Sitting with the trousers over my knee in the concrete cubicle, I could hear steps approaching. I hurried. Doors banged as the search came nearer, blending urgent echoes with shower sounds and the reek of scent blocks. I panicked and a buckle clattered betrayal on the vitrified wall.
“Professor Kinton...are you in there?” her tone triggered a school boy memory. “No Miss....I mean ... a-hem, yes, of course” I stutter, clearing the knot in my tongue. “We’ll be with you in a moment.”
My colleague and I fumbled frantically with our clothes while trying in vain to give each other space to move. As with all public toilets, there was only one room with a door latch. “It’s just that the presentation is starting and...” she began to say, when I cut her off. “In a moment! Thank you!” I retorted as my cheeks burned.
It is inexplicable that we were not all over the newspapers the following day. How the learned doctor and I found ourselves swapping trousers in the loos at the Beach House, seems to defy understanding. It was all so logical at the time.
You see, when the shriek we had heard was followed by “Is there a doctor in the house?” my friend sighed and gathered up his hand luggage in a practised, travelled fashion.
“Here!” he had announced, pressing his way through the throng of suits and glitterati at the edge of the pool. The young woman apparently caught her stiletto in the terraced paving. She had rendered herself unconscious as her hair extension, catching the end of a seat when she fell, swung her head against the fountain edge with considerable force.
The waiter, who salvaged her, on seeing the eyes roll back and mascara running down her unmoving face, was overcome and promptly fainted. Marcus now in doctor mode, continued with the usual first aide procedures while an ambulance was called. The diva, then lolling to one side and in a convulsion of relief disgorged her expensive entree all over his trouser leg. That was, as I recall, the start of the evening! The awards were being presented on stage by this time but our leader, the good Dr Marcus Peal, was soiled terribly. The only sensible thing was to swap pants.
Clasping my fading certificate, I continued the precarious climb back from the attic. It had been such a memorable evening in 1985 that I eventually resigned my position at the institute and bought that bayside restaurant. Colleagues so often asked me if I still had the inaugural grant notice that I resolved to find it. The ladder wobbled under my chuckling frame as I revisited my life of fifteen years ago and thought of the wet, dishevelled girl who became my wife.
Whatever had possessed me to insist that the hospital give me her address and to have dragged poor Marcus along to accompany me on the pretence of a ‘follow up’ call to her home still puzzles me. That is however, the story of ‘the mismatched suit’ photograph and how the diva dirtied the doc.
“So son, What do you think of that? Your old man isn’t such a loony after all, is he?”