Anywhere But Here: Part I

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Lucy pops her head round the door.CC Image courtesy of Reenen on Flickr

‘Has everyone got a drink?’

‘Oh God, sorry!’ I jump up, grab her glass and the bottle.  ‘I never…’

I follow her through to the kitchen, pour her a drink, and set about prepping the cheeseboard.  I’ll apologise to Benedict later, I think to myself as I wash the grapes, for dashing off when he was mid-sentence.  It’s probably for the best though.  I’ve spent the last twenty-four hours trying – and according to Freddie failing – not to look at Benedict in an adoring way.  Now I’m looking at cheese in an adoring way whilst chatting to Lucy, and it’s much less draining.  Tomorrow I’ll email my mother and ask her how one participates in a social engagement without constantly desiring the attention of a tall, sensitive musician with cheekbones fit for the catwalk.

I look round to see Benedict, all 6ft5 of him, enter the kitchen.  Next thing I know he’s found the grater and is making short shrift of a block of cheddar.  I’m surprised.  I’d thought him the kind of guy who’d be perfectly happy kicking back on the sofa, life and dinner party prep passing him by.

‘Sorry,’ Lucy says to me, ‘when you got the invitation to dinner you probably didn’t think you’d end up in the kitchen!’

‘No, I like it!’ I say.  ‘It might sound weird but I almost prefer it, having a use.’

‘So do I.’

I glance over at the speaker.  He’s finished grating cheese and is busy arranging flowers in a makeshift vase.  Task complete, he wanders over to where I’m standing.  He takes a grape from the washed bunch, and eats it.

‘Oi!’  It’s hardly a reprimand.  He reaches for another; I brush his hand away.  ‘You can have one of those,’ I say, pointing to the packet, ‘but they’re not washed.’

He looks at the wrapper.  ‘But they are “sweet and succulent”, so that’s fine.’

I smile.  ‘Sorry for dashing off earlier by the way.  I suddenly remembered I was supposed to be getting Lucy a drink.  You – you were saying…’

Under the intense gaze of amber eyes, I’ve little to no chance of remembering.

He half-smiles. ‘What was I saying?’

‘I think you were telling me where you’re from – to check you were from the right…’

‘World’ is on the tip of my tongue, meant as an (admittedly lame) joke, but the problem is, well, it’s just way too close to the bone.  There’s something otherworldly about this guy.  He belongs in Camelot or Narnia or… anywhere but here.  So instead I say,

‘… part of the world.’

And end up sounding like a snob.  We joke about my choice of words.  How can someone so ethereal be at the same time witty, sharp, charming…?  Inwardly I curse Freddie.  He’d put us next to each other at dinner the night before.  When it came to rotating for the second course, Freddie took his place.

‘What are you going to call him?’

‘Huh?’

‘In the blog?  Have you chosen a name yet?’

I give him a dewy smile.  ‘Very funny.’

‘What?!  Everyone’s in on it!’

‘What do you mean?!’

I’m enjoying myself, of course.  Freddie doesn’t answer.

I glance round the table.  ‘What do you mean, everyone’s in on it?’

He laughs.  ‘No, not really.  Just, someone said to me earlier that you looked like you were getting on well, and I said, don’t worry, they’re sitting next to each other at dinner.’

I look across the table at Benedict.  He’s chatting and laughing with another girl.

‘Well, they’re getting on well too.’

‘She’s not looking at him the way you were though.’

‘Whatever.’

‘And he’s not looking at her the way he was looking at you.’

I say nothing, but drink from my wine glass.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

CC Image courtesy of jason_one on Flickr

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Blushing Boy

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CC Image courtesy of T.Kiya on FlickrI take Freddie aside with the intention of asking him if the dashing Sebastian is gay.  We drift towards the exit.  I’m still trying to form the question when we draw level with a slim young man with tightly curling hair and a pink complexion.  I’d seen him looking at me a couple of times in the course of the evening, but had thought nothing of it.  Freddie introduces him as Nick.  At the same moment, Sam comes over.

It’s an awkward foursome.  I’m trying too hard (standard); Nick is blushing for England (I soon learn, also standard); Freddie is addressing Sam as Sam (not his real name); Sam is looking confused.  I’m trying to get Freddie to shut up.  Nick is now also looking confused, probably by the fact that Sam appears not to know his own name.  In the midst of this, I learn that Nick is doing a PhD at Oxford.

‘Oh,’ I say, ‘which college?’

He tells me.  It’s round the corner from where I was; I say as much.

‘What’s the PhD in?’

Trying too hard.

He blushes for no ostensible reason.  ‘Theology.’    

‘Oh!  I had a couple of really good friends who read Theology.’

So?  And anyway, it was one friend, Claire, and it was a BA and, still, so?

He smiles politely.  He does everything politely, including asking what my degree was in.  We’re nearly at the exit.  Conversation turns to the upcoming ball.  He’s going to it.

‘Me too.’

Then we’ll see each other there.

‘Nice to meet you,’ I say, smiling.

‘You too,’ he says, blushing once again.

And that’s how we met.

CC Image courtesy of ludwig van standard stamp on Flickr

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2013: The High (and Low) Lights

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CC Image courtesy of hoangnt on FlickrFor me, the best part of blogging, aside from writing the wretched stuff, is hearing that someone enjoyed a post.  So today, because I figured I deserve a holiday, I’m posting the best bits of 2013 according to you, my beloved (and for many of you I mean that quite literally – be worried) readers.

 

First up is Bright Star, a favourite of James’, in which I explain to Toby why I like Joe’s flatmate

‘He’s funny,’ I say.

Or rather he thinks I’m funny, which is much more important.

A grilling from Sandwich comes a close second.

‘I thought you were great friends.’

He actually said great chums, but it wouldn’t do to alienate readers.

 

Glossing over the surprised tone with which he said it, Flatmate pronounced No Sex and the City to be ‘quite witty’:

‘He doesn’t believe in sex before marriage,’ I say.

‘Oh God.’

‘He’s kinda the problem.’

CC Image courtesy of knowhimonline on Flickr

New Initiative made Lucy laugh out loud, twice:

Beatrice is Tinder-happy…

When they can spell, even if not attractive, I continyue writing.’

And learning to spell, presumably.

… whilst MBE is feeling increasingly cynical about the whole thing.

I’m bored of openers like ‘How are you?’ (bored), ‘Any exciting plans for the weekend?’ (no, I prefer boring plans), ‘what are up to this evening?’ (I’m not going to sleep with you just because we live three miles apart) – and the rest.

 

A compliment from my harshest critic always makes my day.  My mother’s top 3 for the year:

Story of My Life, in which Beatrice and I join stalking forces.

Flatmate gives me a dose of reality On The Couch.

And,

Love Poetry, in which I fancy a gay man.  Like you’ve never done the same thing.

 

So there you have it.  Written (fittingly) proof that this writer is neurotic, needy, insecure, and in dire need of validation and praise.  And that’s just the writing.

CC Image courtesy of PRINCESS THEATER - Raising the Curtain on Flickr


The Time Of My Life

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Freddie sticks his head round the door.CC Image courtesy of jonathan229 on Flickr

‘We’re dancing the next one.’

‘I love that you’re telling me!’ I say, laughing. ‘That I don’t have any say in the matter!’

‘Oh, I’m sorry.’  He’s not, not really.  And I do love it, really.  ‘Do you already have a partner?’

‘No.’

‘Would you like to dance it?’

‘Yes, thank you.’

He laughs.  ‘That was really silly!’

 

The music comes on.  He takes my hand, though I try to extricate my fingers, and leads me onto the floor.  As we dance, I find myself thinking, wishing, if only this was it.  If only life, a relationship, a date, was just a dance.  We work when we dance.

 

It takes me back to a night in early summer.  Dinner and dancing, literally, between the tables.  Then a club, grimy and stark.  I walk in and who should I see but Milonga, leaning against the back wall, flirting with a nondescript brunette.

Freddie and I make for the dance floor, shuffling with the others at first.  Out of the corner of my eye, I can see Milonga and the brunette.  Eventually I crack.

‘There’s someone here I had a brief thing with,’ I say, ‘and – well – he’s here with someone else.’

Freddie looks surprisingly sympathetic.  ‘Who is he?’

‘Oh it doesn’t matter, but, well – I need to look good!’

He spins me.

‘You do.’

 

At the bar, we encounter Milonga, alone.  Freddie, oblivious, greets him.

‘You look great,’ Milonga says, kissing me on the cheeks.

‘Thanks,’ I mutter.

A new track comes on.  I tug on Freddie’s arm.  ‘I love this song.’

He doesn’t get the hint; he never does.  I try a more direct approach.

‘Can we dance?’

Freddie excuses us and leads the way onto the floor.  For the next half hour we dance like I’ve never danced before, a whirl of spins and drops.  Onlookers applaud.  I forget Milonga. I forget everything, lost in the dance.

*

‘You look incredible together!’ Beatrice says, when I come off the floor.

‘I know,’ I say, without thinking.  I look back at Freddie, all smiles, telling another girl her fate for the next.

CC Image courtesy of Xanda on Flickr



Never Say Never

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CC Image courtesy of Let Ideas Compete on Flickr

‘I do worry that someone might act in a certain way just to get onto the blog, for an ego boost or something…’

My friend shakes her head.  ‘I don’t think that’s likely.’

‘No, you’re right, no one would bother doing that.  It’s too much effort!’

 

The next day, I get a message from an acquaintance with – how to put it? – a reputation.

‘How are you? I decided i need to provide you with material for your blog’

Now ordinarily I’d take this to be a drunken rambling.  But it was sent at lunchtime, and the guy is, insofar as I’m aware, gainfully employed.  Still, I ignore it.  As I’ve said before, I don’t want trouble.

So when Trouble, who has never shown any interest in reeling, comes through the doors of the Scottish dancing venue, it’s all I can do not to let my jaw drop.  Instead I walk into a doorframe.

 

It’s the end of the night; I’m washing up.  Trouble, all 6ft7 of him, sidles over.

‘I’d never noticed your height before,’ he says.  ‘I think I’m going to have to marry you.’ 

‘Because it will make you feel shorter?’

‘Yes.’

Then he says the magic words.

‘I read your blog yesterday.’

‘Oh!  What did you think?’

‘I think… I need to give you some material.’

I laugh.  ‘It does concern me that someone might behave in a certain way just to influence their blog profile!’

‘Blog profile?!’ he says, laughing.

‘Yes, like this young man.’  I ruffle Freddie’s hair in passing.

Trouble’s friends call him over.

‘We should go on a date,’ he says.

‘Yes,’ I say, with mock seriousness.

‘You and me!’

I roll my eyes.  ‘Forever!’

Whatever.

 

The next day, I get another message, asking what sort of places I like and when I’m free.

Anywhere without doorframes, and, like, never?

CC Image courtesy of Kate Monkey on Flickr