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The Madness of MokcikNab
Motives, movements and melodrama in the life of a thirty something mum.

Sunday, March 05, 2006
Fast Fiction : The Coffee Mate

"Do I really want to betray my husband?", was Hilda's unspoken question, for she knew it has come to the point when she must ask herself that. The man, who sat across the small table, sat with his back against the sun, and was ablaze with light : thick black hair now caught in glints of amber, eyes brown and brilliant against pale skin. Hilda found herself looking at his hands, and realized that she would only look at a man's hands when she's imagining what they might do to her.

This month, Hilda and the brilliant man have met almost daily, almost too eagerly. Today, as always, they were having coffee in one of those French style cafes that had tables and chairs set outside, even though in this city the average temperature is 34 degrees all year. But it was getting late, and the day's scorching heat had almost dissipated along with the afternoon. As people on the precipice of a deep, dark abyss, they spoke of mundane things, a pretend project that has not yet a firm deadline, an emotional alibi for Hilda. He spoke too, of his dreams, his childhood, his wife and kids. Hilda has no idea why a man proposing an affair would always speak of his family, as though it is a prior apology for what he is about to do. Hilda mentioned her husband and daughter only in passing, as if the limited divulgence might spare them pain.

"This urge to cheat on your husband", Hilda's confidante said recently, " is like a nasty itch. And the only way to get rid of an itch is to scratch and scratch until it bleeds".

"Either that", the woman pointed out, "or find a way to keep your hands awfully busy"

Should she put her nails to skin? The man with his back to the sun drank his coffee and Hilda saw a tiny drop of brown cling to the edge of his mouth. She's on a slippery slope, the slippery slope of being on the wrong side of forty five, and though people tell her she still has her youth and beauty, it does not diminish the fact that she feels old. This man, he's still in the prime of thirty, and he has told Hilda he found her utterly fascinating.

Hilda thought fleetingly of her husband. That Misha is in love with her is a given, but he loves her unflinchingly, loves her for all that she is, loves her for all her faults. For one last time, she craved a man who craved her because he knew of only her good side, the Hilda she wanted to present to the world as Hilda.

A waitress came by and asked if they wanted a refill, or perhaps some cake. The man ordered a decaf, and a brownie, which he suggested they share. When the chocolate squares arrived, he dragged his chair closer, close enough for their knees to touch, closer than they have ever been before. For the first time, Hilda could smell the coffee on his breath, the gel in his hair, the faint fragrant of a citrus aftershave beneath his neatly pressed shirt. He smells meticulously clean, like the inside of a laundry, and she had visions of him carefully folding her clothes as they slowly undressed to make love.

On Misha, there's always a whiff of sweat and cigarettes; and the railings of their brass bed are always strewn with far-flung dresses and things. It would be odd to be with such an immaculate man, when he's supposed to make you feel dirty, Hilda mused.

For a while, they ate their brownie in silence, and then suddenly, the dreaded announcement, the phrase which has since launched a thousand clandestine friendships. "My wife is away this week," he almost stammered. "Would you like to go out somewhere, tonight? I have some time. "

"Out, somewhere? That sounds pretty vague," Hilda laughed. She set down her fork and studied his unlined, well-scrubbed, back-lit face. Does he look earnest, or was there fear in what she might eventually say?

"Naim," she brought her cup to her lips, wrapping it in her fingers. "Do you really, really want me", she asked, "to go out with you?"

"Absolutely", he smiled. "Of course, " he said, for emphasis. She saw his eyelids flutter, just briefly, like the wings of a dying butterfly.

It was a strange time to think about it, but at that point Hilda understood why she no longer has a penchant for impulse buying -- the many times she saw something she liked, she ended up putting it back on the shelves and walking out of the store. "I didn't need it", she tells her perplexed friends, or "It didn't look good on me", was her excuse, or "The thing didn't like me", she finally pleaded. The curse of old age, Hilda thought, is having clarity and confidence.

And so Hilda gazed at this man, Naim, who sat next to her at the cramped table, who still looked beautiful in the setting sun, and who was wiping the rim of his glasses with a napkin. She could walk away anytime, she thought, and as it happens, Hilda felt a violent need to go shopping. Right now. At this precise moment. It cannot possibly wait.


This is really a writing exercise, and after several readings, the whole thing is starting to sound like crap. (Ha ha). This is inspired by a partly true story, though I need to emphasise that Hilda isn't at all Elida. Generally, I can't ever write fiction if it's based on me. The real Hilda is still at the same junction and unable to make a decision, poor girl. My husband thinks I ought to write a version that is closer to the truth, because the truth is really stranger than fiction, in this case. I think he's right, so if you enjoyed this (despite its wholesome crappiness), do look out for the next installment.


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