E@L *thinks again: Why did she say 19? Do I look like a No 19 person?
E@L ambles back from the N****** shopping centre carrying two plastic bags of shopping (full grain bread, full cream milk, full of potassium bananas, full of pulp orange juice - his staples) with the handles wrapped over his hands so that weight falls on the back of his wrist, a new technique after fifty-four years that takes the pressure off his fingers (can't teach an old dogs new tricks? - Hah!), up a slght hill, puffing as he tries to whistle some Audioslave rocking beat, thinking of things he has done and said in the past, and occasionally sprouting a "fuck" out loud or "you fucking idiot" as he recalls the stupid and reckless and damaging words he has uttered to girls over the years while trying to make them understand his urgent desires, often ensuring that they would not come anywhere near him and that they now consider him a lech and a creep, thereby exploding whatever trusting and friendly relationship he might imagine they had established over the period (long or short) of their acquaintance. Expressions of interest [e.g. "let's fuck"] that work in OT at 2am ("you don't need to try hard, it's 2am," Bruce once told him) do not work on pretty girls he has the hots for at 10pm in pubs and wine-bars along Robertson Walk. Why does he not know how to woo girls? Why is he a fuckwit? Even with guys he has no skills at small talk, nothing except deeper conversations at his call and even they only come out after a few alcoholic drinks, when everyone starts feeling philosophical as well. He sits silent around the table listening to others chat about topics he has zero interest in, zero knowledge about, or probably has forgotten about (he blames the medications). Cars, football, cricket, blokie things. Why is it so hard?
He looks around to see if there is anyone walking near him who might have overheard his expletive ejaculation, and if there is (he doesn't notice them because he is listening to the music and day-dreaming about the stupidity that has plagued his existence and, not a bad thing, kept him single these last twenty years) and if there is anyone there, he awkwardly attempts to sing a few muted words of the song in his ears, or whistle them away, hey, these are the lyrics I am calling out, E@L is not a lunatic wandering the streets mumbling foul words for no reason whatsoever. He has reasons for mumbling rude words - he is a fuckwit, a stumbling tongue-tied failure with women.
He blames his mum for not marrying again, not giving him a male role-model. He blames not being much good at sports, or not interested in sports as he matured from a high skill level in primary school to not giving a fuck, and so not getting into the change-room banter and stories of what works and what doesn't in the picking up and making out with the horny Catholic girls from the convent school down the road (it's muscles mainly that seem to work). He blames the solitary pursuits of surfing and playing the guitar (never remembering the chords, even when he was young - maybe it's not the meds) and reading on his poor socialisation. Then getting married at nineteen. Nineteen. So young, fresh out of school, or one year out actually, not so much a gap year year as a pit year, a year spent fucking up an Arts course (poetry, what the fuck does Dylan Thomas mean to him, the wind is from the north-west, Southside - the left-hander behind Bell's Beach [remember point Break?] would be pumping, well it would it there was any swell) and there was the surfing trip to Queensland and New South Wales in a car with six bald tyres (lots of stories about that trip, if he had the time to tell them) and the job at Fords engine plant, fettling (yes it's a word) away some part of a lifter, or bashing camshafts out of their hot sand molds, face black and gritty at the end of a shift.
And so incompetent at the accurate and reliable deployment of condoms, so young, so fucking stupid. First ever girlfriend (No 1 son though, what a marvelous lad) too. Out came the moral shotgun and that was it for E@L. So E@L never went through those years of pick-up lines, never learnt the chat-up process, never played the game. He never learned what is nice too say, what is amusing, what is endearing, what shows understanding and interest, what opens a girls legs. No wonder he fucks up. He only became single, really independent when No 1 one son went to live in England. That's when E@L moved to his career in the Cosmo-Incompetent Medical Company, was stationed in Hong Kong and there, in Wanchai at 2am, there was no need to try so hard.
He checked out the numbers of the houses on the street. They seemed to jump enormously from house/condo to condo/house. 55, 47, 33. And he was almost at his front gate. Where was No 19 going to be? How is it going to fit in here, there were only two plots to go, semi-detached units. The first was 27, the second, even though it was on the same plot jumped down to 23. Then he was at his gate. 11. There was no 19. What the fuck was that taxi driver talking about?
His 19-ness was all in her head.
Nineteen, he thought again. Is he a nineteen person? Is there something of his nineteen history that she saw inside him as she glanced in the rear-view mirror??