There I was, three years later, allowing one reminder of his existence to think that it wouldn’t be a totally disastrous idea to check if I could find his schedule to see where he was currently at. He was probably still at the Met anyway and therefore far away from where I could potentially run into him.
Moments later I’d gone online and plotted his name into a search engine, hoping for a result. He didn’t have his own website, but on page two of the search results I found what I was looking for; he was in town, doing a series of recitals in… churches. One was that same evening, at a church half an hour by motorbike away from where I lived. Chances were I’d never get in, because he was a fairly big name by then. For all I knew he was still with her, and did I really want to go there again?
It didn’t take me long before the emotional masochist in me decided that the answer to that question was, in fact, yes.
I took a quick shower, fixed all the bits that needed to be fixed and put on my leather suit, aka my protective gear for the bike ride. The recital had already started, but all I was worried about was catching him on his way out. If I left straight away I’d get there in time for the intermission and possibly manage to sneak in for the second half. I rode there too fast, and broke various speed limits, as a thousand thoughts flew through my head.
Yet, as I arrived at the church, I had no idea what my supposedly genius plan was.
I saw a few hundred people standing outside smoking and talking, which confirmed my suspicion that I would arrive in time for the intermission. I looked around for someone who looked vaguely in charge of entries and eventually found an elderly lady with a clip board on the steps. I enquired whether it was possible to obtain a spare seat and as we stood and looked through the seating chart, people started moving past us inside the church. Mid-crowd the lady in question grabbed me by my elbow and pulled me through the masses at an alarming speed.
Row three, aisle seat.
The only place worse would have been at the very front. Considering I was still in my leather gear, I stood out like a sore thumb among the crowd of dinner jackets and dresses. I even managed to get a few disapproving looks as I sat down, which made me feel a whole lot better.
The orchestra came on to great applause, as did the conductor and the chorus. I sank down into my seat as the principle singer came back on to even greater appreciation. It was just him by himself. I’d have expected at least a female companion, but there was nobody else in sight. The orchestra started playing, and from there everything else fell into motion and ended with his strong, velvety voice filling the church room. I started feeling faint.
As he accepted his applause gracefully from the first number, my crash helmet fell to the floor with a loud thud – causing him to look in my direction just long enough to recognise me. He looked like he’d been hit by a thunder bolt and froze in his tracks, stared wildly at me for a moment before turning away, scratching his neck nervously. This was one of his little ticks that I’d learned to recognise.
It was at this point I realised that if this concert had been a few days away, I would have had time to think about it and acknowledged what a stupid idea this had been in the first place.
Moments later he started singing a song whose melody I didn’t recognise, and yet it seemed so familiar. As our eyes met briefly, I knew which song it was; it was the one he’d sung to me, a’capella, in his dressing room that time. The one I still had no clue what was about but that made my whole body tingle at the thought of that experience – and others.
As soon as he was done I made my way out of the church behind frustratingly slow-moving people, sneaking out in the middle of the crowd as I wanted to get on my bike and race away as fast as humanly possible before I got myself into trouble. I wasn’t sure I could take another round of what nearly drove me insane some years earlier.
‘Excuse me, miss?’ I heard a male voice behind me enquire as I was about to put my crash helmet on. It wasn’t his voice, I knew that straight away, so I turned and looked at a balding man in his mid-40s with round glasses that looked a bit like George Costanza in “Seinfeld”.
‘Will you come with me, please?’
I don’t know why I came, but I did. He didn’t say anything, just lead the way back into the church, through a corridor on the right, up a flight of stairs and basically plonked me outside a closed door before disappearing. I figured I would either be forced to do ten Hail Marys for causing disruption in church with my helmet, or I was about to come face to face with him behind that door. I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to find out, so I turned on my heel and was about to shoot back down the stairs when the door opened and a voice filled the empty space between us;
‘Leaving so soon?’
I didn’t even have to turn around to see which one of my options were standing in the doorway behind me. I knew that if I turned around I’d be sold, so I just nodded quietly and caressed the wooden banister. I could hear his steps disappear inside the room behind me so I looked back, noticing the door was still open and inviting me to walk through it. I took a deep breath, continued a couple of steps downwards, before stopping again.
Oh, who was I kidding?
I walked through the door and closed it behind me. It was a small church room with a cross on the wall, a chair and a small table, a sink and mirror across from the small window. He stood with his back against me, his hands in his trouser pockets, looking out the window. The bleak lamp on the table next to the chair gave the room an eerie atmosphere. I tried not to look at him, tried not to awaken the beast of desire by remembering what the man before me was able to make me do at the wink of an eye and the crooking of a finger.
I didn’t trust myself with him – with very good reason.
He slowly turned around and faced me, his eyes looking dark, cold and controlled for a moment as he made his way towards me. The scene seemed strangely familiar. In a mild strike of panic, I backed away until I hit the closed, heavy wooden door. He stopped a few inches shy of me and supported himself against the door. His arm was so close to my face I could smell the scent of his skin; that impossibly masculine scent that he always seemed to smell of, a scent that didn’t come out of any bottle. He leaned in, his face close to mine, his eyes trying to focus, and it was with some relief I saw the stern look disappear and a softer one appear.
He sighed and looked down.
For the longest time we just stood there, him looking down and me closing my eyes to attempt escaping that way – obviously failing miserably. With another sigh he lifted his gaze and looked at me, slowly moving his face closer to mine, before meeting my mouth with a slow, soft and controlled kiss. As resisting would be pointless, I welcomed it but moments later he aborted, lingering face to face with me for a few seconds before taking a few steps backwards into the centre of the room.
‘Jesus, you look good in that body armour,’ he muttered after having given me the once-over whilst running a hand through his hair. ‘Seeing you there tonight…’ he paused. ‘How long has it been?’
‘Three years. I take it you’re still attached?’
‘Yes. No. I mean, the thing is that…’
‘…it’s complicated. Yes, it always is,’ I said with a hint of sarcasm and started feeling for the door knob. Immediately he moved close to me again, his hand cupped mine, stopping it in its tracks towards freedom.
‘The same woman you left me for?’ I asked, not really interested in hearing the answer.
‘Technically,’ he said earnestly. ‘But what I was going to say is that as we speak, she’s packing her things and moving out of our shared accommodation. So it’s complicated… only it’s not. It’s been coming for a while, as she’s with someone else and has been for a while.’
‘What goes around…,’ I said sternly, wiggled out of his grip, turned around and walked out the door in a rush. I knew that if I lingered for just another second, I’d never leave. I heard his voice calling for me, begging me to wait. I could hear the door slam behind him, his footsteps running down the stairs after me. I dug out the bike keys from my leather pocket, burst out through the heavy church doors and ran towards my motorcycle as I put my helmet on. Once I reached the bike I jumped on it and put the key in the ignition. The engine roared. I saw him in the doorway, eyeing a car that I presumed was his. It looked like he weighed the pros and cons for running after me and fetching the car, but pretty quickly started running towards the vehicle.
I span around on the pebbles and rode off as fast as I could, hoping I’d escape him – and yet hoping he’d catch me up.