I thank my proofreaders for all of their time and assistance. But please don't expect a great work of English literature here. Cantankerous old sod that I am, I insist in writing Wanderer English, as it is generally spoken in the UK; not as some experts would prefer it to be spoken, and written.
There is no overt sex in this story and it probably should not be read by folks who take life, or themselves, too seriously.
You must understand that most of this happened a long time ago now; well, the true beginning of it did anyway. The world was a completely different place back then; well as I just said, it was at the beginning. As teenagers back then, we were kind of naive and innocent. Yet at the same time, pretty keen to explore the new boundaries that certain medical advances had left open to us. I'm talking the birth control pill here and the magical properties of antibiotics that meant most of the better known STD's could be cured with a couple of injections; well, reputedly so.
Yet at the same time, we were angry about what the old fuddy-duddies had heaped upon us younger generation's shoulders. I'm talking about what is sometimes described now as that "Crazy Asian War". The American teenagers had their innocence stolen by it, but we were with them in our hearts and minds.
It's highly possible that no one who isn't old enough to have been in the sixteen to, lets say about twenty-five, age group during the sixties, will ever be able to understand what it was like back then. But then, you younger folks have grown up with HIV and antibiotic-tolerant super bugs.
I suppose the best place to start the story is some considerable time after the sixties. That's when I'd kind-of returned to living in the somewhat more staid and conservative society we all share today.
To be perfectly honest with you, I can't really explain how I came to join that Life Class in the first place. Well, not in any way that doesn't make me sound either a pretty sad case, or a pervert, or something. It's all a bit embarrassing to attempt to explain actually; but I'll try.
I was thirty-six and had just come out of a pretty disastrous five-year relationship with Claire. For the life of me, I can't figure out how it lasted that long; we really had very little in common. That's if you don't take into account a mutual appreciation of sex. Hey man, sex might be fun; but you can take it from me that sex alone does not make a sound foundation for a long-term relationship. There has to be a spark, a little inexplicable something that draws you to the one person who's destined to be your life partner.
Sex quite definitely helps, but there has to be something else as well.
In comparison to many people at the time, we had everything. Good jobs, a nice home and car, and we were young, beautiful and athletic. Yeah well, we had an energetic horizontal workout, seven nights a week.
I think we both came to realise that we were spending more time arguing with each other during the day than we were making up in bed at night. Eventually we called it a day by mutual agreement.
Claire moved out and left me living alone in our flat. I do believe she later shacked up with one of my old friends. Our constant bickering had sort-a lead to an estrangement from nearly all of our close friends. Folks really don't want to spend their free time in the middle of a war zone. That's how bad it had gotten between Claire and me.
That kinda left me with a mighty big problem. After Clair had moved on, I no longer had a circle of close friends. Shit, I hardly had anyone who I could call a friend anymore, except for a couple of the guys I worked with in the office.
Yeah all right, probably I was being a little stubborn. But after folks have purposely pushed you away and left you off the old invitation list, for a few years, you're not inclined to go hunt the buggers out again, are you? Well I wasn't.
Anyway, that's how I started hanging with one of the more staid guys from the office, Arthur. A couple of years older than me, he kinda kept to himself most of the time, around the office anyway. You know, he didn't hang around with the rest of the unattached guys very much. The disadvantage where Arthur was concerned was that he was considered a bit of a weirdo. Well, on the quiet, most everyone else in the office considered him to be.
In truth, Arthur was what some people described as an arty-farty type. He was into opera, ballet, art and all that crap. I do believe I teamed up with Arthur because, unlike most of the other unattached guys in the office, he didn't appear to spend his every nonworking moment drinking. Although I was quickly to discover he spent a hell of a lot of it fornicating.
I have to admit I soon found that I didn't enjoy opera very much. Jesus, I'd never been to the opera before in my entire life, until Arthur dragged me along that evening. I can't say I was in too much of a hurry to go again, either. Although I did enjoy the company of the two very cultured and uncommonly -- for the time -- loose morale'd young ladies who Arthur arranged for us to escort that evening.
For all of their airs and graces, and insisting on speaking as if they had plumes in their mouths all evening. A couple of bottles of reasonably cheep champers and they raring to go!
Ditto, goes for the few evenings we spent at the ballet as well. Jesus, if we kept that game up for very long, I'd have had to cut my hours back at the office. Luckily, our employer had been one of the first around to introduce flexitime working. It meant I could take time to recover and go into the office late the morning after we went to the ballet. Oh well, you see, the seats were cheaper on weeknights and Arthur and I weren't exactly made of cash.
The art exhibitions Arthur dragged me along to see were a little different. There we had to do some work, and actually hunt down our prey. I can't honestly say we, or rather I, was very successful at those soirees.
Geeky old Arthur seemed to be able to pick up a bit a spare at the drop of a hat almost anywhere. God, the other guys back at the office, especially the office wolves, would never have believed how much of a babe magnet Arthur was on the quiet. Maybe that was Arthur's secret; perhaps the ladies sensed the utter discretion of the man. Arthur never did brag about his conquests, even to me. I'd seen him heading for the bedroom with some unbelievably tasty females on his arm. Too often, I might add, married ones at that. But then again, they might have been divorcees; I have no idea how to tell the difference for sure.
Whatever, wandering around those private showings. raised my appreciation of one specific incarnation of art: nude studies. In particular, tactfully drawn depictions of the female form.
Yeah, all right, most red-blooded men appreciate the female form anyway. However, I seemed to develop an infatuation of pencil or charcoal sketches of slender nubile young ladies.
Nothing too detailed, or what some might possibly describe as crude. Just a few skilfully drawn lines on a plain background that implied in the viewers mind the beauty of the subject.
My trouble was I could rarely afford to buy any of those pictures to take home with me and admire at my leisure. I'd soon be very broke if I got into that game. I liked far too many of them to chose just one or two to buy.
At an exhibition one evening, I found myself lost in admiration of one particular sketch. Arthur had disappeared with a very affluent looking female, who I do suspect was in the process of spending her ex-husbands retirement plan. Anyway that sketch was no more than a few curved lines on the page, but it had captured my imagination.
The price tag was well over five hundred pounds, so there was no way in the world I could justify spending that kind of money on a piece of paper.
I was still staring at the masterpiece when a guy approached and placed a sold ticket on the bloody thing.
I have no idea why I said, "Shit!" aloud, although it was what I was thinking.
That label meant that I would not be able to return to the gallery later to study the sketch again.
"Beautiful isn't it? I'm very proud of that one!"
I turned to see that Elvira, the artist in question, had been standing beside me; Arthur had introduced us earlier. Elvira was at least sixty, maybe even older. And, unless I was very much mistaken, she was as bent as a nine bob note. She certainly appreciated the female form.
To be honest, Elvira must have been a real looker in her younger days. I remembered thinking, what a wasted life, when I first met her.
"Yes, you really have captured the essence of the sitter in that one, Elvira. I envy you for your skill in being able to do so."
I tried my damnedest to use the same kind of arty-farty language Arthur appeared to be so adept at. The cultured way Arthur used words must have been what attracted those females to him. It certainly wasn't his looks. But then again, maybe Arthur carried something around in his trousers that most of us other mere mortals don't have. You can never tell with geeks, you know. Well most guys can't anyway; god alone knows what kind of x-ray vision or radar women have that lets them tell the difference between a rolled up sock and human flesh.
"Do you paint yourself?" Elvira asked.
"No, I have to admit that I've never really tried. Well, I buggered about in the art class at school, but I can't say that I was any good with a paintbrush. Don't do a bad job with the old roller on the house walls though."
I grinned back at her, then immediately wished I hadn't tried to be funny.
.... There is more of this story ...