A Play For Voices

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CC Image courtesy of quinn.anya on FlickrLast week I threw caution to the wind and attended an event not as myself but as MBE.

The last time I played a part was in my final year of secondary school. I came on stage wearing a wetsuit, snorkel and flippers – I’m pretty sure I only got the part because no one else was stupid enough to agree to wear the costume – and halfway through the first scene my contact lens fell out.

This time I get to choose my outfit. I’m way too hot, but Bellinis are on tap and Beatrice is at my side, so what can possibly go wrong?

‘I don’t know what to call myself,’ I say, as we approach the venue.

Fortunately the whole guest list thing is beyond casual. We get in as ‘Clare’s friends’. I hope I recognise Clare from her Gmail picture.

Clare is lovely and the event itself is wonderful. After four Bellinis everything is wonderful and Beatrice and I are propping up the canapé station, talking intensely about her first boyfriend and where it all went wrong.

We do mingle, and I meet several members of that elusive breed, the dating blogger. It’s a bit disconcerting, like walking down the street and passing someone who’s the spitting image of yourself.

I’d wondered what the vibe of a dating app launch party would be, what sort of crowd it would attract. Socialites, tech heads, bloggers, men in skirts visiting from East London – they’re all there. As are the founders of the app, VoiceCandy. It’s a similar concept to Tinder but with the addition of recorded voice messages. Because, as one of the founders explains, studies have shown that voice, like non-verbal communication, plays a huge part in attraction.

 

I can remember as if it was yesterday the first time I heard VP’s voice over the phone and, aside from the weird instructions about Nando’s, it was entirely unremarkable. Later I would come to love that voice for its slowness – a sign not of stupidity but of a razor-sharp intellect measuring every word for its worth. But at first it was only a reassuring neutral.

Other voices linger in the mind. Tobias’s antipodean drawl carries across the office and I feel my back straighten instinctively. And the first time I call Tristan in his new role and hear him answer, ‘Hi Anna’, I have to take a moment to compose myself.

 

So it’s ironic when Beatrice asks one of the other dating bloggers present what the best singles event she’s ever reviewed is and she replies, ‘Silent speed dating’. Shhh Dating, she explains, takes voice and speech entirely out of the equation.

At which point a couple of guys join our circle. They’re too young, I think, a suspicion confirmed when they say they’re fresh out of uni. But even before they speak, and despite (or perhaps because of) their jock-esque good looks and sharp suits, something about the way they carry themselves, their unsmiling countenances – it makes me want to turn away.

 

Beatrice and I call time around 9. I’ve successfully not revealed my surname or place of employment to any of the assembled company, learnt that my Twitter handle is completely undiscoverable when you put it into the website’s search bar and affirmed my deep love for Bellinis and courgette tempura. The evening ends with Top Gun on the big screen in Hyde Park and a giggly stumble back to the tube.

‘What are you doing tomorrow?’ Beatrice says.
‘Tinder date.’
‘Oh of course! Let me know how it goes.’
‘I will.’

We hug and I go carefully down the steps, wondering how I’m going to explain the mid-week hangover to my unsuspecting date.

CC Image courtesy of Ciudadano Poeta on Flickr

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The Eyes Have It

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CC Image courtesy of markhassize11feet on Flickr

As I arrive a girl is coming out. She seems to know me.

‘I’ve got a blind date,’ she says. ‘He just called to say he’s here, so I have to go!’

She tells me the back story.

‘This time last year,’ I say, ‘I went on a really good blind date, so… hopefully it’s a lucky time of year!’

I do talk crap sometimes.

‘Aaw yes, hopefully.’

We say an affectionate goodbye – I still have no idea who she is – and I make my way downstairs to the bar. So much for not remembering the significance of today’s date.

 

Several hours later…

I see him first in a group. We’re introduced and there’s a moment – eye contact, I think they call it – before the crowd separates us.

Later it brings us together.

‘Tristan,’ he says.

‘Hi. That’s an unusual name. I called a character in something I’m writing Tristan but I’ve never met one in real life.’

As opening gambits go, I’m pretty pleased with this one, even if it does raise some awkward questions…

‘You’re a writer?!’ he says.

‘Oh, well, sort of – it’s not my main job but I like to do it on the side.’

‘What sort of thing?’

‘Like… romantic comedy?’

‘Cool, so, what, short stories?’

‘More like vignettes.’

Vignettes. Nice. I should talk about writing more often while under the influence. I go on:

‘But hopefully they’ll turn into something more substantial at some point.’

Just like that, without me having to so much as lift a finger. Wouldn’t that be nice? Speaking of nice…

Tristan moves closer, his eyes still fixed on mine. ‘But you said it wasn’t your main thing. So, what is?’

However original the opener, it always comes back to that inevitable question. And, after we’ve parted company, he having said he’d like to talk more at so-and-so event in a few weeks’ time, that he’d like to read some of my stuff, that ‘we’ll… Facebook’ accompanied by typing gestures – after all that comes the inevitable truth…

‘I like Tristan. Is he single?’

The hostess looks apologetic. ‘He’s got a girlfriend, and she’s one of my best friends so I have to look out for her.’

I like the implication that if the girlfriend wasn’t one of her best friends Tristan would be fair game.

 

The next day I find myself on said girlfriend’s blog, trying to determine a) how long they’ve been together, and b) (and this is the more challenging part, read: total waste of time) how happy they are. It’s preferable to hanging out on Tristan’s Facebook profile. I hadn’t noticed straightaway on meeting him but now, faced with an album of stills, the resemblance is unmistakeable. Long face, square jaw, good teeth, full lips… everything is the same – eerily so – except the eyes which, instead of a clear bright blue, are dark brown. But that aside, Tristan, well… he’s just another Viable Prospect.

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Faking It

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CC Image courtesy of Chesi - Fotos CC on FlickrTuesday, there’s a departmental meeting, most of which I spend thinking, ‘I don’t even care, I should be working in the FILM INDUSTRY.’

Leaving the room I draw level with The Man for Whom I Baked. He’s tall, slender, beautifully turned out and – and this is the real reason I love him – he always looks happy to see me. I worry that one day his illusions will be shattered and he’ll see me for who I really am, someone who spent a week in Berlin and didn’t visit a single museum or art gallery OUT OF CHOICE. Conversations with him are like an Oxford interview, or an episode of Faking It.

‘How are you?’ he says, looking into the distance before snapping his head round to meet my eye. It’s sexier than it sounds.

‘Yeah, fine thanks. What did you think?’

It’s too soon, like a diner asking his companion for thoughts on the restaurant before they’re out the door. And this man’s an aesthete; my clumsiness must grate. He looks round at the sea of colleagues, perhaps scouting for eavesdroppers or passing time until it’s safe to speak. He answers in a low voice then says again:

‘No but really, how are you?’

Six months I’ve been in my role and this is a first. Family and friends have shown an interest of course and when things got really bad threatened to airlift me out of the office, but this is the first time I’ve been asked by someone on the inside. Someone who knows what I’m up against, who knows the system. Someone who looks a bit like Tobias Menzies.

‘Yeah… OK.’

‘We should have coffee sometime and you can tell me how it’s going.’ He’s back to staring into the distance.

*

I’m plating up flapjacks for Tristan and Co. in the kitchen when Tobias walks in.

‘Would you like one?’ 

‘Thanks,’ he says. ‘How are you?’

‘Stressed.’

‘Stressed? What about?’

I tell him.

‘Is there anything I can do to help?’

That helps – just asking. Where’s that line from? Almost certainly Sex and the City given the breadth of my cultural references. Something else this man doesn’t need to know.

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Slow Motion

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(Continued from Take Three)

The others reappear.  I’m introduced.  We start dancing.  Nice Guy and I migrate towards the windows, where it’s less crowded.  He tries to speak over the music.

I rest my hand on his shoulder.  ‘What did you say?’

He leans in, repeats the sentence.  I laugh.  His hand is at my waist.  We keep dancing, but slower than before: slower, and closer.  He teases me.  I laugh again, give him a gentle swat.  My hand drops to his back.  For a moment, we’re cheek to cheek.  Our eyes meet, then our lips. 

CC image courtesy of www.ericcastro.biz on flickr

(TO BE CONTINUED)



Every Breath You Take

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‘So,’ I say,this guy friend…’CC Image courtesy of Craft*ology on Flickr

A concept I clearly struggle with.

‘… I need to corner him into inviting me to something…’

Or just corner him.

‘… and if he doesn’t invite me, then it’s no-go?’

‘Oh gosh,’ Toby says, ‘I don’t know.  When you’re talking to him, make very obvious double-entendres – and play with a necklace.’

Presume he means mine. 

Wink constantly.’

He’ll certainly notice me.

‘And breathy voice.  That’s really important because it’s sexy.’

‘I’ll leave my inhaler at home.’

‘Smoke a cigar on the way over.’

‘Shall I strip as well, leaving the necklace on of course?  I don’t think you’re taking this entirely seriously, Toby.’

‘Well, this is just what I do.  Works everytime.’

The following evening, things are not going according to plan.  I text Toby.

‘I’m wearing a necklace.  Now what?’

I trust that he’ll assume I’m also wearing clothes.

Later that night, he replies,

‘Did it work?’

‘No.’

CC Image courtesy of Brian Birke on Flickr