While Sharon was upstairs getting ready I sat and read her Cosmopolitan, which lay open on the kitchen table. Cosmopolitan is Sharon's Bible. She reads it from cover to cover as soon as it arrives and models her life on its contents. Its philosophy is her philosophy. In the past this has meant, basically, having as much sex, in as many different positions, with as many different partners as she could manage, given that there are only 24 hours in a day and some of these must be devoted to sleep. If, at any given moment, you want to fathom Sharon's innermost thoughts and desires, you only have to pop into a newsagent's and flick through the most recent issue and it's all there.
But in this month's think-piece at the front of the magazine, the editor, I was sorry to read, is back-pedalling furiously. In a sort of Papal Bull, she admits that Cosmopolitan's past advocacy of casual sex may have been a little cavalier. Unless approached with a positive, calculating attitude, she warns readers, 'soulless sex' can in fact lead to unhappiness.
Sharon came downstairs with her hair in a towel. She noticed which page I was reading and said, 'Cosmo is right: I'm getting so tired of soulless sex.' After reading this month's Cosrno, she said, she was turning over a new leaf. Soulless sex was out and meaningful relationships were now in.
Having said that, she added, last week she'd had the best casual sex she'd ever had, in the cubicle of a public lavatory, with a builder on his lunchbreak. It was one of those public lavatories permanently flooded with a fluorescent blue light. This is supposed to make life difficult for heroin addicts and other self-injectors by masking their veins. 'What a waste of taxpayers' money,' said Sharon indignantly. 'I could see his veins even without my contact lenses in.'
The next time she came downstairs she was all lipstick and glitter. All she had to do was roll a joint, finish her wine and she'd be ready to go. And whatever happens in the pub tonight, she said, I mustn't let her pick up any blokes, If necessary, she said, I must physically restrain her. This month's Cosmopolitan had been a timely wake-up call for her, she said, carefully inserting a piece of rolled-up cardboard into the end of the spliff.
Well, we went up the King Bill, where, as usual, she drank like a Red Indian. And, as usual, when it was kicking-out time she had a bloke in tow, This one looked about 15, with a junkie's physique and a peculiarly narrow face, as if it had been caught between the doors of a lift when he was a baby. As he got in the back of my car, I said, 'Have you read this month's Cosmopolitan'?" He was dripping all over my upholstery because Trevor, a jealous ex, had spotted him leaving with Sharon and had tipped the remains of his lager over his head. Sharon sat in the front. I reminded her of her earlier renunciation of soulless sex, but she said nothing.
On the way back to Sharon's place, the dripping man in the back seat became threatening towards me, and I had to stop and calm him down. 'Look,' I said. 'What's your name?' It was none of my business, he said. I turned to Sharon, but she couldn't help me on that score either. It was unclear whether she was too drunk to speak or didn't know what the guy's name was. She just sat here with her chin on her chest. I offered to fight the bloke, whatever his name was, either inside the car or outside the car, it was up to him, I didn't mind. The guy just laughed at me.
When we got back to Sharon's, she and the junkie dived straight upstairs. I went into the front room and lay down on the sofa. As soon as I lay down, the room started spinning and I felt nauseous. But I found that if I lay perfectly still on my back with my eyes closed, the spinning and nausea abated to a tolerable level. Then Sharon and her bloke were in the room. She was in her dressing gown; he in his underpants. They were lying on top of me, longitudinally, their faces nuzzling against mine. Sharon was whispering in one ear, 'Bloody pathetic! Useless!' And in the other ear this bloke was saying, 'She's so gorgeous, man, it freaked me out. I just couldn't. What about a threesome?' The slightest movement on my part, even opening my mouth to speak, would, I knew, set the room spinning again. So I just lay there saying nothing, wondering what the editor of Cosmopolitan would advise in the situation.