Once Bitten

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Tristan’s back soon.’

I turn. ‘Sorry?’

Kate rinses her cloth in the sink. ‘Tristan’s back soon.’

‘Oh… yes!’

She screws up her face. ‘On the… 18th, I think?’

‘Oh! Right! I knew it was something like that. An old colleague told me he was back later this month.’

She smiles fondly. ‘He’s so shy.’

‘Shine?’

‘Shy.’

‘I’m sorry… shine?’

‘Shy. Shy.’

‘Oh, shy! Oh… really?’

‘Yes. When I go there, he just says hello then goes straight back into his room.’

‘Oh.’ I think for a moment. ‘I guess he can be shy at first. But… he can be the exact opposite!’

We laugh.

He’s a good person,’ she says, wringing out the cloth.

‘Yes.’

‘Really nice.’

‘Yes.’ I frown. ‘But… but you know that even though he doesn’t speak?!’

‘Yes, he’s just, you can tell, a good person.’

‘Yes, he’s… he’s…’

I want to say ‘special’. The word is on the tip of my tongue. But I can’t. For one, it would sound odd. For another, I’d be lying. His behaviour last summer – it was the opposite of special. It was so fucking ordinary. And it broke my heart a little. So I go with:

‘… he’s really lovely.’

Part of me wants to tell her I still ache for him. That, since Ryan mentioned his return date, I’ve found solace in the thought of it.

She goes on. ‘But mostly I speak to Holly.’

‘Yes. I know her a bit.’

‘She’s good, I think.’

Her enthusiasm is more moderate, and it comforts me.

‘Yes, I think so.’ A pause. ‘Well, it’ll be nice to see Tristan again!’

‘Yes,’ she says.

Will it?

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The Camel and the Straw

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10 Feb

Viable Prospect: I’m not sure how we left things. Do you fancy another pint or… not?

Me: Another pint could work. When were you thinking?

VP: Anytime

 

11 Feb

Me: Could do Sunday after church, or next Fri/Sat?

VP: Sunday after church I do penance. Next w/e in Paris. Arghh

Me: Arghh indeed. Might be easier if you say when you can do.

 

15 Feb

VP: Am obnoxiously chokka. Sorry. Could do late on the 1st.

A Wednesday.

Me: The following week (beginning 6th) would be better if you’re around then.

 

16 Feb

VP: Yup. Sortid.

 

Sporadic messages exchanged about Paris, mattresses and Noel Coward.

 

11 Mar

Me: I feel we’ve strayed into pen pal territory here. Are you around at all in the next couple of weeks for face time (not the app)?

VP: Yes. Like on late weds or the following weds?

What is it with fucking Wednesdays?!

Me: How late is late?

VP: 10

For the record, no one can do 10 on a Wednesday. No one.

Me: Can’t do that. Could do the following weds (22nd) at a normal time. Say 7/8.

VP: I like your use of normal.

Me: It is normal for mid-week

 

18 Mar

VP: I can’t do normal times this week. Up for something normal ish the following…

Lengthy consultation with my new flatmate as to whether this is getting a bit silly.

Me: I feel this is getting a bit silly. Let’s just leave it.

 

19 Mar

VP: Normal! Silly! Goodness…

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Déjà Vu

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CC Image courtesy of Larry He's So Fine on Flickr A few weeks back, Tom appeared on my Tinder. Seeing his picture was like how I imagine it would feel passing your rapist in the street. For a moment, I stared. Then, with the care of a lab technician handling corrosive acid, I adjusted the app settings and the screen refreshed.

By the second encounter, something in me had hardened – or softened – and I tried to convince myself he was redeemable, dateable even. Perky came to the rescue.

‘He sounded like a douche to put it nicely!’ she says.

Beatrice echoes the sentiment. Tom, we agree, is a straightforward case.

‘But,’ I say, ‘Jack didn’t mess me around like that.’

This is Exhibit A in the case for swiping right on Viable Prospect: compared with Tom, he behaved pretty damn well. He made me miserable, sure, but I got over it. And it only took, like, 18 months.

Beatrice doesn’t say anything.

‘And, well, I’m desperate! And there’s just… nothing going on!’

She starts clearing the plates. We both know that swiping right on the man who broke your heart is plain daft.

 

A week later, I learn I’ve got my dream internship. That evening, Viable Prospect crops up again. I do what I always do – change my settings and a new set of potential matches swims into view. But I know, as I head for bed, that VP’s not what I want. I could handle the Monday night dates when I had a 9 to 5. I could even handle the sleepless nights – my permanently frenzied state, like a cat on hot coals.

I remove my contact lenses, cleaning them in the palm of my hand. I don’t want the drama, the not knowing, the games. For the first time, I can see clearly.

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Writer’s Block

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Beatrice comes back in. ‘You don’t have to leave.’ CC Image courtesy of kuchingboy on Flickr

‘No, it’s fine,’ I say, reaching for my bag. ‘It’s only… I don’t know what to do!’

‘How did you leave it?’

‘He said he’d be in touch today, to arrange where to meet.’

‘Does he know where you are?’

‘I said I had a thing in Old Street til, like, 8.’

‘And you haven’t heard from him all day?’

‘No.’

‘Hmm.’

 

I should have learnt the first time. Or the second time. Or last night, when he rang…

‘So,’ he says, ‘I’ve ordered food for two, just in case.’

I laugh. We’ve been here before. I say no, he asks why, and I say I’d rather meet for the first time ‘not at one of our flats’.

‘So… bye?’ I say.

‘No!’ He steers the conversation in a different direction.

We leave it that the following evening, after my friend’s birthday party, we’ll meet for a drink. Somewhere public, though he does joke that he’ll book the whole place out.

*

Beatrice, one year older and definitely wiser, tells me what only good friends do. That I’m worth more than this. That he knew I was busy til 8 and he still hasn’t been in touch to make a plan. That I shouldn’t contact him.

 

Wednesday night. I’ve just got into bed. My phone buzzes into life. I recognise the number, partly because of our call history, partly because of the number of times I’ve deleted it from my phone. I let it ring out.

When he calls again, I do a quick Google and install the relevant app.

CC Image courtesy of ant.photos on Flickr

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Paradise Lost

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CC Image courtesy of Glen Bowman on FlickrSeveral years ago, the BBC broadcast a period drama called The Paradise. It was about a department store in the north of England run by charming entrepreneur Moray. The local totty thought he was the best thing since sliced bread and badly wanted to marry him (which would have been to his advantage, since totty’s father had pots of money ready to invest in the store).

Enter Denise: pretty, clever and ambitious. She makes her mark at the store (lots of bright ideas for displays, that kind of thing) and even catches the attention of Moray. Cue URST (UnResolved Sexual Tension).

Just when we think Moray and Denise are about to sail off into the sunset, there’s a twist (SPOILER ALERT). The crucial speech:

Denise: I don’t want to marry Moray. I want to be him.

That’s the line from the series that most stayed with me. And it’s the line I resisted the urge to quote when, earlier this year, I found myself on a date with the man who’d helped script the series.

‘It was great!’ I said. (I probably clapped.) ‘It was better than Mr. Selfridge.’

He grinned. ‘Aww bless you.’

(I should have known then it was doomed.)

 

We saw each other a couple more times, and each time conversation turned to his job.

CC Image courtesy of Marvin (PA) on Flickr

I’ve dated people from a range of professions: engineers, a journo, an architect, a theoretical physicist. Infatuation, I find, is usually accompanied by a heavy dose of job envy. And if I don’t fancy doing the actual job – me as a theoretical physicist LOL – I’m seduced by the lifestyle that goes with it. I still have no idea how the physicist managed to go on fortnightly holidays.

But – the journo aside – it’s all been fantasy. Until Moray.

 

I hung on his every word. Date one, I admitted to having tried to get into script development a while back. I’d even spoken to several script editors about the best routes in. He knew the people I’d spoken to. It just gave us more to talk about.

But, unlike Moray, he didn’t come to me on bended knee. So, shortly before the inevitable parting of the ways, I started mourning the relationship. He was fun; I’d miss that. I’d miss the sex too. But what I’d miss most was sharing a passion. We’d watched the trailer for The Crown and agreed about the lack of conflict. We hadn’t agreed about Michael’s character in Mum (I found him a bit annoying), but we did both love the theme tune (‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’) and listened to it together the last morning I spent at his.

I told him the best bit of screenwriting advice I’d ever read. He told me about the alien story his company was in the process of pitching. He loved his job. I loved his job.

I loved his job. I loved his job.

Five-hour meetings to determine characters’ back-stories. Brainstorming plot lines with a writer in their hotel room. Working all Sunday on a scene breakdown.

 

I set about updating my CV, making over my LinkedIn profile, emailing potential contacts – the works.

 

Occasionally I thought of him, pictured his head resting on my pillow.

I like you.’

I smile. ‘I like you too.’

We kiss.

‘What do you want?’ he says.

It’s a script joke – a protagonist should always want something.

The same thing as you,’ I whisper, and pull him closer.

If only that had been true.

CC Image courtesy of Oceans of Lilim on Flickr

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