week old sandwich, or perhaps in the ultimate respite of a desperate man, I wish he is secretly gay and he is about to come out to her.
But no, this man is in control. He has followed her dance, and now he wants to lead. She stops talking and he begins. His tone is deep, more considered, as if during the last few minutes of conversation he’s been editing his words to the minimum required for effect.
I watch, intrigued. The tables turned, his hand is now weaving hers. He caresses her fingers individually then folds them back into a ball, playing her emotions around in his hands. She is compliant, the running now is his. Though I detect the softness has gone. Her back seems rigid, where before it was supple. One hand is in his but the other is round the cup. There is a tension, I am sure of it, but he is yet to notice. Still he works her hand but she is pulling away. He lets go and like elastic it snaps back to the safety of her lap. Now she is talking, the delicious tone is replaced by sharp aggression. The sunglasses come off. Her face is tense. He backs off, his hands raised in obvious surrender. Whatever he is suggesting, he isn’t getting it. She stands abruptly. Shock appears on his face. Then the finale, I am desperate for. The cup is picked up and the contents thrown over him. Expresso runs down his blue shirt and onto his shorts.
She doesn’t hang around for further discussion and is gone. I celebrate quietly and discreetly with a large drink of my beer. I may not have won the girl but neither did perfection. I live to fight another day.