Alfred wasn’t one to be easily intimidated by a woman; in fact he wasn’t easily intimidated in general. However, today he found himself sat across an outdoor pool somewhat apprehensive about the date he had signed up for. Felicia was older, more successful, more financially stable and definitely an intellectual equal, possibly superior. In a twisted way the challenge she posed to his normal dating experience scared and excited him at the same time. The uncertainty about the whole affair made him feel truly alive for the first time in a long time.
She walked in looking like what you would expect of an unapologetic self-made billionaire. At thirty-six what she had accomplished was a pipe dream for most, a fantasy for others.
‘Jesus, if you looked any better I would have to burn my entire wardrobe.’ He complimented her.
‘Well, thank you. But you don’t have to talk down yourself to state your point. What I have in style you make up for in cool. I couldn’t pull off half the stuff you wear.’ She sat down and waved at the waiter.
‘I’m just allowed these eccentricities because I’m a writer. If I was any old Mr. Nobody, people would think I was crazy.’
‘Yeah, you writers and artists do get some social pass to be weird. I think ‘quirky’ is the word.’
As the waiter took their order they proceeded with the expected routine of asking how the week had gone and other such formalities that expressed a general care about what people did with their lives. She was almost halfway through her first glass while he struggled with getting passed a quarter.
‘Mister, I thought writers were supposed to be professional alcoholics. You are shattering every illusion I have ever held dear. You should be ashamed of yourself. An old lady like me out pacing you.’ She shook her head in mock disappointment.
‘I’m just trying to take it easy. You seem the type to get a man drunk and take advantage. Last time we met I remember you handed me a drink. I see a conspiracy here.’
They laughed both laughed.
‘I don’t get it. Why are you single?’ She sounded the question without as much as a warning that the conversation was about to take a turn.
‘Wow, ambush. I haven’t written the essay to answer that one quite yet.’ He joked to buy some time to think up his answer.
‘The truth is, it just hasn’t happened. I don’t know why but every time it’s the same story. I meet a girl, go crazy about her, get her, then leave her. I think I’m a serial romancer. It must be some kind of condition.’
She smiled at him even though he wasn’t really sure what he had said to warrant it.
‘A serial romancer. Aren’t you getting a bit old for that? Surely a man of your intelligence is smart enough to know the butterflies don’t last forever.’
She was right. He was well aware that infatuation was only a fleeting feeling. But somehow he found himself addicted to it. It didn’t matter if he was dating Helen of Troy or the girl from the library, eventually he had to face the reality of dealing with them without the influence of what he termed new-love-madness.
‘You know your problem is in two parts; illusion and addiction. The illusion that somewhere there is a woman that will match whatever fantasy woman you have dreamt up for yourself, and an addiction to a feeling we both know is fleeting.’
He hated to admit it, but he knew she was right on both counts. The ideal partner that would understand and relate to us well enough to cure the existential condition of loneliness did not just exist. It was an abstract and poisonous romantic idea. One that had many people living in regret for passing up potential partners because they fell short of some imaginary standard of perfection.
‘Hopefully I have matured a bit over the years. I like to think I’m ready for something more practical now.’
‘To think you thought yourself not to be a romantic. You are as soft as they come Mr. Writer.’