Déjà Vu

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CC Image courtesy of Larry He's So Fine on Flickr A few weeks back, Tom appeared on my Tinder. Seeing his picture was like how I imagine it would feel passing your rapist in the street. For a moment, I stared. Then, with the care of a lab technician handling corrosive acid, I adjusted the app settings and the screen refreshed.

By the second encounter, something in me had hardened – or softened – and I tried to convince myself he was redeemable, dateable even. Perky came to the rescue.

‘He sounded like a douche to put it nicely!’ she says.

Beatrice echoes the sentiment. Tom, we agree, is a straightforward case.

‘But,’ I say, ‘Jack didn’t mess me around like that.’

This is Exhibit A in the case for swiping right on Viable Prospect: compared with Tom, he behaved pretty damn well. He made me miserable, sure, but I got over it. And it only took, like, 18 months.

Beatrice doesn’t say anything.

‘And, well, I’m desperate! And there’s just… nothing going on!’

She starts clearing the plates. We both know that swiping right on the man who broke your heart is plain daft.

 

A week later, I learn I’ve got my dream internship. That evening, Viable Prospect crops up again. I do what I always do – change my settings and a new set of potential matches swims into view. But I know, as I head for bed, that VP’s not what I want. I could handle the Monday night dates when I had a 9 to 5. I could even handle the sleepless nights – my permanently frenzied state, like a cat on hot coals.

I remove my contact lenses, cleaning them in the palm of my hand. I don’t want the drama, the not knowing, the games. For the first time, I can see clearly.

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The Worst of Times

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CC Image courtesy of Juska Wendland on FlickrA couple of years ago, just after the car crash that was my 26th birthday party, my brother gave me some good advice.

Don’t invite someone you’re dating to a party because it will make it all about them.

When I drew up the guest list for my housewarming, Tom‘s name was conspicuously absent. Obviously. I’d said I didn’t just want something casual and he’d suggested ‘being friends’.

Colleagues featured heavily on the list. Then the usual round-up of friends, my brother, and men I’ve always had a vague crush on but nothing has ever happened with.

It was safe. The latter wouldn’t come; the former would treat it like after-work drinks.

Then Friday happened.

‘Can I invite Tom?’

Beatrice says no. I play the Friday card. Tom is the least of my worries.

I don’t see Tom everyday and feel a jolt in the pit of my stomach. I don’t don my headphones to drown out his voice when he comes over to talk to Ryan. I don’t look up mid-meeting, see him walk past, meet his eye, struck by the sadness of his expression, and spend all afternoon wondering what it means.

Tom doesn’t pass my desk on his way out…

‘Bye,’ I say, with a wave.

… and acknowledge my farewell but keep walking.

CC Image courtesy of Vickilgh's Pictures on Flickr

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Yes Men

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CC Image courtesy of kimberleykv on FlickrI listen, spellbound, to Rachel‘s sister, as she details his every action and word over the course of two years. It would be cruel, I feel, and impolitic since we’ll be sharing bridesmaid duties come the autumn, to start spouting stuff like:

If you’re asking whether he likes you, he doesn’t.

None of that matters. If he’s not asking you out…

The distance thing – he’s using it as an excuse.

He’s having his cake and eating it too.

But I say it nonetheless. Rachel is more practically minded:

‘You should date other people,’ she says.

I agree, while secretly thinking only someone who’s been out of the dating game for a while could think that you can go on dates, with people you’re genuinely interested in, just like that.

‘Yup,’ is her sister’s response, the light easy syllable of someone who has no intention of following through on the advice they’ve been given.

 

A couple of hours earlier I’d received an email from my mother. It was in response to a detailed breakdown I’d sent her of Tom’s most recent behaviour.

‘Just to confirm,’ I wind up, ‘I shouldn’t contact him, should I?

‘You shouldn’t,’ she sends back. But it’s the next bit that stings, that makes me for a moment have to concentrate on not crying at my desk.

‘You need to deliberately park your mind elsewhere,’ she writes, ‘and develop a different interest, rather than dwelling on an area of your life where you are not in control.’

I’m reminded of the chorus of Carrie Fisher’s character in When Harry Met Sally every time Sally tells her that the guy she likes is never going to leave his wife:

You’re right, you’re right, I know you’re right.

‘Yeah, you’re right…’ I start writing, by way of reply.

But how the fuck do you do it?

CC Image courtesy of Toxictea on Flickr

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28 Days Later

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CC Image courtesy of brian glanz on FllickrIn the time that elapses between the journalist asking me out and his forgetting I exist, I turn 28.

The evening of my birthday, my brother rings. I end up telling him about my latest Tinder disappointment.

‘Tinder’s quite a casual way of meeting people,’ he says, ‘so this kind of behaviour is to be expected.’

I remind him that I’ve been on Tinder for more than two years and it’s only in the last few months that this has started happening: a guy asks me out, I suggest a date and then… nothing. The Man from Hampstead, The Man of Phone Sex Fame (admittedly that one was a non-starter), The Man from Euston Station (nothing to do with Tinder but a convenient statistic), the journalist – it’s getting very boring.

And now Viable Prospect. He proclaims meeting up to be a ‘grand idea’ and says he’ll let me know when he’s back in town at the end of the week. Four weeks of radio silence later, I unfriend him, delete his number and resolve, finally, to move on.

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The Million Dollar Question

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CC Image courtesy of jaumescar on FlickrNovember 2015

‘Fuckery.’

That’s Lucy‘s analysis of his behaviour, delivered after three cocktails. I sit there, grinning, probably because I’ve also had three cocktails.

Adrien, presented with the same facts, brands Viable Prospect ‘indecisive’ and ‘twatty’.

‘You have two choices,’ he says. ‘You can reply, saying, ‘Sup m8 let’s go for drink/shag’.’

Hmm.

‘Or delete his number, unfriend him and move on.’

Instead I take to haunting his profile. I attend three events in as many months just because Facebook says he’s ‘Attending’. For the third of these I shell out actual money. It’s a lecture on Henry James. I didn’t attend lectures at uni when they were free. For this one I both buy a ticket and do preparatory reading.

The Portrait of a Lady – aside from being brilliant – is the story of a young American woman who comes to Europe and falls for the wrong man. I don’t need to point out the irony.

‘I might just suggest meeting up,’ I say to Beatrice, after another no-show.

She agrees it would be better than what I’m doing.

‘But,’ she goes on, ‘what do you want from seeing him?’

That’s the million dollar question and I don’t have an answer, not a real one.

‘Closure I guess, whatever that is.’

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