Because of my near kidnapping, I was suddenly in demand amongst the office pool of men. Jude, our graphic design artist for those dreadful brochures, spoke of my bravery to all and sundry even though the alleged kidnapping belonged to the world of fiction. Still I managed to lap up all the attention and secured a few dates from some other desperately seeking thirty somethings.
But I felt nothing for them. Not even the stir of lust enervated my dates and I was growing tired of the world of small talk and double entendre. I was seriously beginning to wonder if my re entrance to the celibate state was deadening my sexuality as I had no interest in self pleasure either. I wondered if my primary chakras were numb from lack of use. Could it be that I was becoming sexless and boring but to the male species this translated as being aloof and mysterious. The sad thing is I was neither.
My selling techniques worked, pushing me up to the top of the ladder of successful sales persons. I appeared diligent and dedicated to the company but the truth was I didnít care a monkeyís toss about profit margins and the growing success of the company. I was using work to escape from thinking irrational or indeed any thoughts and you know what it worked.
For the first time in my life I had decreased my self- absorption by submerging myself in minds other than my own. There was always some domestic problem or other to solve, an errant husband, a difficult child, the mother in law from hell. I think my clients saw me more in the role of social worker cum marriage councillor, a good all round Jim will fix it. Whatever I did or said it worked and not only did they sign up for life policies but they recommended me to friends and neighbours. In no time at all I was up in the running for the cruise to Jamaica, my name affixed with blue tack to the ships sails while some of my fellow colleagues were sinking like the Titanic.
Nonetheless perhaps because I was a people person I hated the company meetings when our successes and failures were openly discussed and dissected. The meetings were akin to the former Gladiator arenas where blood was spilt and the crowd roared for more. The thin veneer of civility cracked here displaying feats of cruelty and barbarism that I would much rather have not been a part of. I was lucky enough to have always sold enough to merit a rip roaring clap and not to be subject to disparaging remarks that cut to the core of a personís soul.
The top sellers were applauded every week."Well done." "Good Girl." "Good Man." Lots of back slapping and cheering and company brainwashing followed. I hated all the crap as I truly felt for those who had failed to sell enough and who sank deeper and deeper into their chairs. Seeing so called grown ups behaving with such disregard for their fellow colleagues made me retaliate in an attempt to salvage whatever dignity they had left. For Christ sake some of these people were my friends. Poor Sean had become such a nervous wreck that heíd developed a stammer and was attending classes on stress management. What the morons at the top of the company pile failed to see is that a happy workforce is a productive workforce and that as long as you make a hierarchy of the sales persons the poor sods at the bottom are grossly undermined.
When I voiced my opinions my ideas were not initially met with derision or scorn as being top sales person seemed to grant me immunity from the company directors who looked on me kindly as some sort of selling protťgť who had to be humoured at all costs.
I suggested pooling our sales for a month and see how that would work on raising the morale of the staff. The blood thirsty selling sharks nearly choked on their chocolate digestives and spluttered profanities into their coffee. They never spoke out directly against me but I knew by their body language that I was regarded as the company eccentric who was more to be humoured rather than a serious source to be reckoned with.
I even suggested that we praise peopleís efforts to sell and not judge the amount of policies they sold. After that I was hauled before one of the company directors, more of a weasel than a man and told basically to keep my ideas to myself as I was making too many people uncomfortable. I did just that. I shut up but I never clapped or smiled at any of the meetings from then on. I just sat there and sulked despite the praise that was being lavished on me from above. I decided there and then once I got to Jamaica I was out of here, in fact I may as well stay there altogether.
Connor who had been absent for two months due to a bout of glandular returned to our office. I missed him as in comparison to the rest of the top sharks he had a human streak that made me instantly warm to him. I liked Connor, he never seemed to cross me or anyone else for that matter. His approach was based on team spirit rather than on individuals pitted like terriers against each other. I never once heard him say a bad word about anyone, which showed integrity in a company that seemed to have so little.
Connor ís interest in me became apparent when Jude told me he had been asking him questions about me, like for instance where did I socialise and if there was a man in my life. The questions were too intimate for him to be only interested in me as a friend. So he liked me. Hmm. Step one. I liked him from the very onset of my staff training programme. So what did I find attractive about him?
- He had major husband potential
- He took peopleís feelings into account
- He looked handsome in his well cut Armani suits, although a bit too perfect to be overtly sexy
- He was organised
- He was happy and positive
- He had a good pensionable job
- He owned his own house
- My mother would worship him.
One evening as I was about to leave Connor saddled up to my desk and asked me if I would like to accompany him to a Russian ballet in the Abbey theatre that weekend. Not wanting to seem too enthusiastic I said Iíd have to check with Assumpta as I believed she had planned a dinner party for the house on that night.
"Just think about it and let me know by tomorrow, wonít you Anna?"
"Yeah sure. Look I appreciate the invite anyway. See you tomorrow Connor," I said as demurely as possible.
I left the building feeling smug and superior in my reticence to this divine man. My heart did a double flip and for a short while I felt suffused with happiness for what reason only destiny would later reveal.
It turned out that I went to the ballet after all and in due course I was wined and dined in the best restaurants in the city. With Connor the dating game was easy. I felt relaxed and at ease in his presence. He was cool and confident by nature although in comparison in the deep recesses of my character I would seem like a stark raving lunatic. But and a huge big at that Connor never saw that side of me. If he witnessed my mood swings and lets just say my unusual ways of seeing things I doubted he would have been as keen. Right now I needed a husband, not a psychologist. My ravings were carefully and tactfully submerged.
After all I had Elliot to confide in and to persuade me that my occasional death wishes were alcohol, cellulite and other people induced. There was nothing at all wrong with my internal world, it was only when it collided with others. When Elliot and Zoe went away for a weekend to Paris he brought me back a postcard to cheer me up. I love it. A Jean Paul Satre saying." Líenfer, cíest les autres" I totally agree--hell is others. I wonder if that means Iím an existentialist and not so self absorbed after all?
Although Connor and I had been dating for a considerable time we were yet to become lovers. Mmmm? It wasnít that I didnít feel like jumping into the sack with him, being curious to try him out but I felt I couldnít jeopardise my master plan. The words of my mother: "All men love a whore but they donít marry them," were engraved at the back of my mind. I know this is the millennium and however progressive and enlightened we think we are some things never change." Plus ca change, plus ca reste la meme" Why else would the John Sterling workshops be so popular, if people didnít need to relearn the fundamental male/female roles?
So I took charge of my sexual drive and held back, not wanting to go any further than some heavy petting and marathon kissing sessions. It was sheer torture for me. I wanted so much to strip off and feel him inside me while I had to make do with some teenage preliminaries to the sex act itself. Connor seemed to respect my desire to guard my virginity and never once forced me into doing anything I wasnít ready to.
One night he told me that I was exactly the sort of girl that men want to marry and whatís more the sort of girl his mother would choose for him. A girl who had respect for herself and who believed in holding out for the right one. After wrestling with my bra strap for over half an hour he finally acquiesced and asked me to marry him. Just like that. Game almost over, victory lay within my grasp. The Gods bless them must have sprinkled their cosmic dust to make Connor see that I was the right one for him.
What is the point in which we fall in love and loose our essential aloneness in the other? Is there one great illuminating moment when all is revealed and you know for certain that without this man you are fundamentally incomplete, a sort of half person destined to wander aimlessly through eternity forever?
I guess you could say that I have been waiting for that moment all my life and now that the time has come it has occurred as a gradual transition from one state of being to another rather than a magical transformation to a higher plateau. But maybe thatís me, over emotional, forever expecting more.
I have to ask myself now if I really loved Connor when I said yes or if I was merely in love with the concept of marriage and finding a suitable mate. There was no enormous sense of achievement, merely an acceptance that this is the way my life was going to play out. Thatís the thing with whirlwind romances, everything happens so quickly that thereís no time to think or feel. All of a sudden I Anna Moran was going to be married and I found myself getting carried away with thoughts of my dream day and the preparation thatís involved. I knew exactly the style of dress I wanted. Now I wonder what material would be best, the most slimming. I had to be perfect if I want to play the leading role. If Assumpta insisted on being a bridesmaid then Iíd bloody make sure she looked like an outsized meringue with a ridiculous hat and a yak to cover her face.
Connor being Connor wanted to do everything properly, including asking my father for my hand in marriage. As he was yet to meet my family I hoped that he wouldnít change his mind once he met the great Moran clan. For once in my life I was behaving in exactly the way my mother would want me to behave and for some strange reason that felt very uncomfortable, so much so that I came out in an inexplicable rash the day before we set off for Dingle.
I did ring my mother and told her I wanted her to meet someone who was very special in my life.
"Who is he? Anyone we know?"
"Connor is my boss at work. HeísÖ"
"Your boss? How old is he?"
"Well Anna we are soo looking forward to seeing you and Connor," she gushed with sickly sweet enthusiasm, knowing full well that if Connor was my boss he was someone to impress, someone who in her eyes would be better than me. Another one of my Mumís theories is that itís best if a girl marries above herself as she will then be elevated to a higher social standing. Whereas if you marry beneath you then itís the chute to the gutter. I tell you itís the confident way she says these things that allow her to get away with them.
Connor arranged everything, from collecting me to making sure I had eaten before we set off. I just left him organise me and as I sank back into the luxury of his Lexus. Ah this was the life. I could see myself as the successful corporate wife getting used to the luxuries of wealth. Connor smiled over at me indulgently, asking me every so often if I was ok, did I want a drink or some gum, only be careful not to throw the wrappers on the ground as he had a special bag for rubbish. Yes Connor had thought about just everything.
The journey whizzed by, green fields, more green fields, cars, people huddled against the wind in the little towns and villages we passed through. Inside in the graduated heat of the car I didnít have to bother about the Irish weather, although normally it sends me into fit of despair. Ireland and her forty shades of grey is not for the melancholic minded amongst us.
As we crossed over the Kerry mountains I began to dread my familyís reaction to Connor. It wasnít that I thought they wouldnít accept him as a suitable choice, rather the contrary. They would love him but could I live with that?
"You must be Connor. Welcome to Our home." I could see her eyes calculating the value of the magnificent car that had pulled into her driveway. She wrestled with the car door on the driverís side and practically grabbed the poor unsuspecting Connor from the car.
"Mrs Moran very pleased to meet you," said Connor although he seemed a little taken aback by my motherís tactile approach. His family in comparison are a lot more emotionally restrained. Whereas my family are into big slobbery kisses and crushing bear hugs his family have gentle pecks on proffered cheeks with little or no bodily contact. How on earth was he going to cope with my effervescent clan?
"We can dispense with the formalities Connor. Do call me Una," she said as she led him into the house while barking at me to bring in the bags. I had so far not succeeded in moving up a notch in the family pecking order. Not in the least.
Connor was all but hauled into the sitting room where every member of my tribe was waiting for his arrival. I could see Nuala eyeing him up and for a few seconds I felt as though I could step inside her skin and see Connor through her eyes. He was impeccably dressed, with expensive shoes, solid gold watch, his accent bordering on the Dublin 4 twang, and his manners faultless. And as I watched her watching him my hatred for Nuala seemed to escalate disproportionately to what was happening. I knew sheís like him and for some strange unfathomable reason I felt a seething anger bubble up inside me. Of course I was ignored by her in favour of this Adonis who had walked into their lives and validated their conservative beliefs in one swoop. For once in my life I was conforming to what they would want for me. What the fuck was I doing?
I noticed Gran Aunt Mollyís absence from the house. My mother later informed me that she had been shipped off to Uncle Frankís house in Ballyferriter for the weekend. She had to let on to Molly that the decorators were coming in to do some work and sheíd be better off away from all the noise and hassle. Still I missed her from the house as she has always been a part of the family.
My Mother as usual dominated the entire conversation. She filled Connor in on any missing gaps of my existence, like the time I bite the parish priest when I wanted to taste the real blood of Christ and the time I black washed the school walls because I wanted to be suspended for a few days so I could go to a concert in Slane castle.
Oh yes he was treated to my rebellious indiscretions alright, perhaps because my mother liked Connor and wanted him to know what I was really like. But Connor patted my hand indulgently under the table. He was going to love me regardless of my petty misdemeanours. However my fleeting moment of joy at that thought was instantly replaced by the thought that if Connor only had an inkling of my promiscuous past I wonder if he would be as forgiving?
Saturday night in the Moran household is mixed grill night. The term fry up is for the less enlightened members of our society, those who frequent the town chippy after hours and who leave the crusts on their sandwiches. My mother started drooning on so much about the black pudding one would think she had personally donated her own blood to make them. I equate eating black and white pudding with the women who chose to eat their own placenta. Thatís how adverse I am to eating the stuff, plus the fact that itís made from pigs blood and I cannot for the life of me ever eat anything belonging to a pig. I only eat the animals that I donít like.
"White or black, Connor? Sure a little bit of both will do you the world of good."
My mother and Connor created a mutual bonding over the differences between black and white pudding, eggs sunny side up or scrambled and French toast. I just listened to them and remained on the periphery of their little domestic exchanges. I mean how was I to know there was more than two ways of cooking an egg. Why go to so much trouble over food when in a few minutes itíd be eaten and then there was the wash up that went along with all the cooking. Personally the best way to eat an egg is raw whisked into a little orange juice, excellent cure for a hangover and the only wash up is a cup. Howís that for efficiency?
I could see Nuala eyeing Connor as she toyed with her mixed grill, hanging on to his every word like a St Bernard puppy. Yeuch. Not once did she look in my direction. Oh no I was hardly even deserving of her attention, after all I was just Anna in her eyes and I shuddered to think what version of me appeared before her. Nuala has always been so judgemental of me and my life style. All my life its been " Anna you are like so irresponsible," or "Anna, how can you be so stupid?" or "Anna, why do you have to destroy everything?" If I assimilated her version of me into my character my sense of self would have reached freezing point by now and I would probably have disassociated into insanity. As it is I hover precariously on the brink, trusting that somehow destiny will prevent anything too serious and full blown from ever happening to me.
My family notably my mother adored Connor. My Dad bless him only wanted me to be happy with whoever Iíd be with but it was my Mother who wanted us all to be enmeshed in this cocoon of happiness and bonhomie. I felt stifled by her gushing enthusiasm and her fawning over Connor as though she was personally responsible for claiming him as a prospective son in law. To make matters worse Nuala of the stony heart and retentive soul also loved Connor and he actually liked her. The Gods were showing very ominous signs indeed.
Yes I did say that I loved him. I wasnít that mercenary. If love meant that I was happy when he was around and that I felt comfortable and secure then yes I did love him. But the love I felt for Connor did not come from the depths of my soul and I realised this as I went for a walk on my own on Fionn Tra. There were many outside factors supporting Connor as my choice of husband, yet in some way I felt there was something missing. Still I guess all women must feel the same donít they?
It was a crescent moon that night nestling in a crimsom sling. I love the moon, have no interest in travelling there in the least but I love the fact that its always there, a constant traveller on my path. Some say that the moon is our source of inspiration, the goddess of our emotions. So what say you moon? Is he the one or am I deluding myself just for the sake of getting married? Thatís the thing about picking one man out of millions even billions on this planet. Do we have a choice or is he foisted on us by destinyís wand?
Why Connor and not someone else? Venus cast your light on my path bathing me in your interpretation of my destiny. Venus planet of love and beauty give me a sign that Iím on the right path. Lets face it some world leaders look to the stars and configurations of planets for help in making decisions so why not me? But if he was the one would I even be asking this question in the first place? Is true love ever beyond reasonable doubt?
Inwardly I cursed my complicated deliberating mind for creating cerebral obstacles to darken my future happiness. Of course Connor had to be the one. He was going to be a good husband, a kind father and a supportive man in my life. What more could I possibly want? What gave me the right or the audacity to want more? I should be grateful for having the good fortune of finding a good man at my age just as I was reaching what in Ireland seems to be oneís sell by date.
Did I have enough resources to go out there and seek someone better? How long would that take and what were the chances of that happening again? No thatís it my mind is made up. I am getting married to Connor and I will be happy. No more nonsense about Venus and crescent moons and any of that fanciful emotional self talk. Letís face it where does it lead me only into tormentation and confusion. I need to be focused from now on, focused and certain. Connor is the one.
I returned to find Connor in the centre of the family fold watching Blind Date. He didnít look as though he needed rescuing, not at all. In fact he seemed happy and relaxed and more at home than I could ever feel. There was no bickering on his behalf which must have pleased my father enormously. For once my family were bordering on Waltonesque behaviour, smiling, making polite conversation and passing round the pringles in a clockwise direction. There was no " Look at the cut of yer man. Heís brutal." No the family script had been altered to take into account our guest, who in my motherís eyes had to also be reeled in by the family.
Nuala on her best telephone and expert on all subjects voice was discussing the pros and cons of blind dating in todayís current climate.
"I mean you canít be too safe today can you. After all even if you know a guy and he asks you out how well do you know him after all. Can you imagine never having set eyes on him before and agreeing to go out with him?" She intoned while gazing into Connor ís eyes as he hung onto her every word.
"Yes, yes well you canít be too careful today what with all the muggings and attacks on people. Always best to get to know someone first before you take the plunge and ask them out. You can never be too safe, thatís my motto." he replied.
His reply almost had Nuala writhing in ecstasy. Safe. Whats this about safe? What about spontaneity and throwing caution to the wind? Unbridled passion and impulse shopping? Going with the flow and feeling the power of freedom in your breast? Maybe working in insurance does rub off on you after a few years of service. Gone is seeing life as I can do through rosy spectacles to be replaced by a cautious and suspicious outlook to the world. Maybe in some way the soul is corrupted in this line of work with the result that the person becomes thwarted in his world vision. Is this my fate if I stay in this line of work? Will I begin to watch what I say and take to looking behind me in case Iím being followed by some crazed axe murderer who has nothing better to do than hack me to death and bury me in the Wicklow mountains. Maybe I should discuss with prospective killer that Iíve opted for cremation so would he mind throwing some petrol on me when Iím dead of course and burning my mortal remains. See what happens when I start mixing my paranoia with thoughts of safety.
"Mr and Mrs Moran, can I talk to you somewhere private?" asked Connor when he saw that my mother was nodding off on her chair.
"What, oh yes Connor of course, lets retire to the front sitting room."
My mother had to practically puke my father into responding to Connor ís wishes as he was comatose on the chair having surreptitiously drank some of the Remy Martin that Connor had bought him. Drink goes straight to his head poor man but it gives him some welcome release from his family. My mother ushered the four of us into the front sitting room, normally reserved for her parish cronies and their monthly gossip seasons and cream teas.
My heart started to pound uncontrollably. For this was the moment my mother had never thought she would live to see and which was now just about to be delivered. Connor squeezed my hand, a nice reassuring squeeze. I had to bit my lip and stop my tears from falling. Mother was going to be so proud, so happy and it was all to be because of me.
"Mr and Mrs Moran now this may come as a surprise to you but Anna and I have known each other for over 6 months now, and I believe I found the girl that I want to spend the rest of my life with. I want to ask you both for her hand in marriage, if thatís ok with you." said Connor a little bit too deferentially for my liking. What about stealing me form the bosom of my family and riding off into the sunset. No I guess not.
My mother burst into tears, not tears of sadness but ones of extreme happiness and of course relief. In relation to me I guess that is one of her favourite emotions. Her daughter was at last being taken down from the shelf to be dusted and handed over to her future son in law. Strange but it was my motherís reaction I was mostly interested in. All of my life I had wished for her approval but had to date only succeeded in back peddling away from it. Now was my chance to redeem myself. My Dad on the other hand is the sort who would be happy with no matter what I did but I could tell he was happy with the effect all of this was having on my mother. He congratulated us both while informally welcoming Connor into the Moran clan. The house of Moran and FitzPatrick were soon to be joined in holy matrimony.
It makes you think you know, this conjoining of the clans, the meshing of the ancient tribes, the mingling of the genes. Moran is a true Irish name whereas Fitzpatrick is a Norman name, meaning bastard son of Patrick. Perhaps I have the purer genes which might tie in with my born again virgin status state. Somehow I doubt it. If Connor only knew about the real me I wonder if heíd be as eager. I certainly donít think so. Connor had fallen in love with a fictitious me. Anna the vestal virgin, future mother of his children, the perfect woman to tie in with his perfect life. How could the real me ever have found someone like him?