Desperate Measures

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CC Image courtesy of le vent le cri on FlickrYou might have noticed a slight drop in output recently. There are a few reasons for this:

1. I’m working every hour God sends in my new role so I have less time to write.

2. It’s tricky to meet people when you’re chained to your desk.

3. (and this is perhaps the most surprising) My threshold for what is blog-worthy appears to have changed. I have a draft folder full of silly stories about the time Tristan made a heart shape between his fingers at me across the office; or the time Karl suggested accompanying me to an art show only for his enthusiasm to cool when I told him the ticket price; or the time I unexpectedly found myself on a date – my brother‘s.

 

Tuesday night, I’m sitting in a pub somewhere in the West End with Ryan, Gus and Tristan. We’ve escaped ‘official’ work drinks. That is, I thought we all just happened to be leaving at the same time, but once out on the pavement, Tristan claps his hands together.

‘Now the fun can begin!’

Which means a pub, pints and Ryan asking the group at the neighbouring table if they know any single men he can go out with.

‘And,’ he points at me, ‘do you know any single men Anna can go out with?’

I break off laughing just long enough to request that they be straight.

 

‘We should make a bet,’ Ryan says en route to the station, ‘to see who can get a date first.’

‘What are we going to bet?’

Ryan is famously tight and I’m not exactly Mother Theresa.

‘A cappuccino?’

‘You’re on.’

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I hear a step and turn in my chair.  It’s Tristan, holding a piece of paper.  He puts it down next to my keyboard.

‘Here you are.’

‘Oh!  But…’

It only means one thing.

‘…are – are you sure?  Because I – I don’t have anyone for it – I mean, I can probably find someone, but I don’t have anyone at the minute, and… don’t you want it?’

‘N-o.’

‘Oh, OK, well, thanks.’  I look down at the ticket, frowning.  ‘Are – are you sure there’s no one else who wants it?’

‘No.’  He looks puzzled.  ‘I got it from the design guys, so I don’t think any of them need it.’

In the top right-hand corner someone has scribbled his name: TRISTAN.  He won’t be there.

‘OK, well, thank you.  I’m sure I can find someone for it.’

 

Yesterday, over lunch, Tristan had mentioned that he might not make the gig as he had to pack for the weekend.  I’d then enquired casually of the assembled company if anyone knew of a spare ticket going and Tristan immediately volunteered his.

‘Well, I don’t have anyone at the minute,’ I mumble, ‘but there might be someone…’

The night before, I’d got a message from Viable Prospect.  He’s in London, well, Oxford, but the point is, he’s in the same country as me and has suggested a repeat of herbal tea.  Not knowing this was going to be the case, I’d given my spare gig tickets to my brother.  Now I’m a bit peeved that I can’t ask VP, not least because he’s actually a fan of the band.

 

I keep glancing at the piece of paper next to my computer, at the name scrawled across the top.  I’d known from Tristan’s tone at lunch that he wouldn’t come, but still, it’s a pity.  I was looking forward to spending some time with him outside of the office, and now he’s gone and dropped into my lap the means to enable me to invite VP.  Tristan had been the one big reason against asking the guy, so there’s a neat irony to this turn of events.  Not that I expect VP to come.  By half 4 I’m certain he’ll say no, it’s too much hassle etc.  That’s the cut-off I’ve given him.

At 16:36 I notice, out of the corner of my eye, my phone blinking.  I’ve been on edge ever since I first texted him the suggestion, three hours before.  What’s new is that now, for the first time, I’m certain: I want him to be there.  I know he’d be brilliant company, that I’d laugh all night with him.  It would be wonderful.

‘You’re on’

Shit.  That’s my first thought.  SHIT!  And that’s my second.  (My third is obviously, full stop???)  I fire off an email to Colleague who is excited in the way only a person who isn’t currently facing a clothing/make-up crisis of gargantuan proportions could be.

 

Grey eye shadow – or anything darkish?’

‘I’ve got this.’

Zoe holds out what can only be described as pale pink shimmer.

‘Errr…’

Colleague comes in. ‘You OK?’

‘Er no!  I am not prepared for this!’

She laughs.  ‘Can I help with anything?’

‘Err… make-up?!’

‘What do you need?’

‘Everything!  Eye shadow?  Grey?’

Zoe reoffers pearly pink. ‘It’s kind of shimmery.’

And still pink.

‘How about this?’

I take Colleague’s grey eyeliner pencil and set to work.

 

I leave through the main entrance, which takes me past Tristan’s desk.  I remember, as a child, always reading the phrase ‘he gave her an appraising glance’ in books, and never quite knowing what it meant.  What Tristan gives me is undoubtedly appraising, but it ain’t a glance, it’s a look.  I flash a smile.

‘Thank you for the ticket, Tristan.’

‘No worries.  Have fun.’

I don’t catch the last words.  ‘Sorry?’ I say, coming to a halt.  The effect is entirely ruined.

Too late I realise what he said.

‘Oh – thanks.’

But he’s already looked away.  Or has he?

Standing on the landing, waiting for the lift to arrive, a scene plays out in my head.  It’s a cross between the moment in The Office when Dawn comes back to the party and kisses Tim, and something altogether more dramatic.  It involves Tristan rushing towards the doors, pushing them open, starting to say something, only to break off and kiss me.

The lift doors open, and close on me.  I hit the button for the ground floor.

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CC Image courtesy of Justin van Zyl on FlickrI tell my brother and he laughs.

‘What?!’

‘Well – well – it’s just – such a waste of your time.’

‘He’s so funny though.’

‘What?’

He’s so funny, and he’s good-looking,’ I say, ticking off qualities on my fingers. ‘You try not replying to funny and good-looking!’

Smiling, he shakes his head.

 

My brother’s right, of course.  A couple of times, I’d caught myself telling a friend about Viable Prospect, only to come to a halt, blushing at the realisation that I have never met this man.  Hell, he might not even exist.

 

It’s the night before I go off on holiday and Rachel‘s round for dinner.  She’d been on a date a couple of weeks back with a guy who, on Tinder, had come across as witty and confident.  To meet, he was like a rabbit in the headlights.  This comes back to me as I bring her up-to-date on VP.

Around eleven she leaves, and I start packing.  A short while later, I get a message.

‘How’re things?  I can’t remember what you do, but I do remember you had Christmas in the dark.’

This is unusual.  Our remit has always been banter; personal questions don’t feature.

‘Well-remembered,’ I send back. ‘Off on holiday tomorrow so things are good.’

‘Where are you going?’

I tell him.  Banter ensues.

‘When are you back?’ he says.

Is this it?  Are we finally going to meet?  Why else would he want to know?

I let the message rest a moment, get my rucksack from the garage.

‘Back Monday, unless I catch the kayaking bug…’

Let’s pretend I spend the next eight minutes – the time it takes for him to reply – being terribly productive on the packing front.

‘Have a fantastic time,’ he says.  ‘Don’t hit your head. Make sure you can get out of the thing if it inverts. X’

I resist the urge to throw my phone against the wall.  I can’t help thinking, a knock on the head, it might be just what I need.

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CC Image courtesy of srsldy on FlickrMonday evening, my brother comes round.  I’m looking forward to having a shoulder to cry on.

‘It probably wasn’t a good idea to invite the guy,’ he says, when I tell him about the events of the weekend.

‘Huh!?’

He’s touched a nerve, so much so that I forget to cry, I’m too busy being indignant.  Despite my mother’s assurances that I did nothing wrong in inviting the guy to my birthday celebrations, there’s a nagging doubt in my head, the feeling that I brought this all on myself.

Five minutes of denial later…

‘OK, so perhaps you shouldn’t invite someone you’re dating to your birthday…’

‘No, it’s fine to,’ he says, ‘it’s just, if you don’t know them very well, or if you’re not sure how things are between you… the danger is it will make the event all about them, when the focus should be the event itself.’

He’s well wise, my bro.

‘I know.  But, when I invited him, everything was fine!  I couldn’t have known…’

‘Oh, right, then… you were just unlucky.’

I spread my hands.  ‘Admittedly by mid-week, what with radio silence etc, I thought, were it not for the dinner party, I wouldn’t be hearing from him again.  But I didn’t know what to do!  I could hardly un-invite him!’

No.  Instead what I did was issue an invitation to pretty much every guy I’ve ever fancied, so that if FFS did show and everything went tits up, I would be sufficiently distracted not to notice.  Which, as a strategy, might have worked, if any of them had been able to come.

Swiss National, Nice Guy, Benedict… the declines come thick and fast, and in the case of Benedict, couched in wonderfully eloquent language.  Last on my list of men to contact is Matthew.

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CC Image courtesy of sean dreilinger on Flickr‘I shouldn’t contact Nick, should I?’

‘Nick?  Who’s Nick?’

I know how Rachel feels; it’s hard to keep track sometimes.

‘The guy I mentioned on the phone earlier?’

‘Oh – right.  Probably not, no.’

She’s right of course.  This is a man with the world at his feet.  I might as well pursue Linford Christie for all the good it will do me.

*

The party’s winding down.  I get my bag and coat, check my phone.

Four new messages, from Beatrice, Rachel, my brother, and… Linford Christie.

I stare a moment, laugh, and open it.

Sorry I missed your call.  I had fun dancing

‘What the…?!’

It takes me a moment to find the call log on my new phone, but when I do, there he is.  10 hours ago: Nick.  Shit.

I send back an apology, blame my new not-so-smart phone for having a mind of its own, and concur.  I also enjoyed dancing; the route to getting there, not so much.

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