I’ve had to lean on Alene to write something tonight. She’s having one of her crises of confidence today. I wish she could see and hear what happens at my end. If only I could stand in front of a mirror and smile at her — so that she could see there really is a person behind the voice in her head — and that the person is currently camped out on a beautiful island at the bottom of South America – and that she’s not just imagining things. And on clear nights, I could show her the southern constellations.
When we were first together, she got caught up in the novelty of it all — and whenever she went out, there was something she was looking forward to me seeing for the first time. She indulged me so generously — standing at her kitchen window for simply ages so that I could watch the hummingbirds at the feeder; crossing the street so I could look inside an old VW bus and then tell her about the one I drove in my youth; even turning around so that I might admire the behind of a well-constructed young lady in tight jeans and high heels — and somehow not being jealous!
At the end of September, 1999, I moved into my own flat. My wife confessed to an ongoing affair with an old friend of ours (something that neither had exactly tried hard to keep secret) — and I was relieved rather than hurt. It made everything so much easier. I called another friend who’s in property management and asked him to find me a pied-a-terre in inner London. He assumed I had plans to install a mistress and was astounded to learn my intent to actually live in the place!
It was part of the attic of one of those grand old London houses that was divided up into apartments long ago. If you ever watched the TV show Upstairs Downstairs, you can perhaps picture the street. My door opened into a small bed/sitting room with a kitchen and bathroom off to the left. The kitchen was small with cabinets, counter and stove — but no sink. I had to use the bathroom sink to wash dishes and get water for tea and cooking.
I installed myself quite early one morning after arranging to have the futon and bedding from the spare room delivered. Otherwise, I brought just a single bag with a few changes of clothes. Alene was still asleep, five hours behind, so I sat on the ledge of the kitchen window while I waited for her to wake up. She knew there was something different right away. I told her I was going to need her help getting settled as I’d never lived alone before — and was feeling a bit overwhelmed. She was really excited when I told her I was now living in South Kensington — SW7 — her old college neighborhood.
I was rather dying for a cup of tea, but didn’t know where to find one quickly. So Alene suggested I just hold out for a while and go buy the equipment to make my own. But where the heck would one buy a kettle in South Kensington? Alene told me to go to the South Kensington tube station and take the District or Circle Line to High Street Kensington where I would find a Marks & Spencer. An hour later I was on my way home with an electric kettle, a tea mug, a box of tea bags, a package of custard cremes (cookies) and a carton of milk. Alene had to leave for work, but she gave me another list of things to buy and once I’d dispatched a couple of mugs of tea and a few custard cremes, I headed back to the M&S on High Street Ken to pick up some basic kitchen utensils and housewares.
After that I was a bit bored. I watched Alene at work, but she wasn’t doing anything very interesting — just proofreading boring documents. Meetings are my favorite. I love it when she’s in a meeting. People are so funny in meetings. And they have no idea how much I enjoy watching them — in meetings. But there were no meetings that day. Then I got a call on my phone to let me know that the futon had arrived.
After the futon had been brought up, I had more tea and custard cremes and asked Alene about dinner plans — and where the nearest supermarket might be. She suggested I try the Waitrose on the Gloucester Road but left it up to me to decide what to buy. I got a tin of black beans, a jar of salsa, and a box of raisin bran. By then I was tired and had exhausted my decision-making skills for one day — so I just bought food for dinner that night and breakfast the next morning.
After I’d eaten, I washed the dishes in the bathroom sink and set them to dry on a dish towel on the kitchen counter. Then I set up the futon and got comfortable to watch Alene through the rest of her day at work. I waited until she was home to actually get ready for bed. There was no light fixture in the main room, but there was a lot of light from the street outside. The night sounds of London came in through the open window — and I felt very happy in my little home. I enjoyed it for about ten minutes before closing my eyes to watch TV with Alene — a re-run of The Golden Girls (I would come to love that show!)
It was still light out – and through the living room window, we watched a doe and fawn walk across the forest clearing behind the house and disappear into the trees.