In which Moneypenny visits Sabrina, and keeps a lunch date with Bond
You know the feeling. Dancing in Buenos Aires - supper, milonga, dawn, medialunas, coffee and bed - with an early morning breeze lifting the curtains in gentle swirls, birdsong from the terrace, maybe the distant sound of early morning traffic.
I feel across the bed to find a crisp unturned sheet. Sitting up I rest on an arm, reach for my spectacles and survey the room. Her shoes, dropped casually by the patio doors, are gone; the dance bag is no longer hanging from the back of the sofa where I half expected her to be. I glance through to the terrace. She is not there. The bird has flown.
Rising, I find her note on the table, “Dear Bond, thanks for the dances, the Talisker, the coffee and the laughter”. I look across to the countertop and see that the box of chocolates has disappeared, leaving two empty wrappers.
I lie back and breathe in warm air, now approaching midday. What is it about Moneypenny? Enigma? No, Moneypenny is simple and straightforward. Desire? I trust not for she is just a young woman embarking on her new life of tango. Loneliness? Perhaps. In Buenos Aires I am surrounded by acquaintances but it is difficult to trust others - to release the emotional shutters that have protected my professional life. I reflect back to dark memories that disturbed my sleep. Perhaps Moneypenny fulfils that particular need.
Reaching for my phone I find the usual new messages, but one in particular catches my attention. ‘Moneypenny here. Got your number from your phone, hope you don’t mind. You up for lunch?’
There is still an inch of coffee left, and at 600 US dollars per pound it cannot be wasted. Clutching a cool mug and a now crusty medialuna, I wander out to the terrace. The hammock still swings in the breeze; the scent of Jasmine in the garden reminds me of her perfume. I reach into my robe for my phone.
Noon, and I have left it too late to walk, so I hail a taxi in Santa Fe I and arrive at Sarmiento 635 eight minutes later. The doorway to Cafe Paulin gives little hint of what lays behind. I negotiate the till area and peer down two tight ailes. Moneypenny has already arrived and taken a stool on the left side half way along the glass-topped bar. As I make my way towards her a plate of pizza comes spinning along the glass surface, kept in place by the mahogany flanges. A waiter in olive green cross-buttoned tunic and fawn floppy hat gathers it up in one movement, and with a pirouette places it before a customer to his right.
“What’s a girl like you doing in a place like this?”, I say in greeting. Moneypenny scowls, “What sort of gentleman arranges a lunch date in a cafe the size of a cupboard?”, she rejoins as she crosses her legs, clings to the bar rail, and swings her stool towards me.
The morning light, usually so welcome, almost feels like an assult this morning. All I want is for someone to turn the switch off, but that’s obviously pointless, so I might as well get up.
Bond is nowhere in sight, he must have gone back inside. As I peek into his room, I see his long legs stretched out on the bed which seems completely undisturbed by his presence as if he was floating on it rather than laying on top of it; he seems to be in a deep meditation rather than sleep.
I’m not going to bother him, I’m not really sure what I would say or I would act at this point, I am still unsure of what was happening between us and on the 3.4 minutes of sleep I was on, there was no way I could think reasonably, so I decide that it’s best to just go.
I look around to room to make sure that all traces of my presence have disappeared, shoes, dance bag, I wash the glass which so elegantly delivered my Port Ruighe last night, I finish off the coffee, even cold this coffee it is better than anything I’ve ever tasted. Then on the counter I spot the infamous box of chocolate, the unmistakable black Marcolini pralines. I have an idea, I don’t think he’ll miss it and I know someone who they might interest.
I discreetly make my way towards to door thinking that it’s wrong to just leave without a word, so I scan the room for paper and something to write with, when I spot his gold Parker fountain pen and the royal crested stack on paper on his desk: ‘Dear James’, no ‘Dear Bond’ ‘thank you for a lovely evening’…. NO, more casual, ‘thanks for the dances, the Talisker, the coffee and the laughter’. ‘MP’
‘San Telmo por favor’, I tell the taxi driver as we begin our rollercoaster ride towards the other end of the city. The streets are empty, Buenos Aires is still asleep, this is really the only moment when one can feel a sense of peace driving through the city.
‘Good morning, or are you still on last night’s time’, Sabrina says to me, as she opens the door with one hand and holding her morning coffee with the other, ‘Come inside’ she adds, she’s wearing her red silk Carine Gilson bathrobe, her hair is down, which it never is, giving her such a different appearance, almost like an amazon temptress. I could spot the unmade bed and the second coffee cup on the table which confirms that she did not wake up alone this morning, but also that she hadn’t allowed anyone to disturb her morning routine for too long either.
‘Can I get a cup of that? And take a shower?’ I ask hoping she sees my needing her as a truce after our little argument last night when I did not take her advice and almost did something very stupid. Thank God there was someone there who was not only stupider than me but much faster. I should send Lucia a thank you note . ‘Go, I’ll make you something to eat.’ she said, acknowledging my plea for peace.
The cold water feels invigorating as it trickles it’s way down my body and slowly I start to wake up from what seemed to be a dream, the tangos, Alvaro, pizza, Bond, did it really all happen in one night?
‘I won’t ask you what happened, because I don’t want to know, but I will tell you this; you’re too smart and too good a dancer to get distracted by frivolities. Everything is yours for the taking, but you need to want it and you need to focus,’ she said almost gloatingly, as she poured my coffee into the spare cup. She must have heard about Lucia and Alvaro and she must think it bothers me, but mostly she’s just thinking of how she warned me and how I wouldn’t listen to her.
‘I know, and thank you for not asking, but my night last night didn’t quite turn out like I thought it would,’ I responded pulling the box of chocolates out of my bag and placing them on the table.
She paused when she saw it, she recognised it, I was sure of it, it didn’t seem to shock her, she just stared at it as if in a trance. ‘Would you like some chocolate? I smirkingly asked.
‘Those things are older than you; I wouldn’t go near them if they were offered on a gold plate,’ she responded trying to sound indiferent.
‘He kept them all this time, I’m sure it means something. Why won’t you tell me about the two of you, and why won’t you go see him. I really think he still loves you.’ I said, almost pleading with her. ‘You’re too romantic, and too curious for your own good. He and I are like those chocolates, maybe once something irresistible or even exotic, but are now well beyond their due date. So much has happened to us that we’re both covered in the white powdery due that tells you we’re not good anymore,’ she responded.
‘You’re both so poetic, but he kept them all this time…. I don’t know but it has to mean something. Why would anyone keep a box of chocolate for like 75 years?’ I teased, knowing full well it wasn’t even half that much time.
‘Careful or you won’t get any coffee.’ she teased back. ‘Well the way you talk about yourself, is as if you were young in Victorian times. How old was the man you spent the night with if you’re so covered in white powder that you’re too old to go Bond but not too old for whoever was here last night?’ I asked inquisitively. I was also curious about whom she had spent the night with.
Suddenly, I became very aware of the time and of the fact that I had told Bond to meet me for lunch in 30 minutes.
‘I have to run, thank you for coffee, I’ll see you later. Un beso,’ and I was out the door before she could say anything else.
‘I’m not sure, he’s good for you, you know. Come back here tonight mi querida,’ she shouted with a smile on her face.
‘Oh and by the way, I had two of the chocolates, and they still taste great! You should try one!’
I ran to get there on time, up Florida, between the vendors and the herds of shoppers, making my way to Sarmiento. Why am I running? He can wait a few minutes can’t he? Or was it me that couldn’t wait?
He’s not here yet, I’ll just make my way to my favourite seat, which is surprisingly available, and wait for him. What was it about him and Sabrina and where I am in the midst of all this; it’s almost as if both had laid a claim on me and were using me, in a very agreeable way, to outdo each other. Maybe I’ll strike up the courage to ask him, I tell myself. A plate of pizza slides past me at the speed of light, and I notice Bond walk in.
Mr Bond There are some days when Buenos Aires is so hot and humid that San Telmo streets hum with the sound of the air conditione...
Moneypenny I take the note, start to walk towards San Telmo while trying to make sense of what I had just seen. Was this a secret...
Mr Bond I flash a smile towards Nancy the waitress, and without a word she arrives with a second champagne glass for Moneypenny, who...