Shoot Me

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‘What’s the occasion this time?’CC Image courtesy of avye on Flickr

‘Err….’ I scrunch up my face.  ‘How many people do you get coming in saying they’ve just been dumped?’

‘Aaw,’ she says with professional concern.

‘Not dumped,’ I put in quickly, ‘not in so many words…’

Make that no words.

Scissors at the ready, she meets my eye in the glass.  ‘No but – you want to feel good about yourself.’

I can tell she’s used that line before.

‘Yes,’ I say. ‘I want to feel good about myself.’

 

She looks up from what she’s doing.  ‘Are you up to anything tonight?’

‘I… I don’t know.  I’m supposed to be having dinner with someone but I’m err waiting to hear if it’s gonna happen.’  I laugh.  ‘I’m so bad at this dating stuff!’

She gives me a sympathetic look. ‘Why don’t you just text him saying ‘are we still on for tonight?”

‘I thought about doing that,’ I say, taking out my phone, ‘but… whenever I’ve done that in the past it’s never panned out well.  I mean, whenever I’ve… not forced it, I’ve never forced it, but whenever I’ve – y’know…’

‘Taken the initiative?’

‘Yeah, it’s always turned out badly, and I end up thinking, if I’d only heeded the signs early on I’d have saved myself a lot of heartache.  So I figured, this time, I might as well leave it, because, well, he’s clearly not that interested.’

 

Exactly a month ago I’d found myself in the same predicament with VP.  At 1.30 in the afternoon, I’d cracked and texted him.  This time, with Redhead, I leave it.  By half 6, I’ve mentally re-allocated my evening.  I feel sad, but not crazed in the way I was when VP left me hanging.  I don’t think it’s because I’ve learnt from what happened.  No: it’s because it’s not VP.

 

7pm, I emerge from the tube.  Once home, I’ll write a shopping list.  It’s still early enough on a Saturday not to look like a total loser, wandering round Sainsbury’s with a basket for one.  I check my phone, more out of habit than anything else.  And there it is, a message from Redhead, asking if I have any ideas for dinner.  I don’t know what to feel.  Fed-up?  Frustrated?  Glad?  Sad?  Pissed off?

 

Part of me wants to greet him with a reprimand.  Before he’s had a chance to sit down I want to tell him he can’t do this.  I can’t do this!  I need plans and certainty and… plans.  I need plans!  Shoot me!

 

I bet Tristan would plan, which is a pointless thought.  And anyway he probably wouldn’t.

 

I’m too tired and generally fed up to put much effort into choosing a restaurant.  There’s a part of me which can’t be bothered to go.  But I will, for the simple reason that I find him really attractive.  Now shoot me.

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Catherine

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‘I can’t ask him!’CC Image courtesy of Jason Hargrove on Flickr

‘But I can,’ Catherine says.

I laugh.  ‘Yes.’

 

‘Ready.’

I’ve donned a red silk sundress.  It’s a statement piece.  The statement?  I don’t care that you have a girlfriend and flirted with me over dinner, because I am FABULOUS.  Catherine probably realizes this – she knows me better than anyone – but she doesn’t let on and I’m grateful.

‘Let’s go then.’

 

‘He’s got a ponytail,’ I say, as we approach the station.

Catherine laughs.  ‘Really?!’

‘Yeah, but otherwise… he hasn’t really changed.  In fact,’ I frown, ‘he’s exactly the same.’

 

And he’s exactly the same as he was the other night.  At university, I’d been a bit jealous of Catherine’s friendship with him.  I tell her as much on the walk back to the flat.

‘I had no idea!’

‘Yeah….  Thank you for finding out about the girlfriend by the way.  So… that casts Thursday in a slightly different light.’

‘Yes.’

She doesn’t pursue the subject, and again I’m grateful.

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Precious Little

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CC Image courtesy of Roberto Trm on FlickrWe get drinks.  I know what’s coming.  Karl always takes the same line of questioning.  Twice I try to put him off, but it’s no good.

‘So, are you seeing any boys?’

I scratch my head.  ‘Sort of – one.’

‘Who is he?’

‘You don’t know him.  He’s kind of… random,’ I say, smiling.  I love the fact no one knows him.  It makes him seem exciting and exotic, as if he weren’t already those things.

‘OK.  So it’s a guy I don’t know, and you’re, what, seeing him?’

‘Yes, sort of…’

‘O-K…?’

‘I’m not quite sure what we’re doing. There are – er – logistical issues.  He doesn’t live in London.

‘Where does he live?’

‘Not in London.’

‘You’re being very evasive.’

‘Mmm.’

‘Are you lovers?’

This might be why.

‘No.  How are we defining lovers?  I think I know how we’re defining lovers, and no, I don’t think we are.  We’re… dating.  Is that OK?’

‘No.  How many times have you seen him?’

‘Four times.’

‘Over how long?’

I look at my watch. ‘A… month and a half.’

‘OK.  Are you sleeping together?’

‘I’m not answering that!’

‘OK so there’s this guy, who doesn’t live in London, and over the past month and a half, you’ve been on a few dates.’

‘Yes.’

Put like that, it seems like precious little.

***

‘Hi, I’m Jason.’

‘James?’

‘Jason.’

‘Sorry – hi Jason.  Anna.’  We shake hands.

Karl and Jason resume their conversation.  I don’t understand most of it and my expression probably says as much.  As far as I can make out, they’re talking about some form of orgasmic meditation which Jason is into.  I’m trying really hard to keep an open mind.

‘I just need to say hi to…’

It’s a masterclass in extricating yourself from a conversation.  Karl wanders off, leaving me alone with Orgasmic Meditation.

I rack my brains.  ‘So… what do you do?’ I say.  ‘For work.’

We know what he does for play.

I’m expecting holistic therapist, poet, or something in that ball park.

‘I’m an IT consultant.’

I fight to keep a straight face.  I can’t for the life of me think of something to say.  He’d been talking earlier about the applications of meditation in everyday life, so I mumble something about how it must be useful at work.

‘Tell me about you,’ he says.

I cringe but tell him what I do.

‘Do you enjoy it?’

I don’t know why but I find myself answering honestly.  Next thing I know he’s telling me how it’s all about attitude, how anything is possible, how language constructs reality and barriers will only keep me from living the life I want.

And I’m nodding, because I know all this.

‘I have to go,’ he says, taking out his phone, ‘but I’d really like to continue this conversation.’

I try not to stare.  I mean, I know they say men are the more visual sex, but the stuff I’ve come out with in the last ten minutes – I can’t remember the last time I sounded like such a gimp!

‘Err…’

‘We should exchange numbers.’

‘Err…’ I can’t remember my ‘politely decline to give a guy my number’ rap, perhaps because I don’t have one.  So instead I say with a shrug, ‘You can have mine.’

Or not.  A thought occurs to me.

‘I – I’m sort of seeing someone.’

‘Sort of seeing someone. That doesn’t count.’

I laugh.  ‘Err..’

‘Do you feel happy and fulfilled by what you have with this guy?’

For the second time this evening, I’m being forced to confront the realities of my relationship with VP.

I can’t help laughing.  ‘I’m not talking about that!’

He smiles, but doesn’t say anything.

‘No.’

I hadn’t meant to say it.  Next thing I know, I’m reciting my number.  It feels like a small betrayal.

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Golden Ticket

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CC Image courtesy of Andre Benedix on Flickr

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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‘How’s your day looking?’CC Image of ike_84 on Flickr

I think for a moment – several moments – before replying:

‘Hitting a museum…’

Exposure therapy.

‘…but otherwise fairly relaxed.’

I.e. I have absolutely nothing on.  This isn’t deliberate; I haven’t cleared my diary to ensure we meet.  It’s rather that I’ve had a busy week, and made plans for Sunday.  So Saturday I’ve set aside for the 3 R’s: rest, recovery and writing.  And, at some point, seeing Viable Prospect.

I wouldn’t normally do this, but it’s been eight months.  I need to meet the guy, have my worst fears confirmed, and put the thing to bed, or… y’know.

With each text that arrives in my inbox I find myself getting more and more pissed off.  There’s nothing in them to provoke as such but, well, I suggested this meeting, so any turn of phrase which could be read as him suggesting he’s doing me a favor in going through with it, I’m hypersensitive to.

4pm, and I’ve got that sinking feeling. VP still hasn’t confirmed the time (7pm) and venue, and, and this is the real reason, before me looms the British Museum.

I dash off a text. ‘You’re welcome to join.’

‘Do you have plans late?’ he sends back.

I’m not going to sleep with him.

4pm, 7pm, late.  That whole ‘not letting on that I have an entirely free Saturday’ thing – not going so well.  I could lie, pretend I’ve got a house party or drinks with a friend.  But he might then say it’s not going to be possible to meet.  So instead I say:

‘Nope.’

At best, I can just write this whole thing off as a mistake, an exercise in how not to play the dating game.  Next thing I know I’m agreeing to meet on the opposite side of town from where I live, if only because I’m fed up of making decisions.  The logistics of dating, eh?  It’s little wonder people keep things online.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

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