Smack – Chapter 31


Far too many men in this world – myself included – waste far too much of their lives harbouring under the misapprehension that they are in some way responsible for the woman that they find themselves lying next to when they wake up in the morning. I’m not talking about responsible in the handing-over-the-housekeeping-money-keeping-them-in-dresses-and-pedicures sense; I’m talking about responsible in the meeting-a-woman-and-managing-to-get-her-to agree-to-have-sex-with-you sense. This what I’m thinking as a drag my eyes open in the early morning South Devon light to find the curled up naked form of Carol lying asleep next to me on Jez and Flynn’s lifeless mattress. Because now everything is so clear to me: I realise now that the reason I find myself lying here with a beautiful woman who is seventeen years younger than I am is actually nothing to do with me.

Carol’s flawless features lie half buried in the pillow; the blankets have settled around her waist, allowing her exposed upper body to melt into the shadows like the chiaroscuro brushwork of a young Caravaggio. In soft-focus, I run my eyes over her fresh, unblemished torso, feeling a little like a fourteen-year-old eyeballing a copy of Mayfair …like Augustus Gloop swimming in a chocolate river. No… I’m not responsible for this… this is nothing to do with me – how could I have ever been so naïve as to presume otherwise?

I know that if I apply the natural laws of physics to my current situation there is simply no possible way on earth that I have any right to be sharing a bed, or even a shabby mattress on the floor, with a woman such as this. I could use subterfuge… or lies… or financial incentives… or blackmail… or pity – I could threaten to kill myself; none of these approaches would be enough to provide sufficient incentive to encourage a woman like Carol to willingly sleep with a man like me. And when you reject all possible explanations, when you throw into the waste basket all the available motives for what has just occurred, there is only one conclusion that remains: I’m lying in bed with one of the most beautiful women I have ever encountered in my life for one reason and one reason alone – because Carol wants me to be here.

She wants me to be here in the same way that Louise wanted me to be there in her bed when our bodies clashed last Thursday night; she wants me to be here in the same way that Marie wanted me all those years ago when she first spotted me in the office and decided that she’d like to have me over the photocopier; and she wants me to be here in the same way that Dawn wanted me to be with her before I dumped that spectacular Baywatch babe body of hers for a woman who looked like a slightly more androgynous version of Julie Andrews. It’s a chemical thing, I think; however clichéd it might sound. because there is certainly no logic that exists to link together the decisions of each of these disparate individuals. And if I think about it, this is probably true of every woman that I have ever had sexual intercourse with. They all wanted me to be in their bed because they wanted me to be in their bed; I didn’t charm them with my dazzling wit and razor-sharp repartee; they weren’t overpowered by my devastating good looks; it wasn’t my money they were after; and it certainly wasn’t – I hope, at least – anything to do with pity. They just chose me: they picked me out of the crowd for a reason I’m not sure that even they understand – and I allowed myself to be chosen.

This is where the male of the species ends up deluding itself; because it’s all part of the tribal ritual that we stand together in groups and try to demonstrate the irresistible drawing power of our pheromones, etc. etc. But deep down I think that we all know the truth: we’re just too busy trying to disprove it to ever get around to admitting it. Do you really believe, for example, that Samson ended up with Delilah just because she just fancied a bit of rough? Or that Cleopatra shared her tiger skin sheets with Mark Anthony because she was partial to a man in a tin helmet? Or that Olive passed up her chances with Bluto because she liked a man with spinach breath? Burton and Taylor… Romeo and Juliet… Maggie and Denis… Olivier and Leigh… John and Yoko… Ian Beale and Cindy: all of these men ended up sharing their lives with these women because they had no choice in the matter. The truth is that when it comes to the mating game we’re the batsmen and they are the bowlers: we’re merely innocent bystanders, and to believe otherwise is to believe that the earth is flat or that six million Jews were not gassed in the Nazi ovens.

While I’m busy with my hackneyed philosophising, Carol snores a little in her sleep and to this innocent bystander even her snoring is inestimably attractive. It’s a contented, self-satisfied sort of snore, like someone belching after a meal to demonstrate their appreciation of it. Then Carol begins to stir and slowly opens her eyes and looks up at me, her supermodel face breaking into the sort of grin that could make grown men cry.


We make love again. Except this time there’s no fumbling about in the darkness. We’re a little less coy, and if I did pause to provide details I really would end up going all Black Lace on you. When it’s over we press our sweaty shoulders together and share a cigarette. In the distance I can hear the sound of the waves lapping against the shoreline, which, I guess, is kind of appropriate.


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