For the first three years of our marriage I believed every single word Geoff said. Looking back I suppose this was overdoing it. But Geoff was a remarkably honest person. He never cheated on his tax. If he didn’t want to go to an office party he never said he was busy, he told them that he didn’t want to go. If you asked him whether he liked a dress he would say, “Not really, but you wear it if you like it.” Not particularly romantic to be sure. But honest to the core.
When I met Geoff he was a bookish young man with rather thick glasses. I always thought he wore the glasses because they fitted his image. It wasn’t until be removed his glasses and attempted to kiss me for the first time that I realised he actually had poor eye-sight. He managed to miss my lips and gently caressed my ear. His favourite form of entertainment was to go to talks. The Writers’ Festival was his idea of heaven. Frankly, I would rather watch TV.
My utter faith in his honesty was shaken by a seemingly trivial incident. I had spent a Saturday over at my mother’s helping her to spring-clean. My mother is given to extreme cleaning, and I have always accepted that her house has to be kept pristine, even if my own is bordering on the grotty. I returned to find Geoff sitting in front of a crossword puzzle looking forlorn and alone.
“Did you miss me?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said, and I heard him add under his breath, “That woman is a selfish bitch.”
I was shocked – I had never heard Geoff say a bad word about any of my relatives. “You said you liked my mother!” I exclaimed.
“Did I?” he replied. “Well, I didn’t want to hurt your feelings. You can’t help the fact that she’s a…. your mother.”
The very next Monday he told me he had tickets to a talk at the library. “You can watch The Lydia Black Mysteries while I go,” he said. “I don’t really like that show.”
I was upset, because I prefer to watch The Lydia Black Mysteries with Geoff, whether he enjoys it or not. “What’s the talk about?” I asked.
“To tell the truth I forget,” he said, evasively I thought. “I bought a ticket when I was returning my library books. I thought the talk sounded interesting at the time. Heavens, I hope I still have the ticket.” And he scrabbled around in his wallet, where he discovered a rather tatty piece of white paper. He peered at it short-sightedly, and I saw on it the words ADULT ACTIVITIES. “Yes, that’s it,” he murmured, shoving it back into his wallet in what I took to be a furtive manner.
Adult activities! He was going to a porn night! And this was a man who refused to watch R rated movies.
Of course I had no doubt this “talk” was not at the library at all. Distrust coursed through my veins like a mighty river. This was not just a lie to save my feelings. This was blatant dishonesty, and I was going to catch him out. It would mean missing Lydia Black, but it was what Lydia herself would have done. It would mean following him in the second-best car. The only time I had ever tried to follow anyone before I lost them when the lights turned red. But I was a woman wronged, and I expected the Fates to be on my side this time.
So when Geoff left the house I waved him goodbye from the sofa, then bolted for the door as soon as his car had drawn away from the house. I had to wait until he was some distance down the road, but we live in a cul-de-sac so there was only one way out. Geoff is a careful driver, and in my wild Lydia mode I soon caught up with him. It was dark, and I hoped that in his rear-view mirror my car just looked like two indistinguishable headlights. Actually he was heading for the library, but I guessed his real destination. It must be the rugby club across the road.
Soon I was drumming my fingers impatiently on the steering wheel. Geoff seemed very cool for a man on his way to a night of tawdry sex. What had caused this bizarre change in his behaviour anyway? Oh hell, what made me ask that question? The answer was obvious. He was bored with me. I was certainly not the most exciting woman on the planet. But Geoff was not the most exciting man. He was a comfortable, conventional sort of person. He suited me very well. No he didn’t. He was a liar and a pervert. I had misunderstood him all these years.
Geoff pulled into the library car park. Ho! He was ashamed to be seen parking in the rugby club. I had some difficulty finding a park myself, and by the time I got out of the car I noticed a number of people assembling. My goodness, you would be surprised the sort of people who go to porn nights. Grey haired couples, chubby middle-aged women, even a young woman in a Muslim headscarf. And unbelievably, they were heading for the library. There was a sign up advertising the night’s talk, which was called “Dirty Deeds”. My faith in the right-ordering of the universe was in tatters. How could libraries offer this sort of entertainment? Is this where my rates were going? I would write a letter of complaint. First I would sit through the disgusting evening myself, and gather evidence. Then I would write and complain.
I waited until Geoff had entered the Entertainment Room before sidling up to the desk to buy a ticket. A young librarian told me I was in luck, they had only a few tickets left. I wondered that she was not embarrassed to be selling tickets to such filth.
I reckoned rightly that Geoff would sit as near to the front as he could, due to his poor vision. The room was nearly full, so I took my seat up the back. I looked around nervously to see if I recognised anyone, but thankfully I did not.
The speaker rose – now he did look the part. He was small, overweight, and dishevelled. His skin was blotchy, he had dark rings around his eyes from want of honest sleep. He fiddled with the overhead projector in which I had no doubt all manner of lurid photography was lurking. He tested a microphone. He obviously intended to give a commentary – I thought explicit sex would be explicit enough without explanation. But then I had never been to a porn evening before.
Geoff was talking to a man sitting beside him. They seemed to know each other. Had they been to this sort of entertainment together before? Geoff was laughing. He wouldn’t be laughing when he knew who was watching him from the back of the hall.
The first slide came up – DIRTY DEEDS written in lurid scarlet letters. There was a sub-text underneath and I strained my eyes to read it. It was written in a pale mauve colour, and I expected it to say something like “Lust in the suburbs” or “How to get more sex more often.” Oddly enough it said, “Socio-economic determiners of the Global Financial Crisis.”
To this day I do not know what the socio-economic determiners of the Global Financial Crisis were. There were no explicit bedroom scenes to delight or shock the audience. There were not even any recognizable pictures. There were graphs. I could not understand any of them. I suppose I was relieved. Perhaps I was also a little disappointed. Then I was heartily ashamed of myself. Then I was bored rigid. I crept out, and on the way to the door saw a large poster advertising CHILDRENS’ ACTIVITIES – School Holidays at Your Library. I went home in time to catch the second half of The Lydia Black Mysteries.
It’s a good thing I left early, because Geoff arrived home soon after. “How was the talk?” I asked with as much innocence as I could muster.
“Awful” he replied. “The speaker was hopeless. No-one could understand him.” There you are. He really is the most honest man alive. “How was Lydia Blake?” he asked.
“She was a bit silly really,” I replied. You think I confessed to him? Not likely. Sometimes silence is wiser than honesty.
The Australian Literature Review