Resolution and Independence

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CC Image courtesy of comedy_nose on FlickrBasically you’re fucked, is the gist of the Wikihow article, ‘How to get over a crush on your coworker’.

Friday I go into work with a slight hangover and a firm resolution. The night before was the work summer party, which meant two hours of trying not to make eye contact with either Tristan or Tobias. I can’t begin to tell you how much fun it was.

I keep my eyes fixed on the screen as Tristan chats to a couple of colleagues sitting close by. I hear him say he’ll get his exam results that evening, but don’t look up. I am not going to end up in one of those conversations with him where we’re laughing so much we can’t breathe. I am–

‘Anna.’ He’s coming over. ‘Hey. So, did you go to the club afterwards?’

‘Yes.’

‘You did?!’

‘Yes.’

‘Amazing!’

He puts out his hand to high five me and meets limp fingers. If this whole not meeting him halfway thing is supposed to make me feel better, it isn’t working.

I think he’s about to leave but then he steers the conversation in a different direction. Minutes later we’re laughing so much there’s no point trying to continue and he does leave.

Later that night I’m on a train homeward bound, catching up on phone admin. The message I sent Tristan the night before asking if he was still at the party is before my eyes. A thought occurs to me and I start typing. Moments later, a reply: he passed his exams with flying colours and is out celebrating. I send back congratulations, stow my phone away and stare out of the train window, feeling my eyes prick with tears.

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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.

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Pain Quotidien

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CC Image courtesy of Steven Leonti on Flickr‘Hi Anna!’

I look round, searching for the speaker. ‘Hi Tristan.’ He probably has a question about work. ‘How are you?’

‘Good,’ he says. ‘What’s in the box?’

‘Oh, just lunch.’ I hesitate then go over to where he’s sitting. ‘Look!’ I hold out my paint-spattered hands. ‘I did legal graffiti last night! It does come off – but I didn’t try very hard!’

He laughs. ‘Illegal graffiti?’

‘No no, legal graffiti.’

Tobias is listening now.

‘Ahh.’ Tristan smiles. ‘You can call it reeling, y’know?’

I give him a look. ‘Yeah, that’s what we do in the church. It’s funny, they never notice afterwards. They’re too busy–.’

‘Church?’

‘That’s where we reel.’

‘Were you reeling or praying?’ Tobias says.

‘Neither!’

Tristan looks surprised. ‘You were actually doing graffiti?’

‘Yes!’

‘Where?’

‘There’s a tunnel, near Waterloo, where it’s legal.’

‘What did you draw? I imagine with your painting and drawing…’

I don’t remember having ever told Tristan I paint and draw.

‘… you’d be good at it.’

‘Hmm it’s difficult…’

My companion kept telling me to hold the nozzle close to the wall and the spray can vertical, neither of which I succeeded in doing.

‘… and, well, most of the spray cans didn’t work.’

Tristan grins. ‘It sounds like an artisan date.’

I laugh. ‘I think that would happen at Pain Quotidien.’

Our audience has expanded to include the rest of Tristan’s team. I can feel myself growing red.

‘Yeah well… I better go,’ I say, starting to move away. The next question will probably relate to who I was with. Adrien, Gus and Ryan know all the grisly details about my dating life and Tobias knows some of them but I’ve always been silent on the subject with Tristan. Perhaps because the others can be relied upon to keep him informed of any developments (he often greets me with, ‘How was your date? Adrien/Ryan said…’). Or perhaps because I don’t want him thinking there’s anyone but him. And I’m not sure there is.

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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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Wedding Night

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CC Image courtesy of RMH40 on FlickrI look at the screen and frown. It’s late, I’m still recovering from drinking my body weight in wine and the prospect of reading an industry report on processed cheese isn’t all that appealing.

*

One of the bridesmaids points him out to me as the only straight, single man there. I look him over, the guy from Dubai, and decide I’m not in the mood for rejection.

Then dinner happens. Pierre to my left is a familiar face from university. He’s charming, French and so not interested. At one point I look over at Catherine.

‘Anything?’ I mouth, nodding in Pierre’s direction.

‘No.’

‘No?’

She could at least pretend.

‘No Anna.’

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Catherine and I head in the direction of the bar with a view to asking about taxis.

‘Or,’ I say, putting a hand on her arm, ‘I could try talking to the guy from Dubai?’

‘No Anna.’

‘Why not?!’

‘Because….’ She sighs. ‘Will it make you happy?’

‘Probably not.’

 

‘Oh! Thank you!’ I take one of the G&Ts winging its way to the table via Dubai. ‘You’re Erik, right?’

He confirms his name, asks mine.

‘I’ll rise,’ I say, getting up, ‘in the words of Maya Angelou.’

It’s not my first gin of the night.

‘What?’

‘Oh nothing.’

You’re tall,’ he says.

‘So are you.’

We talk. I discover he loves oysters, Futurist sculpture and Egon Schiele and that he works for his family’s processed cheese business. By the time we’re dancing Viennese waltz in the driveway I’m pretty much a lost woman.

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Catherine comes over. ‘Our taxi’s here.’

I rise from the hay bale, say my goodbyes to Pierre and the other guests. Finally I come to Erik.

‘It was nice to meet you.’

‘You’re leaving?’

We walk a little way from the bonfire.

‘Goodbye.’

‘Goodbye.’

His lips touch mine.

 

‘Why didn’t I stay?!’ I say to the ceiling.

Catherine in the neighbouring bed laughs. This has been my reprise pretty much since we left the bonfire.

 

A week later I’m showing Erik’s LinkedIn photo to close friends with an entirely unfounded sense of pride and ownership. I’ve added him on Facebook, which he doesn’t appear to use, and have heard nothing. I haven’t read the processed cheese report.

 

I decide to shelve all further explorations until the happy couple return from honeymoon and are ready to be reminded that they have friends who are still single and sufficiently unhinged to believe that a distance of 3000 miles is no obstacle to a relationship.

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