Saturday 24 June 2023

'Suitability' by Elle Symonds

They like men, they say, who are tall and fearless. They like men with nice voices and expensive clothes, men who play the guitar.

“What kind of men do you like, Bea?” Mary asks, smoothing down the crease in her uniform. The four of us stand in the hotel garden, enjoying fresh air before the minutes disappear.

Mary dreams of a lavish wedding. She reads newspaper ads from lonely hearts, men fine-tuned and faceless. She circles them softly, as if tracing a fingertip along a man’s cheek. She longs for whispered sentiments and sprawling, lazy mornings, for dancing and dinner parties, and to wear her mother’s wedding dress, once she’s altered the sleeves.

They talk about men who pass them in the corridors with a charming hello. And others, the ones who treat us like wandering spectres, haunting rooms with newly-made beds and disappearing towels.

I think about the man in the breakfast hall. The man who’d peer up from his menu with a smile full of promise. Who’d stay in the bar past midnight, telling stories of man so lonely, so misunderstood. Who’d press a number scrawled on paper into a woman’s hand, their bodies close, skin touching.

And she’d wonder, as he took her to a crowded bar, or to the fairground, why it was never a fancy restaurant, or a friend’s party, where people could see. Why he’d kiss her away from prying eyes, like the end of the pier, where they stood in the fog one dusky evening, tide high, waves thrashing below, and again she wondered, wondered why the pale indent of his wedding ring was always visible.

When he washed ashore, it was found tucked tightly within his wallet.

I think for a moment before I answer.

“I like men who keep their promises.”

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