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The Fall

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‘He told me to move,’ Ryan says. ‘He said, ‘I want to talk to Anna’.’

‘Oh!’

I look over at the man who supposedly wants to talk to me. This is surely what my mother and flatmate would call a clear sign of… not interest – that wouldn’t fit in the circumstances – but something. I pick up my things and go over to him.

Once seated I become the sole focus of his attention. It’s wonderful. We talk about everything: pets, smoking, Woody Allen films, Cate Blanchett, online dating

‘You’re on Tinder?’ he says, surprised.

‘Yes, well, everyone is – aren’t they?’

‘Well, I’m not, but I’m married…’

 

The previous autumn there was a leaving drinks for one of our colleagues. Cheesecake was served.

‘Who made it?’ I say, taking a slice.

Tobias‘s wife.’

 

‘What?!’

Colleague looks disbelieving when I tell her. Her funky dairy-free diet doesn’t permit cheesecake, but even harder to digest is the news that Tobias – elegant, stylish Tobias – has a wife.

 

For six months or so after finding this out I was invincible. No matter that his gaze made me weak at the knees or that we crossed paths in the kitchen too often for it to be a coincidence. The guy had a wife, and one who baked decent cheesecake at that.

I was invincible when he told Ryan to move in the pub so he could talk to me; when he brought in a DVD of one of the films we’d talked about for me to borrow; when he told me about his family’s history of divorce, about his father’s second marriage to a much younger woman. I was even invincible when he offered to relieve me of some of my workload.

Then, one day, he came over to talk to Gus at the neighbouring desk.

He has a strange way of walking: hurried, impatient, not quite graceful. His hair sticks up a bit at the back and his eyes have this intense, brooding expression.

I look up from what I’m doing and meet his gaze. And that’s when it happens. I fall. Fuck, do I fall.

CC Image courtesy of Kheel Center, Cornell University on Flickr

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Brothers In Arms

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CC Image courtesy of LollyKnit on Flickr‘When’s your thing?’ Ryan says.

‘Yeah… I have to go.’

I start putting stuff into my handbag. Phone (no messages), lip gloss, anti-bacterial hand gel – essential dating kit in case I end up in a situation where I have to eat but haven’t had a chance to wash my hands I don’t know why I do this to myself.

I look round. Ryan is still at his desk.

‘Do you want to come?’

He laughs. ‘Yeah.’

I’m not totally against the idea. At least with Ryan in tow I’d be guaranteed some laughs. Plus the guy I’m meeting is bisexual. He might like Ryan best of the party.

‘Text me,’ Ryan says, as he passes my desk.

‘I will.’

 

Earlier that afternoon….

‘I’m not sure I am looking forward to this evening. Christ, a new low.’

‘You have an early start for hiking tomorrow,’ Ryan sends back. ‘Don’t forget.’

‘Do I look like I hike???’

 

I’m usually averse to sending friends updates while a date is still ongoing. The bisexual (I’m sorry – what else can I call him?) has gone to the loo. I fire off a text.

‘Hiking, right? Arghh.’

‘Hiking. Don’t commit to a second drink for the sake of it.’

I don’t see Ryan’s reply until sometime later. I haven’t committed to a second drink. Instead we’re sitting there, nursing empty glasses. Twice I’ve declined my date’s offer of another G&T. Once I’ve indicated I’ll have to make a move soon. A total of zero times has he taken the hint.

‘So… are you an only child?’ he says.

It’s only later, when I’ve extricated myself from the situation and am heading for the tube, that I remember something Ryan once said.

‘If you’re asking each other if you have any brothers or sisters, that’s when you know it’s doomed.’

CC Image courtesy of chicks57 on Flickr

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For You

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CC Image courtesy of raxenne on Flickr

you are lithe
live
in love with words
graceful
gazelle
restless
sure
weak
unsure
nervous
strong
sexy
deep
brown
eyes
watchful
intense

sexy again

you get me out of bed
you’d get me into bed
you’d stop me sleeping

you are my thoughts before my dreams
my stories star you
my poems too

come
come into my dreams
I dress for you
I’d undress for you
I look my best for you

I do the rest for you
I do it all for you

I do
I do

CC Image courtesy of eatmorechips on Flickr

 

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Pain Quotidien

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CC Image courtesy of Steven Leonti on Flickr‘Hi Anna!’

I look round, searching for the speaker. ‘Hi Tristan.’ He probably has a question about work. ‘How are you?’

‘Good,’ he says. ‘What’s in the box?’

‘Oh, just lunch.’ I hesitate then go over to where he’s sitting. ‘Look!’ I hold out my paint-spattered hands. ‘I did legal graffiti last night! It does come off – but I didn’t try very hard!’

He laughs. ‘Illegal graffiti?’

‘No no, legal graffiti.’

Tobias is listening now.

‘Ahh.’ Tristan smiles. ‘You can call it reeling, y’know?’

I give him a look. ‘Yeah, that’s what we do in the church. It’s funny, they never notice afterwards. They’re too busy–.’

‘Church?’

‘That’s where we reel.’

‘Were you reeling or praying?’ Tobias says.

‘Neither!’

Tristan looks surprised. ‘You were actually doing graffiti?’

‘Yes!’

‘Where?’

‘There’s a tunnel, near Waterloo, where it’s legal.’

‘What did you draw? I imagine with your painting and drawing…’

I don’t remember having ever told Tristan I paint and draw.

‘… you’d be good at it.’

‘Hmm it’s difficult…’

My companion kept telling me to hold the nozzle close to the wall and the spray can vertical, neither of which I succeeded in doing.

‘… and, well, most of the spray cans didn’t work.’

Tristan grins. ‘It sounds like an artisan date.’

I laugh. ‘I think that would happen at Pain Quotidien.’

Our audience has expanded to include the rest of Tristan’s team. I can feel myself growing red.

‘Yeah well… I better go,’ I say, starting to move away. The next question will probably relate to who I was with. Adrien, Gus and Ryan know all the grisly details about my dating life and Tobias knows some of them but I’ve always been silent on the subject with Tristan. Perhaps because the others can be relied upon to keep him informed of any developments (he often greets me with, ‘How was your date? Adrien/Ryan said…’). Or perhaps because I don’t want him thinking there’s anyone but him. And I’m not sure there is.

CC Image courtesy of whizchickenonabun on Flickr

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A Play For Voices

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CC Image courtesy of quinn.anya on FlickrLast week I threw caution to the wind and attended an event not as myself but as MBE.

The last time I played a part was in my final year of secondary school. I came on stage wearing a wetsuit, snorkel and flippers – I’m pretty sure I only got the part because no one else was stupid enough to agree to wear the costume – and halfway through the first scene my contact lens fell out.

This time I get to choose my outfit. I’m way too hot, but Bellinis are on tap and Beatrice is at my side, so what can possibly go wrong?

‘I don’t know what to call myself,’ I say, as we approach the venue.

Fortunately the whole guest list thing is beyond casual. We get in as ‘Clare’s friends’. I hope I recognise Clare from her Gmail picture.

Clare is lovely and the event itself is wonderful. After four Bellinis everything is wonderful and Beatrice and I are propping up the canapé station, talking intensely about her first boyfriend and where it all went wrong.

We do mingle, and I meet several members of that elusive breed, the dating blogger. It’s a bit disconcerting, like walking down the street and passing someone who’s the spitting image of yourself.

I’d wondered what the vibe of a dating app launch party would be, what sort of crowd it would attract. Socialites, tech heads, bloggers, men in skirts visiting from East London – they’re all there. As are the founders of the app, VoiceCandy. It’s a similar concept to Tinder but with the addition of recorded voice messages. Because, as one of the founders explains, studies have shown that voice, like non-verbal communication, plays a huge part in attraction.

 

I can remember as if it was yesterday the first time I heard VP’s voice over the phone and, aside from the weird instructions about Nando’s, it was entirely unremarkable. Later I would come to love that voice for its slowness – a sign not of stupidity but of a razor-sharp intellect measuring every word for its worth. But at first it was only a reassuring neutral.

Other voices linger in the mind. Tobias’s antipodean drawl carries across the office and I feel my back straighten instinctively. And the first time I call Tristan in his new role and hear him answer, ‘Hi Anna’, I have to take a moment to compose myself.

 

So it’s ironic when Beatrice asks one of the other dating bloggers present what the best singles event she’s ever reviewed is and she replies, ‘Silent speed dating’. Shhh Dating, she explains, takes voice and speech entirely out of the equation.

At which point a couple of guys join our circle. They’re too young, I think, a suspicion confirmed when they say they’re fresh out of uni. But even before they speak, and despite (or perhaps because of) their jock-esque good looks and sharp suits, something about the way they carry themselves, their unsmiling countenances – it makes me want to turn away.

 

Beatrice and I call time around 9. I’ve successfully not revealed my surname or place of employment to any of the assembled company, learnt that my Twitter handle is completely undiscoverable when you put it into the website’s search bar and affirmed my deep love for Bellinis and courgette tempura. The evening ends with Top Gun on the big screen in Hyde Park and a giggly stumble back to the tube.

‘What are you doing tomorrow?’ Beatrice says.
‘Tinder date.’
‘Oh of course! Let me know how it goes.’
‘I will.’

We hug and I go carefully down the steps, wondering how I’m going to explain the mid-week hangover to my unsuspecting date.

CC Image courtesy of Ciudadano Poeta on Flickr

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