Listen to Your… Chest (Part 2)

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(Continued from Listen to Your… Chest (Part 1))

Around 8pm on Christmas Eve I got a call from a private number.

I picked up. ‘Hello?’

The briefest pause. ‘Hello.’

Another pause, while I let the accent sink in.

‘Hello,’ I said again, heading through to the sitting room.

‘Happy Christmas.’

‘Happy Christmas. I didn’t realise it was you – it showed as a private number.’

‘Oh.’ Another pause. ‘How are you?’

‘Yeah, good.’ My tone was flat. ‘I, er, I’m just with family, so it’s a bit of a tricky moment.’

‘OK.’ He sounded sad. ‘I just wanted to say Happy Christmas.’

I hesitated. ‘Oh, er, well, thank you.’

Pause.

‘Well, I’ll let you get back to your family.’

‘Thanks and… Happy Christmas.’

 

Channels of communication re-opened with my new zero expectations in place. I went on the odd Tinder date; he filled in the gaps. We never chatted for long – he rang too late for that – but I didn’t much mind.

Work got busy and I missed a couple of calls from him. Things were still busy and I had a bad cough to boot when, one Saturday evening, a year after we matched, I dropped him a text. He rang the next morning and we chatted about our plans for the day. He was meeting family; I had a book to read for work. He was clever and successful in his own field but the only literature books he’d read were those that his school had forced on him.

I’d seen my ex the previous weekend and, in the wake of it, had suffered some kind of existential crisis. He was a Harvard, MIT and Cambridge-educated theoretical physicist who dabbled in etching and filmmaking – your definitive Renaissance man. Since our last meeting he’d got a great new job, bought his second London flat and bought a yacht. I was interning, unpaid, at production companies in the hope of securing a badly paid entry-level position. The contrast made me feel shit on many levels.

Neuro didn’t care about my job. Admittedly, I sometimes got the feeling he didn’t care to know much about me at all. But when he started to fulfil the surgeon stereotype and hold forth about every aspect of his life, I could at least call him on it. Two and a half years on, I still analysed most of what I said to my ex, either before or after it came out of my mouth. Neuro got the unedited version and it felt good.

My cough was bad by the time I hit the hay on Sunday evening. That morning, Neuro had said we’d ‘speak later’, but I hadn’t heard from him. That was fine: I had work to do and he would be in touch, eventually. I was doing my best impression of a consumptive when I heard my phone vibrate.

‘Hey, I’ve got a cough so I can’t stay on–.’ I broke off, coughing.

Neuro asked about the cough. It sounded worse than this morning? Was I taking medication?

‘I think – am I right in saying – you can’t medicate a productive cough?’

I descended into another coughing fit.

‘What colour is the stuff you’re bringing up?’ he said. ‘Is it white, yellow, green, red… grey?’

I’d spoken to my mum that afternoon and said I’d ask my doctor friends what I should do about the cough. I’d meant Rachel, or Stephanie.

I laughed. ‘This is amazing.’ Then: ‘Yellow.’

He explained what it could be and the different treatments. If I couldn’t get to my GP in the next couple of days, he’d email me a prescription for antibiotics. I thanked him and said I’d book an appointment the next day.

‘Let me know what happens.’

‘I will.’

The coughing had stopped.

‘I should probably sleep,’ I said.

‘Yep.’ A pause. ‘I’m looking forward to finally meeting you.’

‘Me too.’ I laughed. ‘Was it the cough that did it?’

‘No. It’s just… I’m looking forward to putting a face to the voice.’

‘Yeah.’

‘And the moan.’

‘I’m hanging up now.’

He laughed. ‘Night Anna.’

‘Night.’

(TO BE CONTINUED)

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The Life Possible

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Four years ago today I hit publish on my first blog posts. My flatmate posted the link on a forum for tech-heads (not my target audience) and the feedback was… mainly about my choice of font. So I kept going, in the same font.

If my day job’s taught me anything (moot point) it’s that every anniversary, however insignificant, is something to build a marketing campaign around. I’ll spare you the marketing campaign and instead share with you the thoughts and words that have struck me most since starting the blog. It’s a mix of the new, the familiar and the random…

On relationships

‘You meet, you become lovers, and then you get to know each other, and then, if it works, it might become a relationship, but not necessarily. More often than not, it doesn’t work.’

CC Image courtesy of Alachua Country on Flickr

On love

‘I knew in my stomach. And also because I found myself willing to do almost anything for her and to see her prosper and be merry.’

CC Image courtesy of Candida.Performa on Flickr

On Berlin

‘I like the life possible there.’

(I said it was random.)

IMG_20150213_155427554

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Doctor Love

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5pm, Friday, I’m undressing for a man.CC Image courtesy of heipei on Flickr

 

I make the call at lunchtime. ‘No bookable appointments for two weeks’, they say. I’m about to hang up.

‘We’ve just had a cancellation. 4:40.’

‘Today?’

‘Yes.’

I vacillate. Work is quiet. Pub drinks are in the pipeline. I should go, alleviate my concerns. My health is more important than a gin and tonic with Tobias and Co.

‘Hmm today’s a bit tricky.’

 

‘Are you busy this afternoon?’ Gus says, when I’m back at my desk.

‘Errr… why?’

I should be going to the doctor. I shouldn’t be taking on a ton of Gus’ work so that he can leave early for a wedding.

I start Googling symptoms. Ten minutes later I’m convinced I have a solitary mastocytoma. I grab my phone and go out into the stairwell.

‘Is the 4:40 appointment still available?’

 

‘Come in.’

‘Hi.’

‘What can I do for you?’

I tell him about The Rash.

‘Did you start doing anything differently when it first appeared?’

That’s a vague question. I mean I wasn’t having sex if that’s what he means, though that sure as Hell would have been different.

‘No… no.’

‘Have you been away anywhere recently?’ he says, examining my back.

‘Err… Berlin in February? Other than that, I’m probably the most stationary person you’ve ever met…’

It’s like a date, this, only I can be way more candid. It’s also 5pm on a gloriously sunny Friday so I should probably stop with the glib remarks.

‘And… Yorkshire, last October…’

I think he’s trying to establish if I’ve visited anywhere where I might have been exposed to tropical diseases. Yorkshire is probably not top of the list.

‘And, what do you do?’ he says, resuming his seat.

This really is like a date. Date slash Tinder conversation, which is about as close to a date as I’ve got recently.

‘Copywriting,’ I say.

‘So you’re not exposed to any toxic chemicals…’

Lots of things about my job are toxic but…

‘No. Most of my office is permanently ill but I think that’s because we’re overworked.’

He manages a faint smile. ‘You want to try and avoid stressful situations.’

I take the prescription for anti-fungal cream – this bit is less like a date – and thank him as I leave.

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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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Fade In

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CC Image courtesy of distopiandreamgirl on Flickr

After two weeks of not having heard from VP I’m finally starting to move on. No more waking up and glancing at my phone expectantly. I go whole days without looking at his profile or re-reading old messages. OK there might be the odd cry on the Northern line, and for ten consecutive evenings I do absolutely nothing with myself, and the irony of baking an elaborate cake on the day which happens to be his birthday isn’t entirely lost on me. But by day fourteen, I’m getting back on track. I even go on a date and resist the urge to compare it to the incomparable. That, I tell myself, was another life. A fantasy. And anyway, he’s gone. I have to get over it.

 

Monday morning. My flatmate is back from holiday and the creak of the bathroom floor wakes me. I put out my arm, a beam of sunlight catching the dial of my watch. Half an hour before I have to get up.

 

This was one of the things which, in the course of the past week, had gone back to normal. The Nytol I’d purchased circa Second Date was now gathering dust on the bedside table. In fact, things had gone to the other extreme: bed by ten and multiple snoozed alarms. An extra half hour of sleep would be enjoyed, luxuriated in.

 

I roll over and that’s when I see it, the small pulsating light. I run through a short mental list of people it might be, and an even shorter list of people it won’t, and swipe the screen.

(TO BE CONTINUED

CC Image courtesy of Anthony!! on Flickr

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