Let’s Dance (Part I)

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CC Image courtesy of Kikishua on Flickr

I remember everything he’s ever told me.  In fact, the whole time we’re talking, it feels like we both already know everything the other person is saying.  A smile plays around both our mouths.  We look out over the water.

 

The bit I regret most is, as I left, putting a hand on his arm.

 

Tonight I would ignore the guy.  Not in a rude way, just that I wouldn’t seek him out, strike up a conversation, or even be found in his general vicinity.  I spend the first half of the evening dancing with Ryan (and inevitably therefore thinking of Tristan who, true to form, isn’t there).  Matthew’s in the other room, drinking.  He might not even dance.  It would probably be for the best.

I see him enter the room, but pretend not to notice.  I feel his hand on my shoulder and feign surprise.  We’ve been here before.

‘Not since Christmas. I haven’t seen you – since Christmas!’ he says.

‘No.’

He’s pretty hammered, that much is clear.

 

We look out over the water.

‘So,’ he says, ‘you went to Oxford?’

‘Yes.  How did you know that?’

‘It’s on your Facebook profile.’  He laughs.  ‘I might have looked at your profile a few times.’

I give him a look.  It’s a running joke between VP and I – as much as anything can be a running joke between two people who barely ever see each other – the hourly sweep we make of each other’s profiles.  Of course, VP’s joking (I think).  Matthew – Matthew I don’t think is.

He laughs again.  ‘Fortunately I regularly delete my search history!’

OK, in hindsight, this is appalling.  He has a girlfriend, and when the power of speech comes back to me I remind him of this fact.  He doesn’t deny it, only smiles and changes the subject.

 

Back on the dance floor…

‘Do you have a boyfriend?’ he says.

‘No.  But you have a girlfriend.’

‘Yes.’

We dance on.  I can see Beatrice out of the corner of my eye.

 

‘What do I do?’

Matthew’s gone ahead for a smoke, cue summit meeting.

Beatrice, smiling, spreads her hands.  ‘Is he still with his girlfriend?’

‘Yes.’

‘Then…’

I have my answer.

‘You could ask how his girlfriend is.’

‘Did that.  What do I do?’

‘Well… you can get with him…’

‘No!  No no no.  That’s not even – no.  I shouldn’t follow him.’

I follow him.  Which is my first mistake.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

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The Definition Of Insanity

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CC Image courtesy of Stigs on FlickrThere are some people whose messages give you that feeling.  Butterflies.  Their name appears on the screen and you don’t open it right away.  Instead you use the fact it’s there, waiting for you, as leverage, to make you do some chore you’ve been putting off.  As you unload the dishwasher, or make lunch for the following day, you try not to think about it.  The message will disappoint; it always does.

 

It’s inevitable that when I go back on Tinder, Viable Prospect crosses my mind.  Imagine, I think to myself of an evening, if he got back in touch.  I would… ignore it.  Yes, that’s what I’d do.  It’s only a fleeting thought, I mean, why would he contact me?  How would he even know I was back on it?  Unless he was browsing his chat history and saw I’d recently been ‘active’ (shudder).  But people don’t do that.  I dismiss the thought.

 

Mid-week, I’m kicking back on the sofa, editing a post probably.  Or stalking Matthew.  More likely stalking Matthew.  I see my phone flashing white and swipe the screen.

There he is, in all his blue-eyed, bright-smiled, typo-free glory. Being witty, damn him.

Last time I held out twenty-four hours before replying – a Christmas miracle.  I also told myself that if he hadn’t suggested meeting up after two weeks, I would leave it.  Which I did.

I last all of ten minutes – ten minutes, for Christ’s sake! – before writing back.

Each time I hear from the guy I think maybe, just maybe, he’ll ask me out.  He doesn’t.  Not for a moment do I seriously believe I won’t reply.  That’s not true.  In the seconds immediately after reading each message, feeling that familiar wave of disappointment, I swear off the whole thing.  Even as I type the words, I’m hating him, hating myself for my complete lack of self-discipline.  How many other women are caught in his web?  To be fair, most are probably asleep.  It’s gone 1am and I’ve just been told I’m weird/attractive.  Which is enough to make me smile into my pillow.

Charming, blue-eyed, bright-smiled Viable Prospect thinks I’m weird/attractive.

I might be both, or neither, but I’m definitely a fool.

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The Other Option

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CC Image courtesy of nic snell on FlickrWhen you’ve been single for as long as I have, the idea of walking into a room full of friends and acquaintances hand-in-hand with a guy, of kissing someone in front of them – it all feels like a big deal.  It’s as if, with that interlacing of fingers, that meeting of lips, you’re taking yourself off some kind of shelf, ruling out a whole host of other options.

Tuesday is a case in point.  I’m hovering at the bar, awaiting a glass of white.  Stephen arrives first.

‘I’m not getting you a drink!’ I say, with a laugh.

It’s a long story.

He looks mock-offended.  ‘I was going to ask if I could get you one.’

‘Oh!  Thanks, but not to worry – I’ve got one coming.’

There’s a bit of small talk, then he says,

‘So, what about you and boys? Anything going on?’

‘Errrr… umm…’

Experience tells me guys like Stephen don’t ask this question out of polite curiosity, which is confusing.  I’ve known him for getting on for a year.  We met at a dance and continued to see each other quite often, usually fleetingly, whilst moving at speed to music.  Recently I’d found myself seated next to him at a dinner party and had a ball.  Then, at an actual ball, I discovered his fun side and together we danced the night away.  But not once in that time has he shown any interest in me other than as a dance partner, so this is disconcerting.

But even more disconcerting, and the real reason I’m now doing fish out of water – where is my wine?! I need something to do whilst I figure out what to say! – is that, for the first time in a long time, there isn’t a straightforward answer to this question.  If I didn’t fancy Stephen, I would just say ‘yes’, think of FFS, smile goofily, and go on my way.  But I don’t do this.

‘…errr…’ I scratch my head. ‘Umm…’

Time for the good old-fashioned turnaround.

‘… I don’t know.  What about you?’

He too ums and ahs for a moment before concluding, ‘It’s complicated, and no.’

‘Yeah, same, sort of, no, I don’t know.  I don’t know!’

Articulate or what?  Evidently I don’t want to rule out an option, not until I know what the deal is.

‘I’m sorry, is this a difficult question?  Would you rather I asked you about books?  Have you read anything good recently?’

No, I wouldn’t rather he asked about books, because books make me think of FFS which in turn makes me feel a bit uncomfortable.

He looks past me to the sofas.  ‘Would you like to sit down?’

That’s an easy one.  ‘Yes!’

So we do.  Now he begins in earnest, with the body language and the subtle flirting and the compliments etc.  More disconcerting by the minute.  And it doesn’t help that Sam, Rachel, Freddie… oh loads of people I know have a ringside seat.

*

‘Shall we get the tube?’

What’s strangest about the way events are unfolding is that this is exactly how I’d like things to have played out with so many people in the past, but now that it’s happening with Stephen….

 

The next train isn’t due for five minutes.

‘What’s the most fun thing you can think of doing for five minutes?’

I’d say that, had this line come from FFS or Matthew or Tristan, I would have loved it; but that’s not true – or rather, it’s not their style.

‘Dancing!’ I say, feeling a bit sorry for the guy.  I’m not making it easy for him, but then I don’t think I want to.

He takes me into hold.  The train comes; we board.  I don’t know if you’ve ever tried waltzing on the Circle line but that evening, for the first time, I did.  It should have felt like all my Christmases had come at once but something about it doesn’t feel right.  I’m not relaxed, I’m definitely not drunk enough, and when he suggests going for a drink sometime, I’m faking it, kind of.

‘Yes!’

Because I’m too much of a coward to say what I feel.

 

We’re approaching his stop.

‘So, how about that drink?’

‘Yes,’ I say again, though with less conviction than before.

The train pulls into the platform; the doors open.

‘This is you, right?’ I say.

‘Yes.’

‘Well, goodnight.’  I lean in to kiss him on the cheek.

‘You’re not coming for that drink?’

It’s gone midnight on a weekday, so no, Cinderella is not ‘coming for that drink’.

I glance at my watch. ‘I have to go home.’

We say goodnight in the doorway, then he’s off.  I settle back into a seat, thinking and probably saying aloud, ‘WTF?!’.  Part of me wonders what FFS would say if I told him about the events of the evening.  I can’t know for sure, but it would almost certainly make me laugh.

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Read My Mind

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‘Good Christmas?’CC Image courtesy of Theen … on Flickr

I shrug.  ‘No power.  As in, we had a power cut.’

‘Oh God!  Of course, you live… don’t tell me….’

He scans the memory files.

‘… Sussex?’

‘Yes!  And you’re…’

I scan the blog files.

‘… Hampton Court?’

‘Wow, yes, wow!  Impressive!’

I can feel myself blushing.  ‘Ditto.’

‘Yeah but you’ve remembered, like… the place. Wow.’

That’s the problem: if you edit something enough it becomes part of your DNA.

I look for a subject change.  ‘This is Beatrice.’

They shake hands.

‘This is Tom,’ he says, gesturing towards his friend.

We make small talk.  Conversation reverts to the subject of power.

‘At least we were only without it for two days,’ Beatrice says, ‘whereas you – it must have been, what, over a week?!’

‘Five days,’ I say.

‘Fuuuck.  What did you do?!’

This from Hampton Court.

I take an unusual line.  ‘Well, I don’t know if your brother plays the guitar – or if you even have a brother…’

Fortunately it’s not until we’ve parted company that I remember he does indeed have a brother, so my ignorance is genuine.

‘… but, well, I do, so we errr we had sing-a-longs!’

‘Oh God.  That must have been awful!’

Actually it was quite fun, not to mention funny, the four of us – my parents, my brother and I – trying to read the lyrics of ‘Read My Mind’ by one solitary gaslight.

‘Hmm I think, after a few days without power, your threshold for what’s awful falls quite a lot!’ I say, laughing.

HC tells us of the time he went camping, and his neighbours, whom he liked, moved on to be replaced by a family whose fireside mewling sent him to the edge of madness.  We joke about campers’ irritating tendency not to stay put for very long.

I laugh. ‘It’s like renting in London!’

HC stares.  ‘That’s exactly – it’s like London rentals – I was about to say exactly that!’

I smile.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

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Administrative Error

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My initial response is laughter, followed by disbelief.  My father is first on the scene.  I bring him up-to-date on Tinder, and my association with it, before reading from my phone.

I laugh.  ‘Does he think I’m a complete idiot?!’ 

I run a quick Google search.

‘I thought so,’ I say, reading.

‘What is it?’

‘The period between Christmas and New Year is the busiest time for dating sites.’

‘Really?’

‘Yep.’  I pick up the phone.  ‘It kind of smacks of someone – I dunno….’ I re-read the message.  ‘He must be very bored!’

‘Yes.’  My dad laughs.  ‘It’s like he’s catching up on admin!’

Sensitively put.

‘Yeah, well, I’m not impressed – and I’m not going to reply!’

‘It is a bit… insulting.’

‘At least this other guy had the decency to get back in touch before Christmas – that takes a bit more effort!’

But still.  Admin?  I don’t want to be someone’s admin.

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