Eleanor has been asked out on a few dates this year and while she doesn’t much like asking other people out on dates, she’s gritted her teeth once or twice and got on with it. For this reason Eleanor tends to develop a soft spot for anyone who asks her out before she has to ask him or her out.
Eleanor is fickle but remarkably adaptive and this proves a winning combination in the initial stages of dating – she does not overwhelm the other person with anything close to genius or extroverted egotism, though all the while manages to impress a faint and endearing sense of spontaneity and surprise.
These character traits allow Eleanor a remarkable freedom to reinvent herself in the process of becoming known to the individual she is dating. Her outwardly vague yet occasionally scandalous demeanour gives her a sort of cloak under which to forge multiple versions of herself. In this way she does not at heart ‘change’, in the dramatic sense of the word, but more precisely evolves.
Eleanor has been evolving in a particular way for the last three weeks. She met Kay on an outcrop of guano, mildly concealed by grass, at the Eastern Bay dump.
The dump is and has always been the place where Eleanor feels most at home. It has a soothing and rejuvenating quality that has so far proved irreplaceable.
Eleanor suspects her love of dumps is due to the influence of her parents. She believes it started after they read her a famous children’s book, which involved several children hunting for treasure at their local refuse depository. In the reservoir of the abandoned, Eleanor grasped something that could not be articulated – even the children in the story struggled to quite name the feeling – the dump was simply synonymous with involuntary moments of treasure.
This scenario is not uncomplicated, as Eleanor recently found out that it was not a children’s story but a macabre adult drama that her parents had read to her. Nonetheless she loves what is at the heart of the children’s adventure – the dump – and the thrill of the treasure hunt still squats in her mind to this day.
When they first met, Kay was at the Eastern Bay dump, though not by choice, rather Kay had been told by family to watch an elderly Grandfather and make sure the man did not bring home one of three things – fridge, lady’s wallet, or placemats.
Kay’s delicate brown hair, tight-grip of a fringe, and warbling vocabulary did not instantly appeal to Eleanor. However Kay, on seeing Eleanor’s flare for finding sensible, quality goods without trying, asked her out almost immediately. They touched fingers, which had produced a sensation that Eleanor could not quite pronounce.
However, clasping both hands together and moving them up and down in the space between their two bodies, Kay had signalled something more moving, as if chopping an object in two, clearly enjoying this activity, even if expressing excitement somewhat laboriously.
At the three-week mark, Kay and Eleanor have been seen six times together in public. There is growing consensus that they might be going somewhere. This means that many people around town have endorsed their romantic connection. Naturally the ‘unknown’ factor of how long the relationship will last is the most exhilarating variable for those on the outside of the relationship and the most incremental for Kay and Eleanor, for whom time has slowed down radically.
Eleanor is content not to rush into anything, though she is a bit miffed that Kay tends to leave sex and much of its surrounding rigmarole in her ‘capable hands’. Eleanor is considering acts of subversion in the form of direct communication on this subject, but before she can do so Kay propositions her in the most unusual way.
The proposition involves the presentation of a dark lacquered object, which Kay takes from a leather bag and places on Eleanor’s lap. At first Eleanor thinks the worst and then she thinks the best and then she settles somewhere between these poles and comes to consider the object a beautiful practical gift, if a little un-titillating.
The mahogany doorstop, which Eleanor identifies much later as being made of rimu wood after several post-break-up inspections, is small and tame in her hand. Kay announces proudly that the Grandfather found it at the dump some weeks back. The elderly gentleman had mistaken it for a rare satchel buckle, though on realising his mistake he had kept it anyway and had placed it in Kay’s hand with a look that resembled undue majesty. ‘Treat it well,’ the elderly man said, turning his face into direct sunlight.
Following the presentation of the gift, Kay asks Eleanor will she come home to Kay’s house after work today, and stay over and for the first time sleep together. They might then celebrate their three-week anniversary by eating a light breakfast together tomorrow morning in a local eatery at which Kay has pre-booked them a table. Eleanor agrees only after a slight hesitation.
When Eleanor and Kay settle down at Kay’s house in the central city later that evening, it soon becomes apparent to Eleanor that Kay doesn’t feel ready to sleep with her. Kay still offers Eleanor the promised breakfast invitation for morning-after breakfast celebrating an evening that is not going to take place, and that will in fact mark the dissolution of a quiet and unremarkable intimacy. Kay also insists that Eleanor keep the doorstop.