On Friday I arrived about fifteen minutes early and stood on the street anxiously looking up and down, unsure as to which direction she’d come from. Under the clock outside Easons bookshop on O’Connell Street is a popular place to arrange to meet. Firstly it is a well known landmark. Secondly it is in a fairly busy and public place. And thirdly from the point of view of anyone waiting there are a number of buses that stop there, so you can pretend that people are not looking at you wondering if you have been stood up, and instead convince yourself that they think that you are just waiting for a bus.
Then just as the clock above me began to chime the half hour I saw her walking up from the direction of Abbey St. My heart stopped.
She was wearing a blue cardigan with a matching cotton top and long, flowing skirt, with sandals on her feet. Her long black hair and skirt were blowing in the breeze and she smiled as she saw me. I fell in love with her again. She was just so beautiful it took my breath away. And my heart started pounding in my chest.
“Hi,” I said, restraining myself from grabbing her and hugging her off her feet. “How are you?”
“Hi,” she smiled. “I’m fine.” She shrugged, “A bit tired from work, but you don’t want me to go into that.”
I wanted her to go into everything. I wanted to know how she spent every minute of every day of her life. But I couldn’t tell her that. So instead I just nodded and smiled.
“So,” I gestured with my arm and started to walk towards O’Connell Bridge. She walked beside me. “There’s a French film on in the Screen cinema that I thought you might like to see.” I probably knew the name of it at the time, but I can’t remember what it was now.
She nodded, “That sounds nice.”
“Do you mind,” I slipped my hand into hers.
“No,” she smiled and squeezed it gently.
My heart leapt and my grin became ten feet wide.
“So you had a bad day in work then,” I said.
“Yes,” she sighed. “My boss gave me this load of stuff the other day, that he said he didn’t want until next week. Then this afternoon he comes around looking for it. And got really annoyed when I didn’t have it done.” She stopped herself and smiled at me, “But then this is our first date, you don’t want me bitching about work.”
I just wanted to hear her speak, I didn’t care what she talked about. “Not really,” I agreed.
It was a bit early for the film so we went into a pub for a drink first. I had a vodka, as drinking a pint before going to a film usually spoils the second half as by that time I’m usually dying to go to the toilet. She had a rum and coke. We sat by a window and were bathed with late evening light filtered through the frosted glass. The sounds of the city traffic could be faintly heard from the outside.
We talked about this and that for a few minutes. I was half turned towards her with my arm on the back of the seat. She sat close to me with her legs crossed and her hands hooked over her knee. As we talked I took hold of her left hand. She smiled at me and squeezed it down into her lap. We slowly finished our drinks as she caressed my hand in her lap and I toyed with her hair, rubbing it across her neck and shoulder.
We stayed a little too long in the pub and when we arrived in the cinema it was quite full. But we managed to find two seats together in the middle of a row that was not too near the screen.
“So have you done much writing recently?” she asked as we sat down.
I sat beside her. “No I seem to have a terminal case of writer’s block,” I sighed.
“Well I’m sure it’ll pass,” she looked around the cinema.
“Yeah. But I keep getting itchy fingers, and thinking that I should be at home doing some work instead of being out enjoying myself,” I explained.
“Well you might get some inspiration tonight,” she looked back at me.
I laughed. “Inspiration ! That’s the last thing I need. I’ve got inspiration coming out my ears. What I need is to get some writing done. Not an idea for yet another story.”
“Surely you need inspiration before you know what story to write,” she said.
“I’ve got ideas for five novels and about fifteen short stories that I’ve haven’t written. And probably never will,” I replied. “I don’t need any more.”
“Oh,” she said softly.
“Anyway,” I smiled. “Inspiration is supposed to come from inside me, or from my own observations, not from copying other people’s work. You wouldn’t want me to plagiarise now, would you?”
“Of course not,” she smiled back.
Yes I used to be that touchy about my writing.
Then the lights dimmed and the audience hushed as the projector sprang into action.
“Do you mind if I’m assertive,” I whispered as I slipped my arm around her shoulders.
“Please do,” she relaxed against me.
Normally when I put my arm around a girl I rest my hand on the outside of her shoulder, because if you droop your arm over her shoulder your hand almost inevitably comes to rest on her breast. Which is usually a bit too forward for a first date. But with Alexandra I found my elbow came to comfortably rest just past her neck and my hand brushed against her breast before I knew it. I pulled it away and didn’t know what to do with it for a moment. But Alexandra came to my rescue. She solved my dilemma by taking my hand in her’s, so we were actually holding hands and being intimate without me grouping her. Then she did something which I shall always remember. All through the film she ran her other hand up and down my forearm. Stroking the hairs on my arm and producing a sensation which made me shake with anticipation.
The film was a French romantic comedy about the director of a yoghurt company who falls in love with the cleaning lady at his office. She discovers a plot by one of the managers, who is also having an affair with the director’s wife, to unseat him and take over the company. There was lots of intrigue, good one liners and even some social commentary, all rapped up in a fast moving plot, before we got the happy ending.
All in all it was quite a good film, but it was turned into a masterpiece because I saw it with my arm around Alexandra.
As we were coming out of the cinema I asked, “So where to now, Alexandra?”
“I know a nice pub up towards where I live,” She waved in more or less the correct direction. “But I can’t remember its name.”
“That’s OK,” I said as I took her hand in mine. “Lets go.” And we walked over to the pedestrian crossing to cross the busy traffic coming down Pearse Street.