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‘No, I think it looks very appropriate,’ he tells her.

Gerry’s breaking up.

Into pieces.

He comes over from Belgium every year or so, and we go for a drink. But he has a lot to fit in, and sometimes we just manage to meet for a coffee on the day he goes back. We mull things over.

He’s a success, and he gets about the world in the front part of the plane, but he’s chewed on things for so long, and his girl has left him just so she can be alone.

He says.

She says.

And now he’s chewing on things even more.

So when my girl Ruthie asks him if her skirt is too short, if it makes her look like a slut, he replies with a comment that I think is a little barbed, but Ruthie assures me is just kind and thoughtful. Comments like that, she says later, as we get ready for bed later, and his ability to really listen to a girl, make Gerry great company.

I ask her if that means she finds him attractive. ‘Oh, no,’ she giggles, ‘it’s like he’s a straight gay. The type of man that women can talk to without thinking that he just wants to get into their knickers.’

‘Unlike me,’ I say, wondering if that is why Gerry is poor at the actual business of copping off. He listens too well.

‘Well, you mean it when you compliment me,’ Ruthie says, ‘And you try to listen. But I still know you want to get into my pants.’

‘That’s so very true,’ I counter, ‘But I can’t separate liking you, and liking what you do, from the desire to have sex with you at every opportunity.’

‘Why should you? You’re a man,’ she says as she pulls her t-shirt over her head. I slip my hand between her shoulder blades to unhook her bra, kissing her neck.

She pulls away. ‘Not tonight. I’m ovulating.’ I must pull a face, because she tells me in a stern way, ‘It makes me feel like I’ve been kicked in the stomach. The idea of you bouncing in and out is …’ and she pulls a face right back at me. An ‘ugh’ shaped face.

I say, ‘Maybe I’ll wake you in the morning.’

‘Alright,’ she says.

I kiss her neck anyway. After Gerry’s compliment she asked him, ‘You don’t think I look like a harlot? It’s not too short?’

‘You’re so small anyway that it doesn’t look that short; you look like a schoolgirl.’

‘Thank you.’

And I smile at her.

‘You’re giving him ideas,’ she says to Gerry, smiling back at me. But she knows that I have ideas anyway.

As we climb into bed I ask Ruthie why men say they want to meet nice guys, like Gerry, but always seem to end up sleeping with bastards, like Gerry’s ex does. ‘That’s your agenda,’ she replies, ‘you think you have to be rotten to someone to make them like you.’

‘It’s generally been my experience.’

‘Not with me.’

Then she says, ‘Anyway, it’s not that simple,’ and she turns off the light. I keep quiet then, anymore questions and I’d blow it for the morning.

She turns to slot in behind. We’re like two spoons.

‘Are you meeting him tomorrow?’

‘Yes,’ I reply, turning to kiss her shoulder.

‘What will you talk about?’

‘The wreckage of his love life, probably.’ Then I turn my back to her, and the dark and the wine sweep across me.


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