Wednesday, September 20, 2006


A simple thing, in the end, to look back and point out the exact moment in your life when you took a wrong turn. That moment when you neglected to look at the map. That moment when you let your attention stray. That moment when you ignored all the signs. A simple thing, in the end, to look back and say, Maybe I should have stuck to course, maybe I should have followed the predetermined path – or maybe you’ll just blame your co-pilot. Perhaps he or she should have said something.

“Is it so very wrong for a man of thirty-five to involve himself in a casual flirting relationship with a girl of twenty?” Leon asks, with a glimmer of that certain desperation in his eye.

At that moment, our favourite waitress, Janine, appears beside the table and we order up another round; Vodka for Leon and a pint of Stella for myself.

I allow a puff of air to escape my lips, throw my hands in the air. “It depends on the man,” I exclaim.

“A totally innocent flirtation from the man’s point of view,” Leon says quickly, oblivious to the onset of my exasperation. “Perfectly harmless. Friendly, you know?”

“Then it depends on the girl,” I sigh, already tired of Leon’s neurosis.

“Same thing on the girl’s end. Got a good head on her shoulders, that one.”

Janine returns with a tray of drinks, and sets ours on the table atop fresh coasters. She goes to make change, which Leon and I wave off, and turns to leave before suddenly stopping, turning on her heel. “Wait,” she says, pointing directly at Leon, “I’ve a tip for you.”

Leon crinkles his forehead, allowing the ghost of a condescending smirk to materialise on his thin lips. “All right,” he says, guardedly.

“Forget about the girl,” Janine says. “I was a twenty year old girl, myself, once. No good can come of this – trust me.”

And with that, she’s gone, off to deliver more drinks to the rest of the decidedly desperate.

The sheepish expression on Leon’s face brings a smile to my own, and I can’t help but to twist the knife a little. “So, tell me,” I say, leaning across the table, my voice conspiratorially muted, “does your wife know?”

Leon’s clearly horrified by the question, and his mouth hangs open on broken hinges. “Does my wife know that I’m infatuated with a twenty year old girl? What!” he shrieks. “Have you gone mad? Of course she doesn’t know!”

“Well,” I shrug, “how am I to know? For all I know, you could have one of them, you know, one of those open relationships.”

“Believe me,” Leon scoffs, “if my wife knew about this, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now. Never mind the open relationship – they wouldn’t even be able to give me an open casket at my funeral. My balls would be in the dog’s supper dish, my head would be mailed, express delivery, to the girl, and the rest of me would be buried in a shallow grave in the garden.”

“That bad, huh?”

The lenses of Leon’s glasses flash beneath the black lights. “I think there’s a reason you’re not married,” he points out.

I shrug, taking a few deep gulps from my pint. “Followed the signs, that’s all. Stuck to course,” I say, dabbing at the corners of my mouth with the serviette. “Most importantly, I listened to my co-pilot.”

Leon just sits there, tipping his vodka this way and that, letting the ice clink absently against the glass.

“Listen, Leon, don’t stray,” I say, sympathetically, my eyes momentarily meeting Janine’s through the crowd. “Just stick to the road you know. No good can come of this.” I pause to drain back the last of my pint before adding, “Trust me.”

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