“That colour looks good on you,” he said. I turned around and a pair of beautiful green eyes were smiling at me. He was looking from my turquoise t-shirt to my face and back. My eyes travelled to his soft, pink, unsmiling lips, then back to his eyes. He was barely a man. He smiled. I smiled back.
“It’s a tricky colour to wear but you carry it well,” he added, then settled his firm butt on the stool next to mine.
“Thank you,” I said. He smiled again. I let my eyes travel his whole length. He was beautiful. He was slim and trim with a wide chest and a narrow waist. He had the body of a man, but there was a frailty about him that sort of took the edge off his masculinity. He was about my height - one metre seventy-four.
I returned my attention to the book and was lost in it for a while.
“I’ve never known anyone to read at a bar,” he interrupted me. I looked at him. There was something delicate about him that I couldn’t place my finger on. I had just crawled out of another foolish relationship and was still raw from the wounds I was nursing. I saw the warning signs flashing at me from the start but ignored it so it was no one‘s fault really, still, it was unpleasant for the short while it lasted. I had decided, the previous day, after much thinking, that I was through being nice to men.
Amleto’s bar was just five minutes from my house and I often went out there for a drink and a chat. It was late afternoon, just about the hour most people were through with work for the day but too early for drinkers to ingest enough alcohol to boost their courage for chatting up.
“Campari and soda,” Boy man ordered. I returned my eyes to my book.
“I’m Matteo,” he interrupted again.
“How old are you?” I heard myself say before I had the chance to think. I wanted to swallow my tongue.
“Twenty-five.” He didn’t seem to find my question odd. He took a sip of his drink, while looking at me over the rim of his glass. His eyes were deep, I felt myself drawn to them. It felt like I was getting into a trance.
“What’s yours?” he snapped me back to reality.
“Name?” I felt foolish. I started to laugh and ended up with my wine bursting through my nostrils. He flipped out a paper napkin and handed it to me, then started to laugh too. His laugh was throaty and rich. We laughed for a while together.
“I am Binta,” I said at length, after I contained myself.
“African name, Arabic origin actually.”
“I like the sound of it,” he nodded with a slight frown on his face as though he was trying to see the name.
“Un nome molto bello,” he added, clearing the frown and smiling again.
“What do you do for a living?”
“I am a sex therapist,” I said. I was pleasantly shocked at myself. I had no idea why I said that. In an attempt to redeem myself I decided to redirect the conversation but my attempt was lame.
“Where do you go to school?” I asked. I was half teasing.
“I work with Telecom.” My surprise showed.
“Where you born and raised here?” Italian boys his age were usually either still in school or working at some dead end bar, being lazy and feeding off their parents - at least the ones I had met. He was a refreshing change from the norm.
“I don’t know any Italian boy your age that has a decent job.”
“What do you mean decent?”
“Well you’re not tending tables at some dead end bar.” He threw his head back and laughed that throaty laugh again. I found myself wondering what he would sound like in bed.
Binta snap out of it, you’re through with men, I thought, but there was something about the boy that drew me. Amleto cleared his throat and gave me a not-too-pleased look.
“I didn’t mean that disrespectfully Amleto,” I smiled lamely, “at least you own the bar, that’s different.
“So?” I returned my attention to Boy Man.
“Born and bred here in Liguria.”
“There is something about you, can’t place a finger on it yet. You‘re a cross between a boy and a man.”
“Maybe because I am a lot more mature for my age?”
“Cocky I’d say.” I found his cockiness attractive though. I gulped down my wine.
“Give the lady another serving Amleto.” He turned his eyes on me, I met his gaze and held it.
“How old are you?”
“You don’t ask a lady her age,”
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
“Do you want to be?”
“I don’t date women younger than thirty.” I gasped. I wanted to laugh but I could tell by the look in his eyes that he was serious.
“Older women fascinate me.” How? I felt like asking but decided against it. Here I was a thirty six years old woman listening to a twenty five years old boy telling me woman my age fascinated him. I must say I was tempted to tell him how old I was. There was something about him that made me want to know him better .
My phone rang. It was Ariana, my baby sitter.
“Ciao Ariana, dimmi tutto, tell me,” I said into the telephone and she reminded me that she needed to leave an hour earlier today.
“Scusa mi, I forgot the time, I‘ll be there in a minute” I gushed. I gulped down the wine Matteo had ordered for me.
“Thanks for the drink,” I gently rubbed his back. “It was nice meeting you.” I made for the door.
“Ci vediamo domani?” Amleto called. I had forgotten to pay my bill.
“Scusa mi,” I made a beeline for the counter.
“Domani,” Amleto dismissed with a wave of his hand, “I’ll see you tomorrow,” I blew him a kiss and headed out.
“Will I see you again?” Matteo called after me.
“Yes,” I responded.
That whole evening, Matteo’s words echoed in my head repeatedly.
“Older women fascinate me.”
What was the fascination? I wondered. Was it physical or intellectual or mixture of both with the scale leaning towards one more than the other? Oddly though, I found myself hoping the fascination was sexual. Sex for me had always been about intimacy between lovers. I never could, emotionally, separate love from sex, even though intellectually I could. The thought took me by surprise because it was the first time I had consciously let myself think of sex apart from love. I mean what else could this mean? I certainly wasn‘t thinking of Matteo the way I would of a man I would want to be in a relationship with. To me he was barely a boy. But a sexy boy in his own right. Sexy enough for me to think of him in a deeply intimate way without the slightest hint or intention to love him. Now, whether or not I really am capable of loving anyone in the sense that I understand is another matter altogether.
That isn’t to say that I have never been in love before. Although, I never could understand why the initial intense feelings I developed for the men in my life withered away eventually until I was left wondering what it was about them that drew me in the first place. My ex husband told me once that I was incapable of loving anyone because I was a taker. I had laughed. I knew that was not true….or was it? I have had a couple of lovers after him. Relationships that seemed promising in the beginning but withered away almost before they started. The most recent left me burnt and disgruntled but it also snapped me out of being in denial. I am a needy person.
How can I not be? Growing up as a middle child with my brother being Mama’s pet and my sister being Daddy’s little girl left me battling to prove I was worth being someone’s favourite too. Obviously it never took root at home so I sought it with whoever showed the slightest interest in me. And thus began my twisted understanding of love….in sex.
Mama was deeply religious, almost to the point of being fanatic. And she had custody of us after the divorce so (naturally) we soaked up her Christian dogma like dry sponges.
Sex was a sacred act between two souls destined to be together for life.
Sex outside of marriage was wrong.
Masturbation was a sin.
Homosexuality was even worse….worse still, even the thought of sex was wrong. I knew then that I was destined for hell, since sex was something that was perpetually on my mind - not necessarily the thought of wanting to indulge. How can I not have sex on my mind after encountering Magdalene?
She was the first person that introduced the idea of sex to me when I was barely five years old. She was of my grandmother’s generation.
It was during the Christmas vacation. I remember walking down the road, with my big sister and our grandmother (we called her Iya) leading the way. We suddenly bumped into Iya. She had stopped, took hold of our hands and looked around furiously as though looking for the quickest escape. I was trying to figure out what the danger was when I heard Magdalene’s shrill laughter as she rocked her tiny hips back and forth, talking to a group of girls a few metres ahead. They feigned being offended by what she was saying when indeed the glee in their eyes shone like rhinestones.
“Vaku, bring your little girls here for some life saving lessons,” she called. Grandma was trying to escape before Magdalene saw us, now it was too late. She held up her head and in as calm a voice as she could manage she responded.
“We are on our way home Magdee, it’s way past their lunch time,” grandma said pulling us along and attempting to walk right past. The path was narrow and Magdalene was planted right in the middle of it so it was impossible to pass without pushing past her. We stopped. I looked at her, trying to figure out what grandma thought was wrong with her.
She was petite. I was about five years old at the time but I didn’t have to look up to look her in the eyes. Although she wasn’t much bigger than I was, she had the body of a woman. She also had the oddest eyes I had ever seen on a dark skinned person. Hers were a pale shade of grey. I liked her. Especially for those eyes.
“I was just telling these hopeless ones here that sex is not just about procreation, they have to learn how to do the bed dance to get the most of it,” she said gyrating. Grandma put a hand each, over our ears while pressing the other ears to her hips. It was hopeless. Magdalene broke into an erotic dance and whooped while the silly girls continued feigning their disgust. But they remain planted there, obviously absorbing what they could from her.
“Can you do this?” She said looking directly at me. She thrust her hips back and forth, moaning with each thrust. I emulated her and the young girls she was entertaining burst out laughing. I laughed. It must be funny I thought.
“It is not funny,” grandma told me, silencing my laughter, then turning to the little woman, she gave her a tirade of warnings about whose minds she was not permitted to mess with. There was an exchange of words for a moment before grandma dragged us away with her, fuming like a dragon drunk on petrol on the verge of a hangover.
“Iya, you don’t look too happy,” my teenage aunty Talatu said as soon as we walked through the door.
“We ran into Magdee,” Iya simply responded. My auntie made a face. Later on she and two other aunties called us aside to find out what Magdalene had said that had upset Iya that much. “She said something about eating cunt,” I had told them. My aunties burst out laughing, I could see that rhinestone glee in their eyes.
“What else?” Talatu pressed.
“She said that the one with the cunt should have the most fun. That it was designed to work that way.” They shrieked and gave each other a high five. Although I remembered Magdalene’s words perfectly, it made absolutely no sense to me at all.
“What is a cunt?” I had asked.
“It’s your minnie, but you mustn’t use that word, it is for adults,” Talatu had told me.
“And people eat that?” I couldn’t imagine who would be stupid enough to let their minnie be eaten, it must hurt. I crossed my legs.
“Yes, people eat it,” aunt Hannah responded.
“With a willy. Didn’t Magdalene tell you that?” she asked seeming slightly uncomfortable when aunt Gloria nudged her ribs. Apparently the petite woman was notorious for her detailed sex education.
“What’s a willy?
“That’s a boy’s minnie.“
I asked a few more questions and was at ease to discover eating a minnie didn’t hurt. Still the overall idea didn’t make much sense to me. What I came away with was that boys and girls were not the same in their drawers - girls had minnies and boys had willies. Up until then I thought the only difference was that girls had long hair and wore dresses and boys had short hair and wore trousers.
Another interesting thing was that ‘according to Magdalene’ (my aunties didn’t want to get in trouble in case word got out of what I had learnt that from them, so it was easier to blame it on her, after all we had had a Magdee encounter), if willies and minnies rub together it was the sweetest thing on the planet. My first mission henceforth was to find a willy and see what it looked like, then who knows, I could rub my Minnie with it.
Although my first sex education drew a definite line between love and sex I had never really consciously separated them until now - because of Matteo. I decided I would return to Amleto’s and try and track him down.......To be continued.