There, already I have told you something. If I had said, “His and Hers” or “Him and Her” you would have had completely different expectations; the one about possessions, the other about ‘pawns of fate’ to whom things happen.

There are other possible combinations: He: dominant, loving her, using her. She: loving him, hating him, envying him his secure male smugness. But no – our title tells us that they are both the Doers, not the Done to. And there, perhaps, is their problem.

They are golden people: He, with his straw hair sun- bleached, his eyes the blue of deep water, his honey tan even all over, save for those ridiculous white ghost bathers of skin protected from the sun.

And She. Surely she is named Inge, or Ingrid, her short hair a richer and more subtle gold than his, her eyes green as a fast flowing river. Her tan is definitely all over, an essential for modelling swimsuits whose cut and sizes vary. Nude bathing or the solarium, we do not know.

But why this preoccupation with nudity? They have just stepped out of the shower cubicle and are towelling themselves with fluffy white terry towels straight from a detergent ad.

It says a lot for their relationship that their shower together was a laughing offer of soapy caresses, light-hearted and carefree, with only a hint of latent passion.

There was no sense of urgency and we feel that the shower is a familiar ritual, not yet commonplace, but with an easy familiarity.

We can guess their breakfast. And we are right. Large golden flakes of corn, enriched with niacin, thiamine and riboflavin, are swilled down with orange juice, freshly pressed with no added preservatives. They sprawl easily on their modern light wood furniture, still wrapped in their fluffy towels, and they look out through french windows. There is the green of vegetation, a neatly clipped lawn, a sculptured tree looking like a gargantuan bonsai, a miniature magnified, and in the distance a glint of water. Is it the Skagerrak? Or Sydney’s Rose Bay? We do not know, for the His and Her cars so neatly carported on the immaculate gravel drive are a Saab and a Volvo respectively.

(Let us give them some dialogue)

She’ll say: “ What’s on today?”

And he’ll say: “The Clement account. And I suppose I had better call into the Agency to see if anyone salutes. And you?”

 

She: “Madeleine wants to get the summer catalogue wrapped up

(Doesn’t it sound trite. Time for a gadfly!)

He: “Who’s doing the pix? I hear Jeremy has dropped out.

She: “Julian I suppose, but he is dreadfully upset.

He: “Well, he and Jeremy were very close at one time.”

She: “BEFORE poor Jer got AIDS I hope.

He: “So does Julian! His test was negative but they told him to have another in three months!”

 

(Please forgive me, but if we are to achieve realism, we must face up to social issues even if those issues are social diseases. Who knows which of our friends may be next!)

Our golden pair fall silent, and the bright blue sky with its cotton wool cloud seems quite out of keeping with their sombre mood. (Let us have the cloud obscure the sun for a moment as a mark of respect.) And for that brief moment, the shadow of the dark angel’s wing-tip brings them a sudden chill.

But they are young, and rich, and successful, knowing little of hardship and suffering, or disease. They are filled with the arrogant certainty of youth and are convinced that nothing serious will happen to them. WE could prove them wrong; with a traffic accident, a crazed gunman perhaps, even an earthquake. But that would be unkind on such a beautiful morning, and we will follow them a little longer to see what befalls them.

More curious than they, it seems; their morning has been mapped out to their satisfaction but they have no more idea than we of what will actually happen.

They were right, and we are quickly bored and a little disappointed. Glamour jobs also have their tedium; for the advertising executive, deadlines and fossil brained clients, and for the model, endless uncomfortable poses for a distraught homosexual photographer who can see only Death through his view-finder. It is not a good day, and we leave them to live it out as best they may while we ponder on naming them.

Yes, our first thought was a good one. Ingrid she shall remain, an excellent name for a blonde model {though I suspect her baptismal name was something a lot more plebeian). As for Him, I anticipate one of those American surnames that double for Christian (oops – sorry!) I mean Given names. Something like BRAD perhaps, or, better still, DONOVAN

The name has given him endless trouble. Insensitive friends persist in shortening it to ‘Don’ which leads new acquaintances to call him ‘Donald”. If he were twenty years older, and a senior executive, ‘Donald would have a certain reassuring solidity, but for his current image it is a disaster.

During our foray into the sociology of naming, the day has passed. Ingrid and Donovan are sitting in the conversation pit, but there is little conversation. The KFC cartons scattered in the kitchen give a hint of the growing tension between them. The muscles of his jaw tighten as thinks that a man deserves better than that after a hard day. Her lips pout, (she scored nine out of ten for pouting at Model school). She reads his body language and feels righteously indignant. Physically, she has had a far more exhausting day than he, yet she knows that he expected her to dash home and whip up a cordon bleu meal. Her lips tighten as she reflects that it was she who paid for the chicken, and fetched it, and microwaved it to perfection, restoring the heat without spoiling the texture.

She thinks that soon he will yawn and stretch to indicate that it is time for bed. He yawns and stretches. She knows that he will want sex, already he is becoming quite predictable. Her back hurts. He will be as athletic as usual, seeking to purge himself of the day’s tension, and she knows that once again she won’t say no. The resentment builds.

After, when it is over, and Donovan slumbers like a contented baby, Ingrid finds herself quite unable to sleep despite, or because of, a weariness that is more existential than physical. For the first time in months, she thinks longingly of a cigarette.

He wakes slowly, sensing the emptiness of the bed. The water-filled sack beneath him moves in protest as he eases himself over the hard edge, his feet finding the floor. He stumbles out, avoiding the dressing table by habit but treading on a shoe.

She is sitting in the living room reading, her glasses huge on the end of her nose. She looks very small wearing his robe and her quick glance over the top of the specs has an element of guilt as she surreptitiously closes the book and places it face down on the table.

Her gaze softens as she sees him, naked rather than nude, shivering slightly in the coolness of the night. ‘He is only a little boy.” She thinks. His tousled bewilderment has nothing of the macho man. ‘Why, even his little boy is a little boy” she smiles to herself as she leads him back to bed, a wave of tenderness dispelling the dark thoughts of three a.m.

But the book remains on the table. It is ‘Uncoupling’ by Diane Vaughan; subtitled ‘How and Why Relationships come apart’. Although Ingrid and Donovan are asleep in each other’s arms I sadly fear that HE & SHE will shortly lose their ampersand. Eve has tasted the Apple!

© Copyright H.St V.Beechey 1990, Revised 1996