Breaking All The Rules

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‘How’s your day looking?’CC Image of ike_84 on Flickr

I think for a moment – several moments – before replying:

‘Hitting a museum…’

Exposure therapy.

‘…but otherwise fairly relaxed.’

I.e. I have absolutely nothing on.  This isn’t deliberate; I haven’t cleared my diary to ensure we meet.  It’s rather that I’ve had a busy week, and made plans for Sunday.  So Saturday I’ve set aside for the 3 R’s: rest, recovery and writing.  And, at some point, seeing Viable Prospect.

I wouldn’t normally do this, but it’s been eight months.  I need to meet the guy, have my worst fears confirmed, and put the thing to bed, or… y’know.

With each text that arrives in my inbox I find myself getting more and more pissed off.  There’s nothing in them to provoke as such but, well, I suggested this meeting, so any turn of phrase which could be read as him suggesting he’s doing me a favor in going through with it, I’m hypersensitive to.

4pm, and I’ve got that sinking feeling. VP still hasn’t confirmed the time (7pm) and venue, and, and this is the real reason, before me looms the British Museum.

I dash off a text. ‘You’re welcome to join.’

‘Do you have plans late?’ he sends back.

I’m not going to sleep with him.

4pm, 7pm, late.  That whole ‘not letting on that I have an entirely free Saturday’ thing – not going so well.  I could lie, pretend I’ve got a house party or drinks with a friend.  But he might then say it’s not going to be possible to meet.  So instead I say:

‘Nope.’

At best, I can just write this whole thing off as a mistake, an exercise in how not to play the dating game.  Next thing I know I’m agreeing to meet on the opposite side of town from where I live, if only because I’m fed up of making decisions.  The logistics of dating, eh?  It’s little wonder people keep things online.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

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Time’s A Wastin’

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CC Image courtesy of Justin van Zyl on FlickrI tell my brother and he laughs.

‘What?!’

‘Well – well – it’s just – such a waste of your time.’

‘He’s so funny though.’

‘What?’

He’s so funny, and he’s good-looking,’ I say, ticking off qualities on my fingers. ‘You try not replying to funny and good-looking!’

Smiling, he shakes his head.

 

My brother’s right, of course.  A couple of times, I’d caught myself telling a friend about Viable Prospect, only to come to a halt, blushing at the realisation that I have never met this man.  Hell, he might not even exist.

 

It’s the night before I go off on holiday and Rachel‘s round for dinner.  She’d been on a date a couple of weeks back with a guy who, on Tinder, had come across as witty and confident.  To meet, he was like a rabbit in the headlights.  This comes back to me as I bring her up-to-date on VP.

Around eleven she leaves, and I start packing.  A short while later, I get a message.

‘How’re things?  I can’t remember what you do, but I do remember you had Christmas in the dark.’

This is unusual.  Our remit has always been banter; personal questions don’t feature.

‘Well-remembered,’ I send back. ‘Off on holiday tomorrow so things are good.’

‘Where are you going?’

I tell him.  Banter ensues.

‘When are you back?’ he says.

Is this it?  Are we finally going to meet?  Why else would he want to know?

I let the message rest a moment, get my rucksack from the garage.

‘Back Monday, unless I catch the kayaking bug…’

Let’s pretend I spend the next eight minutes – the time it takes for him to reply – being terribly productive on the packing front.

‘Have a fantastic time,’ he says.  ‘Don’t hit your head. Make sure you can get out of the thing if it inverts. X’

I resist the urge to throw my phone against the wall.  I can’t help thinking, a knock on the head, it might be just what I need.

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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.

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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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Sexy As Hell

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CC Image courtesy of Roadsidepictures on Flickr

Sexy.  That’s the overriding impression.  And one hell of a dancer, so let’s call him Patrick.

For the first three hours, we don’t have much to do with each other.  Someone tells me I should dance with him, because he’s really good, but it’s for exactly that reason that I don’t.  He’s intimidating, awesome, and he must have women falling over themselves to dance with him – and there are more approachable, more generous partners on the floor.

*

I’ve swapped my flimsy ballet pumps for boots and am looking around for the host.  It’s getting on for 2am and I have an epic bus journey ahead of me.  Patrick is passing, and stops and makes some remark about the speaker system, which is playing up.  We exchange basic information: name, job, how we know the host.

‘So,’ I say, ‘what’s your dance history?’

I don’t make a habit in social situations of asking questions which belong in a job interview, but then I don’t often find myself talking to the Patricks of this world.  When I do, speech itself is an achievement.

He doesn’t bat an eyelid, but gives an answer which covers both questions: the one I asked, and the one I meant, namely, how come you’ve got such incredible moves?

He winds up, ‘I want to learn salsa.’

‘Yeah, that’d be cool.’

I like to think if he’d said he wanted to learn, say, basket-weaving or book-binding, I’d have responded differently.

I go on, ‘I’m learning tango, but you can probably let your hair down a bit more doing salsa!’

‘What’s tango like?’

‘Err… well… you want me to show you?’

‘Yeah.’  So there, in the hallway, we do tango basic.

Someone’s making merry hell with the music.  Patrick looks over at the perpetrator, puts his hand briefly on my waist, then walks off to see what’s happening.  I follow.  Minutes later, Cuban-style music comes on.  He takes my hand and we start to dance.  For someone who wants to learn salsa, he’s pretty damn good.

‘This music is actually merengue,’ he says, ‘but I don’t really know what the difference is!’

And anyway it’s not long before our salsa has morphed into something less PG, which is fine by me.

This is typically when things go to pot.  I mean, this guy is like, ripped (yes, this is MBE writing, and no, the blog has not been hijacked).  And, confusingly for someone so beautiful, he seems nice, which I really don’t know what to do with.  But going back to the whole ripped thing, I feel like I need to be less blatant about wanting to dance with him, and only him (see above, about women falling over themselves).  This would be easier if there were other people on the floor, but everyone else appears to have done a runner during the dodgy DJ-ing phase.  As a man, he can just grab someone and dance with them, create the impression of not putting all his eggs in one basket, but for me, it’s a bit more difficult.  Also, when I like someone and they’re a good dancer, I become really really bad at playing it cool.  And, well, I’m shit at it anyway!

So, when I see him out of the corner of my eye dancing with another girl, I decide it’s time to call it a night.  Not least because 2am has been and gone, and for all I know Patrick was dancing with me out of mere politeness (I don’t actually believe that), or as one dancer to another (more likely).  I find my jacket, pull it on.  A quick glance in the direction of the floor brings Patrick into view.  He’s coming over.

‘Are you leaving?’

‘Yes.  I’ve got a bit of an epic journey ahead of me.  Night buses…’

‘Oh, right, yeah.’

‘It was nice to see you again.  And, thank you for the dance!

I say that a lot, and it’s never what I mean.

We kiss on the cheeks.

‘Yes, it was nice to see you.’

‘I hope it goes well in China.’

He’s moving there for work shortly.  Another red flag, literally.

‘I’ll hopefully see you before then – I’ll come to the next one of these,’ he nods in the direction of the host, ‘if he has another.’

‘Yeah.’

It feels like now is the moment to kiss or hug or something, but we’ve done that.  He shakes my hand, then we bump fists, ironically I think, though it’s hard to be sure.

I laugh.  ‘That’s way too cool for me!’

What I mean is, you’re way too cool for me.  Which he is.

*

Seventeen minutes until the bus is due.  I pull out my phone, run the old Facebook search.  He really is beautiful.  The minutes fly by.  The bus arrives; I board, and find a seat at the top.   Out comes the phone again, flashing bright white with a notification.  It’s getting on for 3am so this surprises me.

Not half as much as what’s waiting for me.  It’s like one of those Twitter quotes: ‘how great it feels when the guy you’ve just been looking at on Facebook, adds you‘.  I grin, and hug my coat tighter around me.  Now to see if he bucks the trend.

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