11 The Wood Pixie

We called her The Wood Pixie. None of us knew her. Still, it pleased us to make mild fun of her, not in an evil, vicious, or ill-tempered way, more in an abstract helplessness: there was this woman who had the man we all loved, and he was beholden to her. We imagined her as sharp and fierce and incredibly demanding. There is no telling whether we were right to do so; it was just an impression we got. Not only did we not know her, we also didn’t ever really hear anything about her, other than that she existed. And so The Wood Pixie acquired mythical status, and whenever we found that he couldn’t make it to a party or said no to a dinner or did not invite us to his wedding, we relished imagining her stamping angry little feet on the ground, conjuring demons and casting terrible spells.

Once in a while though, he managed to escape. He knew it would not be forever – we knew he wouldn’t want it to be forever, because we knew, we imagined, he was already too lost to her – but just for an evening, or even, as on one occasion, for a weekend, to the country, somewhere nobody would find us: another of our good friends had borrowed a house. It was a very large house, a converted barn, with dark wooden beams, an incredibly high ceiling, deep leather sofas and the kind of beds where you dream you have gone to heaven, even before you’ve fallen asleep.

We were there for only one night, I believe, and really absolutely nothing much happened: we arrived. We must at some point have eaten some food, we drank wine or more likely champagne, because that’s what we tended to do in those days, and we did a few lines. Maybe we played some games. Where the food or the wine or champagne or the lines had come from I don’t remember, they simply materialised. Much like the house. Even precisely who was there now is a blur. Four of us, maybe six? Certainly no large group and certainly nobody we didn’t know. I only remember him though, really, and obviously our host. I wished, I so longed, I hoped, I so willed the evening to get to the point where he would simply not care enough about who or what he normally was and forget about The Wood Pixie and allow me to snuggle up to him in his bed, and very possibly he would have done had I had the courage to sneak into it in the first place. But I didn’t. Non, je ne regrette rien, sauf… Sauf les temps quand je suis été lâche. Sauf les temps quand un amour ou une trame du hazard semblait possible, mais je n’avais pas eu le courage de prendre une chance.

There have been two, maybe three, possibly, at a stretch, four. Two, three or four times when I didn’t have the courage to take the chance that was obviously there. (Or was it only ever there in my – wishful – imagination?) The weakness of being vulnerable. The weakness of not being able to show yourself vulnerable. The need, at all cost, not to be needy.

Morning came and I woke up in a bedscape of white softness, on my own. It so happened that he gave me a lift home in his red MX5. And then the killer line, as we sat next to each other, in worn leather seats, shades on, burning down the M4:

I: ‘That was a really excellent weekend.’

He: ‘Yes, and the best thing about it is getting away with it.’

I saw The Wood Pixie looming suddenly large, puffed up to overbearing proportions, but even she, with her frightening powers, would never know about this weekend, because he’d make it home just in time, all obedient innocence. And he was pleased as punch about this, beaming like a boy, his eyes on the fast lane, the one that would get him back, under the radar.

Later on I then once or twice saw a picture of her: she looked lovely. There is no reason at all to assume, to presume, that he ended up with the wrong woman, the wrong person. In fact I imagine the opposite. For him, all things considered, if not quite all told, The Wood Pixie is probably pretty much perfect…

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