At some level, he was able to marvel at his very audaciousness. Their eyes, a doll’s blue, disconcertingly blank, bright, unblinking – both of them on their way to catch the local bus, gazing at him, he instantly realized, without having come to any conclusion …

It took him only a moment to eliminate all doubt. The opportunity was ripe. Detecting an air of availability, he concluded that this situation, put crudely, was worth pursuing. Wasn’t he Merkweise’s chauffeur, in proximity to the heart of authority – so to speak, one soft leather car seat removed from its dominion – the executive car serving, in more ways than one, as an icon of its prerogatives? And he, now, smiling cockily, cap aslant, confidently standing next to the immaculate black and chrome mirrored exterior to which he had that morning contributed at least an hour’s attention, stood waiting for the exact moment in which to frame in his mock salute the two in their snug, skimpy skirts and enticing low-cut blouses. One glance sufficed. Grabbing the initiative, instantly communicating to this enchanting pair, irresolutely waiting, like an as-yet-undelivered package, that he was confident – reliable, trustworthy, experienced – not just a husk, a shell, not just a uniform with gleaming buttons bearing the insignia of Durst Chemi, but someone ready to throw all caution to the wind. No room for hesitation. Fearlessly advancing … Isn’t that something women are able to discern in a man at one glance? Momentum, confidence? From childhood – aren’t they taught to read the tell-tale signs of weakness, equivocation, self-denial, as they relentlessly scan shoes, fingernails, mouth, moustache, shirt collar? They can spot indecisiveness as readily as they can anticipate the rapist’s first move, the molester’s hesitant overture. With uncanny astuteness they’re able to trace a man’s anticipation of a rebuff to the involuntary quiver of eyebrows. With the precision of a surgeon, they peel back the outer layer, no matter how thick or coarse the skin, to detect the indecisiveness beneath.

He communicated his conviction as he raised his visored cap with a practised: Guten Tag, meine Damen, the half-ironic pitch intended to place doubt as to the courtesy but not the intent – thereby emitting a sexual thrill, like a mating call. Irresistible! For they, to all intents and purposes, in their tight skirts and nipple-revealing blouses ablaze with the passion of a flowery design, were nothing less than a blatant walking sexual message, even though their faces remained somehow stern and aloof. Confidently, he asserted: Oh, yes, let me show you … A stream of non sequiturs, clusters of cloudy meaning, stimuli to entrap their heady emotional response. Testing, testing. Each word an independent scanning device.

Noël, Noël
Colin Maillard