Lifted

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CC Image courtesy Brigadier Chastity Crispbread on FlickrThere are two entrances to the office building where I work. The first you come to walking from the tube is the main entrance, a pair of sliding glass doors. A little further along the street is the back entrance. I usually go in this way: it’s quieter, the lift is bigger with a mirror to check for stray porridge and you don’t need to have your security pass to hand.

Friday morning, I’m walking from the station. The glass doors come into view. I look down at my bag. My pass is in a side pocket, where I stowed it whilst rooting around for my iPod. Looking up, I catch a glimpse of a familiar face through the crowd. He’s still a little way off but walking in the direction of the glass doors. I remember the hard time I’d given myself the other day – I’d had stern words with myself in the lift mirror – after making the frankly bonkers decision to avoid a lift ride with the guy by keeping walking (an act of self-preservation, I called it). I know better than to do a repeat.

The main entrance has always struck me as oddly and illogically designed. The glass doors give straight onto London’s busiest thoroughfare, offering a minimal sense of separation. Passers-by looking in – and they do – can see a small unfurnished foyer with yellow lighting and a narrow pair of silver lift doors.

This morning as I approach, I see the lift doors open and two people enter the narrow space beyond. I hold my pass to the sensor and the glass parts. I don’t look round – why would I? – but walk quickly in the direction of the closing doors. I put out a hand, a little slower than I normally would, to hit the button to stall them. He gets there first.

I half-turn. ‘Oh, hello.’

‘Hey.’

I don’t recognise our fellow passengers. The doors close on the four of us.

‘You’re not dressed for church today.’

He puts a hand to his throat. ‘No…’

 

It’s been a running joke since he expressed concerns that his jumper made him look like a vicar. The next time I see him I’ve just been given a roasting by someone in our Paris office – undeservedly I might add.

‘Are you off to church?’ I say, at the very moment that he crosses himself.

We laugh and he proceeds to tell me what we’re going to do about Paris.

‘I’m glad we’ve got God on our side,’ I say, laughing, and turning red.

 

I wish I could say the sexual tension skyrocketed with the lift. That, when the two strangers left us at the fourth floor, he leant in closer. That my mind didn’t go a complete blank and waste the opportunity to ask him something – anything!

We emerge onto the landing, laughing at some silliness. I put my pass to another sensor and he pulls the door open. As we enter the office side by side I try to ignore the feeling, the wish, painful almost, like a tug at the heart, that it was always this way.

CC Image courtesy of BasiliskSam on Flickr

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The Friendly Ghost

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CC Image courtesy of State Library Victoria Collections on FlickrOne idle Saturday morning in early May, I’m flicking my way through the Tinder catalogue. This was back when you could see at at a glance if you had any mutual friends and who they were*. Now the way I see it, a ‘good’ mutual friend (i.e. someone you’d be up for dating in their own right) can elevate a ‘maybe’ to an unequivocal YES. This one is definitely a maybe. I flick to the next picture – is that jewellery he’s wearing? We’ve one mutual friend. I tap the icon and their identity is revealed.

I’ve written before about transference, here and here. And now here. I go back one screen, seeing with different eyes. And when we match and he gets in touch, I forgive the typos galore. I even let the earnestness slide for a day or two. A week later he messages again, and then again a month down the line, but I don’t reply. I’ve met a man who can spell, make me laugh and be earnest all in the space of a few words. I’m a lost woman.

 

Wednesday night, I’m queueing for cheap cider with Gus and Ryan. Tristan and some of the others come over, drinks tokens in hand. They’re mostly familiar faces, colleagues I see with varying frequency around the office. All except one. I’d seen him come in with Tristan and since then had been doing a little dance of avoidance. It works well until… it doesn’t.

‘Hi, I’m Casper.’

‘Hi – Anna.’

It’s a weak handshake.

‘How – how do you know Tristan?’

I know how he knows Tristan, but it’s easier this way.

 

Two pitchers of cheap cider later, I find myself next to Tristan. He leans in, even closer than he usually does, and says in a very loud voice:

‘So Anna,’ he starts to laugh, a good-natured, cider-fuelled laugh, ‘I was saying to my friend Casper, you should meet Anna, and–.’

At which point Casper comes into earshot.

‘He’s coming over,’ I say, laughing, ‘so you might want to stop talking about him in the third person.’

Tristan looks totally unphased.

‘I think Tristan’s trying to tell me something about you!’ I say to Casper.

‘Oh OK,’ he says, also laughing. ‘Shall I go then?’

‘Probably best.’

It’s all very good-natured. I turn back to Tristan. ‘You were saying, you said to Casper that he should meet me, and then….’

‘Then he told me you’d already met on Tinder!’

‘It’s true.’

 

Cut to later in the evening. Casper is drinking minis of white wine.

‘I don’t drink beer,’ he tells me.

I examine the label on the bottle. ‘I was supposed to go to a Blossom Hill-themed party the other day, but then I didn’t.’

You can tell I’m really trying.

‘Well, could I buy you a drink sometime?’

‘Ermm,’ I take a swig of cider, ‘thanks but… I’m afraid I’m… otherwise engaged.’

Whatever that means.

CC Image courtesy of Daniel Kulinski on Flickr

*You still can see mutual friends on Tinder, but if you change your Facebook password, you then need to log out and back in to the app in order for them to show on people’s profiles. Am I still using Tinder? Nooo.

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I wish you’d forgetCC Image courtesy of KatieSz on Flickr

You said you’d forget

You said

I might get drunk or I might forget

And contact you

Though I’d asked you not to

So

Sorry you said in advance.

 

That was October

 

Now

Here we are

In the month of remembering

And you haven’t forgotten.

 

I wish you’d forget

I wish you’d get drunk on poppies and forget

But you haven’t

Yet.

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Desperate Measures

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CC Image courtesy of le vent le cri on FlickrYou might have noticed a slight drop in output recently. There are a few reasons for this:

1. I’m working every hour God sends in my new role so I have less time to write.

2. It’s tricky to meet people when you’re chained to your desk.

3. (and this is perhaps the most surprising) My threshold for what is blog-worthy appears to have changed. I have a draft folder full of silly stories about the time Tristan made a heart shape between his fingers at me across the office; or the time Karl suggested accompanying me to an art show only for his enthusiasm to cool when I told him the ticket price; or the time I unexpectedly found myself on a date – my brother‘s.

 

Tuesday night, I’m sitting in a pub somewhere in the West End with Ryan, Gus and Tristan. We’ve escaped ‘official’ work drinks. That is, I thought we all just happened to be leaving at the same time, but once out on the pavement, Tristan claps his hands together.

‘Now the fun can begin!’

Which means a pub, pints and Ryan asking the group at the neighbouring table if they know any single men he can go out with.

‘And,’ he points at me, ‘do you know any single men Anna can go out with?’

I break off laughing just long enough to request that they be straight.

 

‘We should make a bet,’ Ryan says en route to the station, ‘to see who can get a date first.’

‘What are we going to bet?’

Ryan is famously tight and I’m not exactly Mother Theresa.

‘A cappuccino?’

‘You’re on.’

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Something Or Nothing

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‘This – this evening ­– it means nothing.’CC Image courtesy of Jim Barter on Flickr

‘No I know.’

‘It’s just – we’ve spent a nice evening together, and that’s it. It doesn’t mean anything.’

‘I know!’ I laugh. ‘Don’t worry, I’m not suddenly going to go all needy on you!’

I am however going to leave. Because, if I know anything, it’s that I want something which means something. I think I always knew, from the moment I left the office, bent my steps in the direction of the tube, emerged onto the unfamiliar pavement, wended my way through the streets of the City, past the cafe where VP and I had our first conversation about what it was we were doing – I always knew I was walking towards nothing. We would mark time over drinks, dance maybe, but ultimately he didn’t care – he didn’t care how my day had been, what I thought of my new job, my new flatmate. It was all just words, because you had to say something, do something, until the alcohol had entered your system, made you both feel sufficiently relaxed to cross that line.

 

Which brings us to here: a sofa, a shabby flat, a shabby scene really. Don’t get me wrong, I liked him well enough and I must have fancied him a bit, but I felt… interchangeable. We’re all interchangeable up to a point of course, but the difference with VP, for want of a better example (and there isn’t one), is that with him I never felt that way. And I knew, as VP sat across from me in the frankly hideous cafe of his choosing set back from the main thoroughfare of Liverpool Street, nursing a pint, telling me:

‘I like you, but I can’t be ‘emotionally responsible’ for you right now.’

I knew it would never mean as much to him as it did to me. But I knew… I knew he would never say it meant nothing.

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