Another horrible date last night. I know I’ve talked about trying to be more receptive to different views and personalities but sometimes it’s not possible. She wasn’t funny. She was trying to be funny but she wasn’t. You know as well as I do that women aren’t naturally adept at humour. Some of them manage a decent turn of phrase and even a touch of wit but when it comes to humour they just can’t do it. And that’s fine. I know what to expect in that regard. I’ve learned (the hard way, maybe) and now I know. What bothers me is when they try.
Take this girl last night. I laughed, most of the time, but in my head: pangs of outrage. My skin felt like all the hairs had turned to needles. I think she thought I’d become embarrassed, because my cheeks went the colour of the bright red napkins on the table between us.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“What do you mean?” I replied.
“You look flustered.”
And that’s the other thing, isn’t it, Mum? Women think they have this gift or something. Like their feminine make up gives them this mind’s eye power to see right through us.
“I’m not flustered at all,” I said. And I wasn’t. I was, as I’ve mentioned, outraged. It wasn’t that her jokes were offensive. They didn’t single out a particular group and poke fun at it. It wasn’t even that they were jokes in the conventional sense. No Irishman walked into a bar. No one knocked-knocked or who’s there’d. It was simply that she was trying, Mum. And implicit in her efforts was the belief that she could actually amuse. Now I’ve never claimed to be able to do things that I know I can’t do. You always taught me to appreciate my weaknesses even better than my strengths and thereby understand my limits. Perhaps it comes down to this: she wasn’t mothered well. I’ve told you before, and I’ll no doubt say it for the rest of my life, how grateful I am for the man you’ve helped me become.
After we’d ordered our drinks and the waitress had brought them to us, smiled wanly, rolled her eyes and trudged off, we sat at the table in peace for maybe five minutes. Pleasantries only. Questions aimed at the surface of things, responses one sentence long. For a moment it was as if this might turn into something reasonable. A girl who got it for once. Who didn’t feel the need to pour out every drop of herself to a man she’d met (in the flesh, at least) only moments ago. By way of aside, I’ll never use EliteSingles.com again.
Once the initial enquiries had been made, though, she started up with her life story. It’s hard to reproduce in words the twang of a nasal voice. Reference might be made to a spanner being banged against a metal pipe. Like all true horrors, one really needs first-hand experience to understand. I am grateful, at least, that you’ll never have to suffer such a thing.
I won’t recount verbatim the things she said. I won’t even summarise her dimwit stories. As you’ve probably guessed by now, they were all about her. Each attempted, as I’ve said, with a terrible kind of humour. Had she been genuinely funny, I might’ve let it go, gotten on with my drink, nodded my head and kept on smiling, but… no. So when she asked again what might be wrong, I dabbed my lips with a napkin and said, “Nothing at all. Mind if I pop to the loo, though?” then I ducked out the bar’s back door and never returned.
Other than that, things are going well. I may need to borrow some money again, my Merc’s rego’s coming up – can you wire me a grand? – but all good otherwise. That OK, Mum? The grand?
Thank you for the money. Really needed it and appreciate your help. Just a grand, I noticed. I guess you are pretty strapped at the moment, huh. Anyway, I paid my rego (although it’s gone up annoyingly, so I had to use some savings L).
By the way. Went on another date last night. God it was awful. This girl. God. She was so awful. A scientist. A biochemist, or so she claimed. Doesn’t believe in any kind of higher order. Human reason. Provable fact. Go no further, or so she says. I guess I should look on the bright side. I can forget about her. She’ll live her life (in dark secular untruth) and I’ll live mine, bathed in the light of the Lord. Have mercy on her? I should think not, Mum. Just quietly, she didn’t even offer to split the bill!
Now now. Don’t you worry about that car registration business. You just tell me how much more you need and I’ll shoot it across. I don’t want you going hungry, darling. As for these women, I’m glad you have the sense to see what’s not right for you. Oh, Kenneth, you’ve always been so wise in these matters. I thank God daily that he blessed me with such a clever, insightful, well-rounded son. The girl with the jokes sounded horrible. Well done running off like you did. As for the unbeliever, let us talk not a word more about her. It’s funny, you know. You’re 35 (a barrister to boot!) and it still feels to me like you’re a boy. What I’m saying is, don’t rush into anything, will you dear? Life is long. Look at me. 72 and fighting fit. Your father on the other hand… Which reminds me. Have you spoken to him lately? You should, you know. You should write to him Kenneth. Even if he doesn’t respond. We must keep trying. Anyhoo, come up for some dinner when you’re ready, Maria’s put your favourite stew on and it’s just about done. Bring the mail from the foyer if you can. Lester left it piled up on the mahogany pillar in the shape of Mary, the Mother of our Lord.
Thank you for dinner last night. It was, as expected, delicious. You must tell me how Maria gets the meat so tender. Sorry I took it in my room. Terribly busy on that case I was telling you about, you know, the one in which the Bengali farmers are suing the bank for killing their families? Lots and lots to do. Must say though, it’s nice to be acting for an international firm for a change. A bank with a bit more going on than mortgage books and business lending, at least.
I’ve told you before, you should fire Lester. He is overpaid and underwhelming. But I’ll leave that up to you (fire him, Mother).
As for Dad, what can I say? I could write him but he is liable not to see my message. He isn’t like you, Mum. He didn’t upskill on App-tech when he had the chance and now he lives in a paper world, alone. I will try, though, shall I? Me, the time-poor lawyer fighting for property rights in the name of economic growth, flying the flag of progress, so that, one day should God bless it, your grandchildren can have the life that I have had? OK, OK, I’ll write Dad.
I hope this email finds you well. Nay. I hope this email finds you, period. Did you remember the steps I left printed out in your study? The website and the username and password. It really is very simple. Anyway, if you’re reading this I suppose I needn’t go any further because you’ve worked it out. For that, congrats.
Mum says you haven’t been joining her for dinner lately. She says you have hardly been eating at all, that Lester has found the odd apple core over in your wing of the house, among all the papers you’ve got scattered there for the big merger. You really need to eat, Dad. You need your strength. As for all the work you’re doing, don’t you think it’s time to dial back your hours now that you’re 80? I know you’re the Chairman and all, but would it kill you to work a bit less? I haven’t seen you in a year! We live in the same house, albeit with five storeys, three wings and six tennis courts, and I don’t see you. Let’s ponder that for a moment.
OK, I have finished pondering that. Actually, it probably doesn’t matter much.
I’m still single, by the way. In process of seeking suitable partner. Mother is helping greatly. God bless her heart. Were women such vultures in your day?
Anyhoo, I hope you at least read this. And whether you respond or not, and I’m guessing that you won’t, could you please wire me some cash? It’s a bit of a drag asking Mum all the time, you know how up and down her portfolio’s been, but I really could use some.
Love your son,
Great to hear from you, sport. I’ve figured out this (E) mail lark at long last, mainly because we recently acquired a dot com business for scrip (subject to management earn-out).
Never mind that, though, and please don’t concern yourself with my eating habits. You know I deplore your mother’s company and always have. Which brings me to your questions: no you may not have any cash. I am insufferably tight, despite my millions. And yes! Women have always been like vultures, in fact there are certain forgotten European myths that put women at the heart of all evil. It doesn’t matter, then, does it sport, what kind of woman you marry, so long as she looks respectable standing beside you at corporate functions and is equipped in the facilities of the English language, should some insipid journalist ask her a question. But you really should find one, you know. As I recall, you have aims for public office, and no Liberal Party frontbencher in history has had much luck without a wife, gays aside (you aren’t gay are you? Good God don’t tell me).
Find a woman, boy. One with a bland look, a scentless, sexless, slightly stocky woman with big hair and a wide white smile. Trust me, there isn’t much more a man could hope for in this life.
Speak to you again in another year, if I’m not dead before then.
Your father passed away last night, I am sorry to tell you. He was at his desk, with an A3 spreadsheet, a pricing model I believe, on his lap. He was doing what he loved. The funeral will be next week.
I’m sorry I didn’t come to Dad’s funeral. That case I told you about, it’s exploded and I’ve been round the clock. I am also putting my ducks in a row for the federal seat of Wentworth. The election will come around quick.
I’m sorry I wasn’t at your father’s funeral, I had an appointment with the specialist, you know how hard it is to get in with him – oh, wait, I’ve just seen your message. Looks like you didn’t go either. Whoops! 😉
Have you read the will!?
The bastard. He’s left us nothing! Just this house and the yachts. I’ll do some digging. Do we have any medical records that might go to state of mind? Likely not. He was sharp as a knife, wasn’t he? Still on that fucking board. They’ll back him, I bet. Let’s do what we can.
In other news, I’ve got a run at this election thing. The local libs have put me forward. “Top barrister to lead charge,” says this morning’s rag. Better find a woman as soon as poss!
Found a woman. Bland, slightly stocky. She’ll look good before the press.
I’ve got cancer.
Not now, for goodness sake. I’ve work to do. My clients. The election. And this fucking woman! She won’t shut up.
I pressed send too quickly on my last email. I meant go on to say, but don’t worry about it at all, I’ve got a good medical team, and you’re too busy and too important to waste time on your old mum’s problems. Just go and do what you need to, you always have, and that isn’t a stab at you, it’s just the truth. I suppose in that way you’re quite like your father. That’s not a stab either. I’ll be alright. There are only two secondaries anyway. Shouldn’t be that bad, darling.
Just wondering if you got my last email? I couldn’t see anything in my inbox, but sometimes it sends things to junk. Hope you’re well. I’m feeling very very… oh no, never mind.
I got your email. Both of them. Keep trucking.
PS: I assume you’ve seen the news? I’ve been elected. Up I go. By the way, I hope you’re still pro coal.
Image: Joanna Kosinska
Dominic Carew is a lawyer and writer from Sydney. His short stories have appeared in Tincture Journal, TEXT, Scum Mag, Seizure and elsewhere. He won the 2016 Sydney Writers’ Room Short Story Award and he has previously been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and the Overland Story Wine Prize.