The single truth which fed and clothed her every day since dropping out of university was to do with men. Inspired by the welcome and then depressing attentions of her classics professor, she realised she could earn enough in a decade to live as she wanted for the rest of her life rather than wade through a career of dressing respectfully to become an echo of the polite and respectful vessel her mother had become.
He told her many men over fifty are quietly ignored and then taken for granted. They pull the cart of responsibility up and down the field of life while, over the years, the looks they receive at home grow more detached. At night, and before sleep offers them brief sanctuary, they might day-dream about another world and explore those fantasies which must not be disclosed. Secret identities eat at your composure and fan the wish to escape for a day or even just one hour, and to provide that was her calling.
For one hour and £ 250.00 she would be your co-conspirator, your recognition-oasis and soul-mate. Her composure would never be challenged or conventions shocked by any dream or revelation. You would see in her practised eyes that whatever you were was who she wished to meet. You would be the man to kiss and hold and welcome her heart home.
She was the practised mirror, reflecting your inner thoughts until you believed they were her own. ” Truth and fantasy are close friends” she once said and such was your hunger you dared to believe this was here and real. In this barren and god-forsaken landscape called a life, where beauty looks the other way and innocence is a figment of history, she laughed like a conspirator until you were, for that one single hour, the boy who would have dazzled in the lecture hall, or on the sports field or anywhere at all if people had only understood your worth.
With her I thought, I had found that fresh spring which would flow into the stagnant pond I had become, allowing me to flourish once again in beautiful secrecy. However outlandish my requests, she always smiled and touched my arm and said, “Oh Derek, I feared no one would ask me that. You’ve bring me happy” and we shared hours of this warped paradise until, so taken was she by the image I created, that it was I who had to remind her that my session was at an end.
“Come again soon my darling” she would say, and being with her now was everything I wished. Somehow we would find a way to be together always and forever until that is, my wife asked why I kept making these cash withdrawals every fortnight. There was a squalid argument after which I left at her request, suitcase in hand and of no fixed address. For the first and only time I knocked on my ladies door without a prior appointment.
She stood there without makeup or pretence and asked me what I was doing. “My wife has thrown me out” I told her and she looked remarkably unmoved. “Am I caring? “She said. “But I love you” I replied, my heart filling with panic, but again she was unimpressed. “I am busy. No one is interested Derek.” and with that she shut the door. She taught me something I will not forget: the truth is seldom comforting.