It all started with a bunch of fresh anemones being pushed through my letterbox. They were wrapped in tidy brown paper which could so easily have been written upon. But there was no message. I popped them into water and nipped down the road to Borders which sadly was on the last but one day of its closing down sale. I went straight up the stairs to the Mind Body Spirit section, passing on the way many posters advertising a 70% discount. I was browsing, swaying my hips ever so slightly to the soulful music being played as background and rhythmically picking interesting books off the shelf when I became aware of someone standing alongside me, quietly singing along with the track. I glanced sideways and was astonished to see a very attractive man. I was astonished because I simply haven’t seen an attractive man for ages; a fact that I put down to being involved with Giles. Yet here was one. Tall, black and handsome, he towered above me and stood with arms filled with Mind Body and Spirit books. The blood rushed to my ears, making me feel I had fallen down a culvert in a tropical rainstorm. I had to do some quick thinking or the opportunity would pass me by. When the Universe speaks it is always preceded by a colourful preface, I find, like a bunch of anemones being squeezed through your letterbox. I glanced at the pile of books , chose a title I recognised and spoke.
Fifteen minutes later we were across the road drinking de caff coffee in Patisserie Valerie, having exchanged names and a quick summary of each other’s purchases. Any parent naming a child Sylvester is asking for trouble, as Felis Sylvestris is the biological name for a wild cat. I have never in my life come across someone called Sylvester and now, well past my sixties heading for my alloted biblical time, I have, for the man sitting across the table is called Sylvester Jones, a polymath set on my path like a honeytrap.
I do sudoku to calm me down. It works because it is a limited task in an infinite reality. I am interested in men for the very same reason. I figure I might as well as long as I can. It gets harder with every year to get their attention but when I do I can see that they still find my accoutrements engaging. I don’t run locks of hair through my fingers in that ingenu way any more- it would be obscene at my age-so instead I rattle my beads, thus reminding my companion that I am there and at the same time reminding myself to enjoy the moment, as the ultimate rattle is drawing ever closer. I am convinced that the joys of flirtation will be with me to the end. Certainly Sylvester succeeded in being totally there at the Patisserie Valerie. We talked about small world networks and the book that connected us, ‘The Tipping Point’. As we talked I was mesmerised by the flashing white teeth above which bobbed a well trimmed moustache. He had taken off his soft brown leather jacket and hung it over the back of his chair with an insouciant flourish. I couldn’t help but notice in passing that his chest was well formed. I bet if he took his shirt off he would look like Burt Lancaster in the bath scene of The Leopard. He’s tall and muscular in that ‘I worked in a circus in my youth’ way. In no time at all I could see him climbing the rigging. Oh dear Allie, I thought, a cup of decaf and you seem to be getting Sylvester and the Crimson Pirate muddled already. But what he was saying was interesting too because it was about me. He said that I was a maven, a word I’d come across before, as an old lover called me by that name, thinking it meant a difficult bitch. It sounds like that doesn’t it? But actually it means an information gatherer and disseminator. It’s an old Yiddish word being used now in connection with the new theories of how information is sparked and spreads like wildfire.
We couldn’t go as far as we wanted with this conversation, so we arranged to meet after Christmas for another coffee. Good. That gives me enough time to work out what do do about Giles, who I haven’t spoken to since I got back from Marrakech.