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.)

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The Fall

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‘He told me to move,’ Ryan says. ‘He said, ‘I want to talk to Anna’.’

‘Oh!’

I look over at the man who supposedly wants to talk to me. This is surely what my mother and flatmate would call a clear sign of… not interest – that wouldn’t fit in the circumstances – but something. I pick up my things and go over to him.

Once seated I become the sole focus of his attention. It’s wonderful. We talk about everything: pets, smoking, Woody Allen films, Cate Blanchett, online dating

‘You’re on Tinder?’ he says, surprised.

‘Yes, well, everyone is – aren’t they?’

‘Well, I’m not, but I’m married…’

 

The previous autumn there was a leaving drinks for one of our colleagues. Cheesecake was served.

‘Who made it?’ I say, taking a slice.

Tobias‘s wife.’

 

‘What?!’

Colleague looks disbelieving when I tell her. Her funky dairy-free diet doesn’t permit cheesecake, but even harder to digest is the news that Tobias – elegant, stylish Tobias – has a wife.

 

For six months or so after finding this out I was invincible. No matter that his gaze made me weak at the knees or that we crossed paths in the kitchen too often for it to be a coincidence. The guy had a wife, and one who baked decent cheesecake at that.

I was invincible when he told Ryan to move in the pub so he could talk to me; when he brought in a DVD of one of the films we’d talked about for me to borrow; when he told me about his family’s history of divorce, about his father’s second marriage to a much younger woman. I was even invincible when he offered to relieve me of some of my workload.

Then, one day, he came over to talk to Gus at the neighbouring desk.

He has a strange way of walking: hurried, impatient, not quite graceful. His hair sticks up a bit at the back and his eyes have this intense, brooding expression.

I look up from what I’m doing and meet his gaze. And that’s when it happens. I fall. Fuck, do I fall.

CC Image courtesy of Kheel Center, Cornell University on Flickr

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Fuck-A-Duck

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CC Image courtesy of AJC1 on Flickr

‘Oh fuck-a-duck.’  I start to laugh.  ‘That’s fast looking like my only option!’

 

It began with a fairly typical exchange off the back of an email I wrote to my mother, with the slightly melodramatic subject line ‘Suicide Watch’.

‘Did you see it?’ I say.

‘N-o.’

I laugh.  She joins in.

‘I mean – really!’ I say.  ‘What – what does it take?!  Of all the subject lines!’

Eventually the laughter subsides.  I can picture my mother, sitting at the kitchen table, opening the email on the iPad she bought because she thought it was pretty.

‘O-K,’ she says, ‘I’ve read it.’

‘Yeah so… my question was… should I – no – am I entitled to any kind of… confirmation-?’

‘No.’

‘No.’  But my echo is more of a question.

‘Listen to me,’ she says. ‘You do not contact him.’

‘No.  No, I know.’  I laugh.  ‘Flatmate must be going soft in his dotage, cos he said different.’

‘What did he say?’

I start to tell her.  She cuts in. ‘You do nothing.  OK?’

‘Yep.  Incidentally, Redhead seems to have also forgotten I exist.  Oh fuck-a-duck.’  I start to laugh.  ‘That’s fast looking like my only option!  I’ve gotta say, my love life really is a fail!’

My mother doesn’t respond immediately.  I find the silence oddly soothing.

‘And,’ I go on, ‘I don’t think I did anything so very wrong with this last one!’

‘No, but… well, it does sound like you tend to go for guys who have got it all: funny, charming, good-looking. And… well, they’ve got jobs….’

Which makes me smile.  There’s no denying it’s part of the attraction.

‘… so what can you expect?

‘Yeah but – I think that’s just the way I paint them.  I mean, I don’t think they have got it all…’

‘Well, I don’t know, but from what you say…’

‘Hmm maybe, but I can’t help the fact they’re the guys I like!  I mean, I don’t want to spend time with guys who aren’t those things!  So, what, I’m going to be single forever?!’

‘You’re probably going to have to accept that for quite a lot of the time you’re going to be on your own.’

‘Hmm.’

I look up at the building which houses my office.  In there is Tristan, the only guy I really like who hasn’t blotted his copybook of late.  He has got it all, including a girlfriend, but that doesn’t alter the fact he’s a kind of standard.  Like Max, he has the ability to light up a room.  When he walks in, people relax and smile.  The effect is almost magical.

I climb the steps leading up to the entrance. ‘Yeah, well, I don’t think I’m gonna compromise.’

This muggle wants magic.

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Civilised Company

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(Continued from Crowded Room)CC Image courtesy of jjMustang_79 on Flickr

I push the door open with my foot.  Its trajectory is blocked by a sewing box which usually lives downstairs.  ‘Coffee?’

‘Thanks.’

‘Would you like milk?’

‘Err – if you’ve got it.’

‘Sure.’

His costume is back in place, and he looks a little uncomfortable.  I go back downstairs, add milk to both mugs, and linger there a moment in case he follows.

Flatmate’s step on the stair makes me start.  I wait until he’s passed the entrance to the kitchen, before making my way back upstairs.

Ben takes the cup.  ‘Thanks.’

I sit down on the bed.  He follows suit, perching on the edge.  This is foreign territory.  I’ve never been offered coffee at a guy’s place after staying the night.  On the contrary, it’s usually a race to leave before (God forbid) he notices my presence.  It’s why I don’t do it anymore: that feeling, like you’re nothing; and on his side, a palpable desire to erase you from his life as quickly as possible.

I don’t know if it’s Ben, or my desire to civilize the whole thing, or the fact that I want a coffee so naturally make one for my guest; but here we are, nursing mugs which are still too hot to drink, making polite, if not entirely relaxed, conversation.  It’s like a date in reverse.

We discuss our plans for the weekend; he tells me about his parents’ work; we exchange restaurant recommendations.  There’s no suggestion that we might at some point visit one of them together, which saddens me a little, but not too much.

‘Well, I’d better get going,’ he says, rising.

We both have trains to catch.

‘Yep.’

My hand on the latch, we kiss.

‘Goodbye.’

‘Goodbye.’

I close the door on his retreating back.  He didn’t ask for my number; I have no expectation that I’ll hear from him again; and I feel… OK about it.

CC Image courtesy of chichacha on Flickr

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Forget Me Not

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CC Image courtesy of James F Clay on FlickrI’m watching a film on my computer, otherwise known as waiting for a Facebook message from the world’s slowest correspondent.  He’s called FFS for a reason.  I’ve twice given up on him and we’re yet to go on an actual date.

I know – and not just because Flatmate has told me as much – that so long as it’s evident I’m not at the forefront of the guy’s mind, I mustn’t let him anywhere near the forefront of mine.  Which is a lovely idea

So yeah, I’m watching a film, which it turns out is brilliant and wonderful and endorses all those dangerous myths about love and soul mates and relationships founded on a meeting of eyes and absolutely zero verbal communication.  They’re bad news, such films, because they make me nostalgic.

There’s a scene where the man and woman, who only met properly a couple of hours before, slow dance at a silent disco.

He’s walking her to a party when they have a blazing row, and she goes on alone.  He follows, and arrives to find a roomful of guests silently dancing, each lost in their own little world.  There, in the middle of the floor, is the woman, eyes closed, moving in time to music.  He goes over, puts a hand on her shoulder, and she turns.  They don’t speak.  She removes an earphone, offers it to him, makes a selection on her iPod.  A slow, sweet song comes on, and they dance, arms round one another.

I’d dreamt of just such a moment since the days of the dreaded school disco.  I remember one time, Angels came on and I grabbed a partner.  A minute of shuffling on the spot later, I realized it didn’t work with just anyone.  Ten years on, at an office party, I discover someone it does work with.  So, when the couple in the film starts to dance, it’s him I think of.

*

An hour in, I’m despairing.  Matthew’s not a patch on the male protagonist.  I’ll never have what the characters in the film have.  I bet they’re together in real life.  Hell, this isn’t a film at all, is it?!  It’s just two actors falling in love!  It’s probably not even scripted!  I want to cry!

Then, all of a sudden, the woman in the film is despairing.

Is there someone else – is that it?’

There isn’t someone else.  I won’t tell you what happens in case you watch it, which you should.  It’s beautiful, funny, and heart-breaking.  It’s the kind of film I hope to write one day; about the kind of love I hope to know.

CC Image courtesy of lisandroPeralta on Flickr

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