Contents

Anna's Odyssey

CHAPTER NINE

 

        I am beginning to feel like Kim Bassinger in nine and a half weeks. No I am not having earth shattering sex or being smeared with strawberries as we become one. Not in the least but what I have noticed is that this is how long it lasts. A relationships that is. Without sex this is the ceiling for the length of time that I can cope with some of these so called men. Honestly it makes me think that without sex as the primary binding agent there is nothing else. A complete void in most cases.

         Take Nigel for instance. I met him at Charlotte O Connors 21st out in Dalkey. Heís tall, reasonable good looking, quiet, unassuming, respectable, clever with numbers and smells lovely and clean. Iíd swear he uses baby soap and maybe thatís what I found attractive about him in the first place. The smell of vulnerability and the age of innocence must be a real turn on in my born again virgin state. I was on my very best Anna Moran behaviour that night. I underdressed if anything in a pale pink dress that gave a hint of cleavage but not a full blown totally revealing tittie top. Revealing my assets is a big no no when I am trying to act demure and hard to get. I was commencing my husband hunt so consequently had to present myself accordingly.

         When I arrived Charlotteís house it was literally jointed with people, the front door wide open, people milling out into the front garden, music blaring, nobody I recognised. It took me ages to find Charlotte, and when I did she was so ossified she thought I was one of her cousins called Shelley from the States. She introduced me to her equally ossified entourage in this very loud slurred voice. Of course she disappeared after she realised that Shelley was already there leaving me with a serious case of mistaken identity.

         "Hi Iím Anna. " I said to the next human who passed and that human happened to be Nigel.

         "Hi Iím Nigel, would you like a drink?"

         "Oh yes, a spring water" I gushed at what I perceived at the time to be this handsome baby smelling good looking creature. Anna Moran here, doesnít drink, smoke or fuck until he says I do and she says why not just as she sheds her goodie image and lights up a joint.

        Good job weíve lost our ability to be telepathic for I would have to be seriously reprogrammed.

         Nigel returns with drinks in tow and sits down opposite me, eager to make small talk. Nigel is an accountant, tick. Nigel doesnít drink much two ticks, Nigel owns his own house in Howth three ticks. Nigelís mother died when he was a baby 1000 ticks. Iím not being heartless when I give this such a high score but an Irish man with a living breathing mother who panders to her sonís needs is frighteningly incompetent. Whereas a man without a mother is in a perpetual state of longing and gratitude. I like that.

         Nigelís nasal tone fades into the background as he discusses the latest scientific breakthrough for cancer. All I had to do was interject with the occasional "fascinating" and "Isnít that great". Inwardly I was singing a song from Bob Marley and spotting alternative talent. Of course nobody is perfect so we have to compromise. I have a friend who works with Relate and compromise is their word du jour. Decide there and then that compromise in this case would involve wearing ear plugs or better still gagging Nigel. All in my own good time as they say.

         Without alcohol this party was an endurance test. All around me people were laughing hysterically in what seemed to be 6 decibels above the norm. The music was of the boom boom variety that necessitated being seriously drugged to the point of departing from this earthly plane entirely. It sounded like the bin men clattering the bins to a hypnotic stupefying beat. What with that and listening to Nigel droon on and on I felt like flushing myself or Nigel, yeah Nigel down the toilet. They really should make toilets big enough for that. See what the absence of alcohol is making me do? Think horrible toilet murderous thoughts. Just when I thought I could escape from Nigel and find refuge in the loo, maybe take a bubble bath and sing a few verses of Bob Marley to cheer me up I found myself at the brunt of mistaken intention.

         One girl that I vaguely recognised from accounts fell down the stairs backwards and I in my sober as a judge state thought she was dead. She looked dead alright with her head lolling over to one side and blood oozing from her mouth. Nobody else seemed to notice so they partied on as though bodies flying downstairs were common place at parties like this. To me this was major ER emergency. Make way for Anna. No she is not a medic but she is of sound sober mind and knows the preliminaries of CPR. I suddenly felt very powerful, in charge and intent on bringing Louise back to life. I rolled up my sleeves and knelt down beside her somewhat inert body. First things first, Pulse? Where is her pulse? I couldnít feel a pulse. Aaahh Whatís next? I tried to recall the previous episode of ER when Dr Mark tried to resuscitate a drowned boy. Right stay cool Anna. I open my mouth to prepare for the ordeal but I have to open her mouth too. I bend over and part her orange lipsticked lips and blow. No response. Whatís next? I think I have to press her chest but her rather enormous mammaries rather impede my progress. Iíve begun to sweat profusely in desperation and make a last ditched attempt to heave them out of the way. At this stage I start to shout for help but nobody seemed to heed my cries. Nigel just stands there staring gormlessly at my attempts at CPR unaware that this was a life and death situation. Like hello.

         But she was not dead, far from it. She suddenly changed from a limp bundle of bones to a raging mad woman frothing at the mouth and accusing me of trying to shift her. She got up and started to really thump me hard. Not a slap but thumps that made me loose my breath and wish I was at home eating some of my motherís comforting lamb casserole. Cold sober I was horrified and frightened but Nigel saved the day by stepping in between me and the bashee from hell. My hero. I felt I owed him one electing to stay with him until the end of the night.

         Being conscious and aware is a frightening experience when one is surrounded by insanity. There were people dancing like zombies, eyes fixed staring into space their movements contrived and wooden. Others danced like octopuses, legs and arms flaying indiscriminately in all directions. Normally I like to dance, even make a fool of myself but tonight I felt too inhibited, too much on guard, hell I was trying to make a good impression. But I felt miserable and shut off from the spirit of the party, trying to be polite to the ever so proper Nigel. I knew this wasnít normal but I had to stick to my plan.

         Iíll say that about him, Nigel liked to talk but I wished it was something that interested me like soccer or movies Iíd seen or ones Iíd like to see. He droned on about Tony Blairís handling of the fuel crisis and how the governmentís revenue from fuel went to pay for essentials like the maintenance of the roads and motorways in the country and blah blah blah. Thankfully I was only half listening to him giving me a chance to hear what others were saying about what and to whom. But in Nigelís eyes I was being attentive and passively demure, smiling occasionally, nodding, turning my head to the right and to the left in military precision, throwing in the odd question or two to make him feel I was interested in what he was saying. In truth I was bored and longed for the party to show some sign of disintegrating so I could escape home to bed. Imagine me Anna wishing that. Instead of slowing down, Nigel became more animated and loquacious as the night went on. Blah, blah, blah. Some of the time I hadnít a clue what he was talking about but he cared not.

         Little by little I began to realise that by feigning interest I was in fact helping to validate Nigelís existence, making him feel important and hence more powerful. In this age of increasing diminution of male supremacy I was merely pandering to Nigelís insecurities allowing him to attune to his maleness and sense of personal power. I think I read somewhere that when you allow a man to express his sense of maleness he is forever indebted to you and there is nothing he wonít do for you. It didnít say anything about having to suffer terminal boredom in the process. Who the hell writes these books?

         Charlotte stumbled into the hall followed by a crowd of girlfriends. I think someone must have hacked her hair with a blunt scissors for her former locks were now gone to be replaced by tufts that stuck out from all angles. Someone had sprayed her hair with a bright red dye and decorated it with some silver and gold tinsel. She was destroyed but remained blissfully unaware of how she looked to the world. In her drunken state she probably thought she was amazingly fabulous.

         "I want James" She bawled. " Whereís James? I want him nowwww. "

         A so called friend of hers probably the bitch who cut her hair spoke. "Heís upstairs darling waiting for you in your bedroom"

         "Way to go Charlotte" this haggle of girls screamed as Charlotte dashed upstairs in hot pursuit of James. She looked like a woman possessed the way she took three steps at a time. Isnít it amazing how invincible you feel with the power of drink. I hoped this James guy was worth the effort but wasnít Charlotte going out with Mark Delaney, one of the companyís auditors? I think he had come down with a flu the day before so he couldnít make the party but that didnít mean sheíd go off with someone else, would it?

         Suddenly there was a massive exodus upstairs and I saw a crowd gather round one of the bedrooms. Nigel was now talking about how Irelandís economy was guaranteed stability being tied into the Euro and low interest rates.

         "Excuse me Nigel. You donít mind if I use the ladies do you "

         "Not at all, go ahead. Iíll get us some more mineral waters"

         I could hardly wait. Desperately in need of some serious entertainment I dashed upstairs to encounter what can only be described as a crowd of spectators staring in mute fascination into the bedroom. I could hear a lot of grunting and moaning. Surely not, oh my Gawd surely not Charlotte with James. I had to crawl down on all fours to eventually gain access to the room through a pair of some Scotís hairy legs. I hoped the Scots wore underwear with kilts but it was rather late to be worrying about that as my head poked through to see what all the fuss was about.

         What I saw I will never forget. Ever. Crystal clear memory is the curse of the sober and neurotic. James was on top doing what could only be called as screwing the past out drunken Charlotte. Honestly the creep must be into whatís it called, necrophilia, screwing the dead. All of a sudden as though she awoke from her cataconic state Charlotte averted her gaze towards her gob smacked audience. She actually started to wave and to smile as if it was the most natural thing in the world and joined in with the act as though she had always been present. It was disgusting and demeaning to Charlotte, imagine her friends allowing that to go on. What sort of creep was James? I watched him as he got up, stepped back into his trousers and left the bedroom to the applause of his friends. They slapped him on the back and cheered him as if heíd scored a winning goal in the world cup. I could see where she was attracted to him for James had the rugged good looks and toned body of a rugby player but the guy was a prize bastard taking advantage of Charlotte like that.

         James grinned sheepishly as he swaggered down stairs while poor crazy drunken Charlotte turned her face to the wall and began to sob. Nobody seemed to give a damn as they were too drunk to see beyond the fun so it was up to me to wrap her in a blanket and close the door to let her sleep it off and face what ever consequences in the morning. I felt guilty because for a few seconds I had enjoyed being a voyeur of a real life sex show and I sickened to think I was no better than the rest of them. Honestly being sober should come with a government health warning.

         I came downstairs and decided to leave before I got drawn into anyone elseís crazy drama. Nigel was most insistent I gave him my number so I scribbled it on a mangled piece of a cigarette box. He gave me a sisterly peck on the cheek which wasnít bad as pecks go I guess. In comparison to everyone else that night he seemed decent and honourable and to atone for my actions I decided I would give Nigel a chance, yes I would meet him again and I would redouble my efforts to be nice to him. Being the perfect gentleman that he was Nigel ordered a taxi for me and when it arrived he opened the door for me and I disappeared thankfully inside. The taxi driver was in a jocular mood but my monosyllabic replies deterred his intrusion into my thoughts which were thrown back to that night all those years ago when I too did something that I was afterwards deeply ashamed of. I could have stopped James. I could have ran in there and pulled him off Charlotte but I remained as a mute bystander taking it all in and witnessing her shame.

         Horror of horrors Assumpta had returned that night with a vengeance. The floors must have been vacuumed on arrival and furniture polish sprayed every where. I glanced surreptitiously into the lounge where she sat with a puss on her opposite Mickey. I sort of half wondered if she had brought me a present but thought better of asking as I observed her stony face. It looked like the two of them had polished off a giant bottle of champagne that tottered precariously on the glass table between them. The atmosphere was hushed and strained reminding me of a scene from whoís afraid of Virginia Wolff if you get my drift. Neither spoke so I crept past them into the kitchen where Harry and Elliot were eating a bowl of cereal. Thank God for comforting bowls of cereals. I got a sudden urge to have a good old crunch to take my mind off everything.

         Incidentally Harry was out of hospital in a day. Seems they had to give him some anti inflammatory drug to take down the swelling. He was advised by that horribly incredibly rude to Anna Dr Clarke to get himself a real woman who knew how to arouse him. Do not look at me Harry. I personally think he should get a blow up doll for practice runs but I havenít the heart to make that suggestion yet. Maybe when he pulls out of his present despondent mood Iíll send off for one for him. I wonder if they are all one sized or all different colours. What do you fancy Harry? Oriental? No? Black? Caucasian with standard or super boobs. How do they choose?

         Harry got up in what seemed to be mid crunch and said goodnight. I think he gets embarrassed around me but I havenít said a word to anyone. I wouldnít. Elliot seemed a bit subdued but then thatís his artistic temperament.

        "Whereís the delectable Zoe tonight?"

        "Dunno" he said.

         "I thought you two were an item."

         "Not a regular item. Whenever she wants sex weíre an item."

         "Well if thatís what turns you on go for it," I say between mouthfuls of cheerios.

         "Itís not a question of being turned on Anna. A guy sometimes just needs uncomplicated sex," Elliot said by way of explanation.

         "And Zoe?" I ask in a defensive female tone.

         Elliot turned towards me and looked at me for a while before he spoke.

         "Zoe is a self centred nymph whose sole aim is gratification of herself," he almost spat. "We have a mutual understanding that works because its only sex."

        "Jesus I only asked. No need to bit my head off" I said.

         "Sorry Iím just not in a very good mood right now. I lost my gig at McDades. That paid my rent so looks like Iíll have to do a stint as a taxi driver or maybe go on the building sites again."

         "Youíll find something" I say as I go over and sit beside him. We sit there in silence a while.

         "Thankís Anna for listening, you know."

         "Donít be silly. Thatís what friends are for" I say as I ruffle his soft silky hair." Whereís Cecil?" I ask trying to change the subject.

         "In bed. Jesus I hate sharing a room with the guy. Heís a fucking Alien cos he sure as hell isnít human," Elliot groans.

         "Well he hates me too but the feeling is mutual," I say laughingly.

         "Lets have a drink Anna, I really need one and you donít have to pretend with me. "

         "Why not. Whatís left in the fridge?"

         "Some Belgian beers or a bottle of Australian white wine that Cecil bought for Assumpta as a home coming present?

         "Wine!" we both say in unison.

         So we turn off the harsh fluorescent lights and I light a candle and we drink the forbidden wine. We discuss the half man half alien Cecil.

         "Did you know that he only showers once a week?" Elliot confides in a conspiratorial tone.

         "Get away!" I say equally incredulously.

         "Yeah he just washes his privates for the rest of the week. Do you know the face towel."

         "You mean the pink one. Oh fuck, fuck, fuck, Iíve used that to take off my make up on more than one occasion. I canít believe it."

         Elliot howls uncontrollably which makes me think heís lying but Iím not touching that face cloth again.

         "Have you noticed how he eats the same food every day, bird seed muesli and alternative dinners of pasta and chicken and rice and bolognaise."

         "No I hadnít noticed but then again I hardly look at the guy. He gives me the creeps. You notice everything Elliot."

         "So would you if you had to share a room with him. He doesnít speak, he moans and complains and by all accounts masturbates to music"

         "Does he say anything about me?" I say suddenly agog with morbid fascination with what men say to men even if one of them is an alien.

        "He thinks youíre a lazy slob, an alcoholic and you laugh too much. He also thinks you eat the wrong food and you should go on a diet andÖÖ"

         "Shut up I donít want to know anymore. The bastard. Who does he think he is. " I say in defence of all his accusations. " I hope you stand up for me " I say pleadingly.

         "Now what would I say. Anna is very industrious, sheís a born again teetotaller when it suits her and she is on a full fat diet because her ancestors were Innuits."

         We scream with laughter. I would love to have been an Innuit. Honestly it seems like an easier alternative to my current dilemma. Match making provided husbands. No agonising decisions, just say I do to the first hunky fur lined jacket that crosses your path. I could accompany my beloved on fishing expeditions and sledge across the crisp virginal white snow. I could sleep with my man in an igloo and eat lots of full fat foods to keep us warm on those dark winter nights.

         Elliot says that I am too slim to be an Innuit. I want to kiss his confirmation of my thin cells. Bless you Elliot.

         "Cecil doesnít believe in sex before marriage either. He wants to do it the Catholic way. Just like you Anna," says Elliot in a somewhat sarcastic tone.

         "Iím not like that. I have had sex you know. Itís just right now Iím on a break until I find the right one," I retort defensively.

        "Ha, ha, you and Cecil are alike, he thinks the same way you do. Maybe you should get together," he laughs.

         "We are not alike Iím telling you. I wouldnít fancy him in a million years. Iíd cut off my hair and wear ash cloth or eat grass before Iíd touch his miserably puny body. And if I found the right one I would sleep with him before marriage. So there. " I whinge." In fact I miss sleeping next to somebody. I get tired at times of being so self sustaining and good. Itís not me."

         "Ahah the real Anna speaks. Do tell. You know Iím sworn to secrecy," he says crossing his heart.

         "I hardly know who the real Anna is anymore. Sheís the one who used to live for the day. No thought of consequences, serious pleasure seeker, funny person, happy person, well sort of happy. Terribly misunderstood by family and most of the men I hooked up with. Used to live by her own set of rules and live in a rich fantasy world fuelled by her crazy thoughts and dreams," I say in a whisper.

         "So what happened?" Elliot asks.

         "The dream died. I realised I was on a fools journey to nowhere. Maybe I grew up and started to think about my priorities."

         "Which are?"

         "To find my destiny, my future husband, true love, happiness. "

         "Well I think youíre still funny and crazy but you donít reveal that side of you easily. Donít try too hard Anna cos somebody must love you as you are and not how they think you should be. " Elliot advises.

         "Nobody would love me as I am. I want to find a husband Elliot and I will be as chameleon like as I need to be until I find one. Itís ok for a guy but my biological clock tells me I need to find him soon." I say.

         "Well if you want to live a lie to get what you want then by all means go ahead. Do you honestly think that will give you happiness in the long run. Thatís sad Anna. Itís not just sad. Itís fucking pathetic" he slurs.

         "Iím not living a lie. Iím just modifying who I am as a means to an end. Iím not pathetic. If anyoneís pathetic itís you Elliot. Youíre with Zoe for Christ sake. What does that say about you?

         "I am not pretending to be anything other than what I am. Zoe and I have sex. Thatís it. We are both consenting adults and there are no lies ar false misapprehensions. Youíre the hypocrite Anna, not me."

         "All I am doing is trying to have a bit of respect for myself and you are admonishing me for being a hypocrite. What would you prefer I do? Continue to screw the guys I meet and use and be used. Why should I? I want more. I want a husband who loves and respects me and..do not interrupt me, a womanís need for a husband is tied into her biological need for a nest for her off spring."

         Elliot thinks a while before he delivers his punch line.

         "Anna having respect for who you are is not just tied into sex. By all means play your little games to get your man and nest but respect is about being happy with who you are and others tune into that. I donít disrespect a girl who has sex with me. But I would have no respect for a girl who is not true to herself"

         "So what youíre saying you son of a bitch is you have no respect for me cos you think Iím living a lie. Well Iíll tell you something for nothing Elliot at least Iím trying to improve and grow up and take responsibility. For your information I am who I am. Iím just modifying my natural tendencies as a means to getting what I want. Fuck you Elliot."

         "Fuck you too Anna Moran, whoever it is you are."

         I sit there seething wanting to samurai Elliot. He just smiles as if nothing has happened while I feel I have undergone a character assassination. I feel very wounded and in desperate need of retaliation. But I use my female guile instead of a head on confrontation.

         "I thought you were my friend," I manage to say in my most contrite sad voice.

         "Yeah I am but I feel sad that you have to feel you have to pretend in order to get what you want. Maybe Iím a stupid romantic but I think true love sees with the heart and loves faults and all."

         "Elliot You can stuff your idealistic jargon. It doesnít work not where Iím concerned. I was myself before and I got nowhere. Nowhere. Nobody wanted me long term. Now Iíve become more realistic and realise to succeed I need to project the image people want. Itís a bit like marketing really. You give the man what it is he wants in a wife and then heís in hot pursuit. Iím not the only woman who does this Elliot." I shout as have decided that sad soft tone is ineffective.

         "Just as I thought. You women are in league with the fucking devil to get what you want. It doesnít work Anna, not in the end. Maybe thatís why the divorce rate has increased. You marry a woman and then she undergoes a rapid personality change. You scratch the surface and what you think was there vanishes along with the dream of true love. Men are fooled big time," he sighs.

         "I think the whole charade also applies to men. Theyíre the ones who reel us in with their soft talk, attention, flowers, gifts and then zero. Your sex is also to blame you conceited bastard" I scream like a woman possessed.

         "Iím going to bed Anna, leave it. We canít agree so truce ok?"

         Thatís what I hate about Elliot. He can just detach and diffuse as if at will. Whereas I take everything personally and right now I want war, blood, guts, hostages. I will go to bed but I will replay our conversation all night long. Iíll be talking and answering my little numskulls until dawn while he sleeps like a baby. I decide there and then I hate all men, especially Elliot. How dare he make assumptions about how I should be. This is the new Anna. Like her or fuck off and leave her in peace. Tomorrow IĎm starting my new career as an Insurance Consultant. Elliot can drop dead, see if I give a shit. After all Iíve got Nigel and even if I go out with him as an act of penance for once Iíll be going out with a decent guy who thinks Iím worthy of respect. Iím glad I didnít tell Elliot about tonight. Heíd gloat and tell me I was no better than the rest of them which was true really but I couldnít face him knowing that now could I?

 

next...

Contents

Anna's Odyssey

CHAPTER NINE

 

        I am beginning to feel like Kim Bassinger in nine and a half weeks. No I am not having earth shattering sex or being smeared with strawberries as we become one. Not in the least but what I have noticed is that this is how long it lasts. A relationships that is. Without sex this is the ceiling for the length of time that I can cope with some of these so called men. Honestly it makes me think that without sex as the primary binding agent there is nothing else. A complete void in most cases.

         Take Nigel for instance. I met him at Charlotte O Connors 21st out in Dalkey. Heís tall, reasonable good looking, quiet, unassuming, respectable, clever with numbers and smells lovely and clean. Iíd swear he uses baby soap and maybe thatís what I found attractive about him in the first place. The smell of vulnerability and the age of innocence must be a real turn on in my born again virgin state. I was on my very best Anna Moran behaviour that night. I underdressed if anything in a pale pink dress that gave a hint of cleavage but not a full blown totally revealing tittie top. Revealing my assets is a big no no when I am trying to act demure and hard to get. I was commencing my husband hunt so consequently had to present myself accordingly.

         When I arrived Charlotteís house it was literally jointed with people, the front door wide open, people milling out into the front garden, music blaring, nobody I recognised. It took me ages to find Charlotte, and when I did she was so ossified she thought I was one of her cousins called Shelley from the States. She introduced me to her equally ossified entourage in this very loud slurred voice. Of course she disappeared after she realised that Shelley was already there leaving me with a serious case of mistaken identity.

         "Hi Iím Anna. " I said to the next human who passed and that human happened to be Nigel.

         "Hi Iím Nigel, would you like a drink?"

         "Oh yes, a spring water" I gushed at what I perceived at the time to be this handsome baby smelling good looking creature. Anna Moran here, doesnít drink, smoke or fuck until he says I do and she says why not just as she sheds her goodie image and lights up a joint.

        Good job weíve lost our ability to be telepathic for I would have to be seriously reprogrammed.

         Nigel returns with drinks in tow and sits down opposite me, eager to make small talk. Nigel is an accountant, tick. Nigel doesnít drink much two ticks, Nigel owns his own house in Howth three ticks. Nigelís mother died when he was a baby 1000 ticks. Iím not being heartless when I give this such a high score but an Irish man with a living breathing mother who panders to her sonís needs is frighteningly incompetent. Whereas a man without a mother is in a perpetual state of longing and gratitude. I like that.

         Nigelís nasal tone fades into the background as he discusses the latest scientific breakthrough for cancer. All I had to do was interject with the occasional "fascinating" and "Isnít that great". Inwardly I was singing a song from Bob Marley and spotting alternative talent. Of course nobody is perfect so we have to compromise. I have a friend who works with Relate and compromise is their word du jour. Decide there and then that compromise in this case would involve wearing ear plugs or better still gagging Nigel. All in my own good time as they say.

         Without alcohol this party was an endurance test. All around me people were laughing hysterically in what seemed to be 6 decibels above the norm. The music was of the boom boom variety that necessitated being seriously drugged to the point of departing from this earthly plane entirely. It sounded like the bin men clattering the bins to a hypnotic stupefying beat. What with that and listening to Nigel droon on and on I felt like flushing myself or Nigel, yeah Nigel down the toilet. They really should make toilets big enough for that. See what the absence of alcohol is making me do? Think horrible toilet murderous thoughts. Just when I thought I could escape from Nigel and find refuge in the loo, maybe take a bubble bath and sing a few verses of Bob Marley to cheer me up I found myself at the brunt of mistaken intention.

         One girl that I vaguely recognised from accounts fell down the stairs backwards and I in my sober as a judge state thought she was dead. She looked dead alright with her head lolling over to one side and blood oozing from her mouth. Nobody else seemed to notice so they partied on as though bodies flying downstairs were common place at parties like this. To me this was major ER emergency. Make way for Anna. No she is not a medic but she is of sound sober mind and knows the preliminaries of CPR. I suddenly felt very powerful, in charge and intent on bringing Louise back to life. I rolled up my sleeves and knelt down beside her somewhat inert body. First things first, Pulse? Where is her pulse? I couldnít feel a pulse. Aaahh Whatís next? I tried to recall the previous episode of ER when Dr Mark tried to resuscitate a drowned boy. Right stay cool Anna. I open my mouth to prepare for the ordeal but I have to open her mouth too. I bend over and part her orange lipsticked lips and blow. No response. Whatís next? I think I have to press her chest but her rather enormous mammaries rather impede my progress. Iíve begun to sweat profusely in desperation and make a last ditched attempt to heave them out of the way. At this stage I start to shout for help but nobody seemed to heed my cries. Nigel just stands there staring gormlessly at my attempts at CPR unaware that this was a life and death situation. Like hello.

         But she was not dead, far from it. She suddenly changed from a limp bundle of bones to a raging mad woman frothing at the mouth and accusing me of trying to shift her. She got up and started to really thump me hard. Not a slap but thumps that made me loose my breath and wish I was at home eating some of my motherís comforting lamb casserole. Cold sober I was horrified and frightened but Nigel saved the day by stepping in between me and the bashee from hell. My hero. I felt I owed him one electing to stay with him until the end of the night.

         Being conscious and aware is a frightening experience when one is surrounded by insanity. There were people dancing like zombies, eyes fixed staring into space their movements contrived and wooden. Others danced like octopuses, legs and arms flaying indiscriminately in all directions. Normally I like to dance, even make a fool of myself but tonight I felt too inhibited, too much on guard, hell I was trying to make a good impression. But I felt miserable and shut off from the spirit of the party, trying to be polite to the ever so proper Nigel. I knew this wasnít normal but I had to stick to my plan.

         Iíll say that about him, Nigel liked to talk but I wished it was something that interested me like soccer or movies Iíd seen or ones Iíd like to see. He droned on about Tony Blairís handling of the fuel crisis and how the governmentís revenue from fuel went to pay for essentials like the maintenance of the roads and motorways in the country and blah blah blah. Thankfully I was only half listening to him giving me a chance to hear what others were saying about what and to whom. But in Nigelís eyes I was being attentive and passively demure, smiling occasionally, nodding, turning my head to the right and to the left in military precision, throwing in the odd question or two to make him feel I was interested in what he was saying. In truth I was bored and longed for the party to show some sign of disintegrating so I could escape home to bed. Imagine me Anna wishing that. Instead of slowing down, Nigel became more animated and loquacious as the night went on. Blah, blah, blah. Some of the time I hadnít a clue what he was talking about but he cared not.

         Little by little I began to realise that by feigning interest I was in fact helping to validate Nigelís existence, making him feel important and hence more powerful. In this age of increasing diminution of male supremacy I was merely pandering to Nigelís insecurities allowing him to attune to his maleness and sense of personal power. I think I read somewhere that when you allow a man to express his sense of maleness he is forever indebted to you and there is nothing he wonít do for you. It didnít say anything about having to suffer terminal boredom in the process. Who the hell writes these books?

         Charlotte stumbled into the hall followed by a crowd of girlfriends. I think someone must have hacked her hair with a blunt scissors for her former locks were now gone to be replaced by tufts that stuck out from all angles. Someone had sprayed her hair with a bright red dye and decorated it with some silver and gold tinsel. She was destroyed but remained blissfully unaware of how she looked to the world. In her drunken state she probably thought she was amazingly fabulous.

         "I want James" She bawled. " Whereís James? I want him nowwww. "

         A so called friend of hers probably the bitch who cut her hair spoke. "Heís upstairs darling waiting for you in your bedroom"

         "Way to go Charlotte" this haggle of girls screamed as Charlotte dashed upstairs in hot pursuit of James. She looked like a woman possessed the way she took three steps at a time. Isnít it amazing how invincible you feel with the power of drink. I hoped this James guy was worth the effort but wasnít Charlotte going out with Mark Delaney, one of the companyís auditors? I think he had come down with a flu the day before so he couldnít make the party but that didnít mean sheíd go off with someone else, would it?

         Suddenly there was a massive exodus upstairs and I saw a crowd gather round one of the bedrooms. Nigel was now talking about how Irelandís economy was guaranteed stability being tied into the Euro and low interest rates.

         "Excuse me Nigel. You donít mind if I use the ladies do you "

         "Not at all, go ahead. Iíll get us some more mineral waters"

         I could hardly wait. Desperately in need of some serious entertainment I dashed upstairs to encounter what can only be described as a crowd of spectators staring in mute fascination into the bedroom. I could hear a lot of grunting and moaning. Surely not, oh my Gawd surely not Charlotte with James. I had to crawl down on all fours to eventually gain access to the room through a pair of some Scotís hairy legs. I hoped the Scots wore underwear with kilts but it was rather late to be worrying about that as my head poked through to see what all the fuss was about.

         What I saw I will never forget. Ever. Crystal clear memory is the curse of the sober and neurotic. James was on top doing what could only be called as screwing the past out drunken Charlotte. Honestly the creep must be into whatís it called, necrophilia, screwing the dead. All of a sudden as though she awoke from her cataconic state Charlotte averted her gaze towards her gob smacked audience. She actually started to wave and to smile as if it was the most natural thing in the world and joined in with the act as though she had always been present. It was disgusting and demeaning to Charlotte, imagine her friends allowing that to go on. What sort of creep was James? I watched him as he got up, stepped back into his trousers and left the bedroom to the applause of his friends. They slapped him on the back and cheered him as if heíd scored a winning goal in the world cup. I could see where she was attracted to him for James had the rugged good looks and toned body of a rugby player but the guy was a prize bastard taking advantage of Charlotte like that.

         James grinned sheepishly as he swaggered down stairs while poor crazy drunken Charlotte turned her face to the wall and began to sob. Nobody seemed to give a damn as they were too drunk to see beyond the fun so it was up to me to wrap her in a blanket and close the door to let her sleep it off and face what ever consequences in the morning. I felt guilty because for a few seconds I had enjoyed being a voyeur of a real life sex show and I sickened to think I was no better than the rest of them. Honestly being sober should come with a government health warning.

         I came downstairs and decided to leave before I got drawn into anyone elseís crazy drama. Nigel was most insistent I gave him my number so I scribbled it on a mangled piece of a cigarette box. He gave me a sisterly peck on the cheek which wasnít bad as pecks go I guess. In comparison to everyone else that night he seemed decent and honourable and to atone for my actions I decided I would give Nigel a chance, yes I would meet him again and I would redouble my efforts to be nice to him. Being the perfect gentleman that he was Nigel ordered a taxi for me and when it arrived he opened the door for me and I disappeared thankfully inside. The taxi driver was in a jocular mood but my monosyllabic replies deterred his intrusion into my thoughts which were thrown back to that night all those years ago when I too did something that I was afterwards deeply ashamed of. I could have stopped James. I could have ran in there and pulled him off Charlotte but I remained as a mute bystander taking it all in and witnessing her shame.

         Horror of horrors Assumpta had returned that night with a vengeance. The floors must have been vacuumed on arrival and furniture polish sprayed every where. I glanced surreptitiously into the lounge where she sat with a puss on her opposite Mickey. I sort of half wondered if she had brought me a present but thought better of asking as I observed her stony face. It looked like the two of them had polished off a giant bottle of champagne that tottered precariously on the glass table between them. The atmosphere was hushed and strained reminding me of a scene from whoís afraid of Virginia Wolff if you get my drift. Neither spoke so I crept past them into the kitchen where Harry and Elliot were eating a bowl of cereal. Thank God for comforting bowls of cereals. I got a sudden urge to have a good old crunch to take my mind off everything.

         Incidentally Harry was out of hospital in a day. Seems they had to give him some anti inflammatory drug to take down the swelling. He was advised by that horribly incredibly rude to Anna Dr Clarke to get himself a real woman who knew how to arouse him. Do not look at me Harry. I personally think he should get a blow up doll for practice runs but I havenít the heart to make that suggestion yet. Maybe when he pulls out of his present despondent mood Iíll send off for one for him. I wonder if they are all one sized or all different colours. What do you fancy Harry? Oriental? No? Black? Caucasian with standard or super boobs. How do they choose?

         Harry got up in what seemed to be mid crunch and said goodnight. I think he gets embarrassed around me but I havenít said a word to anyone. I wouldnít. Elliot seemed a bit subdued but then thatís his artistic temperament.

        "Whereís the delectable Zoe tonight?"

        "Dunno" he said.

         "I thought you two were an item."

         "Not a regular item. Whenever she wants sex weíre an item."

         "Well if thatís what turns you on go for it," I say between mouthfuls of cheerios.

         "Itís not a question of being turned on Anna. A guy sometimes just needs uncomplicated sex," Elliot said by way of explanation.

         "And Zoe?" I ask in a defensive female tone.

         Elliot turned towards me and looked at me for a while before he spoke.

         "Zoe is a self centred nymph whose sole aim is gratification of herself," he almost spat. "We have a mutual understanding that works because its only sex."

        "Jesus I only asked. No need to bit my head off" I said.

         "Sorry Iím just not in a very good mood right now. I lost my gig at McDades. That paid my rent so looks like Iíll have to do a stint as a taxi driver or maybe go on the building sites again."

         "Youíll find something" I say as I go over and sit beside him. We sit there in silence a while.

         "Thankís Anna for listening, you know."

         "Donít be silly. Thatís what friends are for" I say as I ruffle his soft silky hair." Whereís Cecil?" I ask trying to change the subject.

         "In bed. Jesus I hate sharing a room with the guy. Heís a fucking Alien cos he sure as hell isnít human," Elliot groans.

         "Well he hates me too but the feeling is mutual," I say laughingly.

         "Lets have a drink Anna, I really need one and you donít have to pretend with me. "

         "Why not. Whatís left in the fridge?"

         "Some Belgian beers or a bottle of Australian white wine that Cecil bought for Assumpta as a home coming present?

         "Wine!" we both say in unison.

         So we turn off the harsh fluorescent lights and I light a candle and we drink the forbidden wine. We discuss the half man half alien Cecil.

         "Did you know that he only showers once a week?" Elliot confides in a conspiratorial tone.

         "Get away!" I say equally incredulously.

         "Yeah he just washes his privates for the rest of the week. Do you know the face towel."

         "You mean the pink one. Oh fuck, fuck, fuck, Iíve used that to take off my make up on more than one occasion. I canít believe it."

         Elliot howls uncontrollably which makes me think heís lying but Iím not touching that face cloth again.

         "Have you noticed how he eats the same food every day, bird seed muesli and alternative dinners of pasta and chicken and rice and bolognaise."

         "No I hadnít noticed but then again I hardly look at the guy. He gives me the creeps. You notice everything Elliot."

         "So would you if you had to share a room with him. He doesnít speak, he moans and complains and by all accounts masturbates to music"

         "Does he say anything about me?" I say suddenly agog with morbid fascination with what men say to men even if one of them is an alien.

        "He thinks youíre a lazy slob, an alcoholic and you laugh too much. He also thinks you eat the wrong food and you should go on a diet andÖÖ"

         "Shut up I donít want to know anymore. The bastard. Who does he think he is. " I say in defence of all his accusations. " I hope you stand up for me " I say pleadingly.

         "Now what would I say. Anna is very industrious, sheís a born again teetotaller when it suits her and she is on a full fat diet because her ancestors were Innuits."

         We scream with laughter. I would love to have been an Innuit. Honestly it seems like an easier alternative to my current dilemma. Match making provided husbands. No agonising decisions, just say I do to the first hunky fur lined jacket that crosses your path. I could accompany my beloved on fishing expeditions and sledge across the crisp virginal white snow. I could sleep with my man in an igloo and eat lots of full fat foods to keep us warm on those dark winter nights.

         Elliot says that I am too slim to be an Innuit. I want to kiss his confirmation of my thin cells. Bless you Elliot.

         "Cecil doesnít believe in sex before marriage either. He wants to do it the Catholic way. Just like you Anna," says Elliot in a somewhat sarcastic tone.

         "Iím not like that. I have had sex you know. Itís just right now Iím on a break until I find the right one," I retort defensively.

        "Ha, ha, you and Cecil are alike, he thinks the same way you do. Maybe you should get together," he laughs.

         "We are not alike Iím telling you. I wouldnít fancy him in a million years. Iíd cut off my hair and wear ash cloth or eat grass before Iíd touch his miserably puny body. And if I found the right one I would sleep with him before marriage. So there. " I whinge." In fact I miss sleeping next to somebody. I get tired at times of being so self sustaining and good. Itís not me."

         "Ahah the real Anna speaks. Do tell. You know Iím sworn to secrecy," he says crossing his heart.

         "I hardly know who the real Anna is anymore. Sheís the one who used to live for the day. No thought of consequences, serious pleasure seeker, funny person, happy person, well sort of happy. Terribly misunderstood by family and most of the men I hooked up with. Used to live by her own set of rules and live in a rich fantasy world fuelled by her crazy thoughts and dreams," I say in a whisper.

         "So what happened?" Elliot asks.

         "The dream died. I realised I was on a fools journey to nowhere. Maybe I grew up and started to think about my priorities."

         "Which are?"

         "To find my destiny, my future husband, true love, happiness. "

         "Well I think youíre still funny and crazy but you donít reveal that side of you easily. Donít try too hard Anna cos somebody must love you as you are and not how they think you should be. " Elliot advises.

         "Nobody would love me as I am. I want to find a husband Elliot and I will be as chameleon like as I need to be until I find one. Itís ok for a guy but my biological clock tells me I need to find him soon." I say.

         "Well if you want to live a lie to get what you want then by all means go ahead. Do you honestly think that will give you happiness in the long run. Thatís sad Anna. Itís not just sad. Itís fucking pathetic" he slurs.

         "Iím not living a lie. Iím just modifying who I am as a means to an end. Iím not pathetic. If anyoneís pathetic itís you Elliot. Youíre with Zoe for Christ sake. What does that say about you?

         "I am not pretending to be anything other than what I am. Zoe and I have sex. Thatís it. We are both consenting adults and there are no lies ar false misapprehensions. Youíre the hypocrite Anna, not me."

         "All I am doing is trying to have a bit of respect for myself and you are admonishing me for being a hypocrite. What would you prefer I do? Continue to screw the guys I meet and use and be used. Why should I? I want more. I want a husband who loves and respects me and..do not interrupt me, a womanís need for a husband is tied into her biological need for a nest for her off spring."

         Elliot thinks a while before he delivers his punch line.

         "Anna having respect for who you are is not just tied into sex. By all means play your little games to get your man and nest but respect is about being happy with who you are and others tune into that. I donít disrespect a girl who has sex with me. But I would have no respect for a girl who is not true to herself"

         "So what youíre saying you son of a bitch is you have no respect for me cos you think Iím living a lie. Well Iíll tell you something for nothing Elliot at least Iím trying to improve and grow up and take responsibility. For your information I am who I am. Iím just modifying my natural tendencies as a means to getting what I want. Fuck you Elliot."

         "Fuck you too Anna Moran, whoever it is you are."

         I sit there seething wanting to samurai Elliot. He just smiles as if nothing has happened while I feel I have undergone a character assassination. I feel very wounded and in desperate need of retaliation. But I use my female guile instead of a head on confrontation.

         "I thought you were my friend," I manage to say in my most contrite sad voice.

         "Yeah I am but I feel sad that you have to feel you have to pretend in order to get what you want. Maybe Iím a stupid romantic but I think true love sees with the heart and loves faults and all."

         "Elliot You can stuff your idealistic jargon. It doesnít work not where Iím concerned. I was myself before and I got nowhere. Nowhere. Nobody wanted me long term. Now Iíve become more realistic and realise to succeed I need to project the image people want. Itís a bit like marketing really. You give the man what it is he wants in a wife and then heís in hot pursuit. Iím not the only woman who does this Elliot." I shout as have decided that sad soft tone is ineffective.

         "Just as I thought. You women are in league with the fucking devil to get what you want. It doesnít work Anna, not in the end. Maybe thatís why the divorce rate has increased. You marry a woman and then she undergoes a rapid personality change. You scratch the surface and what you think was there vanishes along with the dream of true love. Men are fooled big time," he sighs.

         "I think the whole charade also applies to men. Theyíre the ones who reel us in with their soft talk, attention, flowers, gifts and then zero. Your sex is also to blame you conceited bastard" I scream like a woman possessed.

         "Iím going to bed Anna, leave it. We canít agree so truce ok?"

         Thatís what I hate about Elliot. He can just detach and diffuse as if at will. Whereas I take everything personally and right now I want war, blood, guts, hostages. I will go to bed but I will replay our conversation all night long. Iíll be talking and answering my little numskulls until dawn while he sleeps like a baby. I decide there and then I hate all men, especially Elliot. How dare he make assumptions about how I should be. This is the new Anna. Like her or fuck off and leave her in peace. Tomorrow IĎm starting my new career as an Insurance Consultant. Elliot can drop dead, see if I give a shit. After all Iíve got Nigel and even if I go out with him as an act of penance for once Iíll be going out with a decent guy who thinks Iím worthy of respect. Iím glad I didnít tell Elliot about tonight. Heíd gloat and tell me I was no better than the rest of them which was true really but I couldnít face him knowing that now could I?

 

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