The nature of attraction, circa 2001

A Waitress at Duval's Restaurant)

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I’ve written a lot of different stuff over the years, a lot of it gathering dust in the obscure nooks of my hard drive. Rather than let them moulder there quietly I’ve decided to bring them into the light. I haven’t reviewed them, and I’m sure that they will be of varying quality and quite possibly borne out of a perspective very different from today – still, they’re mine. Over the next few weeks/months I will publish them here just so they’re on the public record, good, bad, or indifferent.

The first of these is a piece I wrote one afternoon in 2001. I remember it well because I remember the scenes it describes, the the state of mind and the time in life in which I wrote this. I was in the middle of things. Earlier in the year I’d fallen in love with a woman who later took a job abroad. Soon I was to visit her, unsure of what to expect, but hopeful. This piece came from that in-between time, and is typical I think of the ruminative investigation that even now I’ll occasionally indulge in.

The Nature of Attraction

I asked her what was more decadent, the pavlova or the tart. She looked at me, a slight smile curling the corner of her mouth. I watched, expectantly, something in my eyes telling her this was no idle question, but words intended to provoke and entice. Her smile deepened, her large eyes went to the ceiling as if in deep thought, then returned to me, responding in kind to my gentle challenge. “Well, I think then that the crumble with ginger ice-cream is most decadent, messieur.”

“I don’t know if I can handle that much decadence for lunch,” I said. “Maybe later…”

“Mmm, then I think the tart with maple syrup is more decadent. Yes, I think so.”

“Then I’ll have that,” I told her. All throughout our eyes have met, and the subtext of our conversation decoded. It is delicious.

Later I think of the nature of attraction. I think it is not simply that I would like to take that French waitress to bed with me. It is not about sex though I am sure that would be fine. I am drawn to her specifically by her specific charms. She is petite but voluptuous at the same time. She is short but with a rounded rump on her that is attractive, and breasts that push firmly against the stiff fabric of her blouse. Her lips are full and sensuous, and her eyes great pools of feeling and thought. Her hair is a dark black, fashionably bobbed, so in my imagination she resembles a French shop girl of the fifties maybe, attractive and elusive and slightly mythical. But here she is, responding to me. Later she recalls to my mind the stories of Anais Nin for some reason, the mix I think of vulnerability and eroticism. That is her, why I am drawn to her.

I think beyond that, to the nature of attraction itself. I had gone into lunch with the image in my mind of the woman I have been seeing. She has been on my mind much, wondering what it is I feel for her and what I should feel. Maybe I could love her but I do not know. She is there though, in my mind, an attractive, interesting, intelligent woman that who knows could be the person I spend the rest of my life with. So we sit down for lunch and I order wine and then a meal from this mysterious and alluring French woman who calls me messieur and looks me in the eye. And I feel that attraction, and later, I ask, why?

The answer to this question lies in the relationship between these two women, and me, and in a fundamental truth. I was drawn to the French waitress by the obvious: a lovely accent, her good looks, her deep and sensitive eyes, and her responsiveness to me, her erotic edge. There were things less obvious, less tangible, which are a consequence of chemistry, things you feel only without clearly understanding. I imagined then holding the naked body of this French waitress close to me, close so she is sheltering her petite body against my broad shoulders, my strong arms around her. I imagined her then like that then with her speaking to me in that voice, with that accent, telling me of her life perhaps, or what she dreamt, in any case sharing something with me as I held her like that, not speaking myself, listening as our eyes meet. Quite possibly there was a sex scene that came before this, but that was not what I was drawn to. I was drawn to the intimacy of that moment, of the strong me holding the more fragile her as she spoke from her heart to me. I imagined perhaps an enchanting set of contradictions in her, an uncertainty resolved by a smile and a shrug of the shoulders. It was these elements that drew me to her.

I have lain with my girlfriend as I have described, and she has looked up to me with eyes that melted me. We have shared our intimate moments in a succession of beautiful moments. She is different though, tall and athletic, blonde, successful and obviously so, outwardly certain and confident, an impressive person to speak to and be with. It is only a few people like me that know she is not as confident or certain as she appears, that there is a little girl inside her, that she is silly and generous and teasing. These are the things we have shared. These are the things that I know of her.

So I know on the one hand, and imagine on the other. One is flesh and blood beside me, a hand slipped into my mine as we walk down the street, a lingering kiss on parting. The other is conjecture and vivid imagination, fantasy.

Here then is the nature of attraction. It is the difference between what is known and what is imagined. It is meeting that mysterious stranger and letting your mind run away with you. It is lingering by that door wishing to open it but ultimately declining, letting instead your imagination go that way. What lies behind that door in truth, what world is revealed, what is it that you see through that other persons eyes, the other persons words?

And so with my French waitress I imagine the kind of life I might have had with her but never will. Wistfully I think of what I miss out on, what now I will never know. What could I have learnt with her about myself? What insights could she have guided me too? What could I have felt, what could she have drawn and teased from me? How is the world different beside a petite French waitress compared to alongside a statuesque blonde lawyer? Though there are sensual pleasures it is not about sex. Sex perhaps is the window dressing, or better still the matadors cape of attraction. Attraction I believe is about discovery and the will to discovery, about learning about yourself and others and the world that they see.

I spoke of all this over dinner to friends. They paused in their eating and watched as I spoke fluently. I had considered deeply in the 24 hours since that lunch. At the conclusion they looked at each other and then back to me and one said: “that is what happens when you’re in love. Everything is deeper and means more. You look at things differently, don’t you?”

Well yes, but that is what love is about.

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