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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Baggage Reclaim

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wigan2Rush hour at Euston station: not my usual habitat. I’d attended a dance class the night before in Angel and, distracted by the attentions of my favourite partner, had left without my favourite cardigan. So I was on a mission to reclaim it.

He comes through the same entrance that I did. Seeing me he does an odd little pivot, diverting his course in my direction.

‘That was very… something,’ I say, laughing.

He smiles. We exchange greetings.

‘You’ve been getting around a lot lately!’ I say, immediately regretting my turn of phrase.

He’d messaged me in January, saying he owed me dinner and asking when I was around. I’d learnt he’d recently spent time in India, Scotland and the north of England. And when I’d seen him in the autumn, he’d been on the brink of leaving for Japan.

‘Yes,’ he says, ‘I’ve been to Wigan today.’

I laugh. ‘That’s not quite what I meant!’

He doesn’t say anything, only smiles.

‘But OK, how was Wigan?’

The train comes; as we board, he tells me about Wigan. I listen, half-smiling, to his wry, intelligent words.

After letting him know I was around in February – and resisting the urge to specify the 14th – I’d heard nothing further from the man.

The train pulls into the platform at Angel.

‘See you soon,’ I say, as the doors open.

‘See you soon.’

We both know what that means.

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Little things

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CC Image courtesy of Pensiero on FlickrIt was such a little thing

When you came and sat beside me

But I felt safe

And quiet

And like I didn’t have to speak

You didn’t speak

At first

Only smiled

A small, secretive smile

And stole a glance

 

Your question

When it came

Was simple and kind

My mind a mess with yes and no

And everything in between

You could have made me feel small

And low

 

At the end of the evening

I went out onto the balcony

And found you there

Two empty chairs

I took the one to my left

And saw your mouth twitch

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At the end of the day

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CC Image courtesy of Sue Hasker - Apologies to my followers for my rece on FlickrWhen I’m having a godawful day

With emails lining up like sentries

It is

Your smile

Your words that sustain me

Though they were brief

And unpremeditated

Given in passing as you left for the day

That brief minute

Minutes

When you stopped and chatted

About some fad or other

 

Each time I find we have less to say

And it matters more

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Bar Exercises

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CC Image courtesy of viktoriawigenstam on FlickrHe walks away.

‘I used to have a massive crush on him,’ I say to the girl opposite, ‘and then the other day… we matched on Tinder!’

She does fish out of water and points in his direction. ‘Go – go after him!’

I shake my head, smiling, feeling our three-year age gap more than ever. ‘No.’

‘Why not?’

‘Because….’ I shrug. ‘We’ve got nothing in common. It wouldn’t work.’

‘Do you still find him attractive?’

‘Yes.’

Hell yes.

‘Then… look,’ she says, ‘I’m going out with Sam and we’ve got nothing in common. He’s maths, I’m arts, but it works.’

‘Yeah but – you have got things in common. Friends and… you both reel. Whereas, well, when I spoke to that guy just now – we’d run out of things to say!’

‘Maybe he’s shy.’

‘Yeah… yeah, he probably is.’

 

Four years ago I quit my job in the arts and took an administrative role in a start-up. Its offices backed onto a wine bar and when important clients visited, it fell to me to reserve a table there. I would walk the 30 yards or so along the pavement, my hopes rising with every step. Sometimes I’d be wearing my red dress, just long enough to be office-appropriate, and if he was there I’d smile and turn the same colour as it. I confided in a colleague who, like me, couldn’t understand what it was about him. All I knew was that he passed the acid test.

One day, after a bit of flirty emailing, I went round to the bar. He was there and we talked our usual nonsense for a bit. Just as I was about to leave I suggested we go for a drink sometime. He looked a bit awkward. ‘Sure,’ he said. Which I interpreted as enthusiasm.

Fast forward a week and I’m back at the bar. I have a plan. The plan is to give him my number, which I’ve scribbled on a scrap of paper. The plan is to give it to him quickly, casual-like, as if I was passing and it had just occurred to me to do it. The plan is not to chat for a bit, repeat the suggestion of going for a drink then practically put the bit of paper into his hand. That was a red dress day.

Shortly after that I found out he had a girlfriend. Which solved the mystery of what it was that I liked about him.

*

I meet his eye, smile. He smiles back. He’s on his way out – that’s clear from the coat – but we exchange pleasantries and I introduce him to the girl opposite. His friends appear; they’re ready to leave. We kiss on the cheeks.

‘You should come down to the bar more often,’ he says.

Again he kisses me, and walks away.

 

Two days later…

I bring up his profile. Everything about it is wrong: the clichéd phrases, the dodgy grammar, the selfie. I hit the message tab and start writing.

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