Elephants Can Forget

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Slowly you move on. Little things help, like hearing him say he’s contributing to her mortgage.

No, that’s a big thing. The big thing. The thing you take away from the evening, that makes you glad you drank that second glass of wine so you don’t go home and cry into soup but instead drunk-message men with trouble written all over them.

But you still think about him. And, the following night, at 2am, with sleep feeling too far off, you draft an email.

***

Not for a moment do I consider declining Ryan’s invitation. Even though I’m tired and have lots of work on but no make-up. I toy with the idea of asking my too-cool-for-school colleague if I can borrow some eyeliner but think better of it.

I’m running late and fire off a quick message to Ryan, checking they’re still there.

It’s a shorter walk than I thought to the pub. He’s sitting in the window and my face breaks into a smile as I head for the door, push it open.

He’s exactly the same. The same jumper, the same trousers and shoes, the same hesitant smile.

And I want to ask him everything. I want to know every wretched detail of his life. I just want to look at him.

So I go to the bar with Ryan and we chat about his new job, the overpriced wine, our love lives. Glasses in hand, we go back to the table. Tristan’s talking to a girl – a stranger. I hate her for being there. It crosses my mind that the evening might come to an end and I won’t have spoken to him.

I’m telling Ryan about my recent spate of self-destructive dating behaviour when Tristan cuts in.

‘Shall we…’ He motions to suggest more of a group conversation.

I’m across from him. Bitch to my right, Ryan on my left. Bitch tells me she used to work with Tristan – she takes credit for talent spotting him. Once I’d have remarked on how brilliant he is. Now I just nod and say, ‘Ah’.

Bitch and Ryan are at the bar. I’m trying to crack open the more resilient pistachios with a metal knife. I press down on the nut and hear the shell crack. Our laughter turns to confusion when I hold up the intact shell.

It’s almost how it was before.

Our eyes meeting occasionally.

Him telling me about things that matter to him.

Like the mortgage. I need to hear it. It makes me check my phone, prepare my line about needing to leave.

***

At 2am I draft an email. Something about elephants in the room and wanting to acknowledge what happened, just to clear the air.

I don’t send it.

Slowly you move on.

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Tristan’s back soon.’

I turn. ‘Sorry?’

Kate rinses her cloth in the sink. ‘Tristan’s back soon.’

‘Oh… yes!’

She screws up her face. ‘On the… 18th, I think?’

‘Oh! Right! I knew it was something like that. An old colleague told me he was back later this month.’

She smiles fondly. ‘He’s so shy.’

‘Shine?’

‘Shy.’

‘I’m sorry… shine?’

‘Shy. Shy.’

‘Oh, shy! Oh… really?’

‘Yes. When I go there, he just says hello then goes straight back into his room.’

‘Oh.’ I think for a moment. ‘I guess he can be shy at first. But… he can be the exact opposite!’

We laugh.

He’s a good person,’ she says, wringing out the cloth.

‘Yes.’

‘Really nice.’

‘Yes.’ I frown. ‘But… but you know that even though he doesn’t speak?!’

‘Yes, he’s just, you can tell, a good person.’

‘Yes, he’s… he’s…’

I want to say ‘special’. The word is on the tip of my tongue. But I can’t. For one, it would sound odd. For another, I’d be lying. His behaviour last summer – it was the opposite of special. It was so fucking ordinary. And it broke my heart a little. So I go with:

‘… he’s really lovely.’

Part of me wants to tell her I still ache for him. That, since Ryan mentioned his return date, I’ve found solace in the thought of it.

She goes on. ‘But mostly I speak to Holly.’

‘Yes. I know her a bit.’

‘She’s good, I think.’

Her enthusiasm is more moderate, and it comforts me.

‘Yes, I think so.’ A pause. ‘Well, it’ll be nice to see Tristan again!’

‘Yes,’ she says.

Will it?

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The Camel and the Straw

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10 Feb

Viable Prospect: I’m not sure how we left things. Do you fancy another pint or… not?

Me: Another pint could work. When were you thinking?

VP: Anytime

 

11 Feb

Me: Could do Sunday after church, or next Fri/Sat?

VP: Sunday after church I do penance. Next w/e in Paris. Arghh

Me: Arghh indeed. Might be easier if you say when you can do.

 

15 Feb

VP: Am obnoxiously chokka. Sorry. Could do late on the 1st.

A Wednesday.

Me: The following week (beginning 6th) would be better if you’re around then.

 

16 Feb

VP: Yup. Sortid.

 

Sporadic messages exchanged about Paris, mattresses and Noel Coward.

 

11 Mar

Me: I feel we’ve strayed into pen pal territory here. Are you around at all in the next couple of weeks for face time (not the app)?

VP: Yes. Like on late weds or the following weds?

What is it with fucking Wednesdays?!

Me: How late is late?

VP: 10

For the record, no one can do 10 on a Wednesday. No one.

Me: Can’t do that. Could do the following weds (22nd) at a normal time. Say 7/8.

VP: I like your use of normal.

Me: It is normal for mid-week

 

18 Mar

VP: I can’t do normal times this week. Up for something normal ish the following…

Lengthy consultation with flatmate as to whether this is getting a bit silly.

Me: I feel this is getting a bit silly. Let’s just leave it.

 

19 Mar

VP: Normal! Silly! Goodness…

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Unwritten

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There are so many things you want to say. Like…

Does this mean you want to get back together?

I’m available on 6, 7, 8, 14 and 15 January pretty much anytime between 9am and midnight.

How has your year/life been?

Did you watch To Walk Invisible and, if so, what did you think?

What did you eat for breakfast/lunch/dinner today?

What are you thinking?

Does this mean you love me after all?

What does this mean?

But instead you go with…

Sounds good. I’m back in London from early Jan.

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Déjà Vu

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CC Image courtesy of Larry He's So Fine on Flickr A few weeks back, Tom appeared on my Tinder. Seeing his picture was like how I imagine it would feel passing your rapist in the street. For a moment, I stared. Then, with the care of a lab technician handling corrosive acid, I adjusted the app settings and the screen refreshed.

By the second encounter, something in me had hardened – or softened – and I tried to convince myself he was redeemable, dateable even. Perky came to the rescue.

‘He sounded like a douche to put it nicely!’ she says.

Beatrice echoes the sentiment. Tom, we agree, is a straightforward case.

‘But,’ I say, ‘Jack didn’t mess me around like that.’

This is Exhibit A in the case for swiping right on Viable Prospect: compared with Tom, he behaved pretty damn well. He made me miserable, sure, but I got over it. And it only took, like, 18 months.

Beatrice doesn’t say anything.

‘And, well, I’m desperate! And there’s just… nothing going on!’

She starts clearing the plates. We both know that swiping right on the man who broke your heart is plain daft.

 

A week later, I learn I’ve got my dream internship. That evening, Viable Prospect crops up again. I do what I always do – change my settings and a new set of potential matches swims into view. But I know, as I head for bed, that VP’s not what I want. I could handle the Monday night dates when I had a 9 to 5. I could even handle the sleepless nights – my permanently frenzied state, like a cat on hot coals.

I remove my contact lenses, cleaning them in the palm of my hand. I don’t want the drama, the not knowing, the games. For the first time, I can see clearly.

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