Listen to Your… Chest (Part 2)

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(Continued from Listen to Your… Chest (Part 1))

Around 8pm on Christmas Eve I got a call from a private number.

I picked up. ‘Hello?’

The briefest pause. ‘Hello.’

Another pause, while I let the accent sink in.

‘Hello,’ I said again, heading through to the sitting room.

‘Happy Christmas.’

‘Happy Christmas. I didn’t realise it was you – it showed as a private number.’

‘Oh.’ Another pause. ‘How are you?’

‘Yeah, good.’ My tone was flat. ‘I, er, I’m just with family, so it’s a bit of a tricky moment.’

‘OK.’ He sounded sad. ‘I just wanted to say Happy Christmas.’

I hesitated. ‘Oh, er, well, thank you.’


‘Well, I’ll let you get back to your family.’

‘Thanks and… Happy Christmas.’


Channels of communication re-opened with my new zero expectations in place. I went on the odd Tinder date; he filled in the gaps. We never chatted for long – he rang too late for that – but I didn’t much mind.

Work got busy and I missed a couple of calls from him. Things were still busy and I had a bad cough to boot when, one Saturday evening, a year after we matched, I dropped him a text. He rang the next morning and we chatted about our plans for the day. He was meeting family; I had a book to read for work. He was clever and successful in his own field but the only literature books he’d read were those that his school had forced on him.

I’d seen my ex the previous weekend and, in the wake of it, had suffered some kind of existential crisis. He was a Harvard, MIT and Cambridge-educated theoretical physicist who dabbled in etching and filmmaking – your definitive Renaissance man. Since our last meeting he’d got a great new job, bought his second London flat and bought a yacht. I was interning, unpaid, at production companies in the hope of securing a badly paid entry-level position. The contrast made me feel shit on many levels.

Neuro didn’t care about my job. Admittedly, I sometimes got the feeling he didn’t care to know much about me at all. But when he started to fulfil the surgeon stereotype and hold forth about every aspect of his life, I could at least call him on it. Two and a half years on, I still analysed most of what I said to my ex, either before or after it came out of my mouth. Neuro got the unedited version and it felt good.

My cough was bad by the time I hit the hay on Sunday evening. That morning, Neuro had said we’d ‘speak later’, but I hadn’t heard from him. That was fine: I had work to do and he would be in touch, eventually. I was doing my best impression of a consumptive when I heard my phone vibrate.

‘Hey, I’ve got a cough so I can’t stay on–.’ I broke off, coughing.

Neuro asked about the cough. It sounded worse than this morning? Was I taking medication?

‘I think – am I right in saying – you can’t medicate a productive cough?’

I descended into another coughing fit.

‘What colour is the stuff you’re bringing up?’ he said. ‘Is it white, yellow, green, red… grey?’

I’d spoken to my mum that afternoon and said I’d ask my doctor friends what I should do about the cough. I’d meant Rachel, or Stephanie.

I laughed. ‘This is amazing.’ Then: ‘Yellow.’

He explained what it could be and the different treatments. If I couldn’t get to my GP in the next couple of days, he’d email me a prescription for antibiotics. I thanked him and said I’d book an appointment the next day.

‘Let me know what happens.’

‘I will.’

The coughing had stopped.

‘I should probably sleep,’ I said.

‘Yep.’ A pause. ‘I’m looking forward to finally meeting you.’

‘Me too.’ I laughed. ‘Was it the cough that did it?’

‘No. It’s just… I’m looking forward to putting a face to the voice.’


‘And the moan.’

‘I’m hanging up now.’

He laughed. ‘Night Anna.’



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5pm, Friday, I’m undressing for a man.CC Image courtesy of heipei on Flickr


I make the call at lunchtime. ‘No bookable appointments for two weeks’, they say. I’m about to hang up.

‘We’ve just had a cancellation. 4:40.’



I vacillate. Work is quiet. Pub drinks are in the pipeline. I should go, alleviate my concerns. My health is more important than a gin and tonic with Tobias and Co.

‘Hmm today’s a bit tricky.’


‘Are you busy this afternoon?’ Gus says, when I’m back at my desk.

‘Errr… why?’

I should be going to the doctor. I shouldn’t be taking on a ton of Gus’ work so that he can leave early for a wedding.

I start Googling symptoms. Ten minutes later I’m convinced I have a solitary mastocytoma. I grab my phone and go out into the stairwell.

‘Is the 4:40 appointment still available?’


‘Come in.’


‘What can I do for you?’

I tell him about The Rash.

‘Did you start doing anything differently when it first appeared?’

That’s a vague question. I mean I wasn’t having sex if that’s what he means, though that sure as Hell would have been different.

‘No… no.’

‘Have you been away anywhere recently?’ he says, examining my back.

‘Err… Berlin in February? Other than that, I’m probably the most stationary person you’ve ever met…’

It’s like a date, this, only I can be way more candid. It’s also 5pm on a gloriously sunny Friday so I should probably stop with the glib remarks.

‘And… Yorkshire, last October…’

I think he’s trying to establish if I’ve visited anywhere where I might have been exposed to tropical diseases. Yorkshire is probably not top of the list.

‘And, what do you do?’ he says, resuming his seat.

This really is like a date. Date slash Tinder conversation, which is about as close to a date as I’ve got recently.

‘Copywriting,’ I say.

‘So you’re not exposed to any toxic chemicals…’

Lots of things about my job are toxic but…

‘No. Most of my office is permanently ill but I think that’s because we’re overworked.’

He manages a faint smile. ‘You want to try and avoid stressful situations.’

I take the prescription for anti-fungal cream – this bit is less like a date – and thank him as I leave.

CC Image courtesy of r0b1 on Flickr

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A Lesson In Dating

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CC Image courtesy of byronv2 on FlickrHis messages become less and less frequent and less and less carefully written.  Eventually, two days having elapsed since our last contact, I crack.  He replies and a conversation ensues.

I write my messages in my head before he’s even replied, which is silly, not least because he’s wholly unpredictable.  That’s one of the things I love about him.


Saturday, I wake to the flu and a message asking how I am.

‘Poor you!’ he sends back.  Then something witty.  It’s always something witty.

In the evening, I take my phone and book, and go down to the garden and read.  One hour and two pages later, I still haven’t heard from him.  It’s probably a good thing: if I did, I might reply with the question I’ve been itching to ask ever since we met, but which I still don’t know how to phrase.  The problem is, there’s no way of asking it without making my feelings apparent, and I’m not sure I’m ready to put myself on the line.

The next day, an email arrives in my inbox: a new post from one of my favourite dating bloggers.  Certain phrases resonate:

I think we often overthink things when it comes to dating, and we certainly hold back in fear of what the other person might think[.]


[A]ny gesture from the heart is a good one. And if, for any reason, the person you’re trying to impress thinks otherwise, screw em.

‘Do you have plans to be in London any time in the near future?’

‘Would you like to see me again?’

‘What do you think about seeing each other again?’

I might never ask it, never hear his answer.  Because, in a way, I already have.

CC Image courtesy of _berteh on Flickr

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In Sickness…

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CC Image courtesy of Leticia L on Flickr

Ill.  That must have been it.  I hadn’t been on Tinder in ages, had written it off, but then the lurgy hit.  I’d already watched everything on iPlayer, twice, so there was nothing for it.  Death by boredom or… Tinder.

No, no, no, no, no….

Turns out the two options aren’t so different.

…no, no, no….

Lunch at 4pm.

… no… no…

Immediately followed by tea because it’s teatime.

The no’s keep coming, X Factor-style.

Over supper, three hours later (I don’t know how I did it), I get a message from Daniel.  Daniel?  Daniel?  It vaguely rings a bell, not least because I’ve only matched with three people in as many hours.

I open the message.

The first thing I notice is that he hasn’t said hello, asked how I am (ill) or what I’m doing (Tinder, cos I’m ill).  One gold star to him.  (I’ve just watched Notes on a Scandal, though just the once – it’s hardly feel-good.)  Secondly, it’s kind of funny, his message.  No, actually it is funny.  And original.  And the punctuation is… oh for crying out loud.

A short while later, I reply, and a few minutes after that I get another message.  He must be ill too.

This one is genuinely laugh-out-loud funny.  In a collapse on the sofa and not because you’re ill kind-of-a-way.  Banter ensues.  What does he look like?  Oh, nice-looking.  The suit in the second picture, I would burn, but other than that… oh and the t-shirt in the fourth photo.

We discuss housework.  It turns out we both hate ironing, washing up, cleaning… glossing over the fact that, when we move in together, the house will basically be a pigsty, he’s quite fun.  And he even displays a disconcerting level of interest when he follows up the next day with a cleverly re-worded ‘so, what do you do?’

I – and this might be a terrible idea – tell him.  Oh don’t worry, I don’t mention the blog, but I’ve decided there’s no point denying I’m a writer.  I mean, sooner or later they’re going to find out that a good weekend for me is one spent, well, typing.  And since I’m quite up for dating a fellow writer (an in-house editor, just imagine!), it can’t hurt to lay my cards on the table.  Can it?

CC Image courtesy of Olivander on Flickr