“It was me having a sweet tooth you see, that led to me having such an eye for the women,” he said.
I looked on curiously at this outburst of such incredulity, that rather than knock back straight away, I paused and allowed its continuance.
“You see, from early childhood, I was ensconced in a world of sweets, given by a favourite aunt, long since removed from this place, Lord rest her soul, every Sunday after mass. My father, her brother, would march us down to her shop, just down the town, a few hundred yards from the church.
Oh, the memory now! The anticipation of seeing footballs hanging in a net outside the door and fishing nets on bamboo canes at their side as they hovered over a HB ice cream sign that half blocked the doorway.
Then as we neared, my sister and I would stoop under the hanging toys in the shop, making us feel like grown ups as Action men and buckets and spades brushed past our eight-year-old heads.”
I smiled and let him continue as he regaled about the black and grey chequered floor that housed shelves of tea and biscuits playing neighbours to a tin of Vim and maybe the odd roll of twine.
“But it was behind the counter where all of the action really was.” He reflected. “Jars and jars of beautifully coloured glass or chewy sweets, radiant in emerald greens or red and white stripes!
Black loose liquorice lay in strands like bodies of pirates lain out having been washed up on a shore after their ship had been bombed!
New sweets like flogs were pushed to the front beside the apple drops to give a vision of such colour that your eyes would sparkle into an almost hypnotic state.”
And as if in that state, he paused, looking away from me now at some celestial presence and he began to speak again as he lamented,
“Ah…but the smell…the smell of sugar moulded in the fragrant glass like molecules of beauty mixed with vanilla and lemon, cola and strawberry. A child’s idea of a paradise garden. And as you inhaled it went further than your nostrils or even your lungs. It ran through the veins of your arms and downwards until you were almost lifted. Yes! Lifted! Lifted off the feet that held you on that chequered floor before you were forced to make your choice.”
Choice. Was this what he was meant when he was referring to his eye for the women? I wondered.
“No! No!” said he, as he looked at me with disdain, shaking his head in disgust as if I hadn’t been listening to a word he had said.
“It was the smell don’t you see?”
“The smell?” I replied, confused.
“Yes, the smell! It weakened me then as it weakened me later. How could I choose one sweet over another as a child? How could anyone of that age be told they had to make a choice? It was unfair!”
Granted he had a point. A child in a sweetshop did indeed have a logistical nightmare to overcome and it was an unfair conundrum to befall a mite of such tender years. However, I failed to see the connection to the women he had mentioned at the outset.
He looked down between his seated legs in disappointment at my incapability to grasp a single thing he had said. And before I had a chance to repeat his words like the last time he went on,
“You know when you walk past a woman and you get that beautiful scent? That individual stamp of womanhood? Wooing you like a drug? Mesmerising you into a state of such diversion, it would be beyond any man to be thinking straight and in his right state of mind.”
“I see,” I said, but I didn’t.
How he could compare the two and justify his separations and divorces, there were two, to a half pound of gobstoppers consumed before his teenage years was beyond all reason of acceptability.
He sat back and licked his lips.
“Every time I would smell a new perfume you see, I was gone.” He said regretfully. “Just like my loyalty to bon bons was gone as soon as I tasted cola cubes. It was just a different type of sweetshop.”
I looked at him sadly I suppose. Sad that he felt this way and more so that he was sitting here alone putting life’s woes down to his comparisons to the sweet shop.
He smiled again in such a way that I wasn’t sure if he had been pulling my leg all along.
His front teeth were missing.
I nodded in their direction.
“Too many bullseyes?”
“No,” he said, “The wife did that to me when she found out I had been sniffing her sister’s cola cube perfume.”