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Reading Aloud 2

Yan

I rang up Yan after our return from holiday. His wife answered the telephone, but he was available, too, still in his pyjamas, he said, and fit for a telephonic conversation. I wondered how he had been getting on with my foreign friend’s manuscript. Very well, he said, if not yet finished. Actually, he’s very good, he commented, incredible command of the language and a powerful intellect. He didn’t know whether he was up to him and would be pleased to meet him. I said, this could certainly be arranged. What about the manuscript then ? He would try and have it ready within two days, he said, probably …day. He would let me know.

I didn’t expect too much, not being in an undue hurry anyway, and was busy at my desk in the afternoon of …day when the telephone rang. It was Yan. Since he had promised ‘…day’, he said, could he come now and return the manuscript, not my friend’s, but the other one, no doubt I wanted it back. He would be with me shortly.

Tea was ready when he came. We withdrew into the living-room and onto the new comfortable three-seater, the two-seater hadn’t yet arrived, and had about half an hour’s chat, about my manuscript to begin with and why I wrote about all these things, the fact that nobody wants to start with him/herself, he couldn’t agree more, society at large and what it expects from us, what would happen, if there were no social conventions, everybody sleeping with everybody, he thought, that this might not be worthwhile for a number of reasons, what were the things to aim for, what was lasting, a few female names, well-known figures from literature and music, were mentioned, and what could a woman do for a man other than … which reminded me that I had a spare concert ticket, my husband being away on a business trip on that particular night.

I conceived the bold idea of inviting Yan to accompany me ! I had told him, we did nothing society could take offence at, it will tolerate, even encourage ‘kissing’ as a ‘loving’ gesture, I had learnt it all in Nessie’s house, Yan agreed that kissing was permitted, therefore there was nothing to fear, I went on, nothing to hide, clean conscience all the way. Under these circumstances, how about having an evening out together ?

I could see Yan shrink away in horror at the enormity of the suggestion. I was undeterred. I showed him the programme – it was wonderful. His wife would like to go there, he said. I told him that I didn’t feel like parting with my ticket. He laughed and said he didn’t blame me. He said he wasn’t sure whether he was free on that evening, not having his diary with him. Also he didn’t quite know … I said you can tell her I have invited you in recognition for the work you’ve done for me ! He said ‘Hm’ and then, how about discussing it when we all come to see you on Saturday ? I said I needed to know his answer by 7pm tonight, because if he couldn’t make it, I would try and find somebody else. And I explained about the concert with the choir and that I knew somebody there whom I could approach. With less chance of success probably, because my relationship with him was at a different stage – however, I didn’t tell Yan that. Yan sighed first, then laughed and eventually said, he would let me know before seven. He would have to wait for his wife to return from a W.I. meeting where she had spent the afternoon.

He rang at 6.30p.m., telling me that I looked like being ‘stuck’ with him. He was hoping my husband wouldn’t mind. I told him he could ask him personally on Saturday. As far as I could see, my husband wouldn’t mind, knowing that I treat everybody alike, ‘as hard as nails’ he calls me, ‘making people sweat it out’, and also aware of the fact that I prefer being driven to driving myself, he calls himself ‘the driver’, naturally I’d want a driver.

When my husband came home, I told him about the arrangement I had made. Did he think there was something wrong about me and Yan going to a concert together ? No, he said, and then, what does his wife say? I suggested he could ask her when we saw them on Saturday.