Like Lovers Do

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‘… and I remain not in love.’CC Image courtesy of furibond on Flickr

This is the bad news. But we’re only 15 minutes into a 45-minute conversation. I’m not feeling great, obviously, and he’s sounding increasingly uncertain to the point that he wants to tell me – he does tell me that he’s confused in his own feelings. He really likes me, and tells me so several times. He thinks I’m witty and beautiful. If I can’t do what we’re doing could I find a way to being friends at some point? But no, he says in answer to his own question, you’ve said no to friends.

The idea of being friends with someone I fancy as much as I do VP makes me shudder. I can barely refrain from kissing him when we are together and it’s OK for me to do so; the idea of making polite chit-chat over herbal tea doesn’t bear thinking about. No, this has to be a clean break, for now anyway. Perhaps, I find myself thinking, when I’m happily married to Tristan with three children, and the back catalogue of Country Life in the downstairs loo (joke), I would be able to see VP. But even I know that’s a terrible idea. We were never friends. I love the way he kisses me, the way he invades my personal space, how he says ‘tell me’ when I begin a story, at once fierce and gentle. The things I love about him are what lovers do, not friends.

So I say no to friends. And no when he asks if we could speak again soon.

‘Do you think at some point in the future,’ he says, ‘when you’ve got five kids and you’re incredibly wealthy… and successful… and happy, we might be able to have a peppermint tea together?’

What is it with him and herbal tea?! He doesn’t even like tea! And neither do I.

‘That’s a lot of hypotheticals,’ I say, again thinking of Tristan. ‘I don’t know… maybe….’

This is when I start thinking about how to shut down the conversation without resorting to When Harry Met Sally sound bites. And I’m assuming from his mutterings that he’s doing the same thing. There’s a pause, then he says in a different tone of voice, clear and precise:

‘I’m moving back to London.’

I half-laugh. ‘What?’

‘Early next year.’

He tells me about the new job and his plans for the intervening months. I let him speak, prompting with the occasional question. I don’t know why he’s telling me, or what to feel.

 

A short while later and again I’m casting about for suitable parting words.

‘We’ll see…’ I begin. The sentence peters out.

‘Yes, see you.’

He must have misheard, must have thought I said ‘I’ll see you’. I want to put him right, I want honesty and truth to carry through right to the end. But I stop myself. Perhaps this way is better, a white lie.

CC Image courtesy of robin_why on Flickr

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Getting To Know You

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CC Image courtesy of outdoorPDK on FlickrWe’re standing, chatting: Tristan, myself, Colleague, Zoe and Ryan.  There’s a lull in the conversation.  My mind has gone a blank, which is ridiculous.  There are always a million things I want to ask Tristan, beginning with ‘would you tell me your life story?’, but that’s the problem: none of them are remotely inclusive.  I look at him, in the hope that it will bring some kind of inspiration.  The effect instead is not dissimilar to what happens when you tap a mussel, or any kind of bivalve mollusc.

 

Tristan starts speaking and I can’t help noticing that, whilst he’s addressing the group, he’s looking at me.  Can I tell you what he said?  No.  This is becoming a bit of a problem.  He’ll swing by my desk with the latest copy of Country Life open at our favourite page, and I’ll stare at it.  I won’t read it, I won’t absorb a single detail.  And then I’ll attempt to say something funny about it.  Which never works.

 

I have more luck at lunch when I’m more relaxed, when I’m not worried he might at any moment disappear so I have to say something witty and brilliant in order to stall his departure.  The other day, having decided it was childish and silly to avoid the guy for the sole reason that I really really like him (in that oh-so-dangerous ‘the more I get to know you, the more I like you’ way, which isn’t supposed to happen), I find myself sitting next to him.  I know I’m laughing like an idiot, I know it must be clear as day to everyone else, but I can’t help it.

We’re mocking the cover of Country Life.  Then we move onto holiday plans or lack thereof.

‘I was thinking of the summer alps.’

I nod.  ‘I was there a couple of weekends ago.’

‘So you have been away!’

‘Well, yes, but it was the kind of holiday where you got five hours’ sleep a night and there was quite a lot of heavy drinking so…’

‘Cool,’ he says, nodding.

He has a slightly hunched posture which lends a conspiratorial air to the conversation.

‘Yeah, but I got back feeling like I needed a holiday!’

‘Where were you?’

I tell him.  He does this squinting thing which tells me he doesn’t recognize the place names.

‘My knowledge of French geography is pretty poor,’ he says.  ‘Even the UK, I’m pretty hopeless!’

This is the closest I’ve come in six months to discovering a weakness in the guy; and something tells me that his not knowing his Lyon from his Lille is going to make bugger all difference.

CC Image courtesy of dadavidov on Flickr

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CC Image courtesy of Leo Reynolds on Flickr

Tristan pushes out his lower lip.  ‘You never come and see me anymore.’

Which is ironic.

I come and see his colleague across the way all the time for no reason at all. I neglect to check if our fridge is stocked with milk and instead get it from the other one, the route to which takes me within three desks of where he sits.  I put my lunch in their kitchen first thing in the morning, heat it up in their microwave.

‘Oh, let me show you…’

He pulls out a well-thumbed copy of Country Life.

I laugh.  ‘I love that you thought of me.’

I do.

He turns to the page depicting a young lady and, in this instance, her horse. (Sometimes it’s a hound.)  I read the caption.  ‘Well, I’m happy to say I don’t know her!’

 

One lunchtime, a few weeks after joining, I’d glanced over at the magazine open on Tristan’s knee.

‘I know her!’ I said.  Feeling numerous Guardian-reading eyes upon me, I started back-peddling. ‘Well, not know, but I’ve met her.’  And, five minutes later, ‘I don’t really know her at all!’

 

Tristan points to a detail in the text.  ‘I haven’t heard of it.’

I laugh.  ‘You should write in to the editor: please only mention schools we’ve heard of.’

He looks slightly lost for words.

‘That’s essentially what you were saying!  Does it sound worse coming from someone else?!’

He laughs.  ‘Yes.’

Also laughing, I go back to my desk.

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Notting Hill

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CC Image courtesy of Robert S. Donovan on FlickrHe’s sitting alone, feet up on a chair, reading what looks like the free copy of Country Life which turns up at the office every week, because once upon a time we put an ad in there and they forgot to take us off the mailing list.

‘Tristan.’

Which, as greetings go, would be fine, if I’d said it in a vaguely normal voice.  But instead I plump for something between Darth Vader and Voldemort.

He looks up and smiles.  ‘Hello.’

I pick myself up off the floor and saunter (sexy, huh?) over to the microwave – which is in use.  I unclip the lid of my Tupperware (one day that will be a euphemism) and start assembling my soon to be melted cheese and pesto sandwich.  A quick blitz – twenty seconds max – is all that’s needed to turn it into a gooey cheesy slice of deliciousness.  That’s the plan anyhow.

‘How is the fantastical world of data?’ Tristan says.

‘Oh fantastic.’  I laugh.  ‘I try not to mention the data thing, in social situations – I go with Marketing instead.’

The microwave comes free.  I set the timer to one minute.

He lowers his magazine.  ‘Oh!  I remember telling a girl what I did once…’

Would that be before or after you met Holly, and I don’t suppose you and she have broken up?!

‘… and she thought it was really cool!  She said it was her dream to work in this industry!’

I laugh.  ‘I hope you didn’t disillusion her!’

‘No, I told her about the chocolate fountains…’

I don’t recall what the guy says next because at this point he gets up – it gets better – and walks over to where I’m standing beside the bins… and drops his sandwich wrapper into the recyclable waste.  My sandwich meanwhile is achieving something close to nuclear fission in the microwave.

He sits back down.  I hear footsteps approaching and my heart sinks.  It’s probably Gus or Ryan or, worse, a woman.  But it’s a stranger.  Tristan is back to leafing through Country Life.  I’m trying to think of something to say and settle on the first thing that comes to mind: the phone conversation I’ve just had with my brother.  He’s decided, for reasons I can’t begin to understand, if they even exist at all, on a restaurant in Notting Hill as the venue for his birthday festivities.

‘Is it somewhere he knows?’

‘Nope, never been before.’ I laugh. ‘And all the guests live either East or South!  It doesn’t make any sense!’

He smiles. ‘Let me guess – you live west.’

I look mock-offended, then laugh.  ‘Says the guy who reads the ‘free’ copy of Country Life every week!’

He laughs.  ‘Harsh words.’

I smile, and cut my oil and basil leaf sandwich in two.

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