Performance Review

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My boss and I are setting my development objectives for 2016. In my head they go:

1. Get in earlier.

2. Leave at 5.

3. Get a life.

4. GET A BOYFRIEND.  

Which might actually make me leave at 5.

 

That evening…

Through the glass I see him approach. He pushes the door open. I smile, and our eyes meet fleetingly. What a pity, I think, as we set off in the direction of the tube.

Towards the end of dinner conversation had turned to relationships past – or lack thereof. I revisit the subject.

‘Do you find it weird that I haven’t had a boyfriend?’

‘No,’ he says. ‘I mean, it’s unusual. I suppose by 27 most people have–’

‘Had a relationship.’

‘Yeah. Why do you think it is?’

I shrug. ‘I don’t know.’ I laugh. ‘You’re probably in a better position to say!’

He makes as if to speak then stops himself.

‘Go on,’ I say.

‘No. I can’t say that.’

‘What?’

‘No.’

‘What?’

‘Well… it’s obviously not that you’re not desirable. I guess… I don’t know, maybe you haven’t made time for it. You’ve been focused on work?’

I shake my head. ‘That’s a recent thing.’

‘Then… it has to be because you’ve chosen it.’

‘I haven’t,’ I put in quickly.

‘Not chosen it, but I mean you could be with someone so it’s because of your requirements.’

‘Mmm.’

We talk about his relationship history – two serious girlfriends and two Tinder dates. This is number three.

‘Have you been on many dates?’ he says.

‘A few.’

‘What have they been like?’

‘A mixture, some good. But mostly they’ve been…’

‘Bland?’

‘No. It’s weird, you can spend an evening with someone and get on well, but that’s it. You don’t need to see each other again.’

‘Like this evening.’

I turn to look at him. ‘Candid much?! That – that would be a first, appraising a date while you’re on it!’

‘Would it?’

I don’t know if it’s the two G&Ts, my masochistic streak or a desire to expose this whole frustrating situation for what is almost certainly is – a dead end of a date with someone I find very attractive – but something makes me say:

‘Actually, why not? So… what did you make of this evening?’

And he tells me. He’s enjoyed it, enjoyed my company. Good sense of humour, he says, which is important, and I’m self-deprecating. But he thinks I’m quite shy…

And the whole time he’s speaking I’m trying to figure out what the hell it all means. Does he fancy me? Was the ninety excruciating minutes we just spent in the restaurant a false start? Or is this reassurance? Don’t worry, he’s saying, you’re a catch. You’ll find someone. I’m just not that guy.

 

The train pulls into the station.

‘Be in touch,’ he says, rising from his seat.

I force a smile. ‘Yeah.’

 

Half an hour later, I’m sitting on my bed, listening to Adele, contemplating unfriending VP. Every disappointing Tinder date feels like his fault. My phone flashes up with a message. It’s my date, asking if I’ve got home OK. His next question throws me completely.

‘Did you have a good evening?’

I fancied him rotten, I was aching for him to kiss me, I was the most excited I’d been in a long time when he suggested getting dinner. But the dinner…

‘Yes,’ I send back. ‘Did you?’

 

An hour later, we call it a night.

‘Let’s see each other again,’ he says.

CC Image courtesy of LuluP on Flickr

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Bar Exercises

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CC Image courtesy of viktoriawigenstam on FlickrHe walks away.

‘I used to have a massive crush on him,’ I say to the girl opposite, ‘and then the other day… we matched on Tinder!’

She does fish out of water and points in his direction. ‘Go – go after him!’

I shake my head, smiling, feeling our three-year age gap more than ever. ‘No.’

‘Why not?’

‘Because….’ I shrug. ‘We’ve got nothing in common. It wouldn’t work.’

‘Do you still find him attractive?’

‘Yes.’

Hell yes.

‘Then… look,’ she says, ‘I’m going out with Sam and we’ve got nothing in common. He’s maths, I’m arts, but it works.’

‘Yeah but – you have got things in common. Friends and… you both reel. Whereas, well, when I spoke to that guy just now – we’d run out of things to say!’

‘Maybe he’s shy.’

‘Yeah… yeah, he probably is.’

 

Four years ago I quit my job in the arts and took an administrative role in a start-up. Its offices backed onto a wine bar and when important clients visited, it fell to me to reserve a table there. I would walk the 30 yards or so along the pavement, my hopes rising with every step. Sometimes I’d be wearing my red dress, just long enough to be office-appropriate, and if he was there I’d smile and turn the same colour as it. I confided in a colleague who, like me, couldn’t understand what it was about him. All I knew was that he passed the acid test.

One day, after a bit of flirty emailing, I went round to the bar. He was there and we talked our usual nonsense for a bit. Just as I was about to leave I suggested we go for a drink sometime. He looked a bit awkward. ‘Sure,’ he said. Which I interpreted as enthusiasm.

Fast forward a week and I’m back at the bar. I have a plan. The plan is to give him my number, which I’ve scribbled on a scrap of paper. The plan is to give it to him quickly, casual-like, as if I was passing and it had just occurred to me to do it. The plan is not to chat for a bit, repeat the suggestion of going for a drink then practically put the bit of paper into his hand. That was a red dress day.

Shortly after that I found out he had a girlfriend. Which solved the mystery of what it was that I liked about him.

*

I meet his eye, smile. He smiles back. He’s on his way out – that’s clear from the coat – but we exchange pleasantries and I introduce him to the girl opposite. His friends appear; they’re ready to leave. We kiss on the cheeks.

‘You should come down to the bar more often,’ he says.

Again he kisses me, and walks away.

 

Two days later…

I bring up his profile. Everything about it is wrong: the clichéd phrases, the dodgy grammar, the selfie. I hit the message tab and start writing.

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They’ve spent the last five hours laughing and talking and walking. Now they are standing before the tube map.

‘You want to take the Piccadilly line,’ she says, tracing the route, ‘then change.’

‘Which way are you going?’

‘The other way.’ She points. ‘South.’

‘OK, so, this was fun.’

‘Yes.’

They hug.

‘I’d like to see you again,’ he says.

‘That would be nice.’

‘OK… so… I’m going to kiss you.’

She smiles. ‘OK.’

They kiss.

‘I’d like to see you again,’ he says. ‘When are you next free?’

‘Errr… erm… I’ve got something next Saturday… I’ve got things next Thursday, Friday and Saturday but… sometime after that? Can I let you–?’

‘Yes. I want to see you again, for drinks this time.’

‘OK.’

They kiss again briefly.

‘Bye.’

‘Bye.’

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I roll over, reach for my phone. A missed call and two messages. One of them I’ve already read – a grammatical car crash from the guy who, ten hours’ earlier, I was lip to lip with.

 

‘Culturally it’s very different, right?’

This is me trying to sound intelligent about China.

‘Yes,’ he says. ‘And they spit, when they talk.’

‘They spit?!’

‘Yes.’

Which is when he goes in for the kiss. Just the right amount of spit, in case you wanted to know.

 

So there’s him asking, ‘How was [the] rest or your night?’. And then there’s Rachel

‘I’ve got a bit of a disaster…’

It might be the first time L.K.Bennett – queen of sartorial conservatism – and ‘disaster’ have found themselves in the same sentence. Newly engaged Rachel has found a bridesmaid dress she likes and wants to know what I think. Another message, this time a picture of the sender, fresh-faced and perky, modeling an elegant lace number. I lie there, eyeliner streaked across my face, scarf wrapped around my head to muffle the midday sounds of suburban London, feeling our worlds edge that little bit further apart.

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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.’

CC Image courtesy of N@ncyN@nce on Flickr

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.

CC Image courtesy of flickr-rickr on Flickr

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.

CC Image courtesy of Kurush Pawar - DXB on Flickr

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