Looking at my phone, I sent Simon a text to let him know that I was running my standard 10 minutes late. “Glamorous women are rarely on time”, hoping that he would not find my lack of punctuality rude. I reassured myself, though I imagined Ryder in more of a Jackie O/Grace Kelly sophisticated glamour way and less of a Mariah Carey running two hours late for a show glamour way. Jamming my headphones in to my ears I listened to Frank Ocean (“Lost”, for those curious) and tried to ignore the multitude of tightening knots in my stomach. What if he didn’t show up? What if this was an elaborate hoax thought up by the women I had stepped over the past? Or the men I had left behind? I reasoned that it was most likely that no-one in their right mind could get any sort of revenge by topping up my savings account weekly with sizeable stacks of cash. I stared out the window at the drizzle moistened footpath and the haze of grey suits. My knots exploded into butterflies as we neared the address, and the butterflies turned into bats when I noticed that while the bank stood where it was supposed to, Simon did not. The Uber came to a halt and I briefly pondered my options. I had spent my last available funds on the Uber so a trip to the pub was out, as was a shopping trip. The city was wet and rainy so a stroll down her alleyways was out too. Just as the driver cleared his throat, impatient for the next fair, I saw a familiar face leaving the bank and looking at his watch.
“Breathe, just keep breathing, and walk”, the car door thudded gently behind me as I put one foot in front of the other. Simon’s eyes met mine, and I pasted a warm smile on my face. “Oh, Simon. How very nice to meet you at last” I heard myself say, my tone was all poured honey and sunsets. My extended hand was gratefully accepted, and he pulled me in for a clumsy hug. He smelled of woody cologne and toothpaste. After pressing his lips into both of my cheeks, his eyes ran over my body with a deep appreciation that bordered on worship. He began a spluttering apology for not being out the front of bank, but explained that his new bank card hadn’t been activated correctly. He went on about it at length, then smiled and said “so, I believe you’re taking me for a spot of shopping”. I liked him, he seemed like the kind to say “chin, chin” and tell forgivably bad dad jokes at weddings. He looked just like his photos, round and nondescript, but he was cheerful (though hopefully not cheap).
He walked, and I slinked along next to him. The magic of the long pencil skirt is in the restriction, causing the wearer to take smaller, more ladylike steps. Sure, it is not practical for running for a train, but for walking slowly in front of the man who is keeping you out of debtors prison it is perfect. We spoke of the strawberries I had once eaten in a small town outside Paris, how perfect and red they were, how the smell of them was intoxicating, how seductive it was to bite into the fragrant fruit and feel the sweet tang of its juices on my lips and rolling across my tongue. We talked about what made a good hotel, though we had differing opinions; He found hotels to be uncomfortably sedate, I enjoyed their anonymity, the feeling that once safely installed in a hotel room anywhere in the world you could truly become whoever you wanted to be. We wandered along to Bourke Street, and I told him how lovely the street looked when it was draped with Christmas lights, and how the lines for the Myer Christmas windows snaked around on themselves for miles during December. I yabbered away as I tried desperately to look like I had even the slightest idea of what I was doing. I had hoped that lunch would be the first stop and that perhaps he would give me some sort of indication of how a shopping date worked. I wasn’t sure whether to aim high and head directly to Miss Louise, for fear of looking too presumptuous, yet I certainly couldn’t take him to Sportsgirl, for fear of him trying to enter a change room with me. At this point in my life the closest I had ever gotten to a shopping date was standing with my ex boyfriend in front of the frozen food section in Woolworths, debating whether to buy the yum cha party pack or the family pack sausage rolls, desperately waiting for the serotonin we had chewed through the night before to replenish. Melbourne: The Ecstasy Years… Another story for another time.
Suddenly, I was hit with a stroke of genius and remembered that Sephora was conveniently located just around the corner. He observed as I walked slightly ahead that my gait was like that of a tightrope walker, with one foot placed exactly in front of the other. I found it a funny observation, and laughed inside wondering if he had any idea of the tightrope I felt myself walking, between being myself and being my own creation of womanly perfection. We looked like father and daughter, or even work colleagues. I began to relax a little, this wasn’t so hard after all. We stepped onto the escalator with Sephora in sight, it all seemed so easy until he moved close behind me and placed his hand on my hip. I froze, feeling my skin turn crimson under the layers of perfectly applied makeup. I immediately began to think about how ridiculous we looked. My makeup felt too thick, my skirt too tight, my hair too blonde, I felt altogether too visible. The older man past his prime, and the little doll pretending to hang on his every boring word. “I’m not fucking this old guy” I wanted to yell, “I fuck terribly attractive men my own age, actually”. I thought of all of the things I could and should have been doing instead that day, and wondered how this lark had gotten completely out of hand. I thought of all of the men I would rather be with- the tall musician who could throw me over his shoulder and make my knickers fall off with just a look, the skinny musician with whom I could discuss Shakespere and Molière in between orgasms, the musician I lived a movie with for one day (you’re probably sensing a pattern right about here). I wondered if he could sense the lightening bolt of rigidity that had hit, or whether he was too oblivious or unwilling to care. The escalator ride finally ended after what seemed like an eternity, and I allowed myself to breathe again.
When he didn’t try to hold my hand as we entered the hallowed halls of beauty, I was relieved.