Benito and Tiffany by Chris Green
Tiffany Golden possesses a rare talent. She knows that things are going to happen before they do. As a result of her premonitory powers, Tiffany’s life has been alternately comforting or frightening, depending on what is scheduled to happen. Unfortunately knowing that something is going to occur does not give Tiffany powers to prevent the eventuality. Try as she might to take steps to avoid something unpleasant, she has not found a means to do so. She has however developed her persuasive powers to prevent too much disappointment or distress. Sometimes destiny needs a helping hand.
Tiffany Golden is not a clairvoyant or fortune teller. She cannot tell which horse is going to win the Derby, or if there is going to be an earthquake. She only knows what is going to happen in relation to her. If she were to put a bet on a horse, she would know if she was going to pick up money later on, and if the earthquake was going to affect her daily life, then she would know about it, otherwise she has the same faculties as those without the gift.
Today, the first Friday in April, her day will be alternately tiresome and exciting. Tiresome that she knows she is going to be waiting twenty minutes in the tailback on the Buena Vista bypass, exciting that she knows she is going to meet Benito Van Horn in the tropical fish department of the pet superstore on the retail park at three o’clock, even though she never goes there and has no interest in tropical fish. She knows with equal certainty that, although he is a complete stranger, with just a fleeting glance in her direction, Benito will make her heart skip a beat. In short she knows that Benito Van Horn will sweep her off her feet.
Benito Van Horn does not possess such a talent. Dashing and debonair he might be in his dark blue suit, but he comes across as preoccupied. He has been told he can be unaccommodating and unresponsive. Casual and dispassionate are also terms that have been thrown at him. In the studio where he works as a producer, musicians that he is recording say that he is oblivious to how they would like to play. He takes the edge out of their music. Whatever they play he makes it sound like the famously bland band, Keane.
Benito is often not aware that something has happened even after it has. It was not until his decree absolute arrived on the mat that he realised his wife, Ursula had started divorce proceedings. He had thought that she was on holiday with her friend, Sharita. Try as he might Benito has found himself unable to redress his shortcomings. An army of life coaches, psychologists and consultants have become exasperated at his inability to change. They all say his aloofness is astonishing. If only they had the time, he could be a textbook study for a new condition.
It is three o’clock now on the first Friday in April and Benito Van Horn has absolutely no idea that he is glancing in Tiffany Golden’s direction, let alone that his glance is making a lasting impression on her. In fact, so unobservant is he that he has not even grasped that he is in the tropical fish department in the pet superstore. He has only stepped in there to buy a house rabbit for his sister in law, Mercedes, who will be nineteen on Sunday.
Tiffany Golden leaves the pet superstore with a warm glow, brought about by Benito’s loving gaze. She understands that he has been too shy to approach her, but she knows this is not going to matter. She sits in her yellow Mini Cooper with the black stripes and waits for Benito to leave and get in his own car. She knows this is a black Toyota Auris with a 64 plate. She knows that she is going to follow him home, even though she already knows where he lives. She knows that within a week she is going to be spending nights there.
Benito’s awareness of fate is non existent. When, having stalked him for days, Tiffany calls round to his house, he still does not recognise her.
‘Are you the Avon lady?’ he asks. ‘I’m afraid that Ursula has gone away.’
He is surprised by the kiss. It is not the type of apologetic peck on the cheek you might expect from someone selling beauty products door to door, who has accidentally called at the wrong house. It is a passionate take your breath away all out assault on his face. It is the type of kiss you might expect from an aroused lover. It is the type of kiss that in a raunchy film might serve as a prelude to the participants ripping off each others’ clothes. Having established that she is not the Avon lady and finding that things are happening down below, Benito responds with wild abandon. He is not at all sure what is happening or if what is happening is happening to him. But despite this uncertainty, in no time at all they are upstairs, and are indeed ripping off one another’s clothes. A little later, after a bout of bountiful coupling, he asks her name.
‘Tiffany Golden,’ she says.
‘Well, Tiffany Golden,’ says Benito Van Horn. ‘That was ….. unexpected. I don’t know what came over me. I’m not usually so …… forward,’
‘I do hope that isn’t so,’ says Tiffany. ‘I was hoping we might do it again soon.’
‘I think that it was possibly the most unusual …. experience of my life,’ says Benito.
‘I knew that this was going to happen, so there was no point in fighting it,’ says Tiffany Golden.
‘I couldn’t help but notice that you weren’t fighting it,’ says Benito. ‘I’m Benito Van Horn by the way,’
‘I know,’ says Tiffany.’
‘I think I probably know everything about you.’
It is the third Thursday in May. Tiffany Golden is now living with Benito Van Horn. As long as she takes the lead, she gets what she wants. She is happy with this arrangement. She has shown photos of Benito to her friends and her colleagues at the advertising agency, and they all think that he is a dreamboat. It is disconcerting that Benito doesn’t always notice that she is there, but there are small signs that he might be changing. Once or twice lately he has greeted her with kisses when she has got back from work. As she drives home from the office along the Santa Rosa Boulevard, she wonders if today is going to be one of those days. This is an odd sensation for Tiffany because she feels she should know definitely one way or the other. Perhaps Benito will not even be home. Maybe he will be mixing muzak at the studio, or perhaps it is his sister in law, Portia’s birthday and he has had to take an animal round. Tiffany is not accustomed to such uncertainty. She is sure though that it will pass.
Benito has noticed that there are more house plants to water and the washing machine is nearly always on. The kitchen is filling up with cookery books and kitchen utensils that he does not know the names of. The red wine has been replaced with white. Pink paperbacks with titles in handwritten script and cover illustrations of smiling young women in white chiffon are appearing on the bookshelf. There is no longer room in the wardrobe for all of his dark blue suits. There is a chess game going on with the bottles in the bathroom. He has noticed that Tiffany is around the place more than she used to be, in fact nearly all the time. Did she ask if she could move in? Did he say she could? Should he ask her if she asked him when she gets home from work?
Benito finds it a little worrying that Tiffany tends to be right all of the time, but on balance, he enjoys her company. Tiffany wears raunchier lingerie that Ursula did, laughs heartily at his badly told jokes, and is unexpectedly good at solving those tricky popular culture allusion clues to finish the Guardian cryptic crossword on a Saturday. And he likes the way she sometimes surprises him in the shower. He wonders if he ought to clear some of his old equipment out of the garage to make room for Tiffany’s Pro Trainer All In One Gym and maybe paint over the grey in the spare room with a brighter colour. Blue perhaps.
Benito starts to prepare the ingredients for an omelette. He will remember to put the peppers and mushrooms in this time. The one last Thursday was a little bland without them.
‘Anyone home,’ choruses Tiffany. She knows that Benito is home because the Toyota is parked in its usual way across both parking spaces on the drive. The music that is playing, while it still has a discernible melody, has traces of dubstep and acid jazz. It is a departure from the bland overproduced middle of the road music she is used to him playing while she is out of the house. ‘I like the music. What is it?’
‘Oh, that’s one I made earlier, says Benito. ‘While you were at the hairdressers.’
‘I haven’t been to the hairdressers. I’ve been working,’ says Tiffany.
‘Oh, that’s right,’ says Benito. ‘While you were at the travel agents.’
‘Ad agency,’ says Tiffany. ‘I work at AdAge. Its an ad agency. Remember, you picked me up from there. You remarked on what a clever play on words it was.’ She is secretly pleased that although one or two things seem to have changed lately, Benito still retains hints of his heedlessness. Detachment is part of his charm.
‘I’m just making us an omelette,’ he says. Afterwards I thought we might go out to the greyhound racing. You keep telling me how much you like dogs.’
‘Did I say that?’ she says. Watching a bunch of skinny mutts chasing an electric rabbit round a gravel track has not been not on her radar. She was budgeting for a quiet night in with a bottle of Prosecco and a scented bath. Then perhaps Benito could give her a massage with the new oils she had bought. She hopes she is not witnessing a change in the dynamic of their relationship. With the dimming of her prescience, is Benito attempting to take over the decision making?
It is second Saturday in July. Tiffany Golden comes home from the hairdressers to the sound of Sufi music. Are there whirling dervishes in the front room, she wonders. Each day this week she has come home to increasingly unusual music. Each time she has asked Benito what it is, it has been ‘something that he mixed that day’. On Monday it was garage punk, on Tuesday it was psytrance. On Wednesday it was psychedelic rock, on Thursday it was trip hop.
‘What is it today?’ asked Tiffany yesterday.
‘Steampunk animé with a touch of drum and bass,’ said Benito.
‘The melody has all but disappeared,’ said Tiffany.
Benito Van Horn, Tiffany realises, is changing. He doesn’t even wear his dark blue suit any more and he hardly ever shaves. And why does he wear sunglasses around the house? While she understands that two people in a relationship tend to mould each other to some degree, she is not sure that the changes are going in the right direction. She remembers making a casual comment a while back that they probably didn’t get out enough but Benito seems insensitive to her interests. Over the past week, she has been treated to a twenty twenty cricket match, a rugby sevens tournament, an orienteering workshop and a strip show. Although Benito claims they had discussions regarding plans for these evenings out, she has no recollections of these.
Accustomed to knowing in advance what is going to happen, each day now she is racked with anxiety about what is going to take place. Surely not another night at the dog track, or a rock climbing weekend. There were times in the past when she felt the burden of knowing what was going to happen was an irritation. It weighed heavily on her shoulders, but this was compensated by its comforts. Why is it she is no longer able to call the shots? Has she lost the gift of prescience completely?
Benito doesn’t know what is wrong. Tiffany no longer wears raunchy lingerie and has stopped surprising him in the shower. He has even painted the spare room purple for her and put up some shelves to accommodate her growing self help book collection. Surely it can’t be his comment about her putting on weight. He had meant it in a nice way.
‘I thought we might go to see some Sufi tonight, darling,’ he says. ‘So I put this sampler together to get us in the mood.’
Tiffany registers a robust look of disapproval. Benito thinks she is beginning to seem more like Ursula every day. He turns the music down a little.
‘We can have a curry,’ he says. ‘Akbar’s has an excellent selection of Punjabi dishes and the cabaret comes on at nine. Authentic qawwali music.’
‘I hate this awful wailing and I hate curry,’ screams Tiffany. What could she have ever seen in Benito Van Horn? The man is singularly intolerable. How, she wonders had she not seen this situation coming?
‘We could go to Ping Pong and have some noodle dishes if you prefer,’ he continues, seemingly oblivious to his falling star. ‘They have bamboo music, I believe, That’s quite gentle.’
‘I hate you,’ she shrieks.
‘Or we could just go The Black Horse for a pie and a game of darts, if you like.’
‘You just don’t get it, do you?’
‘You’ll be hungry later on.’
‘I’m leaving you.’
It is the second Sunday in September. Tiffany Golden is pleased to be shot of Benito Van Horn. She is starting to enjoy life again. While her rare talent is still not fully functioning, she is beginning to get her premonitory powers back. Just last week, she foresaw that she was going to meet a tall stranger with blond curls who would sweep her off her feet. And here she is driving along Las Palomas in her new Mini Cooper S Coupé with the roof down to meet DoubleTake.
DoubleTake’s singer, Ben Cool with his blond hair and black suede eyepatch is a dreamboat. AdAge has won the contract to handle the band’s PR. Naturally, Tiffany has volunteered to take personal control of the contract. What she doesn’t realise is that Benito Van Horn has died his hair blond and changed his name to Ben Cool. He didn’t even realise he could sing, until about a month ago when he was recording the overdubs for HashTag’s album, and now look at him. His fifteen minutes of fame beckons. What he doesn’t know is that the agency his management company have hired to handle the band’s promotion is AdAge.
© Chris Green 2014: All rights reserved