Facing Facts

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CC Image courtesy of CarbonNYC [in SF!] on Flickr‘What do you think?’

I hold my phone up to the camera.

Catherine squints. ‘It looks like he’s got something in his mouth.’

‘Teeth. Anything else?’

‘Hmm yeah, he’s got the hair.’

‘What do you mean ‘the hair’?’

‘It’s the kind you like.’

I frown at the picture. I mean, he has hair, but…

‘I wouldn’t say it was big hair.’

Thank God we’re not being superficial.


By the end of the weekend it’s been a week of snail-paced messaging and I’m kind of bored. For all that the guy’s got going for him – teeth, hair, height, sense of humour – he’s still just a face on an app.

CC Image courtesy of el_tommo on Flickr

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The Final Act

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CC Image courtesy of Toxictea on FlickrAll I can think about is the scene in When Harry Met Sally.  Meg Ryan is sobbing onto Harry’s shoulder, wailing about the fact that when Joe said he didn’t want to get married, what he actually meant was ‘he didn’t want to marry me!’

FFS gives my hand a squeeze.  ‘What are you thinking?’

What to say?  That this is all bullshit?  That I’ve seen the films, hell, I’ve even experienced it in real life.  The last man to use this line was Max.  The circumstances might be different, but the bottom line’s the same.

FFS is looking at me steadily.  I shrug.  ‘Well, that’s that.’

He hugs my legs to him, rests his head against them.   I run my fingers through his hair.  Not big hair.  I want to kiss him, take him to my bed, but I know that come the morning it will feel so much worse.

He draws me towards him, cradles me.  We kiss.

I draw back.  ‘I’m just going to the bathroom.’

When I get back, I don’t rejoin him on the sofa, but remain standing.

He looks up at me.  ‘Do you want me to go?’



I perch on the arm of the sofa, rest my chin on my hand, and stare ahead at the sea of used wine glasses.  Some are half-full, most are empty.  I can feel him looking at me, and turn to meet his gaze, force a smile.  He pulls me onto his lap, caresses my neck.

‘Don’t worry,’ I say, laughing.  ‘I’ve got an excellent track record of crying on my birthday, and I have no intention of breaking with tradition!’

He looks surprised and laughs, hugs me tighter.  It’s a strange thing, to be comforted by the one who is the cause of your distress.  I know I won’t let him stay, but still, I don’t want to be alone; because I know that, once he leaves, I’ll cry, and I don’t want that.

His hands are wandering.  I lie there, passive.  I want it to mean something, I always do.  This time last year, I was in Milonga’s bed.  I woke the next day and went on my way.  The hot spring sun beat down upon the pavement as I walked to the station in my ballgown.  I’d heard the term ‘the walk of shame’ but never for a moment thought that this was it.  I stopped at a supermarket for a bag of apples and a bottle of water.  On the train, children stared as I stared out of the window, feeling the first twinges of embarrassment.

A year on, I see more clearly.  I know that, come the morning, he will have everything he wants, and I will have nothing.  I will feel empty and alone and used.  His hand strays to my thigh.  I think back to how he was earlier in the evening, so cold, so uncaring, and twist myself out of his embrace.

‘Shall I look up night buses?’ I say, rising from the sofa.

There’s a pause.

‘If you don’t mind.’

I retrieve my computer from where it’s lying on the floor, and run the necessary search.


In the hallway, he dons his coat.  We hug.  His arms are still around me, his face set in a frown.  I want him to un-say everything, to change his mind.

‘I really like spending time with you,’ he says, ‘and I’d like to stay…’

I smile.  ‘I like spending time with you too.  Like you said, we have a good laugh…’

What he’d actually said was ‘we do laugh a lot’, which made me feel really sad.  We’re always laughing, and it’s what I’ll miss most about him.

‘… but,’ I go on, ‘you’ve said you only want something light and ‘detached’, something on your terms…’

He shrugs and doesn’t deny it.

‘… and, well, it’s not that I want something serious…’

Would it be such a crime if I did?

‘… it’s just that – I’d like – a bit more contact!  I don’t want to have to act ‘detached’!’


‘And so, at the moment it’s a good thing that we have a laugh together, but eventually it will become a problem…’

He nods.  ‘Yeah.’

‘So,’ I say, sighing, ‘for the above reasons…’

CC Image courtesy of LaVolpe Photography on Flickr

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Winging It

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‘Come on!’CC Image courtesy of Jamilson Junior on Flickr

Sally steers me in the direction of a guy who looks vaguely like the hot one from One Direction.  His head is a mass of curls – what is it with me and big hair?! – and I like his style on the dance floor.  I resist her pull.

‘Errr… I’m not sure.’

She wants to play wing woman.  I can only see this ending badly.  Sally is blonde, bubbly, incredibly sweet – all the things I’m not, and all the things I imagine the One Direction lookalike, and any straight-thinking male for that matter, would go for.

‘It’ll be fine!’ she says.  ‘I’m good at this!’


An hour later, I’m walking to the bus stop flanked by Freddie and Sam.

‘Olly was nice,’ Freddie says.

‘Yes.  I think he liked Sally.’



‘Yeah,’ I go on, ‘she’s a very charming wing woman – rather too charming I think!’  I laugh, but I don’t feel very happy.  ‘It’s hardly surprising.  She’s very attractive.  If I was a guy, I’d probably fancy her.’

Again, silence.

‘I think,’ Freddie says, looking over at Sam, ‘what she wants us to say is that she’s more attractive than Sally.’

I laugh.  ‘No.’

Well, yes, but only if it’s true.  What I actually want right now is for it to be true, or for the last hour to not have happened.  I’m mature like that.

Sam mumbles for a bit in a Hugh Grant-esque kind of a way, before concluding, ‘What I’m trying to say, is that, where Sally’s concerned, I don’t think you have anything to worry about.’

I frown.  ‘Hmm I think you’re biased.’

Clearly he can’t win.

‘He probably thinks you’re too good for him!’ Freddie says.

Sam looks impressed.  ‘That’s very good.  I wish I’d thought of that!’

We laugh.

‘You’re funny,’ I say, ‘but I don’t think people think like that.  I mean, I don’t believe that would stop a guy from trying it on.  It might stop him from succeeding, but not trying.’

We walk on in silence.  At the fork in the path, we say goodnight.  Sam strides off to the right, whilst Freddie and I cross the park.  In the distance I fancy I can hear Sally’s tinkling laugh.

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Clowning Around

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CC Image courtesy of tim ellis on Flickr

I said Sebastian was dashing, and he is.  He also has, in his own words, very big hair.  Lethal combination.  And he dances in the street.

We find ourselves in the same ball party.  He’s one of those people who, when they’re around, I find myself trying not to try too hard to get their attention – or say anything stupid.  As such, most of the time I’m mute (see Matthew), and when I do speak, what I say is invariably stupid or rude, or both (see Nick).  After a few drinks, apologising for the aforementioned rudeness seems like a good idea.  I haven’t planned what I’m going to say, but the gist of it would be, sorry, I’m only like this because I think you’re beautiful and charming and you have big hair.  Or just, you have big hair.

I’m chatting to a girl at the bar.  She breaks off to order a drink.

‘Excuse me one sec,’ I say.

I’ve just seen Sebastian come in.  After our pavement boogie earlier in the evening, we have to have a dance.

‘Shall we?’ I say.

‘Of course.’

He takes my hand, turns me between the tables and leads me to the floor.  His style is distinctive, showy, slightly clownish, lots of flourishes and flicks.

I take the rare opportunity of being face-to-face with the guy to say, ‘I can explain…’

‘Explain what?’

He spins me into a drop.

‘The fact I’m so…’

Another spin.

‘Amusing?’ he says. ‘Funny?’


The dance continues.  My speech fortunately does not.  I’m too busy laughing and generally having a good time.  With the end of the track, he says,


We work well on the dancefloor, better than at the dinner table, where I tease and mock relentlessly.

‘It’s tiring,’ he said earlier.  It was the kind of candour which only comes with drunkenness.

I blushed.  ‘Sorry.’  And turned away.

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Still I Rise

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Colleague leans in, keeps his voice low.CC Image courtesy of Niina C on Flickr

‘If you were a guy, would you get with Chloe?’

I’m surprised, not to learn that he likes her – they’ve spent most of the evening together – but that he’s asking me.  We barely know each other.

I glance over at Chloe, all feathers and face paint.  She’s dancing in that happy, drunken way.  No, I think to myself, I wouldn’t: not because she’s not a lot of fun – she is – but because I find her a bit overwhelming.  And he’s so easy-going and pleasant.  There’s only one thing I can say.

‘Yes!’ I hesitate before going on.  ‘Why, are – are you gonna?’

He doesn’t reply immediately but smiles.‘I just wanted to ask your opinion.’

I can feel eyes upon us, can almost hear brains whirring, jumping to conclusions.

‘Can I get you a drink?’ he says. ‘Beer?  White wine?’

He returns with a glass of wine, then wanders off.  I join the others on the dance floor, ignoring their pointed looks.

It’s the last song of the night.  Colleague is dancing with Chloe – just dancing.  One of the girls gives me a nudge, and looks over at them.

‘I know,’ I say.  ‘He asked me if he should get with her.’

‘Oh!  I thought – did you like him?’

I shake my head.  ‘No.’


Two days later, I’m eating my lunch on the steps, listening to music, when he appears.  There’s a row of bins nearby.  He drops a bag into one of them, and turns to see me sitting there.

‘Hello.’CC Image courtesy of ultraBobban on Flickr

I give a wave.  ‘Hello.’

He speaks again; I remove my headphones.  ‘Sorry?’

‘Why do you have to work today?’

He sits down next to me on the step.  I explain about the exhibition. 

‘So, did you enjoy Thursday?’ I say, with a smile.

He runs his hand through his hair, big hair. 


‘How much of it do you remember?!’

‘Not all of it, but people have been filling in the gaps for me!’

I laugh.  ‘Did it go on very late?’

He tells me about the failed attempt to find a club south of the river; and his three-mile walk home. 

‘Did you have a good evening?’ he says.

‘Yes!  I love dancing so that was fun.  And the music was good.’

‘Hmmm.  I’m not big on the dancing – I get self-conscious.  Actually,’ he laughs, ‘for that reason, when I do dance, I close my eyes!’

‘Isn’t that a bit of a health risk?!’

‘Oh I don’t flail, fortunately.’

We discuss some of our colleagues’ more unusual dance moves.  There’s a pause.

‘So, err, was it a good outcome?’ I say.

He looks blank.  ‘What do you mean?’

‘Do you remember asking me a question – at the party?’

‘N–o.  What was it?’

I’m about to tell him, but something makes me change my mind.

‘Oh it doesn’t matter.  How come you’re in today?’

His department is moving to an office in another part of the building.  ‘It has a window.’

We joke about the company’s fondness for basements.  There’s another pause, then he says,

‘So, what did I ask you?  Was it… awkward?’

‘No, it was quite sweet really!’

He looks surprised.

‘I have to tell you now, don’t I?!’

I feel happier than I have in days; certainly since Nice Guy failed to live up to his name.  I don’t want to hear that this nice guy likes someone else. 

I nod towards the bins, each one initialled ‘DMS’. 

‘I know someone with those initials.  Maybe they’re his?’

He laughs, and suggests they might be an exhibit in the upcoming show.

‘I’d best get back,’ he says, rising.  ‘I’ve got to hoover the office.  Antiquities hadn’t done it for months.’

‘They probably think dust adds value!’

He laughs again.

‘See you later,’ I say, also getting up.


I walk away, a spring in my step… dust rising.

‘Still I Rise’ is a wonderful poem by Maya Angelou (1928–2014).  You can read it here.

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