Old News

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I’m older, wiser, and back on Tinder.CC Image courtesy of damn_unique on Flickr

Scrap that.

I’m older and back on Tinder.  (For full details of the birthday itself, click here.)

And in the spirit of not wasting any time (did I mention that I’m getting older?), within a week I have a date lined up.  Yes, all it took was a week.  One week of swiping and sighing and googling ‘DTF?’.  If you don’t know, don’t ask: ignorance in this instance is most certainly bliss.  Which incidentally is the theme of my date’s tagline: imagination brings bliss at no cost.

It also, but I won’t be pointing this out in the course of the date, brings despair, disappointment, and anguish.  I should know: too much of my love life takes place in the realm of my imagination.

 

Back in the real world, I’m running late.

‘I thought you were leaving?’

‘Yes,’ I say, through gritted teeth.  ‘But I have to finish this.’

 

‘Sorry to keep you waiting!  I don’t want to start with a work rant.’

‘Go for it – get it out the way!’

‘No no, I’m not going to.’

‘Ah go for it.’

‘OK…’

He’s tall, good-looking, and I like his style.  And, more to the point, he looks nice, which might be why I ‘liked’ him in the first place.  It might also be why I’m unwilling to kick things off with a barrage of negativity.

‘What can I get you to drink?’ he says, the rant being over.

‘Oh, thank you, ermmm… is that a caipirinha?’

 

I close the front door behind me, drop my bag on a chair, and go through to the kitchen.  Ten minutes later I emerge, plate in hand.  My phone is lying on the table, next to my computer, which I power up.  Five minutes of scouring Flickr for a ‘smiley face balloon’ later – the things I do for my readers – by which time my supper is stone cold, my phone buzzes into life.

‘I had a good time this evening.  Maybe grab a bite to eat next time if you fancied it? X’

I smile.  There was something refreshingly down to earth about the guy.  I felt like I knew where I was with him, which was never EVER the case with FFS.  So I reply, sooner than I normally would, saying… I’d like that.

CC Image courtesy of Lettuce. on Flickr

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The Bottom Line

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Tech-y issues mean I find myself reading old blog posts.CC Image courtesy of {Lina} on Flickr

‘…and, bottom line, we need to have a laugh together.’

I smile.  No change there.

 

‘I’m going to a ball on Friday and I can’t wait!  My partner – oh….’ I sigh.  You’d sigh.  He’s tall, dark, and impossibly handsome.  ‘And he can dance ballroom!

‘What’s wrong with him?!’

A fair question from Colleague.

‘Nothing!’

That I know of.

The last time I saw Johann was at a ball.  We danced foxtrot, but it was like no foxtrot I’ve ever danced before, full of dips and spins and drops.  After each dance he queued to get me a glass of water.  Then when I left my dress strap in his room – not what it sounds like – he went to considerable trouble to ensure we were reunited.

‘He has the most beautiful manners,’ I say, with another sigh.  ‘Not like…’

My face darkens.  Being ditched on my birthday, I can handle.  OK, so the timing could have been better, but the act itself is forgivable.  What’s not forgivable is the absence of any kind of thank you note for the dinner.  No text, no letter, no card – nothing.

‘But at least, this way, it makes it easier to move on, cos, well, you don’t want that.’

‘No,’ Colleague says, with a look of disgust.  ‘You don’t.’

 

It’s in the kitchen for some reason that thoughts of FFS come to me.

‘No NO.  Don’t think about him,’ I say out loud, clattering pots and pans, as if the noise might drown out unwelcome thoughts.

I’d read about focusing on someone’s bad points as an effective way of getting over them but had never managed to make it work for me – not because I refused to believe that the men in question had bad points, but because I didn’t know them well enough to know what they were, not having dated any of them.

‘He’s lazy and RUDE,’ I say, to the empty kitchen.

And with those words it’s confirmed, what I always knew, my actual bottom line.

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‘You look nice!’CC Image courtesy of El Bibliomata on Flickr

‘Thanks!’  I take a seat.  ‘There’s a reason.’

‘Ooh!’

‘Not that.’

‘I want to hear it.’

We order coffee.

‘Do you have a d-?’

‘No, it’s the opposite of that.  I’m going to something tonight which the guy who recently called things off will probably be at.  So I need to look good.’

‘Well, you do.  You look good, but not like you’re trying.’

I laugh.  ‘That’s exactly what I was going for!’

*

Hostess of Carrier Pigeon fame opens the front door to me.  ‘Hello!’

‘Hello!’

We kiss on the cheeks.

‘You’ve got cold hands!’

‘Oh it’s fine,’ I say.  ‘I took the scenic route from Victoria – but at least it was actually scenic!’

She’d changed the start time at the last minute, so I had twenty minutes to kill in the West End.  That, or risk arriving early and finding myself forced to make awkward conversation with FFS.

‘Could I put my…?’

‘Of course.’  She shows me through to the bedroom.  The last time I was in here, I was gathering together coat and bag.

‘Walk me to the station?’

‘Of course.’

‘That’s an order,’ I said jokingly, putting my hand on FFS’ lapel.

I don’t think he liked being told what to do, even in jest.

The night air was cold, and we walked close, my hand in his, tucked into the pocket of his coat for warmth.  He tried to persuade me to stay at his, but I would go home.  We kissed on the pavement.  I nearly missed my train.

 

I can hear a man’s voice coming from the sitting room, but it’s not his.  Perhaps he’s late.  Perhaps he’s not invited.  Unlikely: they’re very close, in every sense.

The doorbell rings.  Voices on the stair.  A girl I know well comes in.  We chat about balls, past and future.  I’m going to one the following week with a guy I don’t know very well.  ‘He’s a dreamy dancer though and he knows ballroom so I can’t wait!’

The hostess’ phone vibrates at my elbow.  A familiar name flashes up on the screen, and she answers it.  Talking, she goes to the door.  Moments later, a guy – he must be mid-twenties – comes in.  He’s casually dressed in jumper and trousers.  We’re introduced.

‘You’re Maria’s cousin, is that right?’

‘No, well, we have a mutual cousin,’ he says.  ‘Have you met Will?’

Yes, I’ve met Will.  Met Will, kissed Will, been dumped by Will on my birthday: the works.

I learn in the course of the evening that Will’s abroad, presumably on holiday.  His cousin is pleasant enough, and a shrink would probably say I was guilty of transference.  It’s obvious though that whilst Will thought me sexy, funny and attractive, this guy is indifferent.  Which is fine, but by the end of the meal I’m feeling a bit sad.  I’ve worked my arse off to keep the conversation flowing and I haven’t laughed once, not really, not the way I laugh with Will.  I know, and I’m not ashamed to admit it, that I wanted him to be here.  I miss the jokes, the irreverence, the laughter.  It doesn’t grow on trees, that kind of chemistry.  He said it himself.

‘I liked you, and I thought we had chemistry.’

That’s why he got in touch in the first place.

He added.  ‘We have chemistry.’

‘Yes…’

 

The cousin and I leave at the same time, something Will and I failed to achieve the night we met.

‘Nice to meet you,’ he says on the doorstep.  ‘Have a good week.’

‘You too.’

He mounts his bike and sets off in the direction of the river.  I cut through the backstreets heading for the station, hands tucked into my pockets for warmth.

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The Final Act

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CC Image courtesy of Toxictea on FlickrAll I can think about is the scene in When Harry Met Sally.  Meg Ryan is sobbing onto Harry’s shoulder, wailing about the fact that when Joe said he didn’t want to get married, what he actually meant was ‘he didn’t want to marry me!’

FFS gives my hand a squeeze.  ‘What are you thinking?’

What to say?  That this is all bullshit?  That I’ve seen the films, hell, I’ve even experienced it in real life.  The last man to use this line was Max.  The circumstances might be different, but the bottom line’s the same.

FFS is looking at me steadily.  I shrug.  ‘Well, that’s that.’

He hugs my legs to him, rests his head against them.   I run my fingers through his hair.  Not big hair.  I want to kiss him, take him to my bed, but I know that come the morning it will feel so much worse.

He draws me towards him, cradles me.  We kiss.

I draw back.  ‘I’m just going to the bathroom.’

When I get back, I don’t rejoin him on the sofa, but remain standing.

He looks up at me.  ‘Do you want me to go?’

No.

‘Yes.’

I perch on the arm of the sofa, rest my chin on my hand, and stare ahead at the sea of used wine glasses.  Some are half-full, most are empty.  I can feel him looking at me, and turn to meet his gaze, force a smile.  He pulls me onto his lap, caresses my neck.

‘Don’t worry,’ I say, laughing.  ‘I’ve got an excellent track record of crying on my birthday, and I have no intention of breaking with tradition!’

He looks surprised and laughs, hugs me tighter.  It’s a strange thing, to be comforted by the one who is the cause of your distress.  I know I won’t let him stay, but still, I don’t want to be alone; because I know that, once he leaves, I’ll cry, and I don’t want that.

His hands are wandering.  I lie there, passive.  I want it to mean something, I always do.  This time last year, I was in Milonga’s bed.  I woke the next day and went on my way.  The hot spring sun beat down upon the pavement as I walked to the station in my ballgown.  I’d heard the term ‘the walk of shame’ but never for a moment thought that this was it.  I stopped at a supermarket for a bag of apples and a bottle of water.  On the train, children stared as I stared out of the window, feeling the first twinges of embarrassment.

A year on, I see more clearly.  I know that, come the morning, he will have everything he wants, and I will have nothing.  I will feel empty and alone and used.  His hand strays to my thigh.  I think back to how he was earlier in the evening, so cold, so uncaring, and twist myself out of his embrace.

‘Shall I look up night buses?’ I say, rising from the sofa.

There’s a pause.

‘If you don’t mind.’

I retrieve my computer from where it’s lying on the floor, and run the necessary search.

 

In the hallway, he dons his coat.  We hug.  His arms are still around me, his face set in a frown.  I want him to un-say everything, to change his mind.

‘I really like spending time with you,’ he says, ‘and I’d like to stay…’

I smile.  ‘I like spending time with you too.  Like you said, we have a good laugh…’

What he’d actually said was ‘we do laugh a lot’, which made me feel really sad.  We’re always laughing, and it’s what I’ll miss most about him.

‘… but,’ I go on, ‘you’ve said you only want something light and ‘detached’, something on your terms…’

He shrugs and doesn’t deny it.

‘… and, well, it’s not that I want something serious…’

Would it be such a crime if I did?

‘… it’s just that – I’d like – a bit more contact!  I don’t want to have to act ‘detached’!’

‘Fair.’

‘And so, at the moment it’s a good thing that we have a laugh together, but eventually it will become a problem…’

He nods.  ‘Yeah.’

‘So,’ I say, sighing, ‘for the above reasons…’

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A Fine Thing

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(Continued from Invitation Only)CC Image courtesy of pimthida on Flickr

I have a habit, when reading messages from guys I like, of skimming for question marks and the word ‘love’. (For some reason, the phrase ‘I’d love to etc etc’ really does it for me – I wonder why.)  So it’s little wonder that my eye is drawn to the last line.

Look, I know this is dodgy behaviour given he has a girlfriend, but I’ve just had the rug pulled out from under my feet.  Just when I think things with FFS are going well, the guy goes silent on me; and, as if that’s not bad enough, I now have the added stress of not knowing if he will or won’t show at my birthday dinner.  And if he does show, I have no idea how to behave towards him.  His manner of greeting will probably tell me all I need to know; and either I’ll be a wreck from thereon in and Beatrice will have to carry the show, or I won’t.

My gut tells me the former is more likely.  Beatrice, talking to me on the phone the day before, raises a good point.

‘Anna, do you actually want him to be there?’

I um and ah for a bit.  ‘Y-es, no, I don’t know!’

Standard response.

I try again.  ‘Y-es.  As in…’

The text he sent this morning implied everything was fine.  He even gave something approaching an explanation for not having been in touch all week.  So, well, there’s a chance – isn’t there? – that I’m just being paranoid.  That he does like me.  That he’ll come on Saturday, and be warm and affectionate and tender –  all the things I want him to be.

‘… no, I do.’

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