Free Women 5
‘You mean you’ve heard all this before?’
‘In one way and another, yes.’
‘Yeah, we all have. Shall I go into the sociological - yes, that’s the word, the sociological reasons for it?’
‘No, I know them.’
‘I thought you did. Well. Yes, well. But I’m going to beat it. I told you, I’m a great believer in the mind. I’d put it like that - with your permission? I’m a great believer in knowing what’s wrong, admitting it, and saying: I’m going to beat it.’
‘Good,’ said Anna, ‘so am I.’
‘Anna, I like you. And thanks for letting me stay. I go nuts sleeping alone.’ And then, after a pause: ‘You’re lucky to have that kid.’
‘I know it. That’s why I’m sane and you’re nuts.’
‘Yes. My wife doesn’t want a kid. At least, she does. But she said to me: Milt, she said, I’m not going to have a kid with a man who can only get a hard on for me when he’s drunk.’
‘Using those words?’ said Anna, resentful.
‘No, doll. No, baby. Saying: I’m not going to have a baby with a man who doesn’t love me?’
‘How simple-minded,’ said Anna, full of bitterness.
‘Not in that tone of voice, Anna. Or I’ll have to go.’
‘You don’t think there’s something slightly extraordinary about a state of affairs where a man walks into a woman’s flat and says: I’ve got to share your bed because I fall into space if I sleep alone, but I can’t make love to you because if I do I’ll hate you?’
‘Any more extraordinary than certain other phenomena we might mention?’
‘No,’ said Anna judiciously. ‘No.’ She added: ‘Thank you for taking that nonsense off my walls. Thank you. Another few days and I really would have gone round the bend.’
‘It’s a pleasure. I’m a flop, Anna, at the moment of speaking, I don’t need you to tell me, but there’s one thing I’m good at, seeing someone in trouble and knowing what strong measures to take.’
They went to sleep.
In the morning she felt him deadly cold in her arms, a weight of terrible cold, like holding death. She slowly rubbed him warm and awake. Warm, awake and grateful, he came into her. But by then she was already armed against him, she could not prevent herself from being tense, she could not relax.
‘There you are,’ he said afterwards, ‘I knew it. Wasn’t I right?’
‘Yes, you were. But there’s something about a man with a whacking great erection that it’s hard to resist.’