Lonely in a Crowded Room

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Athletic

Unhappiness lay on the face of Jack Collingwood as he lunched alone in a crowded restaurant. Everyone around him looked happy, he thought, and that made him odd-man out.

Ah, yes, the truly lonely people eat alone while watching other people enjoying themselves, and thus the lonely are reminded of what loneliness is like and feeling the emptiness than is synonymous with their situation.

Jack mused, only the lonely really feel life ebbing away, with front-of-mind realization that escapes lively-living people.

His partner of four years wasn’t lonely. Jack could see it in her eyes, the way she moved, the way he heard her humming, occasionally singing. That’s because she had gotten what she wanted from him: she was with child.

The reality was no longer did she have any use for him and he appeared powerless to change the situation. He felt he was becoming a loser.

Oh, she still conversed with him, ate with him, went out with him, even danced with him occasionally and sex was there for the taking, near mechanical sex that is.

But the most telling thing of all was she didn’t share a single thought with him about the baby. Any questions he asked about the baby, ‘her’ baby, due in another seven and a half months, would be answered stripped of any emotion and real information.

He was being shut out.

Jack knew what to do and actually went looking for an apartment for himself on the other side of town across the river. It seemed senseless leaving his job. Positions for people paid just to think were rare.

He was part of a corporation’s strategic planning team and held first-class qualifications in law and business administration. Such jobs, apart from being rather difficult to find, were not easy to retain.

A boring job for a boring person? Far from it on both counts.

Viewing empty apartments that letting agents alleged would be ideal for him as the new occupant, do not make for a rewarding experience for a divorced man, divorced in the emotional sense, that is.

So, Jack Collingwood stopped looking for an alternative abode in which to sit in loneliness.

He and his wife had friends, some very good friends. Jack would watch Mimi talk to the female friends in great excitement about her pregnancy and feel shafted through the heart.

It would appear time was ripe for him to persuade Mimi to consult a psychologist, with or without him?

Ha!

He’d tried that once and it had sent her raving, he being invited to consult a psychiatrist when she figuratively came down off the ceiling in a massive tantrum.

That triggered him into a black mood that deepened when she banished him to sleep alone for four nights.

Jack had briefed both his mother and her mother about his predicament.

They sympathized with him initially but now those women were no longer talking to one another and Mimi no longer talked to Jack’s mother.

‘I can’t bear the sight of her with her poisonous tongue’ were the words Mimi used, ensuring the temporary upset between Mimi and his mother became permanent.

Understandably, his mom’s wise words to her son were, ‘Ditch her and get a nice woman pregnant’.

Ditch her?

Until the confirmation of pregnancy, he and his mom had regarded Mimi as one of the best things that had happened to them in terms of relationships.

Mimi was shortish, habitually wore a telling smile and on weekdays dressed colourfully which suited her. On weekdays she wore black working long hours as a legal executive.

She wore her so-called telling smile around the apartment; it only retracted when Jack attempted to talk to her very personally, usually after they had a few drinks and she opened her spontaneous present from him.

Spontaneous meant something purchased presented by the devious Jack attempting to penetrate through the defences of her mind that still remained a somewhat porous wall between them. She scoffed at every gift that she opened.

Frustrated by these events, Jack decided to stay living with her and attempted to eliminate the occasional nagging thought of walking out on her.

The other matter of concern was the foetus, now taking on its future appearance that would be evident on arrival. Mimi once claimed she knew its sex; the hurtful thing was she’d declined to share that knowledge with him.

In that respect alone, Mimi was a damn selfish bitch.

Repeatedly thinking those words finally spurred Jack into motion: he decided to do something to resolve his loneliness. As a result, Ella entered Jack’s life.

Jack had decided not to leap into sex with a new woman because her primary role, as visualised by him, would be to unknowingly pull him out of his rut of loneliness. Jack had reasoned that rutting, um any sex for that matter, seemed illogical if his objective was to be pulled from a rut.

But easier said than done.

When you’re lonely and the reason for that state knifes you through the midriff because it’s seems so unjust.

Clearly, being tall, bursa escort dark and handsome with the right electrifying smile to win the beautiful hand of a likely woman required to become your mistress was a tall order, certainly for Jack, being cut-off at 5ft 8 in, a little over-weight and his light-coloured hair was receding and his facial appearance was merely okay.

Well, Jack surmised, nothing much in life was fair was it? He worked at refocusing to extract himself from his depression.

The target of achieving success within three weeks was rather ambitious to initiate a complete turnaround for him; drifting into loneliness had taken far longer than that. But Jack believed that short period was the incentive required to spur him on to mount a proactive charge, knowing that out there were woman with potential to resolve his problem.

Oh yes, likely women existed in busloads but the problem was to put a finger on one of them, so to speak. How, Jack thought with nervous jiggles in the pit of his stomach, would he actually make contact with a likely woman?

Jack decided to operate away from the vicinity of his home, no longer a desirable marital nest.

At least two of their mutual female friends were sexually interest in him, or so he felt, giving themselves away by what they had fondled his groin in moments of drunken indiscretion. No, this liaison had to be outside of Mimi’s realm and Jack must never talk to this lucky woman about Mimi and her pathetic problem that had torpedoed his happy life.

Lucky woman?

Jack sighed.

He sensed that the strategic planning objectives of this mission would fall well short of any woman’s conception of a White Knight requiring a confidential liaison or, more precisely in Jack’s case (and not to be revealed) to become a case worker to banish his loneliness.

Aged thirty-two, Jack knew a great deal about women and generally really liked them; he knew some guys, including married ones, who seemed to regard being attached to a female was a necessity for the purpose of unleashing mutual benefits, whereas he possessed a wider point of view that the female chosen was for a romantic partnership, with equality being paramount.

In admitting that, Jack never regarded himself totally as a romantic, knowing he tended to see life in pastels rather than in vivid colours. He accepted that perhaps Mimi saw that and wished to expose ‘her’ baby to people living vividly. It was a thought that offered the only explanation he could come up with, and clinging to that thought was enough to relieve him of the need to seek professional consultancy to explore his mind for soundness.

He spent half a day at work planning this new woman. After much revising, his preferred concept emerged as a brunette, 5ft 8in, moderately voluptuous, mild manner, caring attitude, used to soothing damaged egos, married to a sloth-like husband, at peace within, adventurous and possessing a supressed desire to curl her finger around a more professionally accomplished male while murmuring into his ear.

Jack looked at his creation, well pleased. He hadn’t noted age because what age was any woman? Nor had he noted intelligence because most women were intelligent, and attitude to sex was missing because it was bottom-drawer priority, for the time being.

‘Married’ had been specified as a priority to ensure she was not in the position to live with him. He’d smiled, thinking Mimi wouldn’t appreciate another woman sharing her husband in any manner whatsoever.

After his usual lonely crowded restaurant lunch next day, Jack ducked into a shop to buy a bottle of perfume to present to this woman once he found her, if he ever found her – ah, he’d need to work on a strategy to ensure he did find her.

He chose Joy. The blonde wearing far too much make-up serving him smiled and said, “This is the second Joy I’ve sold in five minutes. I was excited about the first purchaser as she’s Brigit MacLeod.”

“Really, I read she’s in the city for a recital on Thursday night. If she excited you, how exciting do you find your second purchaser?”

“Well,” she pouted, “I expect you’d like the truth?”

“Don’t bother,” Jack laughed, unconsciously eyeing the well-filled bra and cringed when realizing she’d caught his glance.

“Like the look of them,” asked the blonde, not smiling.

“Yes, I do,” Jack said, placing his credit card on the counter.

“Well that makes you an honest man. Most of my horny male customers would have evaded that question.”

“I’m not…” Jack stopped.

“Not horny? Oh dear.”

Every piece of Jack’s uncovered skin noticeably changed from olive to pink. That stimulated a blood rush and Jack lost it completely.

“Come with me to Miss MacLeod’s recital on Thursday; the corporation I work through probably has complimentary tickets just sitting there because most of our people are not into Classical.”

“Oh dear, I’m married with two adult children?”

“That doesn’t matter. My proposal is the concert, dinner and sending bursa escort bayan you home in a cab with just a tiny and shy goodnight kiss.”

“Well, how exciting. And your name, sir?”

“Jack Collingwood.”

The blonde checked the name on the card.

“Well, that’s the second time I’ve detected honesty in you. Just a moment, I need to check with my daughter.”

She crossed to another counter and returned with a 5ft 11in slim woman in her mid-twenties with unnoticeable breasts and looking as if she scowled more than she smiled.

“Ella, this is Jack Collingwood. Yes or no?”

“If it’s just the concert, yes. If it’s supper, perhaps. As to sex after supper, my answer is no.”

The mother said, “It’s you call Jack.”

Slowly Jack twigged what was going on. Blondie was handing her young daughter to him.

“Ella, may I invite you to the celebrated violinist Brigit MacLeod’s concert on Thursday night and to supper afterwards, after which I’ll send you off home in a taxi?”

The young woman appeared monumentally undecided and her mom thrust her hand against Ella’s back as if the daughter was a talking dummy.

Ella’s vocal mechanism switched on.

“Yes, that would be lovely. I’ll meet you in The Balcony Bar at 7:30.”

Her mom thanked Ella and sent her back to her work station.

“Ella is not a happy girl as she’s having man trouble, her husband actually. She needs cheering up more than I do so I thank you for allowing me to switch the offer.”

“I’m not seeking sex.”

“I know,” Ella’s mom giggled. “That’s why I turned you down.”

Jack walked off a little bewildered.

Rather rashly he’d targeted an older woman for a get-to-know-you date and she’d switched the date to her daughter who accepted reluctantly as if being invited to sample The Plague while the mom was shaking her interesting looking tits in laughter. What a mess!

Well, he’d gotten what he deserved being incompetent when it came to women. He was toying with the idea of not showing up for the date. Those nasty little thoughts had appeared like wild yeast and were easy to put behind him: he’d never stood up a woman in his life and wouldn’t do something so despicable as walking out on Mimi without first attempting to solve the problem between them under mediation.

Back in his office with big windows that present in-the-face views of other commercial buildings blotting the landscape as did the building in which he sat, Jack had a thought not connected to the discussion group he was chairing.

Stella, no Ella, had said she’d meet him in The Balcony Bar. She knew the theatre! That suggested she possessed some interest in the arts. How interesting and how reasonably rare for these times when most under-30 women walked around plugged into metal or plastic players listening to pirated drivel.

Oops, perhaps some did pay for legitimate downloads and even listen to quality music of whatever genre. He now thought Ella whatever her surname could be a surprise package.

Well, Ella certainly was. Ella diluted her wine with tears saying she was in desperate need to find someone to unload on. Jack handed across his handkerchief and lied: “Tell me about it, I’m interested.”

He gulped down more wines as she further diluted her one glass with periodic tears. She was sure her husband didn’t love her, was having sex with other women, one of whom she suspected was her mother.

Then came the astonishing bit: “He doesn’t want to make me pregnant.”

Wow, what an amazing co-incidence, Jack thought. Reaching for her hand he said: “The callous swine, tell me about it, sweet Ella.”

He was keen to learn how she felt and thought about pregnancy, or in her case a barrier to it, because it might provide information allowing him to breach Mimi’s indifference to him, making her love him again, although he now thought she’d never really loved anyone apart from herself.

“It’s a simple issue. I’m twenty-five and want to be a young mother. On the other hand, Roger, who’s twenty-seven, doesn’t want to be a father until he’s into his mid-thirties. He refused to have sex with me until I promised to continue with my anti-pregnancy program for the next ten years. End of story.”

“How do you feel about that?”

“Still outraged.”

“What are you going to do about it?”

“Nothing.”

“And?”

“And what? That’s all I have to say on this matter; it takes two to Tango and Roger is refusing to dance.”

Then the bell warning ten minutes to curtain call sounded.

It was a beautiful concert, the both enjoying it immensely. They had a polite sequel over supper and true to his word Jack put Ella into a taxi.

They parted with the righteousness of a clergyman and churchwoman, smiling good nights exchanged in absolute decorum of Untouchables, although Jack was really quite interested in digging his fingers into her ass and pulling her against him.

The vehicle moved only three feet and stopped; Ella’s window wounded down. Jack escort bursa strode forward and looked into her impassive face.

“Are you interested in commencing an affair?”

“Terribly,” Jack said, fighting to avoid dribbling.

“I’ll be in touch.”

The back window went up and the irritated driver took off, burning a bit of wheel rubber.

Other concert-goers lining up for cabs looked at Jack, a couple of women expressing slight distaste as if critical he’d left a woman to disgrace herself by making such proposition when it was the male’s job to do the dirty work. A male gave Jack a knowing wink.

Such reaction irritated Jack; surely people intelligent enough to like classical music were intelligent enough to know how to be discreet?

He was almost halfway back to the apartment when he realized Ella had no way of contacting him.

Damn, he’d become very interested in working to pull her out of her depression and by that he didn’t only mean whipping up her passions in bed or across the kitchen table. Then he remembered he knew where she worked. But how could she think she’d be in touch: all she had was his name?

Jack decided to pop into the perfume counter just before lunch on Monday and give Elle his card. But Ella beat him too it, calling at 10:30.

“Hi,” he replied. “This is clever, how on earth were you able to contact me here?”

“Over supper you mentioned you worked in Dwight Towers. During my mid-morning break a few minutes ago I popped over and read the listings of tenants and Channing Corporation International is the only corporation listed so I phoned and asked to speak to you. You’d mentioned to mom you worked for a corporation but she couldn’t remember the name.”

“That’s great sleuthing. You must be desperate for an affair?”

“I want to build up a friendship with another male, Jack, and if it takes sex to achieve that then so be it.”

“That was a rude thing for me to say, sorry.”

“It was slightly hard-nosed but you are a male and so allowances have to be made. No offence taken.”

There was a silence. Jack watched two flies mating on his desk. How the hell did flies get into the corporation’s sanitized offices!

He said, “I would appreciate a relationship that included sex but if you are off-hand about having sex with me then that’s okay, we shall remain celebrant. To tell you the truth, I don’t find you sexy and was hoping you’d prove me how wrong I was.”

“I must go, I’m calling in company time. If that comment of yours was a wicked way of luring me into bed, I must say it is half working. I’ll be waiting for you tonight in the foyer of your building. Is 6:00 the time you finish?”

“Yes. I look forward to seeing you again.”

There was no further conversation.

The conversation had been very improper, very clinical and very informative, Jack decided. He sent a text to Mimi advising he wouldn’t be home until possible as late as 11:00, not to keep dinner for him. He gave no reason for not arriving home for dinner,

As the planning subcommittee reached page 111 of the 334-page draft report, second reading. Jack was trying to remember city hotels that provide room hire on an hourly rate for transit passengers between flights, even though such three-star establishments were not near the airport.

The next thought was what type of condoms to purchase and once he had that sorted, he became aware he’d automatically approved two amendments suggested by the group while he was thinking about entertaining Elle.

He quickly highlighted in blue on his laptop screen the sections which he needed to re-read with the changes by the panel that he’d inattentively accepted. He emailed the two selected pages to himself to check when his mind was back on the job.

At 6:05, Jack walked out of the building with Elle.

He noticed shorter people looking at her, especially the males. He’d gone to kiss her but when she twisted her head away, he pulled up her hand and kissed that.

“You fool,” she’d giggled. “Oh, that wasn’t a nice thing to say; I’m sorry.”

“Slightly hard-nosed but you are a female. No offence taken.”

She giggled, remembering she’d made a similar retort on the phone. “Touché.”

“Which part of you?”

“Pardon me?”

“Which part of you do you wish me to touché?”

“You appear to be incorrigible, hold my hand.”

Jack realized Elle was attempting to be brave-faced about this; the reality probably was she was nervous as she was not into this sort of behaviour and neither was he. Clearly, unless allowed to meander on to some sort of conclusion, the relationship could end in a flop.

“Shall we drive down to the port and sit in the wharf bar and watch the sun go down.”

“That sounds fine; but aren’t you eager for your pound of flesh first?”

“Who me? Nah.”

Jack looked at her reaction and was satisfied she’d believed him. He wasn’t ashamed of the deception as sometimes it was necessary to alter one’s stance to suit the situation and who said it was necessary to trumpet the fact of a slightly dishonest manoeuvre?

Okay, he had lied but she looked relieve when hearing his response.

They entered the restaurant and were seated at a prime window table for two.

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