She arrived in a flurry of snow, hat, coat, umbrella and explanations. As usual she talked too much and I didn't need explanations. I saw what I could see. The weather was obviously bad, so she was late. That was only to be expected. She complained, as usual, that I was too quiet, that I do not say very much. Nevertheless, I could see that she was well and seemed relatively untroubled by the lousy weather, so I didn't see the need to ask about such things. Anyway, I am not that sure if such things are any of my business. I feel that making such remarks would be to step over that barrier that defines our relationship... such that it is.
Privacy is important to me these days. I've always hoped it is important to her, or that she is – at least - discrete. I think it is essential that we keep a certain regard for each other as distinct individuals, especially when paying for - and receiving payment for - sex.
She, Liz, is short - compared to me at well over six feet, anyway - about five feet six inches or so. She always wears a floppy felt hat; one of those that was all the fashion, yet again, fairly recently, I think. Not that I know – or care – anything about fashions or popular culture, not these days, not any more. It looks like a very short top hat, but softer - made of felt with a flower-patterned band. There is probably a proper name - used by the fashion industry - for hats like that, but I don't know it. I've never asked her what type of hat it is, to us it is just her hat – Liz only has the one. She also wears a very long scarf, made of some sort of silky material, which has the same flowery pattern on it as the hat-band. She wears a long thick black coat and black knee-length boots, and - often when she comes to see me - nothing else. She says it saves time, which is true I suppose.
Sometimes I say the wrong thing, even after all these years. It made my career, though. At one time, a long time ago now, I made a hell of a living out of saying the wrong thing.
"I love you," I said.
She let my softening cock fall from her mouth as she looked up at me. She smiled and licked semen from her lips.
“Bollocks,” she said. “You don't love anyone. You don't even like yourself.” She took my cock back into her mouth. She knew how much I liked her to lick it clean before she left.
Briefly, I thought about offering her some more money, a bit extra, to stay the night. But, I knew she has other clients, and usually other appointments, so I would have to pay a great deal for her to even begin to consider letting them down.
Liz is proud of her professionalism. She takes it very seriously. She once said, when we had some time to talk of things in general rather than the specific details of how I wanted her, that while she doesn't exactly enjoy her job, she does like to regard herself as a serious professional. She does, she said - and I will agree - have her standards.
"It does help though," she said. "That I'm lucky enough to be able to pick and choose… mostly. No big sweaty bastards who want to tie me up, hurt me and then piss on me, for instance." She shuddered, and I had the distinct impression it was a memory, and not a random example plucked from the long history of sex for money that seems to be something of a specialist subject of hers.
She gave my cock a quick final kiss and got up from the bed. She headed towards the bathroom, leaving me staring at the ceiling wondering why I'd said I loved her. I don't know why I said it. I assume it is not true. I've said it to plenty of women in the past, nearly all of whom I didn't like as much as I like Liz. Maybe that is love... I don't know.
Like I said, I once made a good living, and was quite famous as a voice on the radio and face on the TV for saying the wrong thing, for being 'outrageous', but in that safe sanitised way suitable for the media, especially towards those who like to think of themselves as being above the rest of us, you know: pop stars, politicians, film actors, writers, footballers and all those others who have more ego than sense, known these days as 'celebrities' even when there is no discernible reason for their apparent fame.
I dunno, I never started out to be outrageous, to be someone people watched or listened to just to hear me savage some luckless sap expecting some easy ride on the PR roundabout as they flogged their latest product. Like everyone else – I presume – I stared out just wanting to be liked, to – even – be loved.
Liz came out of the shower and stood there, naked, glowing with health and life.
“Are you hungry?” I said.
“Are you hungry? Do you want something to eat?” I said.
“What?” She seemed confused, puzzled. This was not normally in our script. Usually she came, then I came and then she cleaned up and went away, my money in her hand and – usually – my spunk in her belly.
I smiled. “I'm just offering you dinner.”
“Yes, dinner... here, that is. I'll order some sort of take away and we'll eat it over there on the table... with wine... maybe even candles.”
“I'm not exactly dressed for it,” she said, standing there in just the knee-length boots she had slipped back on as we talked.
“I know, that's why I asked. That's how I want you... naked at the table... with the snow falling in the dark night over the city outside the window... it would be so decadent.”
“Decadent?” She pretended to think for a moment. “Is it possible for anyone to actually be decadent these days? It all seems so... quaint... old-fashioned.”
“That's me,” I said. “Just an old-fashioned romantic.”
Liz laughed. “That's your idea of romance, is it? Eating dinner with a naked prostitute?”
“Works for me.” I laughed too. It was just a sudden whim. I mean I've built my life recently around avoiding people. I think I may have sickened myself of them, paddling around thigh-deep in the celebrity media swamp for far too long.
“I l... like you,” I said. “I would like to spend some time... more time with you.... I'll pay.”
Liz stood for a long moment, looking at me. “I like you too,” she said. “...some of the time.... There's no need to pay... y'know, providing there's no more... well, y'know... services rendered.”
“Ah,” I said with mock seriousness, looking her body up and down. “With you naked like that at the dinner table, I don't know if.. later... well...”
Liz smiled as she walked across the floor towards me. She stopped a few inches away from me. I could have sworn that I could feel the heat of her body, even though that distance and my clothes. “We'll see...” she said. “Now, she dropped into the armchair next to her. “Didn't you say something about wine?”
While I was in the kitchen, sorting out the wine, it came to me, what I liked about this arrangement with Liz. I had spent so much of my life with interviewees on my radio shows, telling me all about their mental lives, with the women, mainly, telling all about their feelings, as if they were the first person in the entire universe to have such feelings. It was such a relief that with Liz I could pay to have her body, but her mind was hers, private, I didn't have to burden her with my thoughts and feelings and she was professional enough not to burden me with hers.
Although, as I carried the glasses of wine back to her, I realised I didn't think I could explain to her why her nudity mattered so much to me. So much of my life has been spent wallowing in ugliness, that I needed her nudity to bring back to me the purity of beauty, almost some kind of redemption. I knew, though, if I said that she'd counter with the fact that I was here buying her time and her nudity and there wasn't much purity or beauty in that. But I knew, only too well, I was far too tainted by this ugly world for pure unfettered beauty. The only beauty I deserved was the tainted, the sordid, the decadent, even. Obviously for someone like me, the only way I could get anything close to beauty into my life was to pay for it.
I am not pure enough for true beauty, and too far gone for true beauty to redeem me, the best I could hope for was this simulacrum, this taste of what I'd lost through my cynicism and denial of the possibility of goodness, truth and beauty in that world I'd lived in for far too long.
I had lived too long in a part of society that derided beauty, simplicity, innocence and all those things that used to be searched for, celebrated and admired; a smug incestuous clique that had turned its back on all that, and sneered at anyone wanting such things as some kind of naïve simpleton. I knew that not even Liz, maybe especially not Liz, could disentangle themselves from all that. I know I couldn't. This was the best I could get and I knew I had to accept that, that tiny morsel as the only feast I was going to get.
Neither could I tell Liz that I wanted to take her to bed and just hold her close in the deep heart of the night, whispering to her that it would be all right, not knowing which of us the whispering was meant to reassure. In the world I'd lived in until recently, intimacy such as that was looked upon with suspicion and – worst of all, old-fashioned – we were the media darlings and luvvies taking the world beyond our incestuous and sterile little enclave into a Brave New World, whether it wanted to go there or not.
We settled for Italian form a restaurant not far from my place. Liz stayed in the shadows of the room, looking down over the city below, its bright lights and constant traffic under a moderate sprinkling of snow, as I took the food from the delivery man and paid for it.
The first half an hour of the meal was fine, chatting about this and that as though we were real people, ordinary people. I sat there watching a thin slow drip of red wine slowly snaking down Liz's left breast as she spoke of some holiday she'd spent in Italy when she'd been a student.
Slowly, though, the gaps between the comments widened until we were sitting there in silence, not uncomfortable at first, but then slowly growing awkward until it was uncomfortable.
I'd had this fantasy of sitting and eating with a naked woman and... well... not really thought about it much beyond the image of a man, dressed, and a woman, naked, at the table and thinking about how erotic I found it with its hints of what lay beyond the image. Now, though, reality had taken that fantasy, like it does all our dreams, fantasies, hopes and desires, and pissed all over it.
As the silence between us grew, I could feel myself starting to get that old antagonistic feeling back. I could feel the awkward, nasty, cruel questions beginning to form in my mind. I wanted to ask her about those things she'd hinted at before, those clients she hated, those men who'd been cruel to her, rough with her, degraded her, I wanted to know all about it and I wanted to see her face as I goaded her about it and got her to talk about it as I wallowed in its sordid degradation. Quickly, I took a long drink of wine and looked out of the window at the city busy with all its bright lights below us.
Liz's phone rang, loud in the silence. She picked it up quickly, glad of something to break our awkward silence.
I sighed in relief when she muttered something like 'I don't know' and glanced up at me. I smiled at her and whispered that it was all right, if she needed to go. I was glad when I heard her say that she was on her way... presumably to some other client.
I realised, as she muttered away into her phone, that when some fantasies become real they lose their magic, the situation becomes merely awkward and embarrassing, exactly like this.
As she put her phone away we both looked at each other, both relieved that there was a way out of our awkwardness, Of course, she pretended regret, and so did I, as she shrugged on her coat, wrapped her scarf around her neck and put her hat back on, checked herself in the mirror and then left.
After Liz had gone I sat there, for an hour or so, at the table drinking the last of the wine and watching the snow fall. Then I picked up my phone and quickly erased Liz's number from it before I could change my mind.
'How I Became the Fat Bloke and Other Stories'is available here for the Kindle.