In some inexplicable way our demonstration on Friday reminded me of her. She had the name of one of the infamous sisters from Marquis de Sade’s writings. I’ll call her J.
I met J in the early summer of 200X. I had just joined a little agency run by an old gentleman. That evening I was sent to Savoy. I was told there would be 2 clients and one other lady. A man opened the door of a little suite and I joined the company in the sitting room.
My client went to sit down on a sofa, I sat next to him. The other man was sitting on a chair opposite us and she was on another chair, three quarters to him, I couldn’t see her face. She was wearing a plain black shift dress and low-heeled square-toed black shoes. Her hair was dark, very short and curly – the hair that I would have if I ever allowed myself to have it cut above my shoulders. She turned to me and stretched her hand.
‘I’m J,’ she said, and smiled.
‘I’m J,’ I replied and touched her hand.
I showed off my new shoes; I bought them the day before, they were made of fabric that was identical in colour and pattern to the bright summer dress I was wearing. My client, the host, served drinks, there were snacks, the men were talkative and funny and soon the conversation was flowing. J spoke little and always very softly; to hear her, everyone had to go silent. I thought it was a great trick.
After a while, the clients went to another room for a quick chat and we were left alone. J turned to me. Her eyes were blue. This is the closest I’ve ever been to falling in love. I looked at her.
‘I love your hair,’ I said and my throat went dry.
‘I love your shoes,’ she replied. And smiled.
The men came back and she left with her client. I ended up staying with mine for the whole night and didn’t get to see J for almost 2 weeks.
Next time it was a little hotel in Park Lane. I had met that client before, when he went on and on about how he would like to see me with a woman. This time I expected to hear it again because this talk seemed to be his favourite fantasy, but it turned out he decided to put his money where his mouth was (erm, yes, both puns). I walked into the room and J was sitting there on the bed, in her black shift dress and square-toed shoes. A couple of months later the old man who ran the agency would tell me that J asked him for that. Her lips and skin were soft and cool. She did everything slowly and quietly, concentrating fully on what she was doing.
She sat on her knees between my legs as I stretched out on the bed, and traced the outline of my thigh with her finger. Then she squeezed it.
‘This is amazing. You’re thin and at the same time so fleshy. So succulent.’
Charles, the client, first got bored, then jealous. Men with this fantasy sometime don’t realise that watching 2 women together means you’re left on your own. He asked J to leave and I stayed for another half an hour. When I walked out of the hotel, J was waiting outside in a cab. I came up and opened the cab door.
J shared a squat in Baker Street with half a dozen other people. When she wasn’t working, she was up all night smoking hash and drawing horoscope charts for political events or daydreaming of the Vestals dancing around the sacred fire. Hedonism wasn’t her hobby, it was her way of living. She liked that I was so determined, she said I added structure to her life. She brought chaos into mine. Her company was a pleasure but I could never know when I would have it again. Eventually I left the agency and soon after that I moved to Newcastle. J was unwilling to keep in touch. Or incapable of it.
When I moved to Edinburgh, I came across her photos on a website of a little parlour in south west London. The rota said she was there every Saturday. A year later her photos were removed.
Last summer, walking along Princes Street, Violet and I passed a girl dressed up as air hostess giving out leaflets. She was about my height, slim, with blue eyes and fair skin. I came up and asked for a leaflet.
‘What do you need it for?’ asked Violet when I caught up with her.
‘I don’t need it. The girl was pretty.’