Bob didn’t ask about me and I didn’t ask about him. The first two or three times we went out together I realised that neither of us had learned the art of conversation with new people. He told me long details of a film he saw and I chattered about Spanish literature. On the third time we met he asked me what I wanted to do. I thought for a minute and told him I liked classical music. He booked two tickets and we duly met at the entrance to the Hall.
It began with one of my favourite Beethoven symphony, number 7. Half way through I was overcome with emotion and turned to look at him. To my amazement his face was expressionless. He was clearly very bored. “Didn’t you like it?” I said. His answer was “No”. “Don’t you like classical music?”. Another negative response. “Why didn’t you tell me before?” I said. “I wanted you to enjoy yourself”.
That was the first thing I learned about him. He wanted to please me. I was bitterly disappointed. I wanted us both to enjoy ourselves.
Over a drink afterwards I asked him what he liked to do. He had to think for a while. “I like the cinema” he said. “What kind of films do you like?”
“Those that make me laugh” he said. Well I had to agree about that. There had been very little to laugh about so far in my life. I had always been deadly serious and I was fed up with it. I thought I had no sense of humour. I was wrong. It was buried deep inside me and later I realised I had repressed it. Once I dared to let it out, it worked overtime, but at first only with those I allowed to get close to me. I was still very wary of other people. We were both in the same boat. Bob thoroughly enjoyed his time in the army. He liked the camaraderie of men and knew how to lead them as an officer, but he was an only child who had no experience with women and because I was the eldest with a father and brother I had not felt close to, I did not then know how to relate to men.
We went to a cinema one afternoon in a seedy area of Liverpool. The film we saw was “The Paleface” with Bob Hope, an auspicious name. Is their hope for me with Bob and vice versa? The cinema was only half-full. There were some rough looking blokes sitting a few rows ahead of us.
It wasn’t long before Bob began to giggle. As the film proceeded it turned into the heartiest guffaws I
could ever have imagined. His whole body shook, his arms and legs were all over the place. I had never seen, nor heard, such hilarious and whole-hearted explosions of laughter. Tears poured down all over his face. There was one thing wrong. Not one other person present was laughing at all. After a while the rough blokes in front of us began to complain in no uncertaim way, using words I had never heard before. Bob took no notice of them whatsoever. I felt quite frightened for him and for myself. But Bob went on in full flow.
I was amazed that the other men did not do what they threatened to do. Bob just ignored them and soon after, they walked out. Needless to say I didn’t find it funny at all. But it was good to see him expressing himself in such an exhilarant way. He, too, was able to express his emotions just as I could, but for different reasons. After that afternoon we were much more relaxed with each other.