We’re standing, chatting: Tristan, myself, Colleague, Zoe and Ryan. There’s a lull in the conversation. My mind has gone a blank, which is ridiculous. There are always a million things I want to ask Tristan, beginning with ‘would you tell me your life story?’, but that’s the problem: none of them are remotely inclusive. I look at him, in the hope that it will bring some kind of inspiration. The effect instead is not dissimilar to what happens when you tap a mussel, or any kind of bivalve mollusc.
Tristan starts speaking and I can’t help noticing that, whilst he’s addressing the group, he’s looking at me. Can I tell you what he said? No. This is becoming a bit of a problem. He’ll swing by my desk with the latest copy of Country Life open at our favourite page, and I’ll stare at it. I won’t read it, I won’t absorb a single detail. And then I’ll attempt to say something funny about it. Which never works.
I have more luck at lunch when I’m more relaxed, when I’m not worried he might at any moment disappear so I have to say something witty and brilliant in order to stall his departure. The other day, having decided it was childish and silly to avoid the guy for the sole reason that I really really like him (in that oh-so-dangerous ‘the more I get to know you, the more I like you’ way, which isn’t supposed to happen), I find myself sitting next to him. I know I’m laughing like an idiot, I know it must be clear as day to everyone else, but I can’t help it.
We’re mocking the cover of Country Life. Then we move onto holiday plans or lack thereof.
‘I was thinking of the summer alps.’
I nod. ‘I was there a couple of weekends ago.’
‘So you have been away!’
‘Well, yes, but it was the kind of holiday where you got five hours’ sleep a night and there was quite a lot of heavy drinking so…’
‘Cool,’ he says, nodding.
He has a slightly hunched posture which lends a conspiratorial air to the conversation.
‘Yeah, but I got back feeling like I needed a holiday!’
‘Where were you?’
I tell him. He does this squinting thing which tells me he doesn’t recognize the place names.
‘My knowledge of French geography is pretty poor,’ he says. ‘Even the UK, I’m pretty hopeless!’
This is the closest I’ve come in six months to discovering a weakness in the guy; and something tells me that his not knowing his Lyon from his Lille is going to make bugger all difference.