ADRIANNE, short story, 2012
"You know Mara H. is having a dry spell too," said Rochelle, taking a quaff of her German beer.
"Too?" asked Eric, "What’s that supposed to mean?"
The cafe was almost empty on this Saturday afternoon, just the way they liked it. It was a favourite spot of theirs and they had been going there for brunch and conversation every weekend for a little over a year.
"I’m just saying, she likes you and she hasn’t had sex in seven months." Rochelle poked at her meal with her fork.
"Her dry spell isn’t relevant to me," Eric insisted, through a mouthful of vegetarian sausage, "I’m not having a dry spell. Three months is a very reasonable amount of time to have not had sex… in."
Eric and Rochelle spent the next few minutes in silence as they enjoyed their food.
Eric had opted for a vegetarian breakfast - his usual. It consisted of two vegetarian sausages, seemingly made fresh on site; three hash browns, cooked from frozen; one fried tomato, halved; one Portobello mushrooms, also halved, and a spoonful of baked beans. Despite having consumed this same meal once a week, every week, for the past fifty-three weeks straight, Eric found it as enjoyable as ever. Rochelle had today chosen a traditional chicken Caesar salad, with extra bacon. She too had decided to make the switch to a plant-based diet but claimed that she needed at least another month to prepare herself.
"What are we doing tonight?" inquired Eric, as he finished his last bite.
"I wanted to go to Design Bar," answered Rochelle. Eric scrunched up his nose and sipped from his half empty pint glass.
"Do we have to go to a gay bar? I’m getting so sick of them, especially Design. Every time we go there, I get my T-shirt lifted up by some creepy old bear."
Eric and Rochelle dumped a handful of cash notes each on to the table and pulled on their jackets, ready to leave. "Welcome to feeling like a girl in every club where there are men, ever," retorted Rochelle, raising her eyebrows at Eric. He shook his head and pointed an accusative finger at her.
"Nuh-uh, we’ve been going to gay bars way longer than we’ve been going anywhere else. If anything, I should be welcoming you to my feelings."
They raised their palms, ‘goodbye’ at the waiter and exited the cafe, headed towards the town centre.
"Besides," added Eric, "I was really hoping to hook up tonight."
"Oh!" Rochelle elongated the word as if having a revelation, "I thought you weren’t having a dry spell." She mocked her oldest friend, as she was fond of doing.
"I’m not," he fired back, "But that doesn’t mean I have any interest in cultivating one. I do still enjoy sex."
"Well, I’ve seen you leave gay bars with girls before. Just try and use that talent of yours tonight."
Eric beamed, apparently very proud of this dubious accolade.
"The trick is to pick out the straight girls who think gay bars are a safe haven from sexual predators. Then, enter Eric."
"You’re very respectful of your sex partners, you know that," she teased.
"I do. I do know this. Come on, let’s just go to Loiter. There’s something for everyone there!"
Rochelle shook her head ‘no.'
Eric stepped out on to the roof of Design. The area had been cordoned off as a combination garden/smoking area, and was packed tight with clubbers looking for their nicotine fix. Eric maneuvered his way into an unoccupied corner, overlooking the busy high street. The moon hung high in the sky, full and bright, illuminating the drunken, smiling faces of all the party people that this Saturday in the city had produced.
He rolled a cigarette and dangled it in the corner of his lips, imitating Belmondo imitating Bogart.
He lit up and took his first drag of the hour.
Eric kept his eye on the door to the club. Rochelle would be joining him out there as soon as she was done in the toilets and he wanted to make sure he could signal her over. The door seemed impossibly far away, and Eric had to stretch his neck forwards to force it into focus. He stumbled backwards and found himself leaning jauntily against the wall. Eric had had a lot to drink. Perhaps too much, but it was a Saturday and Eric felt it was important to let loose once or twice in a while.
"Do you have a lighter?" The voice caught him by surprise. Eric turned to face its owner, allowing a moment for his eyes to adjust to see her face before answering.
Eric fished in his jacket pocket for his trusty flip top lighter and handed it to the woman. He remembered Rochelle and spun around quickly to check the club door.
Rochelle stood scanning the crowd for her friend.
"Rochelle!" he yelled, waving his arm frantically. She met his wild-eyed stare and walked to join him.
"This is my new friend," Eric declared to Rochelle, spreading his arm to introduce the woman. The woman exhaled a breath of smoke, and held the lighter out to Eric. Seeing Eric’s obliviousness to this offer, Rochelle accepted it herself and pocketed her prize.
"I’m Adrianne," the woman informed them both.
"How old did you say you were again?" Adrianne quizzed Eric as they they left the club behind them, "Twenty-four?"
"Twenty," replied Eric.
"Oh God, you’re so young. Far too young for me." She gripped his hand as he led her across the road. Eric struggled to remember how old she had said she was. He turned to face her without breaking his march and tried to take in all of her features. She might have been pretty, it was unclear. As drunk as he was when he met her, he was drunker now. He thought she was maybe twenty-six, but he always found it so hard to guess a woman’s age on sight, even when in full control of his senses.
"Where are we going?" she asked.
"We could go to a hotel. I have hotel money." He hoped he was telling the truth.
"A hotel? I never said I was going to have sex with you."
"We both know where this night is going," he laughed. She didn’t argue. They crossed through an alley and Eric stopped walking, bringing Adrianne to a halt also. Still clutching her hand, he placed his arm behind her back and pulled her in to a kiss. Their lips had met frantically many times in the smoking area before they had left and Eric enjoyed kissing her. Rochelle, having grown sick of watching their antics, had made new friends at the club and arranged to meet Eric at the train station in time for the first train. Eric gently guided Adrianne so that she was leant against the alley’s wall. He ran his hand up her front and paused briefly as it landed on her breasts. He could feel through the thin fabric of her shirt that she was not wearing a bra. His hand continued its journey up toward her neck.
"What happened to the hotel?" Adrianne spoke suddenly, "I’m not having sex with you in an alleyway. It smells like piss."
"No, no, it doesn’t. Ssshh."
"Please don’t shush me." She continued kissing him. Her hand began its own pilgrimage, stroking around his waist before cupping his crotch. Eric unbuttoned his jeans with one hand, allowing her to caress his exposed erection.
"No, I’m not doing this," she protested, limply attempting to cover him back up. Eric tried in vain to move her hand back to a more pleasurable position.
"Eric, no. I don’t do this sort of thing any more, stop it."
Eric lowered his head into his neck in order to look Adrianne in the eyes.
"It’s okay, we can still go to the hotel. It’s fine."
"No," she sighed, "It’s not that. I just don’t want to have sex with guys I’ve just met in bars any more. I gave you my number already, we’ll go on a date and do this properly." This didn’t sound fun to Eric, but he nodded his head ‘yes’ anyway. He moved closer to Adrianne and hugged her tightly. As he pushed himself against her, her hand returned fleetingly to his groin.
"You do have a beautiful penis." The compliment shocked Eric and he laughed.
"Thank you." He kissed her on the neck and began stroking the small of her back in small, soft circles.
"Stop it! God, you’re just like every other guy." Adrianne thumped her palm on his chest.
Eric stepped back from her in shock.
"I’m not, I promise. I’ll call you." Eric had no real desire to see her again after this night, but something about being compared to other men always irked him and unleashed a stubbornness from within him. He felt as though, actually, deep down, he was a good person. He did respect people, but sometimes the promise of sex swept him away somewhere less than cordial. He felt a strong need to prove himself to this virtual stranger.
“Please do. I have to go.” Adrianne flounced off back in the direction of the club, keeping her eyes trained on the ground in front of her. Eric watched her turn the corner as he struggled to re-dress himself. As soon as she was out of his sight, he suddenly felt as though he had so much more to say to her.
"Adrianne!" he yelled into the night. In the space of two hours, he had completed the transformation from Bogart into Balboa.