The Lie Of The Land

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(Continued from Parents’ Evening)CC Image courtesy of wetw

I put my phone away.  That’s when I see him, standing on the opposite side of the junction.  I smile and cross the road.

‘Hi….’ I confirm his name, give mine.  He doesn’t say anything but looks at me strangely.  I rush on.  ‘I’m so sorry, what I should have said first on the phone just now was, sorry I’m late.’

He doesn’t smile but looks away, down the street.

Shit.  Eight months and ten minutes and I’ve got off to a false start, which might, if his expression is anything to go by, be the end of it.

‘Sorry…’ he says.

What’s coming next?  This isn’t going to work out?  Have a good night?

‘… sorry.’  He puts a hand to his ear.  ‘I can’t hear very much.’

‘Oh – err – as in…?’

‘I can hear some of what you’re saying but not the top register…’

Is this why he never suggested meeting?  He’s deaf?  I adopt my least judgmental face.  ‘Oh…’

Hard to know what to say to this.  Of course, on one level, it doesn’t really matter.

‘What happened is,’ he goes on, frowning, ‘I was at this gig and it was like… offensively loud, so I can hear some of what you’re saying but not all of it.’

‘Oh.  Has – has it permanently affected your hearing?’

‘I was wondering about that.  I’ve been to gigs which were as loud before and it’s had a similar effect, but then it’s been fine, so hopefully it will wear off in an hour or so.’

‘Was – was this just now then?’

‘Yes.’

‘Oh.’  My relief must be visible.  ‘I – I thought….’  I laugh.  ‘OK.’

‘Yeah.  It was pretty intense.’

Like his expression: still no flicker of a smile.  He tells me a bit about what made it intense.  I barely understand a word.

‘So,’ he concludes, ‘shall we get a herbal tea?’

That’s when I recognize it, the faint aroma about his person.  I’d noticed it at once, but not understood what it meant.  Now, with the words ‘moshing’ and ‘seriously fucked’ hanging in the air, the pieces are starting to fall into place.  The guy is already drunk, has probably consumed more alcohol in the last hour than I’ve had in the past year.

‘Err….’

This isn’t going so well.

‘… ermmm….’

But he is horribly attractive.

He laughs, the slightly hysterical laugh of someone who’s nervous or drunk or both.

I meet his eye.  ‘Are – you’re – you’re joking, right?’

He looks down at the ground, smiling.  It’s the expression in his profile picture.  ‘Yes.’

Not for the first time that night, I feel an overwhelming sense of relief.

CC Image courtesy of clifico on Flickr

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Lives Of The Poets

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I told you once,CC Image courtesy of gasboyben on Flickr

In a desperate moment,

That I have a famous poet relative, and

Could you guess who?

Auden,

You began

Stop all the clocks…

No.

Owen?

Random

And didn’t he die childless?

Then a curve ball

Smyrno…

I don’t know how to spell her,

But the other day

Bed-bound

I read the poet who

You said

‘Kept me alive one February in Massachussetts’

You paint pictures with words

It’s little wonder I couldn’t

Resist you.

I loved her too.

 

You went on…

Arnold,

You have something Arnoldian about you.

I don’t like where this is going,

I said.

Betjeman?

Lessing?

Clare?

Mad.  Thanks.

And sad

That that should be my first thought.

I gave you a clue,

A clever clue

For a clever guesser

But it didn’t help.

Dryden

Your final guess

Before calling it a night

Sleep tight

You said

In Clapham

Where Arnold

And his ‘fine jaw’

Were from

Apparently.

 

The other day I

Looked up Arnold.

I’m not talking to you anymore,

I said,

As a joke.

You took it literally.

CC Image courtesy of Beppie K on Flickr



Parents’ Evening

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CC Image courtesy of psd on Flickr(Continued from Breaking All The Rules)

It must have come through as I dashed down the steps of the tube station.  I read it waiting for the train to arrive.

‘Don’t rush, if you see what I mean.’

For the first time since October, I really don’t see what VP means.  Paranoia having by now set in, I have a mental picture of something akin to a parents’ evening: VP – good-looking, charming, funny – sitting at the bar, meeting a succession of nervous-looking women.  Slots start to run over until he’s forced to dash off a text, hinting to his next appointment that it would be OK, desirable even, if she wasn’t perfectly punctual.

 

The platforms at Euston are unfamiliar, so I miss my connection and have to wait a while for the next train.  I get to the venue ten minutes late.

‘Can I see your wristband?’

‘Err…’

Or, by this stage, grrrr.

‘I don’t have one.  I’m er meeting a friend and they didn’t say I needed one…’

‘Is your friend already here?  Does she have one?’

I have no idea if he has a wristband.

‘Yes.’

‘Call your friend and ask her to come out.’

 

‘Hello.’

He sounds wary.

‘Hey, it’s Anna.  I’m outside, but I don’t have a wristband.’

‘O-K.’  A pause.  ‘Walk – walk west and I’ll meet you on the corner, outside Nando’s.’

Weird, but fine.

‘OK.’

(TO BE CONTINUED)

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Breaking All The Rules

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‘How’s your day looking?’CC Image of ike_84 on Flickr

I think for a moment – several moments – before replying:

‘Hitting a museum…’

Exposure therapy.

‘…but otherwise fairly relaxed.’

I.e. I have absolutely nothing on.  This isn’t deliberate; I haven’t cleared my diary to ensure we meet.  It’s rather that I’ve had a busy week, and made plans for Sunday.  So Saturday I’ve set aside for the 3 R’s: rest, recovery and writing.  And, at some point, seeing Viable Prospect.

I wouldn’t normally do this, but it’s been eight months.  I need to meet the guy, have my worst fears confirmed, and put the thing to bed, or y’know…

With each text that arrives in my inbox I find myself getting more and more pissed off.  There’s nothing in them to provoke as such but, well, I suggested this meeting, so any turn of phrase which could be read as him suggesting he’s doing me a favor in going through with it, I’m hypersensitive to.

4pm, and I’ve got that sinking feeling. VP still hasn’t confirmed the time (7pm) and venue, and, and this is the real reason, before me looms the British Museum.

I dash off a text. ‘You’re welcome to join.’

‘Do you have plans late?’ he sends back.

I’m not going to sleep with him.

4pm, 7pm, late.  That whole ‘not letting on that I have an entirely free Saturday’ thing – not going so well.  I could lie, pretend I’ve got a house party or drinks with a friend.  But he might then say it’s not going to be possible to meet.  So instead I say:

‘Nope.’

At best, I can just write this whole thing off as a mistake, an exercise in how not to play the dating game.  Next thing I know I’m agreeing to meet on the opposite side of town from where I live, if only because I’m fed up of making decisions.  The logistics of dating, eh?  It’s little wonder people keep things online.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

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Time’s A Wastin’

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CC Image courtesy of Justin van Zyl on FlickrI tell my brother and he laughs.

‘What?!’

‘Well – well – it’s just – such a waste of your time.’

‘He’s so funny though.’

‘What?’

He’s so funny, and he’s good-looking,’ I say, ticking off qualities on my fingers. ‘You try not replying to funny and good-looking!’

Smiling, he shakes his head.

 

My brother’s right, of course.  A couple of times, I’d caught myself telling a friend about Viable Prospect, only to come to a halt, blushing at the realisation that I have never met this man.  Hell, he might not even exist.

 

It’s the night before I go off on holiday and Rachel‘s round for dinner.  She’d been on a date a couple of weeks back with a guy who, on Tinder, had come across as witty and confident.  To meet, he was like a rabbit in the headlights.  This comes back to me as I bring her up-to-date on VP.

Around eleven she leaves, and I start packing.  A short while later, I get a message.

‘How’re things?  I can’t remember what you do, but I do remember you had Christmas in the dark.’

This is unusual.  Our remit has always been banter; personal questions don’t feature.

‘Well-remembered,’ I send back. ‘Off on holiday tomorrow so things are good.’

‘Where are you going?’

I tell him.  Banter ensues.

‘When are you back?’ he says.

Is this it?  Are we finally going to meet?  Why else would he want to know?

I let the message rest a moment, get my rucksack from the garage.

‘Back Monday, unless I catch the kayaking bug…’

Let’s pretend I spend the next eight minutes – the time it takes for him to reply – being terribly productive on the packing front.

‘Have a fantastic time,’ he says.  ‘Don’t hit your head. Make sure you can get out of the thing if it inverts. X’

I resist the urge to throw my phone against the wall.  I can’t help thinking, a knock on the head, it might be just what I need.

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