The Alfie Logic by Dick Perkins
My phone rings.
It’s my daughter S.
There’s that narrow inside pocket of silence between answering the phone and discovering how the person that called you is feeling.
She is crying.
“What’s up, sausage?”
“I was watching something on telly, and it got me thinking about Grandad. He won’t know what I’m doing or how I turn out.” I can picture her in her basement room.
“I know, I know.” I can’t say that he’s looking down, because I don’t believe that and neither does she.
What can I say? Sometimes people leave before the play is over. They might already have guessed how it turns out, but we don’t know. They might lean over and quietly say “sorry – I’ve got to go”, as if they need to get back for the babysitter. Most times, however, they get up and go without a word, often when we’re distracted, still concentrating on the play.
And I don’t believe that they sneak back in, to watch from the Upper Circle. Or that we meet them in the bar later and bring them up to speed. “Pity you left when you did. It all worked out well in the end. It was good.”
We talk a bit and S becomes less upset. We both know that there is nothing I can say. We’ve spoken and that seems enough. We say goodbye.
Next (I subsequently find out):
S goes upstairs to the kitchen of her shared house. In the kitchen are N (I like him – he has a ready mature warmth) and Joe. I do not like Joe, although I have barely met him. I think that Joe is toxic. He has the ability to poison otherwise good young men. He is the type of young man who asks them to leave their decency in the corner and join him in the centre of the room.
N sees that S is crying and puts his arm around her shoulders. Joe says (I can hear him) “ah, has she been crying? Let’s have a look.”
For amusement? For… what?
I am in the bar. I have just seen the play “Alfie” and I am speaking with the actor who was “Ruby”, the part played by Shelley Winters in the film. Ruby is the older woman with whom Alfie has a fling. She treats Alfie like he treats the women in his life. The only difference is that whereas their reaction to rejection is hurt, Alfie’s reaction is puzzlement.
I tell her the story of S and Joe. We are agreed: there will always be “Alfies”.
We are also agreed:
Some men are boys. All men are sometimes boys. And those boys are dicks.