I was putting out the rubbish when a loud fart caused me to look up, as fate would have it, at that precise moment, the fleeting sun came out from behind miserable clouds and bounced off of her stainless Zimmer frame like Cupid's arrow, shooting straight through my eye and plunging into my heart. She was struggling nobly down the path with a blue and white Tesco bag, tangled between legs as brittle as caramel. I vaulted over the wall before she had shuffled another inch. Oh¦ the sheer frissons of excitement as I slipped my hand around her forearm, the guilty pleasure of thin skin, just underneath her coat, cardigan, blouse and vest. Licking my lips in barely concealed desire, I imagined the liver spots that scatter the back of her fragile hand, coursing up her outer arm to her powder-white elbow. Keeping my eyes straight ahead was a monumental effort, but one glimpse of those support stockings, or heaven forbid a girdle, and I would have fallen at her feet, there and then - a shock like that might have ended things before they even started - but there was no doubt, I had fallen in love¦ again.
From the age of 10 I knew I was different. First it was my mother's friends, drawing me to the kitchen with gossip and giggles, where I would take surreptitious sniffs of their musky perfume, and pray that our dog would roll his ball under their feet, so I could scrabble underneath the table for a glimpse of thigh and knicker. They would rub my hair and call me "sweetie, and by the time I reached 13, I wished they would rub something else instead. Next it was my Tutors at Uni, but despite my book carrying, blackboard-wiping feats, not even a fumble. Oh¦ Professor Dean, I still dream about your chalk finding a different place to scribe. And now as I turn 30, I find myself inextricably attracted to Mrs Nora Rose, my next-door neighbour.
I have thought about how I could turn this predilection to my advantage, after all, there are plenty of rich widows, but the thing is, I can't tell my heart whom to love. Nora¦ state pension, council accommodation¦ but those eyes, swimming in washed out sky, opaque beauty smudging her left pupil, eye-lids coyly revealing secret skin.
Rich widows turn back time, and turn me off.
Take my first love, I was 21, and I sort of hoped it would cleanse me, take away the itch ' what do they say about scratching an itch. She was 55, my boss at Hendon and Wise Solicitors. I, the mere office boy, used to bring her tea, with a ginger nut, or digestive, but I think it was the hob-nob that finally did it, she looked at me differently after that. I loved the way she tucked her red hair laced with grey behind her ears, revealing her wattle, my fingers itching to trace the loose and lined skin. Standing close to her, heat would rise in my cheeks as I traced the outline of her breasts undulating close to her navel. I imagined the apron of skin draping across her salt and pepper pubes, praying fervently that there were stretch marks nestling under her A-line skirt.
It happened in the stationery cupboard ' I volunteered to stay late for stock keeping. Up close, she took my breath away, I lay her on foam packaging, and removed her clothes, her skin painted by time ' the scarlet thread veins across her thighs were a delightful surprise, and the knotty varicose vein, nestling behind her right knee, nearly caused a premature ejaculation¦ Then I fell out of love with her. The botox I just about coped with, but the breast augmentation and tummy tuck were the final straw, she began to resemble every body and no body ' she ironed out all that made her, her. She did it for me, she said, so I wouldn't leave her, I pointed out the irony, she wept. I left.
Then there was Catherine ' we had two wonderful years, but when she hit sixty she went to seed, botox¦ then a face lift¦ I ran before she got any younger. After that, a series of one-night stands and near misses; I had some happy times at Waverley Retirement Home, but I had to leave, there are only so many broken hearts a man can take.
But Nora, oh Nora, 70 today¦ our courting has gathered pace¦ tea and biscuits every afternoon, the occasional sherry before Sunday lunch, bingo on a Thursday.
I hear her Zimmer frame scrape-tapping down my path, I peek out of the window next to the front door. The pale blue cardigan draped elegantly around her small hump, brings out the faded beauty of her eyes; house-slippers velcroed close around her tiny ankles, have me sweating and rubbing my hands down my thighs. I'm going to kiss her, after dinner, before she has her nap. We could have ten years, maybe more¦
I brush a bit of sticky apple crumble from the corner of her mouth; she smiles at me, her eyes lids drooping. "Too much sherry, I whisper flirtatiously, close to her intricately creased ear, her wattle as delicate as petals. I am heady on Lavender and talcum powder. I tip her face up with my fingers, her chin wobbles as I bring my mouth towards her smudged lips, my tongue eager to wrap around her best pair of teeth.
I sit back startled, rubbing my face.
She shakes her head and laughs, her white curls bouncing in their blue rinse.
"You presumptuous devil you, she admonishes, wagging her crooked finger. "Number one, I don't get turned on by younguns, far too bland, and number two, I'd much rather be tipping velvet than licking corduroy.'
My shoulders droop, my pecker follows suit, I fiddle with the silver serviette ring.
"But¦ she says, leaning over and lifting my chin, her opaque lens glinting devilishly. "My friend Clara, you know the one, 72, mole on the side of her nose.