Here in the House of the Fat Cat once you close the big wooden front doors you enter an oasis of coolness away from the heat of the day, the thick stone walls offer shade and muffle the sounds of the street, here you enter a different world. Il Casa del gato gordo is currently home to three guests: me, Pedro & Denise. And of course the Housekeeper Lucia & her familiar, Cesare the Cat.
The paths of these five souls cross relatively rarely in this big old house. Cesare tends to be a bit of a loner and shuns all company, (unless you are cooking fish, at which point he becomes briefly friendly and animated before returning to his normal grumpy self) Pedro, well he speaks only Spanish, is gay and tends to be a night owl, he’s a nice enough fella but to be honest we have little in the way of common ground and so manage little more than a Buenos Dies.
Denise is the newest arrival, here for two weeks. She’s thirty and a Swede, she came via London where she lived for the last six years, she is here in Spain for a fresh start.
My evenings tend to follow a similar pattern, when the light begins to fail I head for the atrium area of the house, it has a large skylight open to the air two floors above, an old Spanish tiled floor and comfortable chairs and sofas. I light a bunch of candles, put on a little music, burn some incense. Then settle into my preferred arm chair, roll myself a little herbal meditation aid, or open a bottle of cold white wine, or if I am feeling particularly decadent I do both. Then ensconced in my favourite armchair I watch the candle lights flicker with the night breeze and then lose all track of time.
Yesterday evening during my ritual Denise floats by on her way to the bathroom, which is just next to the atrium. She is wearing a little silk mini dress and carrying a towel, she is bare footed. I’m struck by the browness of her legs in the candlelight and by the nail polish on her toes, dark wine brown, a little worn away from the pebbles on the beach she visits each day. She says hello as she passes, closes the bathroom door behind her and in a moment or two I hear the water from the shower in the background as my music plays.
Now somewhat deliberately I decided a while back to give females of the species homo sapiens a break from my attentions, to be honest I felt they deserved it and I reckoned that it wouldn’t do me any harm either. So for at least a year now, maybe its longer than that, I’ve been single, unattached and nookie free and that has felt fine.
The bathroom door opens and out comes Denise, she walks into the Atrium and towards the kitchen, she’s going to make some dinner she announces, would I like to join her? Unable to look a gift horse in the mouth I say absolutely, adding would she share some wine with me, to which the answer is yes.
A few minutes later the little table is decked out with a lentil salad, a bottle of wine is opened, glasses filled, and Denise folds herself into a little wire chair opposite me, one of those seventies style numbers, we eat & drink, then we smoke a little smoke & talk. The scent of wet hair and shampoo wafts across the table, I look at the silkiness of her long dark hair, I try not to stare, the brown legs, the varnished toenails. Our conversation covers Marxism, of which she is a fervent supporter, it moves to poetry & to lovers, she has a man in the mountains here that she met earlier last year. She plans on visiting him soon.
Our conversation rambles on for ages, and we are both stoned, this has a way of loosening tongues & I soon have the feeling that I know this young woman quite well, for a comparative stranger. I find myself looking at her breasts, the curves of flesh that peep from behind the V neck of silk. I feel embarrassed and hope she doesn’t realise, I focus on her eyes.
I realise that my year of being woman free is no more than wishful thinking, though when I learn I am just a year younger than her father its a good reality check, stupid man you are so bloody old.
As the candles burn low we talk about our favourite movies, Denise says she has a great movie on her laptop, she recommends I watch it. Then she rises to her feet, I’m going to watch the movie on my bed, she says. I’ll clean up and finish the wine I reply. She turns as she leaves, you really should watch the movie it’s so good she says.
I definitely will I reply.
I watch as she walks along the hallway and hear her footsteps pad up the stairs and then the room is silent, the candles flicker their last, I blow them out and watch wisps of smoke rise from each one. It’s time for me to head to bed.