On the 8th day of Christmas…

Was supposed to have a couple of drinks last night with a guy I worked with a few years back. We’re very different characters, though we have things in common. He’s ex-army, and though he has some of that innate conservatism he’s not really what you would expect of a military dude. He’s a tad hyper, the words gushing out from him as if from a broken pipe. He’s full of ideas and quaint images he can’t wait to share, and tends to long and demonstrative monologues. We’re not friends, I consider him more as a strategic acquaintance – someone worth remembering if only for the opportunities he has access to. He is a nice guy though, even if clueless in aspects, and has a sharp intellect that works great in a professional vacuum, less well in the helter skelter of real life.

We agreed to meet at Riverland, down by the Yarra beneath Fed Square. It’s a great venue for a hot Friday evening, and the joint was predictably heaving with people. Many had come from Christmas parties around town, and regardless, a week out from Christmas pretty well everyone but Santa’s elves is in a festive mood.

We met, found a refreshing beer, and positioned ourselves in the shade while the aroma of barbecued sausages wafted our way. About 10 minutes after I arrived Donna popped up. She had called me on the way, having come from her own work Christmas party and up for more celebratory drinks.

“Where you going?” she asked me. I told her.

“Can I come?” she asked.

“If you want,” I said.

“Should I call Ibsa?”

“Whatever.”

With drink in hand and in a vivacious mood she very quickly had Andrew’s attention. I let it go. I listened in occasionally and put my 2 bob’s worth when so inclined, and scanned the crowd. Soon enough Ibs arrived, hey P Diddy he said, as he he always does greeting me. With him was a very cool friend I’d met before, and a woman somewhere in her mid-20’s with messy hair and a weird outfit (though many outfits appear weird to me these days). She was dark skinned of some kind of Indian background. As you generally know, I twigged early on that she saw something in me.

We were meant to have a couple of quiet drinks. I was going to go home and have a bowl of soup I’d made earlier in the day and watch a DVD. Like so often though the night started to get away from me. Suddenly everyone is there and the conversations go off in different directions, the drinks flow and the ‘shouts’ (often requiring a PhD to manage) became more complicated as people like Ibs insist on buying unexpected drinks.

In the meantime I had struck up a conversation with this girl B. Let’s face it, I was up for it. It’s all very well going on about the 12 days of Christmas, but it can easily become the 12 days of seduction. Everyone’s in that mood, they smile, they drink, they share. The sun’s out, the sky’s blue, holidays are ahead, not to mention Chrissie presents, and, what the fuck? why not dally with some attractive stranger? There’s no better time of the year to pick up than in the weeks before Christmas.

It’s funny, but there’s a lot who have no idea. Andrew, bless his cotton socks, nice guy and all, a bit of money in the bank, a good catch, mucks it all up by talking too much (I swear, he spoke 10 words for one of mine on the night). There’s so much happening in his head that he thinks fascinating that he must share it, complete with funny voices and strange demonstrations. For all his smarts he’s yet to understand the supreme seductive value of listening, of inviting someone to speak and share, to listen and respond. The other thing is that you’ve got to get their imagination. Naturally too much information kills that. I always used to tell myself to leave them wanting more. Tease, tantalise, suggest, speak with your eyes, a curl of a lip, less is very much more.

And so while he was belabouring Donna and her friend with tales from his military career I was talking to B with the two other guys looking on. It seemed easy, the conversation starter right there to go with: what’s your opinion about waxing?

As it happens she had quite strongly held views. As I was to discover she was an intelligent and forthright woman with ambitions to become a journalist, her childhood dream. In the meantime she went on about men who spend all their time waxing their chest and generally manscaping themselves, while I tut-tutted in agreement. What about down there then I asked, I mean, if a girl does it, why shouldn’t a bloke. She agreed in a way, saying it was right that man should keep himself tidy, but that too many men – I could almost hear her say limp dicked Gen Y’s – get obsessed by it. I looked her in the eye then and said look, I don’t want to get personal, but…

“Do I wax?” she interrupted with a smile as if that was the question she had expected and hoped for. “No,” she said, “I shave.”

“You shave?” I repeated. “Isn’t that kind of not the done thing?”

She shrugged her shoulders, works for me she seemed to be saying, but there also seemed some girly pride on display in being so out of step. I understood that well.

Occasionally the two guys contributed something, but the conversation is really between the two of us. She fondles the pendant dangling from my neck and asks about it. It’s cool and sexy, we’re on the same wavelength and the prospects look bright. Having locked all that away we begin to talk about her journalism, then about the death of Christopher Hitchens, which finally drives the other two guys away.

All good. I go to get a round of drinks. I return, the conversations have shifted around, I now talk to Donna and Andrew. Then the girl B comes to me, I have to go she says looking at me, hope to see you soon. And that’s that.

Well ok, the logistics of it weren’t right anyway. I glance up at the new blonde just arrived and our eyes meet in a very strange way. I look out over the sun shining on the Yarra as the conversation goes on all around me. I think maybe that’s the way for me now, the Clayton’s seduction, the virtual seduction, do all the hard work and then let it slide. I don’t want to get involved after all, but I love the pulse of being in the game, of playing it well. I love the rest too, but…

We all go to dinner while Andrew continues in his fruitless attempt to impress. It’s dark now. While he goes for a leak one of the girls he’s been beating around the ears asks me what my favourite pick-up line is. I tell her I don’t do lines. “How do you get them to bed?” she asks then. I think on that for a moment. “Well, blunt works,” I say. We can go back to your place, or we can go back to my place, or we can go our separate ways…

Funny, another one of those nights where you find yourself triangulated by the people around you. Next to Andrew I’m Casanova and it’s good to have, but it’s just fun, just another performance to pass the time.

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