View 4 – Peter in the Frame
Peter was over sixty. Tall, thin, almost gaunt, yet exuding energy, humour, and a gentle but pervasive sex appeal. Years of travelling and teaching added to a sharp mind, turning it erudite. Blessed with a self-deprecating mockery of his own intelligence, this added to the sum of his total charm. He wasn’t boyish, that unflattering description of middle-aged Peter Pans, however he remained youthful. There was just enough of the English gentleman mixed with the macho Aussie male to make his masculinity interesting. Plus, oh plus plus plus, he loved the company of women. Pronounced them “delicious”. Not… all. Something of a connoisseur, as with wine, he liked the finest. Nothing too young. He couldn’t stand bores, had no time for those who were pretentious, “Up themselves” as his very Aussie side would say. Adored the generous, the warm, the witty, and of course, the full-bodied, thought not fat. Obesity he equated with gluttony and Peter was overall, a moderate man. Moderate and modest – most of the time. Peter was not after all perfect. And in that he was … perfect! The perfect magnet for a woman looking for an attentive, intelligent, interesting male.
To see Elise with Peter was, for the detached observed, a delicate piece of farce. For Peter however, it was excruciating. Elise explained to Peter with an intensity he found alarming, that she liked “To dig and unearth the principle thread”; “To see the Big Picture”. Peter groaned inwardly. Restraining himself, he smiled slightly and sipped the soothing slightly astringent white wine, wishing it would clear Elise’s head the way it cleansed his palate.
Which Big Picture he wondered? The bird’s eye view, one eye to the ground one skyward? Cock-eyed? (Very likely!) The ant’s view? Minutia? The blade of grass a mountain. Worm’s eye view? Blind and questing. A dog’s vision? Black and white. Cat’s view? Legs and laps and sunlit corners. (More Julie than Elise.) Forget humans. Points of view criss-crossing, interweaving, tangling, jangling and warring. Very good at wars, humans were. Each seeing their world view from Gold-like mirror-images in their own minds, twisting everything in and out of shape with every flicker-flacker of the eye/I, me/my.
Elise’s face was a stark question mark. How to distract her as she glared at him in her earnestness? Was she awaiting the Pearl of Wisdom to drop from his wine moistened lips and provide her with The Answer? The waiter had arrived only to be dismissed by a wave of her hand and an apologetic smile from Peter who now beckoned him over and asked Elise to order, forestalling any further delay by looking pointedly at his watch. She ordered a grilled open sandwich (which she’ll talk around, Peter thought and sighed as he ordered the Pescatore Fettuccine – the perfect accompaniment for the wine (thank God for wine), and an amiable excuse to prevent all but the most succinct conversation on his part.
The waiter taking their order was the thirty-something son of the Proprietor of The Mediterranean, fondly known as The Med, and waiting mostly for his father to retire so that he could Make Changes. He was the waiter people prayed for and paid for in tips. There when he was wanted, and at a discreet distance when not. Priding himself on knowing his customers, sensing by their body language what they wanted, and not just what they wanted from him. Speculating about the lives of those who came and went, especially his regulars (and Peter was fast becoming a regular) was a favourite pastime. His Big Picture was a bigger Mediterranean with potted palms and an atmosphere straight out of Somerset Maughan.
This woman was the one with the rude kids. The inner smile smug, the outer one pleasant, he realised Peter was as pained by her as he had been.
Peter swore to himself as the waiter glided away, that next time he took his very dear friend Julie for lunch, he would not take any wine from his well stocked cellar. She’d be suitably chagrined and therefore repaid for this wasted hour. Even as he thought it, he knew he couldn’t go through with it. As it turned out he forgot the wine after all thanks to a late phone call. He smiled wryly as he recalled Julie commenting on Freud’s analysis of such an oversight. But that was next week, today he had yet to survive lunch with Elise.
View 5 – Peter & Julie – lunch interrupted
“How else to make you understand?” She asked him, all innocence, blue eyes blazing.
“I believed you. I’ll prove it. I’ll nip out and get us a bottle and be back before you order.”
“Grilled open sandwiches for two?” Her eyes sparkled.
“I’ll buy Ben Ean!”
“That’ll be the day. Shoo! Go on! Good red. I’ll wait and let you order like the well-behaved little girl I am. Sometimes… Make up for my sins.”
“Vegemite sandwiches then!”
“Heavens! It must have been awful.”
She was still laughing when the waiter arrived, to be told smilingly she would wait till her gentleman friend returned and allow him to order for both of them. The waiter returned the smile and bowed slightly for reasons he couldn’t later identify. Were they lovers? Surely not. He was young enough to feel offended that a man Peter’s age could be the lover of a woman who smile had caused a significant response behind, thankfully behind, the cover of his white wrap. How different from the woman Peter came in with last week.
View 6 – Shutter Off! – a brief recollection
Does she ever smile Peter wondered. More, does she ever laugh? He tried to imagine it, anything to distract himself. Elise’s words were pickaxes in his brain. He sighed again. She took it as recognition of her profundity. Peter, realising, lowered his eyes and hid the smile behind a serviette.
(Next instalment – View 7 – Clique for Two – Peter and Julie)