The basil sorbet had begun to melt, its death throes leaking from its body and creating around the edges of my plate, an outline; a crescent of green liquid. But in spite of its dashing colour and ability to perform acrobatics, the sorbet was disgusting, especially alongside the panna cotta. I was told before I had ordered it that a panna cotta was a pastry. It was actually some kind of crème jelly, and certainly by the contrast of the sorbet and keeping in mind the disappointment of a lack of pastry, was extremely delicious.
My companion was sat to my right, next to the window. He was an old man: his face contorted with wrinkles and education. The bright light from the window kept my companion in shadow- from my place, I could barely make out his blue eyes, dulled from years of piteous existence, masked by years of success and publication, or his white eyebrows, which charmingly matched his hair… or what was left of it. Often we would discuss the benefits of suicide, and the various regimes of the world, and the greatest of philosophies. Often I would sit, enthralled for hours by his strong views- views with which I would never quite agree, but would argue about earnestly. He was a lecturer from my University, someone who I had instantly loved from the moment he told us to punch polar bears as a means of combating the idea of environmentalism. He had retired as I entered my third year, but we had still kept in contact. We had one meeting in this same place a few months prior, and I had spoke about my dissertation and my grand plans for the future. Now, we had met in this same place to talk following graduation. We hadn’t ordered dessert during our previous meeting. It was he who had misinformed me about the pastry. He had also just asked me to have sex with him.
I had declined. Love for this old man had prevented me from spitting in his face and storming out, and had instead forced me to eat the rest of the dessert he had already paid for. He had asked me once, and I said that I didn’t understand. My immense and crushing naivety taking ‘Book a room’ to mean ‘Flipcharts and research’ in the most literal of manners. I could have cried for my own stupidity. He had asked me a second time and the rushing realisation of jelly desserts flooded into my brain and set.
‘I hope I haven’t offended you, let’s forget I said anything’.
The basil sorbet had started to melt and was making the rounds of my plate. This man was, in quite literal terms, a celebrity in the distinctly unglamorous field of Historical research. A pioneer of education at my University, but more importantly, a bitter and entertaining old man, whose lectures you attended just to see him jump up and down and get angry at the people who had come in late. You couldn’t help but admire his disdain for the educational institution, or his beliefs that society was there to be fucked over. The first time he asked me for dinner, I had accepted excitedly, enthused to hear more of his stories about the Russian Revolution: perhaps of how Lenin and Trotsky were so tired that they slept together on a hillside, or how Stalin had been dead for days before anybody dared to try and wake him. The second date had been set, ‘after graduation, because then you’ll have a better idea of where your life is going’.
The sun was beginning to lose its strength outside. I could see my companion more clearly now. He was gently chewing on his dessert- an action which had started to bother me greatly. I wasn’t sure why I was still sat there. My entire body was straining to leave, but my heart was filled with much too much pity and confusion. I suppose it was much too late now to start making a scene, anyway, so I would have to wait until he had finished eating too, and then leave with my familiar friends hatred and embarrassment sitting on my shoulder. We hadn’t spoken for a few minutes, giving me time to reflect on whether or not I was entirely stupid. We had met in a hotel- my housemates, boyfriend, and even my own mother had made jokes that he was going to ‘try it on’. I thought he just liked the coffee there. And even when he had just ‘tried it on’, I’d sat there and asked him to give some kind of clarification. Blinded by naivety, hero-worship, panna cotta and the secret hope that old men were only kind and lovely. I was stupid indeed and I wanted to be sick. He finished his food.
‘Didn’t you like your sorbet?’