Listen to Your… Chest (Part 3)

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(Continued from Listen to Your… Chest (Part 2))

The following Friday, at a birthday drinks, I told a friend about the guy off Tinder I’d been chatting to for the last year but had never met. I omitted a few salient details and he looked at me like I belonged at the funny farm.

‘You have to meet him,’ he said.

If the past twelve months had shown me anything it was that I definitely didn’t have to meet him, but I wanted to.

That night, waiting for the last train, I texted Neuro. The platform was deserted except for a man in his 60s wearing a shabby raincoat. He came over and alerted me to the fact that I was facing the wrong way so I might miss the train. I thanked him and he asked where I was travelling to, did I have a boyfriend?

‘Yes,’ I heard myself say.

‘Are you meeting him now?’

‘Yes.’

The train arrived and we boarded. He was still talking, nineteen to the dozen, when Neuro replied.

‘Where are you?’ I sent back.

‘Home. U?’

‘I’ve never raped a woman and I’ve never touched a child,’ my neighbour was saying.

‘Ring me!’ I sent back.

He did, just as the train pulled into my station. I took advantage of my tipsy state to announce that we needed to meet. It had been a year. We needed to meet.

‘Come over now.’

‘I can’t. I… I need more notice.’

It was early February. The last time I shaved my legs there were leaves on the trees. But, more to the point, he was a virtual stranger. I wasn’t about to rock up at his flat in the middle of the night.

He suggested the next day.

‘You don’t sound very sure.’

‘Or Sunday?’ he said.

‘Hmm Sunday’s tricky.’

He said he’d be in touch the next day.

 

We never did meet. As I write this, a referral letter from the hospital where Neuro works lies open on the kitchen table. The appointment is for next week…

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Listen to Your… Chest (Part 2)

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(Continued from Listen to Your… Chest (Part 1))

Around 8pm on Christmas Eve I got a call from a private number.

I picked up. ‘Hello?’

The briefest pause. ‘Hello.’

Another pause, while I let the accent sink in.

‘Hello,’ I said again, heading through to the sitting room.

‘Happy Christmas.’

‘Happy Christmas. I didn’t realise it was you – it showed as a private number.’

‘Oh.’ Another pause. ‘How are you?’

‘Yeah, good.’ My tone was flat. ‘I, er, I’m just with family, so it’s a bit of a tricky moment.’

‘OK.’ He sounded sad. ‘I just wanted to say Happy Christmas.’

I hesitated. ‘Oh, er, well, thank you.’

Pause.

‘Well, I’ll let you get back to your family.’

‘Thanks and… Happy Christmas.’

 

Channels of communication re-opened with my new zero expectations in place. I went on the odd Tinder date; he filled in the gaps. We never chatted for long – he rang too late for that – but I didn’t much mind.

Work got busy and I missed a couple of calls from him. Things were still busy and I had a bad cough to boot when, one Saturday evening, a year after we matched, I dropped him a text. He rang the next morning and we chatted about our plans for the day. He was meeting family; I had a book to read for work. He was clever and successful in his own field but the only literature books he’d read were those that his school had forced on him.

I’d seen my ex the previous weekend and, in the wake of it, had suffered some kind of existential crisis. He was a Harvard, MIT and Cambridge-educated theoretical physicist who dabbled in etching and filmmaking – your definitive Renaissance man. Since our last meeting he’d got a great new job, bought his second London flat and bought a yacht. I was interning, unpaid, at production companies in the hope of securing a badly paid entry-level position. The contrast made me feel shit on many levels.

Neuro didn’t care about my job. Admittedly, I sometimes got the feeling he didn’t care to know much about me at all. But when he started to fulfil the surgeon stereotype and hold forth about every aspect of his life, I could at least call him on it. Two and a half years on, I still analysed most of what I said to my ex, either before or after it came out of my mouth. Neuro got the unedited version and it felt good.

My cough was bad by the time I hit the hay on Sunday evening. That morning, Neuro had said we’d ‘speak later’, but I hadn’t heard from him. That was fine: I had work to do and he would be in touch, eventually. I was doing my best impression of a consumptive when I heard my phone vibrate.

‘Hey, I’ve got a cough so I can’t stay on–.’ I broke off, coughing.

Neuro asked about the cough. It sounded worse than this morning? Was I taking medication?

‘I think – am I right in saying – you can’t medicate a productive cough?’

I descended into another coughing fit.

‘What colour is the stuff you’re bringing up?’ he said. ‘Is it white, yellow, green, red… grey?’

I’d spoken to my mum that afternoon and said I’d ask my doctor friends what I should do about the cough. I’d meant Rachel, or Stephanie.

I laughed. ‘This is amazing.’ Then: ‘Yellow.’

He explained what it could be and the different treatments. If I couldn’t get to my GP in the next couple of days, he’d email me a prescription for antibiotics. I thanked him and said I’d book an appointment the next day.

‘Let me know what happens.’

‘I will.’

The coughing had stopped.

‘I should probably sleep,’ I said.

‘Yep.’ A pause. ‘I’m looking forward to finally meeting you.’

‘Me too.’ I laughed. ‘Was it the cough that did it?’

‘No. It’s just… I’m looking forward to putting a face to the voice.’

‘Yeah.’

‘And the moan.’

‘I’m hanging up now.’

He laughed. ‘Night Anna.’

‘Night.’

(TO BE CONTINUED)

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Listen to Your… Chest (Part 1)

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A few years ago, over coffee, my friend Rachel told me about a junior doctor with whom she was doing her medical training. She praised him to the skies: he was funny, thoughtful, clever and very conscientious. There was talk of her introducing us but it never happened.

When he came up on my Tinder, I hesitated. Physically, he wasn’t my type. But I remembered Rachel’s eulogy.

He messaged me almost straightaway, and moments later I received a friend request on Facebook. I made a mental note not to swipe right on the back of one good review.

The next day, he texted to say he’d had a dream about me. I was at work at the time and remember weighing up tackling my to-do list and replying to his message. I knew which had the greater chance of being interesting.

‘What happened?’ I sent back.

‘Really???!!!’

Again, I hesitated. ‘Yeah.’

That evening, a colleague stopped by my desk and asked about the old love life. I mentioned that things had turned a bit… risqué with the latest Tinder prospect. We swapped notes on the only surgeons we knew – all a bit full on – and he went on his way.

But I was bored. Work was getting crazy and my social life was about to be dealt a deathblow. When the surgeon called during one of his night shifts, one thing led to another.

‘What are you wearing?’ he said.

‘Pyjamas.’

‘Take them off.’

Sometimes we were interrupted and I’d listen, fascinated, as he barked instructions at an unsuspecting nurse over the phone, before hanging up and giving me orders of a different kind.

Occasionally we chatted about life stuff and it turned out Rachel was right: he was funny. Fabulously direct too – my British diffidence drove him insane – but I liked that. He rang me one lunchtime while en route to the airport…

‘I might be, it depends, I’m not sure, I might have to–.’

‘Look,’ he cut me off, ‘I’m not asking if you can be free to talk to me later, I’m asking if you want to be free to talk to me later. Do you want to be free to talk to me later? Answer… answer me like a non-English person.’

I laughed. ‘OK, yes.’

‘Yes you will or yes you want to be free to talk to me later?’

‘The latter – I want to be free to talk to you later.’

‘OK.’

We continued like this for a few weeks. Then it happened. He suggested meeting, the appointed day came and… it was like he’d dropped off the edge of the universe. I deleted his number, he got back in touch – on Valentine’s Day – and the same thing happened. The third time he went AWOL, I called time. His number went, so did the Facebook friendship, and after a few attempts he stopped calling.

I fell for a guy off Bumble, my colleague kissed me, life went on. And because of those two men, I was probably more susceptible than usual when, in early September, I found a couple of messages from Neuro (as I’d come to call him) in my ‘Message Requests’ folder on Facebook. We started chatting again. He pushed for a first meeting at his place; I resisted (this had always been a sticking point). He relented and we fixed on the following Saturday for drinks.

This time I blocked him. I installed an app called MrNumber – which blocks people you want to speak to as well as those you don’t, it’s genius – and put him out of my head. The app also helpfully told me when the blocked number had called.

I lifted the ban just before Christmas and discovered my expectations had changed. I didn’t care anymore about meeting. When he suggested it, I went along with the idea, but I wasn’t surprised when a plan failed to materialise. I was however astounded at his lack of sympathy when I came down with a vomiting bug. He went back on the block list and I concentrated on getting better.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

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Paradise Lost

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CC Image courtesy of Glen Bowman on FlickrSeveral years ago, the BBC broadcast a period drama called The Paradise. It was about a department store in the north of England run by charming entrepreneur Moray. The local totty thought he was the best thing since sliced bread and badly wanted to marry him (which would have been to his advantage, since totty’s father had pots of money ready to invest in the store).

Enter Denise: pretty, clever and ambitious. She makes her mark at the store (lots of bright ideas for displays, that kind of thing) and even catches the attention of Moray. Cue URST (UnResolved Sexual Tension).

Just when we think Moray and Denise are about to sail off into the sunset, there’s a twist (SPOILER ALERT). The crucial speech:

Denise: I don’t want to marry Moray. I want to be him.

That’s the line from the series that most stayed with me. And it’s the line I resisted the urge to quote when, earlier this year, I found myself on a date with the man who’d helped script the series.

‘It was great!’ I said. (I probably clapped.) ‘It was better than Mr. Selfridge.’

He grinned. ‘Aww bless you.’

(I should have known then it was doomed.)

 

We saw each other a couple more times, and each time conversation turned to his job.

CC Image courtesy of Marvin (PA) on Flickr

I’ve dated people from a range of professions: engineers, a journo, an architect, a theoretical physicist. Infatuation, I find, is usually accompanied by a heavy dose of job envy. And if I don’t fancy doing the actual job – me as a theoretical physicist LOL – I’m seduced by the lifestyle that goes with it. I still have no idea how the physicist managed to go on fortnightly holidays.

But – the journo aside – it’s all been fantasy. Until Moray.

 

I hung on his every word. Date one, I admitted to having tried to get into script development a while back. I’d even spoken to several script editors about the best routes in. He knew the people I’d spoken to. It just gave us more to talk about.

But, unlike Moray, he didn’t come to me on bended knee. So, shortly before the inevitable parting of the ways, I started mourning the relationship. He was fun; I’d miss that. I’d miss the sex too. But what I’d miss most was sharing a passion. We’d watched the trailer for The Crown and agreed about the lack of conflict. We hadn’t agreed about Michael’s character in Mum (I found him a bit annoying), but we did both love the theme tune (‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’) and listened to it together the last morning I spent at his.

I told him the best bit of screenwriting advice I’d ever read. He told me about the alien story his company was in the process of pitching. He loved his job. I loved his job.

I loved his job. I loved his job.

Five-hour meetings to determine characters’ back-stories. Brainstorming plot lines with a writer in their hotel room. Working all Sunday on a scene breakdown.

 

I set about updating my CV, making over my LinkedIn profile, emailing potential contacts – the works.

 

Occasionally I thought of him, pictured his head resting on my pillow.

I like you.’

I smile. ‘I like you too.’

We kiss.

‘What do you want?’ he says.

It’s a script joke – a protagonist should always want something.

The same thing as you,’ I whisper, and pull him closer.

If only that had been true.

CC Image courtesy of Oceans of Lilim on Flickr

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Reality Check

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CC Image courtesy of reuvenim on FlickrNovember 2014

‘So I’ve got one silly man-related question.’

My mother looks up from her iPad, wearing a patient, slightly pitying smile.

‘Your email the other day made me smile,’ I begin. She removes her glasses, prepares herself for what is clearly going to be the ‘round the houses’ approach. ‘The one where you said you hoped Gus wasn’t going to get my hopes up.’

We laugh.

‘Yes,’ she says, ‘he sounds dangerous.’

‘No, it’s fine, really.’

[insert long rambling explanation of why it’s fine]

‘But,’ I wind up, ‘well, what I wondered is, if Germany does come back to London – and I know I’m asking you to predict the future here – but if he does come back to London, what are the chances he’ll get in touch?’

There’s a pause.

‘He might get in touch,’ my mother says, slowly. ‘And he might suggest meeting up, but then you’d have to decide if you were happy with things on his terms.’

‘I wouldn’t be. I mean, I don’t know to what extent his ‘terms’ were because we were in different countries, but, if we were in the same city then he’d have to want to make it work or I wouldn’t go there.’

‘Right.’

‘And… if he did get in touch and suggest meeting up, then you’d say, what, go for it?’

‘Well, if he gets in touch and you end up… going out, well, then that’s fine… until he meets someone else.’

‘Because,’ I hesitate a moment, ‘I guess the bottom line is, being in the same city wouldn’t make him fancy me more.’

‘Correct.’

‘Hmm. And… if he did get in touch and we went out or whatever, it would probably end in tears?’

‘Yup.’

‘Because if he doesn’t fancy me enough to make it work when we’re in different countries, then it wouldn’t work when we’re in the same country.’

‘Correct.’

There’s another pause.

‘Is there any chance it wouldn’t end in tears?’

‘Nope.’

‘None?’

‘Mmm nope.’

‘Hmm. You don’t know that!’

My mother doesn’t say anything.

‘So really,’ I go on, ‘if he did get in touch, then I’d be better off not going there at all, because it would only end in misery.’

‘Yup.’

‘And heartache.’

‘Yup.’

Another pause.

‘So you’re saying it would be best not to go there, knowing it would all end in tears?’

‘No, well, I’d go there.’ She looks thoughtful. ‘But I think perhaps you wouldn’t.’

CC Image courtesy of Sheep"R"Us on Flickr

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