Déjà Vu

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CC Image courtesy of Larry He's So Fine on Flickr A few weeks back, Tom appeared on my Tinder. Seeing his picture was like how I imagine it would feel passing your rapist in the street. For a moment, I stared. Then, with the care of a lab technician handling corrosive acid, I adjusted the app settings and the screen refreshed.

By the second encounter, something in me had hardened – or softened – and I tried to convince myself he was redeemable, dateable even. Perky came to the rescue.

‘He sounded like a douche to put it nicely!’ she says.

Beatrice echoes the sentiment. Tom, we agree, is a straightforward case.

‘But,’ I say, ‘Jack didn’t mess me around like that.’

This is Exhibit A in the case for swiping right on Viable Prospect: compared with Tom, he behaved pretty damn well. He made me miserable, sure, but I got over it. And it only took, like, 18 months.

Beatrice doesn’t say anything.

‘And, well, I’m desperate! And there’s just… nothing going on!’

She starts clearing the plates. We both know that swiping right on the man who broke your heart is plain daft.

 

A week later, I learn I’ve got my dream internship. That evening, Viable Prospect crops up again. I do what I always do – change my settings and a new set of potential matches swims into view. But I know, as I head for bed, that VP’s not what I want. I could handle the Monday night dates when I had a 9 to 5. I could even handle the sleepless nights – my permanently frenzied state, like a cat on hot coals.

I remove my contact lenses, cleaning them in the palm of my hand. I don’t want the drama, the not knowing, the games. For the first time, I can see clearly.

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Beatrice comes back in. ‘You don’t have to leave.’ CC Image courtesy of kuchingboy on Flickr

‘No, it’s fine,’ I say, reaching for my bag. ‘It’s only… I don’t know what to do!’

‘How did you leave it?’

‘He said he’d be in touch today, to arrange where to meet.’

‘Does he know where you are?’

‘I said I had a thing in Old Street til, like, 8.’

‘And you haven’t heard from him all day?’

‘No.’

‘Hmm.’

 

I should have learnt the first time. Or the second time. Or last night, when he rang…

‘So,’ he says, ‘I’ve ordered food for two, just in case.’

I laugh. We’ve been here before. I say no, he asks why, and I say I’d rather meet for the first time ‘not at one of our flats’.

‘So… bye?’ I say.

‘No!’ He steers the conversation in a different direction.

We leave it that the following evening, after my friend’s birthday party, we’ll meet for a drink. Somewhere public, though he does joke that he’ll book the whole place out.

*

Beatrice, one year older and definitely wiser, tells me what only good friends do. That I’m worth more than this. That he knew I was busy til 8 and he still hasn’t been in touch to make a plan. That I shouldn’t contact him.

 

Wednesday night. I’ve just got into bed. My phone buzzes into life. I recognise the number, partly because of our call history, partly because of the number of times I’ve deleted it from my phone. I let it ring out.

When he calls again, I do a quick Google and install the relevant app.

CC Image courtesy of ant.photos on Flickr

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28 Days Later


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CC Image courtesy of "Stròlic Furlàn" - Davide Gabino on FlickrI’ve made so many bad decisions in the last 48 hours.

The first was telling Tom I didn’t think men and women could be friends. Which he took as a green light to kiss me.

The second was telling him not to get an Uber.

The third was swiping right on my one good job contact.

 

‘Did I mention I keep seeing my TV contact on Bumble and want to swipe right but think it would be a mistake?’

‘Anna, this is the third time you’ve mentioned it,’ Beatrice sends back. ‘We have agreed twice that it would be a mistake…’

 

Chris and I match and, a couple of days later, I meet a girlfriend for lunch. His name comes up in conversation.

‘I love Chris,’ she says. ‘He’s such a sweet guy.’

‘Yeah,’ I say, smiling. ‘I really liked him.’

CC Image courtesy of Sarah0s on Flickr

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The Worst of Times

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CC Image courtesy of Juska Wendland on FlickrA couple of years ago, just after the car crash that was my 26th birthday party, my brother gave me some good advice.

Don’t invite someone you’re dating to a party because it will make it all about them.

When I drew up the guest list for my housewarming, Tom‘s name was conspicuously absent. Obviously. I’d said I didn’t just want something casual and he’d suggested ‘being friends’.

Colleagues featured heavily on the list. Then the usual round-up of friends, my brother, and men I’ve always had a vague crush on but nothing has ever happened with.

It was safe. The latter wouldn’t come; the former would treat it like after-work drinks.

Then Friday happened.

‘Can I invite Tom?’

Beatrice says no. I play the Friday card. Tom is the least of my worries.

I don’t see Tom everyday and feel a jolt in the pit of my stomach. I don’t don my headphones to drown out his voice when he comes over to talk to Ryan. I don’t look up mid-meeting, see him walk past, meet his eye, struck by the sadness of his expression, and spend all afternoon wondering what it means.

Tom doesn’t pass my desk on his way out…

‘Bye,’ I say, with a wave.

… and acknowledge my farewell but keep walking.

CC Image courtesy of Vickilgh's Pictures on Flickr

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‘Who’s Tristan?’

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CC Image courtesy of GabboT on Flickr

I’ve read every credible-looking article I can find online about alcoholic blackouts, You Belong With Me is playing on a loop, and post three of 33 from the Tristan archive of my blog is before my eyes.

My phone flashes up with a message.

‘Hoy….’

Unconventional greeting.

‘… how goes the love search 1 month on?’

 

Recent events had put Tom right out of my mind, which was lucky. His profile hadn’t changed since we’d parted company, and I’d already announced to Beatrice that this meant he’d met someone. She didn’t contradict me.

 

In the last few weeks there’d been… nothing really. Except for Friday. But Friday was different. Friday was about love, yes, but other things too: sadness, disappointment, shock.

‘Whaaaaat?!!’ Perky says, when I tell her what happened. ‘That’s BIG.’

‘A non-event,’ is how my mother describes it.

Rachel only frowns. ‘Who’s Tristan?’

CC Image courtesy of Veronique Debord on Flickr

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