You have always considered yourself a man even when women told you to man up. When you make mistakes you own up. When you’re pushing boundaries with a girl and she says no, you pull back. You will stand up and make hard choices. Run after opportunities even though fleeting and elusive. You’ve never been the type of guy who wanted other people to handle your business when you could handle it yourself. So you will take initiative and ask that girl you fancy out. Open doors, pull chairs, buy flowers. Apply for that job you want, do things yourself without a fuss because that is what manhood calls for. You never paused and asked if you would do the same thing over again until her.
You meet her in the boardroom. The predate concourse happens in a meeting while you’re busy trying to do your time on the fringes and earn your stripes. You don’t think much of her because while the cherub is stealing glances at you, you’re too busy polishing your presentation and trying to keep in the cold sweat that is breaking out on your spine.
You get up, fidgeting and fumble your way with the projector settings and get long-winded after you put in your first few sentences. You rush over your presentation and you can tell the nabobs in dark suits in the boardroom are not impressed. You know there is no way in hell you will get that contract.
After you’re done you exchange handshakes. And you make for the door ready to bolt outside the building and disappear because the embarrassment is eating you up like rust eats metal. But before you can turn the knob on the door, a soft voice calls. It’s the cherub. She pulls you out of the boardroom and into the corridors.
“I’m Joan, the supply chain manager. That was an impressive presentation.”
You cough and get the feeling of being pranked.
“Ben, right? We should have lunch and celebrate your contract, put your first cheque into good use, eh?” She says without preamble.
You get the feeling she’s flirting with you. You give her a second glance. She’s in her late thirties, maybe mid-forties. Her skin is ochreous and glowing. That says she works out and drinks lots of water or she has a very close relationship with Botox. Her ass in that peplum skirt looks venerable and her legs flow for miles like the Tanganyika before sinking into ankle high boots.
You probably remind her of her little brother, you think, mistakenly.
“Lunch is OK,” you sing.
She smiles at you and you smile back innocently and she giggles and says,
“Tomorrow at noon.” She gives you her card. “That’s my personal line, text me your address. I’ll pick you up.”
She shows up right on time. You pull up in her Mercedes c-class in one of the five star hotels in town. It was sunny earlier so you wore a white short sleeved shirt, a thin dark tie and grey connate trousers but it’s drizzling now.
“What a dog’s weather,” she chirps, then gets back into her c-class and comes out with a trench coat.
“I usually carry this for emergencies, it will keep you warm before we can get a table.”
She’s wearing a skirt suit. Which makes her look like she just walked out of a scene in Scandal. The valet takes her car keys and the concierge shows you in. You get a kick from all the glamour and grandiose that surrounds you.
You get a small neat table at the corner. She orders Chardonnay. While her eyes feast on you and as the waiter puts the glasses down, she gets into her purse.
“I bought you something,” she says, while placing a tiny box on the table. You pick it up and open it. A watch is seated inside the box.
“Don’t just look at it like that, try it on.”
You don’t know much about watches but you can tell this one cost an arm and a leg.
“How much did this cost?” You ask, curiosity getting the better of you.
“It’s not about the money, it’s about your celebration. But if you must know, that’s an eighteen carat, Rose gold, Cartier watch, (pronounced Katie). It cost only $7,150.”
You try to do the math with the current exchange rate and the figure comes to over half a million and you almost bite your tongue off.
“Thank you,” you stutter and she places her hand on yours, that hand with a network of wrinkles on it because it has done a lot to get where it is.
“Don’t mention it, it’s the least I could do.”
She says with a smile and brushes her leg on yours, the sharp end of her high heel pressing your inner thigh and for a minute, it’s all you can think about and you wonder if she’s aware of the contact under the table as much as you are. You look at her but you can’t handle the look on her eyes. A hungry look. A predator’s stare. So you smile nervously and look away shyly.
“You want to take this somewhere private? I reserved a room for us.” She says casually with resolute blandness, while running her long manicured finger around the rim of her wineglass.
“That’s fine with me,” you say having caught onto what is happening.
As you climb up to the hotel suites you know she won’t make you jump over pits of fire before giving you what you want. She won’t wait for you to start things, in fact she will fish it out herself if you hesitate and afterwards she won’t talk about love or where this is going and for a minute you feel a breeze. A breath of fresh air.
Your frequent trysts turn into romance. She settles you down in a furnished apartment in Hurlingham. A place with clean air. A place where the birds sing in the morning with an accent. She also gives you the keys to her Touareg.
“I don’t use this anymore, but it suits you perfectly.”
The new normal hits you hard but you know it won’t last because with the apartment, car and monthly allowance your eye has started wandering and you have started noticing shiny things. Younger things and one lazy evening you take the plunge.
“Can we take a break, I need to figure things out,” you burst out subserviently in the manner of an insecure girlfriend.
“No,” she says tersely, while sprawled on the bed half naked in her nightgown. Her physique that you have now grown to resent. “That is not a good idea.” Her tone is that of someone addressing a two year old child. “Because if we take a break, your allowance also takes a break, your car also takes a break, your apartment as well, and oh, one last thing, that contract I got you, the one you’re thinking of falling back on after you leave. Yes, that takes a break too.”
You wonder how you will start over when you’ve become lazy and you’re not used to working from the bottom up. What will happen when you want to settle down, will you be able to lead when you’re used to having things handed to you? You sit and wonder how much of a man you are when doors are opened for you, even when you don’t deserve it. You get applause even when you do a lousy job and you never get to learn. You become a man when you’re making decisions not when you’re kept by a woman somewhere who is calling the shots on your behalf.
You look at her, she repulses you now. Her wrinkles, her sagging skin, her reprimanding voice, her money. You climb in bed and cuddle her. She gasps and giggles to your touch, “Cartier. He takes a break too.”
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