They had made love, gone sight-seeing, had dinner and made love again, and now he slept and she watched him, her book in her lap. She considered the rise and fall of his breathing, his strongly-defined nose, the way he’d fallen asleep with his forearm across his eyes in a gesture that seemed not defensive but wholly undefended, exposing his armpit and chest. She couldn’t tell whether he was good-looking or not. He was both utterly desirable and utterly ordinary.
They’d met at a reception in the museum where she worked and she’d been caught by his charm, the way he had – and this was, when she thought about it, an unusual and very engaging virtue – of listening properly to what was said to him, and answering the question he had been asked. He had more questions for her than she for him that evening, intelligent questions about the exhibition she’d helped curate as well as about her part in it; he made her feel noticed and interesting. The next day he dropped by and took her out to lunch. She liked his voice and what was, to her, his mildly exotic Northern Irish accent. He told her stories of his large Catholic family, but also a little about his work as a political journalist. And now here they were, on this holiday while he had a paint-job done in his flat, ready for her to move into it.
She found that she was full of ridiculously cliché’d urges to cook his dinners (though he was a better cook than she was) and have his babies (she was still young enough for that). She was moved and made grateful by his desire for her, his straightforward delight in her body with all its flaws. She knew from experience as well as common sense that their mutual infatuation would not last at this pitch, but she hoped that the kindness would remain; that they could be for each other a place of safety, where they were, in all their weakness, accepted and known.
Continue reading “The Watcher”