When Jacob meets an unknown woman in a cafe, he begins
a series of sensual encounters, the like of which he has never
experienced before. During that summer, he learns many things but, when
autumn comes, will he have learned enough to stay with her?
Jacob had never seen anyone eat a banana in the way the woman in the
café did. She was a tall woman, not beautiful, her burnished hair tied
up in a green scarf. She sat down with a thump and stared around,
challenging any to question her right to be there. No-one did. Her gaze
slid over Jacob and didn't stay. No-one ever looked at him for long.
The woman took out the banana from her handbag and laid it on the café
table like an offering. From nearby a mongrel whined as its owner
dragged it past the crowded shops. It was too hot for dog-walking, Jacob
thought. As he watched the woman, she picked up a knife and cut the
banana into four equal pieces. She did this with a surgeon's precision,
focused on the task alone. Then she split the skin on the first piece
with her long fingernails and popped the soft insides into her mouth.
Her red lipstick smudged a little as she chewed.
Jacob blushed and glanced down at his half-drunk coffee. Suddenly it
looked very bland.
Taking occasional glances at the woman whenever he dared, he watched as
she ate the second and third pieces of fruit in the same manner.
The waiter hovered over her but she ordered only water before sending
him away with a flick of her hand. He didn't argue. When the glass of
water arrived, she set it to one side and continued eating.
When she came to the final slice of banana she hesitated and looked up.
This time, her eyes caught Jacob's and she frowned. A moment later the
frown cleared and she rose to her feet. She wiped her hand over her
mouth, smearing her lipstick still further, and took the uneaten fruit
from its skin. The white mass stuck to her fingers.
Jacob couldn't have looked at anything else if the whole of the café,
the hot crowded street around him, even the city itself had all vanished
The woman stopped next to him. Close to, she was almost ugly but he
found it didn't matter. The scent of roses washed over his senses and he
blinked. He wondered what she would say.
She said nothing. She simply placed the last slice of banana on his
napkin at the table edge and took a step back. He thought a ghost of a
smile drifted over her face but he couldn't be sure. Still not taking
his eyes from her, he reached across until he felt the warm stickiness
on his fingers and raised the fruit to his mouth. When he ate, it tasted
She smiled. This time, it was obvious.
'Why don't you follow me?' she said, her voice low and elegant. 'We'll
see what else we can discover.'