Now that my home is a shell waiting for its new and exciting life to begin I find myself camped out in Audrey’s house.
While not a riot of colour Audrey’s place is delightful. She’s a bit of a one for those ghastly home improvement shows on the telly and she has made some changes about the place. Robert was always a bit of a handyman although his skills were limited to mainly shelves, paint and the odd skirting board removal. They were fortunate to have been drawn together by a casual compatibility rather than through a deluded sense of duty and sensibleness that tethered me to ‘himself wot left’. Whenever I’d visit when Robert was still alive I never felt rushed or unwanted. Their home was bright and airy and just so lovely and cozy and, as a couple, they were perfect friends and hosts.
Now, before you start thinking that I may have had some untoward feelings for Robert you can stop right there. Just as I did and do with Audrey I always regarded Robert as a good friend and nothing more. There, that’s said. Moving on.
Difficult as it may be to believe this stay with Audrey is the first time in my adult life that I have stayed with a friend.
Himself was always, since I knew him and even from a boy as his mother once told me, a creature of habit. Every morning he would wake, without any alarm needed, at 6:30am. He would “see to his ablutions” as he put it while I dragged myself up to make his breakfast. He would eat and read his paper, saving the crossword for the train journey to the office. I would be at the door, receive my peck on the cheek, close the door and clean up the breakfast things while he walked to the station.
Every evening he would arrive home at or near 6:30pm, depending on the trains, change into his casual house clothes and slippers and sit down to eat the dinner I’d prepared. After dinner while I cleared and washed dishes himself would go to the sitting room, switch on the telly and sit with the newspaper and listen to the news. Always the same, every night. Weekends he would play golf with friends or join them in some other activity while I shopped for groceries or stayed home. Sex was once each month, a perfunctory affair in which he performed his duty and immediately went to sleep. That was why his leaving was such a shock and such a relief. Perhaps its his middle-aged escape that men are supposed to be prone to. For whatever reason he won’t be back and I am not aggrieved.
You can see then why this free and easy life I’ve suddenly stumbled into is so dumbfounding at times, and why staying with a friend is such a novelty. One must get used to breaking habits.
On the first night of my staying with Audrey we’d prepared dinner together with me mostly peeling and cutting it must be said, and Audrey doing the actual cooking. Her palate is more accustomed to exciting flavours than my own so I made liberal use of the wine on the table. Did I mention Audrey also follows religiously certain cooking programmes on telly? Well, she does and dinner was testament to that. Please do not misunderstand, the meal was delicious, I’d just not encountered many or any of the spices she’d used. Life was already becoming spicier.
When dinner was finishing I offer to wash the dishes, a sort of thank you. Audrey laughed and told me about her dishwasher. I’d never used such a thing or conceived of ever owning one. So, we assembled the plates, etc, in the machine and Audrey asked me to take the wine bottle and glasses through to the sitting room while she went down the hall, presumably to the bathroom.
It was like something from a film when Audrey emerged minutes later completely naked.
She laughed when she saw my mouth hanging open. It is her way, as it had been Robert’s also, to go about naked in the house, she told me. I’d never known. It’s not something they did when friends were about she said but seeing as we’re such good friends and only the two of us, she felt relaxed enough to be herself.
I suppose I should have been flattered to be regarded as so close as to share such a personal part of Audrey’s life but all I could feel, at that moment, was shock. Fair dues to Audrey, she didn’t retreat or reach for the cover of a cushion. She sat on the sofa, giggling like a young girl. She did however cross her legs, more for me than for herself, I felt. It took a while but we relaxed a bit, or I relaxed a bit, Audrey could not have been more relaxed, and we went back to chatting as normal and enjoying our wine.
Over these few days I’ve not followed suit and gotten my clothes off in Audrey’s presence though I have softened towards the idea of it. Perhaps in time or in my own home in a month or so. As with so many things now, I have no idea.
This week I have been confronting some truths.
I am now single, well divorced, well sort of divorced anyway. Whatever it is I am manless.
My home was never my home before, it was his, I just lived there. Now it is my home to do with as I wish.
My taste in food and drink has been bland beyond imagining and is due for a makeover.
I have not had sex for months and I haven’t enjoyed sex, well, ever.
I have no job nor am I qualified for one anyway, nor do I have any real prospect of finding a job anyway.
My dearest friend is a closet nudist.
That’s enough to be going on with for now, don’t you think?
Until next we meet,