Sunday, June 27, 2004

Marianne and Willoughby

I began flirting with Peter innocently enough. I knew he was engaged, and there’s a language barrier, so I didn’t really expect him to “get” me anyway, and mostly he was the only thing going on in town. Our group – as I’ve said – is too young, except for Mike, and he’s with Kate.

I didn’t expect to become addicted to Peter’s smiles of amusement I didn’t really think I’d catch him looking at me in quiet times, and I didn’t know how much it would affect me when he finally said my name. The problem is that his English is too good – it’s good enough for him to use it in jest – and I’ve discovered that his wit is quick, even in a second language. I feel like a Jane Austen character, only not one of the main ones who winds up happy and married, but one of the sisters who flirts unwisely and is just there as a foil to show how wise and virtuous the main one is…Marianne, perhaps, and Peter is my Willoughby.

It sounds light, and I’m sure in a week, it will be, but for now it feels heavy, because I spent all day yesterday deciding to pull away, and I slipped only in the end, when he asked me with the look of a question mark, what I was knitting, and I told him it was a blanket, and he looked at me in disbelief and said it looked like women’s underwear, and I smiled because I knew what he meant, and his face, which had been somber and tired all day, rearranged itself into dimples and wrinkles, and I wanted more, despite my decision of the day. Later, I looked up and he was taking my picture, so I hid my face, wondering as I did so, whether the fiancée sees his pictures and hates me as much as I would, and then I vowed for the hundredth time that day that I would stay away, wondering how much of Peter’s heavy looks were the result of a similar vow or – more likely – a hangover, and wishing perversely for the former, because if I’m going to forgo his smiles for his happiness, then at least I want him to miss me.

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