The Best of Times

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CC Image courtesy of Ibliskov - Flucтuaт Nεc Mεяgiтuя on FlickrI’d been looking forward to the party. Tristan would be there, and Tobias. We’d demolish the canapé supply and drink too much cheap white wine. Tobias would make a passing remark about clothing, sparking a fit of anxiety from Tristan about his branded jumper, and I’d reassure him it was fine. Twice.

 

We’d cross the road to the neighbouring pub. Tristan would order doubles in place of my usual single. We’d bump into someone I went on a couple of dates with once and Tristan would ask, ‘What’s the deal with that guy?’ Twice.

 

I’d say or do something daft.

‘You’re really great,’ he’d say, laughing and clinking glasses.

 

We’d hug and I’d say:

‘I’ll miss you when you go to New York!’

And he’d tell me to come visit.

 

Out on the pavement, we hug again.

‘I always want people to be more like you,’ I say, ‘cos that makes them a better person.’

‘You’re really great,’ he says again.
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Later, in the casino, over champagne, we lose money and laugh about it.

 

Later still, in the crowded bar, he kisses me. Light, tender and unexpected.

‘Tristan…?’

I meet his eye. He looks happy and drunk and takes my hand, tight, beneath the table. We rest our heads together.
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My Week With Tristan

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CC Image courtesy of Captn_Jack on FlickrMany more WhatsApp messages to Beatrice and I’ll have a book – albeit the kind you’d definitely have to self-publish if you wanted it to see the light of day, which I wouldn’t – called ‘What Tristan did today to make me love him’.

Friday, he took me on a lunchtime walk to brainstorm solutions to my work crisis.

Monday, he left the lunch table early to hint to my lazy colleague that he should also be getting back to work.

Tuesday, he sent me a printout in the form of a paper aeroplane.

Thursday, we both got very drunk, hugged and he told me I was one of his favourite people at the office.

Friday, I resolved to be satisfied with this.

Monday, we were laughing about something and I looked at him and thought, I can’t do anything but love you.

Fuuuuuuck.

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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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Performance Review

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My boss and I are setting my development objectives for 2016. In my head they go:

1. Get in earlier.

2. Leave at 5.

3. Get a life.

4. GET A BOYFRIEND.  

Which might actually make me leave at 5.

 

That evening…

Through the glass I see him approach. He pushes the door open. I smile, and our eyes meet fleetingly. What a pity, I think, as we set off in the direction of the tube.

Towards the end of dinner conversation had turned to relationships past – or lack thereof. I revisit the subject.

‘Do you find it weird that I haven’t had a boyfriend?’

‘No,’ he says. ‘I mean, it’s unusual. I suppose by 27 most people have–’

‘Had a relationship.’

‘Yeah. Why do you think it is?’

I shrug. ‘I don’t know.’ I laugh. ‘You’re probably in a better position to say!’

He makes as if to speak then stops himself.

‘Go on,’ I say.

‘No. I can’t say that.’

‘What?’

‘No.’

‘What?’

‘Well… it’s obviously not that you’re not desirable. I guess… I don’t know, maybe you haven’t made time for it. You’ve been focused on work?’

I shake my head. ‘That’s a recent thing.’

‘Then… it has to be because you’ve chosen it.’

‘I haven’t,’ I put in quickly.

‘Not chosen it, but I mean you could be with someone so it’s because of your requirements.’

‘Mmm.’

We talk about his relationship history – two serious girlfriends and two Tinder dates. This is number three.

‘Have you been on many dates?’ he says.

‘A few.’

‘What have they been like?’

‘A mixture, some good. But mostly they’ve been…’

‘Bland?’

‘No. It’s weird, you can spend an evening with someone and get on well, but that’s it. You don’t need to see each other again.’

‘Like this evening.’

I turn to look at him. ‘Candid much?! That – that would be a first, appraising a date while you’re on it!’

‘Would it?’

I don’t know if it’s the two G&Ts, my masochistic streak or a desire to expose this whole frustrating situation for what is almost certainly is – a dead end of a date with someone I find very attractive – but something makes me say:

‘Actually, why not? So… what did you make of this evening?’

And he tells me. He’s enjoyed it, enjoyed my company. Good sense of humour, he says, which is important, and I’m self-deprecating. But he thinks I’m quite shy…

And the whole time he’s speaking I’m trying to figure out what the hell it all means. Does he fancy me? Was the ninety excruciating minutes we just spent in the restaurant a false start? Or is this reassurance? Don’t worry, he’s saying, you’re a catch. You’ll find someone. I’m just not that guy.

 

The train pulls into the station.

‘Be in touch,’ he says, rising from his seat.

I force a smile. ‘Yeah.’

 

Half an hour later, I’m sitting on my bed, listening to Adele, contemplating unfriending VP. Every disappointing Tinder date feels like his fault. My phone flashes up with a message. It’s my date, asking if I’ve got home OK. His next question throws me completely.

‘Did you have a good evening?’

I fancied him rotten, I was aching for him to kiss me, I was the most excited I’d been in a long time when he suggested getting dinner. But the dinner…

‘Yes,’ I send back. ‘Did you?’

 

An hour later, we call it a night.

‘Let’s see each other again,’ he says.

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A Play For Voices

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CC Image courtesy of quinn.anya on FlickrLast week I threw caution to the wind and attended an event not as myself but as MBE.

The last time I played a part was in my final year of secondary school. I came on stage wearing a wetsuit, snorkel and flippers – I’m pretty sure I only got the part because no one else was stupid enough to agree to wear the costume – and halfway through the first scene my contact lens fell out.

This time I get to choose my outfit. I’m way too hot, but Bellinis are on tap and Beatrice is at my side, so what can possibly go wrong?

‘I don’t know what to call myself,’ I say, as we approach the venue.

Fortunately the whole guest list thing is beyond casual. We get in as ‘Clare’s friends’. I hope I recognise Clare from her Gmail picture.

Clare is lovely and the event itself is wonderful. After four Bellinis everything is wonderful and Beatrice and I are propping up the canapé station, talking intensely about her first boyfriend and where it all went wrong.

We do mingle, and I meet several members of that elusive breed, the dating blogger. It’s a bit disconcerting, like walking down the street and passing someone who’s the spitting image of yourself.

I’d wondered what the vibe of a dating app launch party would be, what sort of crowd it would attract. Socialites, tech heads, bloggers, men in skirts visiting from East London – they’re all there. As are the founders of the app, VoiceCandy. It’s a similar concept to Tinder but with the addition of recorded voice messages. Because, as one of the founders explains, studies have shown that voice, like non-verbal communication, plays a huge part in attraction.

 

I can remember as if it was yesterday the first time I heard VP’s voice over the phone and, aside from the weird instructions about Nando’s, it was entirely unremarkable. Later I would come to love that voice for its slowness – a sign not of stupidity but of a razor-sharp intellect measuring every word for its worth. But at first it was only a reassuring neutral.

Other voices linger in the mind. Tobias’s antipodean drawl carries across the office and I feel my back straighten instinctively. And the first time I call Tristan in his new role and hear him answer, ‘Hi Anna’, I have to take a moment to compose myself.

 

So it’s ironic when Beatrice asks one of the other dating bloggers present what the best singles event she’s ever reviewed is and she replies, ‘Silent speed dating’. Shhh Dating, she explains, takes voice and speech entirely out of the equation.

At which point a couple of guys join our circle. They’re too young, I think, a suspicion confirmed when they say they’re fresh out of uni. But even before they speak, and despite (or perhaps because of) their jock-esque good looks and sharp suits, something about the way they carry themselves, their unsmiling countenances – it makes me want to turn away.

 

Beatrice and I call time around 9. I’ve successfully not revealed my surname or place of employment to any of the assembled company, learnt that my Twitter handle is completely undiscoverable when you put it into the website’s search bar and affirmed my deep love for Bellinis and courgette tempura. The evening ends with Top Gun on the big screen in Hyde Park and a giggly stumble back to the tube.

‘What are you doing tomorrow?’ Beatrice says.
‘Tinder date.’
‘Oh of course! Let me know how it goes.’
‘I will.’

We hug and I go carefully down the steps, wondering how I’m going to explain the mid-week hangover to my unsuspecting date.

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