An excerpt from Lagan Love
He had left a note to meet him in Grogan’s. She understood the significance: 'Grogan’s is where I grew up. It’s the closest thing I've had to a real home, at least since my mother died.'
So this is it, I get to meet the family. I must make a good impression. What would complement my Just-had-good-sex-but-I’m-still-horny smile? Perhaps something in red, with black pants – no, a short black skirt. She wanted to leave an impression on his soul, as well as his body.
For a while, she would become a fixture on his arm, and in time, the world would know her for her own work. After that, Fate would decide if she stayed or went, but first, she had to look the part.
She paraded back and forth in front of the long mirror that leaned against the wall. It offered that nice perspective, sloping away. She could turn and see most of her back, right down to her long slender calves. Was it really fair to Sinead? She said it was okay, but her reflection wasn't listening. She was posing in her black underwear. And what was it you were saying about clichés? We could try the red set.
It was perfection. Her skin looked like alabaster, her lips like wine and her hair like storm-clouds. She shimmed into her short skirt and, corseted in her red shirt, checked herself one more time. Dark and dangerous, like a child of the night, she offered her passing reflection as she left.
Be careful, you don't know what else wanders in these nights, in this ancient city, in this strange land, her likeness tried to warn her but she had closed the door and was walking the moonlit street. Her heels clattered quickly past the shaded bench where a shadow flitted and was gone.
By the time she arrived in Grogan’s, he was standing by the bar. Her shirt was tight and her skirt was, perhaps, a bit short, but what the hell. She opened her leather jacket slowly. Her top three buttons were undone. She wanted to push her breasts forward, but she was losing her nerve. Most of the men in the bar had turned. They almost formed a circle around her but kept their distance and opened like a path before her.
She grew a little shy as they eddied back to their smoking and swearing as she passed. She smiled with as much assurance as she could muster and reached forward and kissed his lips as he ordered drinks and steered them to a small table in the corner. As Janice sat, she was careful to let her skirt ride up a little. His eyes followed her hips and she felt warm in his gaze. She reached out across the table; she wanted to be close to him again.
He leaned back and looked at her for a moment with that glazed look men get, but he was calm. “I was thinkin’ about you all day, an’ I was thinkin’ that maybe I'd write a poem about you or somethin’.”
The ‘something’ sounded appealing but, after her lust was sated, love poems would make the whole thing perfect. She would paint him of course; it would be a part of her Dublin period, a blue period when the seeds were sown. He'd be world renowned by then, too. It was all so good that she almost shivered.
“Are you cold?”
“No, of course not,” but she did lean forward and push her breasts together.
“Maybe,” he smiled at her adjustment, “we could collaborate, ya know? I could talk with some people I know, and we could do one of those fancy books with paintin's and poems together. I think that would be fuckin' brilliant, don't you? I mean it wouldn't be hard now that everybody is talkin' about my poems already.”
That raised a flutter inside of her. They could share lives for a while; not a happy-ever-after thing, they were far too bohemian for that. But they could spend some time together. He could even meet her in the coffee shop for everyone to see. She almost frowned when she thought about her, but as she had said, Sinead was okay with this. She knew Janice was an artist, someone who couldn't be expected to paint between the lines.
In time, they would part and she'd go back to Canada, but not to Robert, he would be married by then, and she'd have a signed copy of ‘Poems for a Woman’ or some such title. Perhaps, she'd leave it on her bedside table, when Leonard Cohen spent the night.
New Love, her old-self reminded her, is such a heady mix, potent and likely to cause missteps.
I don’t care. I feel alive and free. I feel like I've never felt before.
Christ! Get a grip; after all, he's not the first!
But this will be delicious, he's a poet and I'm a painter. It’s all so terribly un-Toronto of me.
It is amazing how a good fuck can change your mind, she reminded herself in a tone that might have been borrowed from Sinead.
He was still talking about himself, and as long as she looked into his eyes and nodded during the brief pauses, he'd continue. He was very happy with himself; he might be invited to read his work as part of some Irish cultural exchange. He was Dublin’s street poet, and he was in demand right now. He ordered her another Scotch, and she took another of his cigars. Both tasted foul in her mouth, but she wanted to look the part, the mysterious woman with the handsome poet.
She must have been doing it right because every man who wrestled his way past looked her up and down. Janice loved the feeling and tingled between her crossed legs as the whiskey surged, dispelling caution and daring her, with every sip, to take yet another step out and away from everything she had been.
And, when he lit her cigar, he held the match before her face, looking into her eyes. As he drew his hand away, he let the back of his fingers trace along her cheek. The burning match was far too close, but it added to her excitement. He'd moved to the seat beside her and discreetly took her hand in his. He was being demonstrative, something Janice knew was unusual for him.
“So are you gonna be the one to catch the great Greeley?” someone called from the bar where a line of men sat in a row, turning every once in a while to look her over.
“She's far too good for the likes of him.”
“Maybe she's one of those people that do studies on endangered species.”
“Would ya ever go and fuck yourselves,” Aidan softly dropped her hand and reached for his pint.
“Ah! C’mon now, Aidan. Aren’t ya goin’ to introduce us to the young lady?”
“Janice, these are the lads. Lads, this is Janice.”
A few of them flocked around the table to introduce themselves, to get closer to her, and Janice smiled as she looked each one in the eye as they shook hands. For all their bravado, they were really very shy.
“So you're from Canada, then,” one of them remarked as if that explained something that had mystified them all. “And what are you doing in Ireland?”
“In Trinity, Jazus, Greeley, this one's a cut above.”
“Would ya ever go and fuck-off now and give us some peace and privacy.”
“C’mon on now, lads,” Paddy called from behind the bar, “leave the young love birds alone.”
Aidan squirmed. He didn't want this attention.
“Are those your friends?”
“Some of them.”
“They seem nice.”
“Trust me, they’re not!”
By the end of the evening, Janice had difficulty keeping her poise as they walked to her place. She was carefree and exhilarated by the promise of intimacy, something that could never be broken by wind nor rain. She tried to brush against him as often as she could, to feel his body against hers, to touch, as if by accident, some part of him, but she was in danger of falling over. Her jacket was open and her shirt undone to the fourth button. My true self emerges, she laughed to herself. He laughed, too, and she wondered if her mind was open to him. She really didn’t care. She was becoming something she had read about and never tried before.
“Aidan, you're not brooding. In fact, you almost seem happy. Are you sure you're a poet?”
“Ya know that I think you're havin' an effect on me.”
“Oh, Aidan, are you suggesting you've found everlasting love with me?”
“Nay, I just feel that you and I could stay in the here and now for a while and never have to worry about all the other shite.”
“But what about when we get old and wrinkled?”
“Then we'll just have to have a few extra drinks so we don't notice so much.”
“Aidan, you've given this a lot of thought.”
“Like I said, Janice, I think you're havin' an effect on me. So, wanna do it again?”
“You know, doin' it.”
“Not until you say it.”
“Janice, darlin', would you like to make love with me?”
“Nay, I just want to have sex.”