Can you help me? I have to stop. Stop listening in. Stop observing. Stop intruding on people's lives, not literally, (although I have been known, on occasion, to join the conversations of complete strangers uninvited) but somewhat surreptitiously - not judging so much, but just wondering about people and their stories.
Like just this week I was out. Dining alone. Away for work. A little out of my comfort zone. I decided to enjoy a full meal with Scrublands author Chris Hammer, well his new book Silver at least, out October 1, don't miss it. Yes, I was one of those - I was going to write sad, but, no - interesting people who sit and eat alone with a book. I'm at Bannisters in Mollymook, in town at the Pavilion. Read all about my time at the big house By the Sea, with Rick and Sas Stein in Tuesday's Good Food. I ordered some calamari, tender, and oysters which tasted like the ocean, a glass of rose. I was enjoying my night.
And then this couple came in. I'm guessing they were in their 60s. I find it hard to estimate the ages of people "around my age". Ha, surely I don't look that old. Although there was every chance this woman was my age, her companion looked somewhat older given his white hair.
And they sat there for an hour, ordered one small dish each, a soft drink with a straw in it. They didn't speak to each other, rarely smiled, she nibbled on her chicken, he ordered the calamari too. And then they got up and left. No dessert, no glass of wine, no stolen moment of we're away on a Monday night in some swanky accommodation, this is the life. They were headed to bed before nine for sure. To sleep.
Look, maybe I am being judgey. But I know that's not the life I want. If I've got a good 20, 30 years left in me is it wrong to want those years filled with laughter and conversation and passion and travel and adventure? Lord knows, we all know that any relationship can be stretched to the limits, that after 20, 30, 50 years there are times where you run out of things to say to each other. That there are nights when you'd rather be asleep at nine.
Perhaps that is one benefit of finding yourself single at 50. You can start again with someone new. You're not bound by history, memories are ready to be made. It's about finding out about someone new and yourself at the same time.
But perhaps it's because I am still single that I can glorify a new relationship. I'm not dealing with someone else's children, or dealing with my children dealing with someone else, I'm not juggling custody schedules nor work schedules.
But I know what I want. And it's not a night out like this couple. I want someone who'll come home from work and kiss the back of my neck while I'm cooking dinner, who'll push me against the bench and be glad he's home. I want someone who'll fall asleep on a Sunday afternoon while we're watching the footy on the tele, his head in my lap as we relax on the lounge. I want someone who'll reach out and grab my hand and say let's go this way, who'll call me on my bullshit and make me want to be a better person. Is all this still possible? Was it ever?
I've had a few friends ask me over the past few years what it is that I'm after. The word companionship freezes me to the core. I just want a little spark. I'm realistic enough to know that as one approaches the third age that you may perhaps have to deal with such things as disease and debilitation. I've done my fair share of partner nursing already. But if you still can't slap each other on a sagging behind, what's the point?
But this is where I have to be honest. As their meals were served, the woman reached into her handbag and unwrapped something and passed it to her husband. It was a pearl-handed cheese knife of all things. And it was then I noticed his right arm was immobile and this knife enabled him to cut things and put them in his mouth without too much trouble at all. When they'd finished she wiped it clean, rewrapped it in the white linen napkin, popped it back in her handbag. And they were here, away on a Monday night, together, sleeping in a king-size bed, able to head up to the restaurant again tomorrow for a fabulous breakfast someone else had cooked them. Perhaps they spent an afternoon on the beach, maybe they'll rise before dawn and see the sun rise over the waves. Perhaps I had it all wrong from the moment they sat down.
Perhaps I have it all wrong.