Going Places

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CC Image courtesy of B. Gilmour on Flickr

I gave a dinner party the other day. One particularly beautiful couple came and held the floor with tales of their travels and adventures.

As always seems to happen when I’m in the company of couples, conversation at one point turned to my love life, or lack thereof.

‘Everyone puts the same thing!’ I say, referring to online dating profiles. ‘They like travelling, meeting new people and seeing friends. I don’t like travelling, meeting new people or – I do like seeing my friends.’

‘You don’t like travelling?’ This from Mr. Beautiful, whose usually mask-like face is wearing an expression of faint surprise.

‘It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just, I dunno, I find it tiring – it’s not what I want to do when I’m tired from work.’

‘Why don’t you say on your profile, ‘I don’t like travelling’?’

Mr. Beautiful – and this hardly comes as a surprise – is evidently not familiar with the cardinal rules of online dating, one of which is ‘don’t be negative in your profile’.

‘Because it’s not true,’ I say.

This is lucky because next week – and it would be happening this week except that the guy in question is travelling on the only days I’m free – I’m going on a date with a pilot. And not just any pilot. This one I stumbled across on TinderMy favourite kind of match: someone I already know of – if not actually know – and spoke to several years ago over online chat when my brother left his Facebook logged in (rookie error), and who sounded funny and nice.

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Back For Good

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CC Image courtesy of Ross_Angus on FlickrI don’t know if it’s because Lucy says she doesn’t think I’ve heard the last of him. Or because Attractive Witty Lawyer doesn’t rock my world and when Fred Astaire kisses me on the Overground I’m not really sure I’m feeling it. Or because I’m reading Love In The Time of Cholera which basically says it’s OK to devote your entire life to someone who might have forgotten you exist.

Or because I’m currently on a plane bound for a city which can’t help but make me think of him. He’s not there anymore – he’s back in London. He didn’t tell me; I read it on Facebook. For a week I was down in the dumps before picking myself up and… going to his place of work.

I’d been meaning to check out the dance classes for a while. And when I say a while I mean getting on for three years. And it just so happened that they took place every Saturday in the building where VP was working.

The chances of running into the guy were close to nil. I suppose… it will sound silly (and I do think Gabriel Garcia Márquez is partly to blame), I wanted to walk where he’d walked, go where he’d gone before me. Is that weird? Maybe, but at the same time I was dancing again and that could only be a good thing. He’d made me dance once before and now here I was again, dancing. And who knew where it would lead?

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The Name Game

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The first person I see on entering the pub is Casper.

‘What do you guys want?’

Ryan and Gus request pints. Tristan pokes me. ‘What do you want?’

‘Oh… just water, thanks.’

‘Half or pint?’ he says with a grin.

I come back from the loo to find a gin and tonic and a half pint of water waiting for me. Once seated, I decide to do the honourable thing and make polite conversation with Casper who’s to my left, silently thanking God (and Tristan) that there’s hard liquor to hand.

The second person I noticed on entering the pub was someone I didn’t know the name of, incredible given the number of hours I’ve spent on Tristan’s Facebook profile. The guy in question is good-looking, casually dressed in jumper and jeans, with an intelligent face.

Casper is talking shop, which anyone should know is pretty much not allowed, unless you’re 007, and even then. And I’m listening, sort of. A couple of times my eyes drift in the direction of Intelligent Face, to find it directed at me.

Casper goes out for a smoke and I fall into conversation with the girl sitting opposite. Her face is familiar, and so is her name – Laura – though we’ve never met. I like her instinctively and the chatter is relaxed and easy. Talk of mixed schools leads to a discussion of whether men and women can be friends. She is for the motion.

‘Tristan for instance,’ she says, ‘I’ve known him for years, but I could never think of him in that way.’

What is WRONG with you, I want to say. But instead I smile politely.

People move round. I’m pretty much stuck between Casper and Ryan; Intelligent Face is a few seats away, between Gus and Tristan. Not ideal positioning for a tête-à-tête, so it feels somewhat pointed when he speaks across Gus and Ryan and asks me a question about my job. By this stage in the proceedings I’ve figured out who he is. Tristan’s spoken of him often. He’s a playwright and one of Tristan’s best friends.

Fast forward half an hour and Shakespeare has somehow engineered taking the seat next to me. We’re talking writing.

‘I didn’t know you had a blog!’ Tristan says, overhearing.

I look incredulous. ‘I told you I had a blog!’

I’m sailing pretty close to the wind here.

‘Yeah,’ Tristan says, ‘but I didn’t realise you actually posted regularly. What’s it called?’

‘Oh… it’s anonymous,’ I say, ‘I don’t promote it.’

Shakespeare tries pretty hard to get the name out of me, but I’m not forthcoming. I’m also a bit confused. I mean, here is a guy – attractive, intelligent, interesting – showing interest. And across from me is his best friend, a man I refer to among my immediate family as ‘Future Husband’, and among my best friends as ‘Perfect Colleague’.

Around eleven Tristan gets up to leave and I make as if to follow suit. Shakespeare looks mildly disappointed, and I’m disappointed too. But I mean really, how would it go, hanging out with Shakespeare and Tristan and Tristan’s girlfriend? I might be a masochist but I have my limits.

Things don’t go according to plan, and it’s nearly midnight when I find myself on the pavement with Shakespeare, Laura, Casper and several others, heading for the station. At the ticket barriers, Casper says he should take me out for dinner sometime, a suggestion which I laugh off. Shakespeare, when it comes to saying goodbye, looks at me steadily and says we’ll hopefully see each other at Tristan’s housewarming in the New Year, before going on his way. I head in the opposite direction with Laura and the others, chatting merrily.

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The Morning After

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Sunday, midday.CC Image courtesy of torbakhopper HE DEAD on Flickr
Eyes open. Half-open. Eleven hours. Bliss. Phone flashing on the floor. Yawn. Boring. Wonder what it will be. Get up, go to bathroom. Come back, pick up phone, flop down onto bed, swipe screen. Stare. Stare some more. Laugh. Power up computer, new tab, a fragment of a URL… Yes. It’s there, it’s real. More staring. What does it mean? What should I do? Nothing, obviously, but what does it mean? And he must have done it, what… [counts hours on fingers] he was probably drunk. He’s probably regretting it now, would probably undo it if he could but he knows it would hurt me. It doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t mean anything, but I feel so wildly, deliriously happy. I feel like skipping, and do, downstairs, to fix breakfast. It’s a gloriously sunny day and the light fills the kitchen. The cafetière is still half full from the night before – perfect. Everything’s perfect now. I can do anything – anything.

It doesn’t mean anything.

*

As she takes the picture I think of you. Will you see it? Will you care? Will you feel… anything? Regret? Disinterest? Will you…

‘Smile!’

We flash grins.

You should put more photos up, you said to me once, to feed me. And then you grinned, cheeky, a tad wolfish. And I felt like prey or dinner or something.

Or something. That was one of your catchphrases.

Something… anything.

It doesn’t mean anything.

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‘Did I tell you I spoke to Germany?’CC Image courtesy of las - initially on Flickr

Gus looks round. ‘No – no you didn’t.’

‘No.’ I laugh. ‘I know I didn’t. Well, I did, and I wanted to say thank you, cos your advice really helped. Do you remember the advice you gave me?’

‘No….’

‘You said I’d need to be assertive – or maybe it was something else, a word ending in ‘ient’… not subservient…’

Gus is probably mentally filing for a move of desk.

‘… anyway, I can’t remember what the word was, but I thought of what you said when I was talking to him and it really helped. Because he – he did push quite hard for keeping doing the non-committal thing, but I said no. No. And that was all because of you!’

Gus bites his lip. ‘That’s – that’s quite a weight to bear….’

I laugh. ‘Can you take it?’

‘… but I think you did the right thing.’

‘Oh but I haven’t told you the punchline.’

He looks pretty engaged for 7pm on a Thursday. ‘What’s the punchline?’

‘So, we’d got to the end of the conversation and I thought we were figuring out a way to say goodbye without it being, y’know, sad, and there’s a pause, and then he says – what do you think he says?’

‘What does he say?’

‘There’s a pause, and then he says, ‘I’m moving back to London’.’

‘What?’

Gus is such a good audience.

‘Exactly – ‘what?’ And he said ‘early next year’ – he’s got a new job – here. And I was thinking like, but, well, we’ve just – but that doesn’t actually change any of what we’ve just talked about, I mean, the fact is, he’s still not in love with me. That’s what he said – that’s why he doesn’t want to take the plunge, so to speak, and his moving back here wouldn’t change that.’

‘N-o.’

‘But arguably,’ I say, frowning, ‘it’s easier to be in love with someone when you’re in the same city – is it?’

‘Yes, probably. It’s not very romantic to say it, but it probably is easier.’

‘Yes, because you’re seeing them more, and things remind you of them all the time…’

And you’re probably getting laid on a regular basis, which can’t hurt.

‘… but anyway, that was that, and there’s been no contact since. And I haven’t looked at his Facebook page once, or re-read any of his texts or messages or anything!’

‘Wow, that’s really good!’

‘I know! I don’t know myself! It’s entirely uncharacteristic. Of course, one hopes that by staying silent he’s gonna realise he’s made a mistake and get back in touch, but, well, that strategy hasn’t worked so far!’

‘N-o, but, what you need to do…’

We’re interrupted. Something called work beckons, even at 7.15pm on a Thursday, and I don’t get a chance to revisit the subject before it’s time for Gus to leave. But I’m sure as hell gonna find out what it is that I need to do.

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