Reality Check

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CC Image courtesy of reuvenim on FlickrNovember 2014

‘So I’ve got one silly man-related question.’

My mother looks up from her iPad, wearing a patient, slightly pitying smile.

‘Your email the other day made me smile,’ I begin. She removes her glasses, prepares herself for what is clearly going to be the ‘round the houses’ approach. ‘The one where you said you hoped Gus wasn’t going to get my hopes up.’

We laugh.

‘Yes,’ she says, ‘he sounds dangerous.’

‘No, it’s fine, really.’

[insert long rambling explanation of why it’s fine]

‘But,’ I wind up, ‘well, what I wondered is, if Germany does come back to London – and I know I’m asking you to predict the future here – but if he does come back to London, what are the chances he’ll get in touch?’

There’s a pause.

‘He might get in touch,’ my mother says, slowly. ‘And he might suggest meeting up, but then you’d have to decide if you were happy with things on his terms.’

‘I wouldn’t be. I mean, I don’t know to what extent his ‘terms’ were because we were in different countries, but, if we were in the same city then he’d have to want to make it work or I wouldn’t go there.’

‘Right.’

‘And… if he did get in touch and suggest meeting up, then you’d say, what, go for it?’

‘Well, if he gets in touch and you end up… going out, well, then that’s fine… until he meets someone else.’

‘Because,’ I hesitate a moment, ‘I guess the bottom line is, being in the same city wouldn’t make him fancy me more.’

‘Correct.’

‘Hmm. And… if he did get in touch and we went out or whatever, it would probably end in tears?’

‘Yup.’

‘Because if he doesn’t fancy me enough to make it work when we’re in different countries, then it wouldn’t work when we’re in the same country.’

‘Correct.’

There’s another pause.

‘Is there any chance it wouldn’t end in tears?’

‘Nope.’

‘None?’

‘Mmm nope.’

‘Hmm. You don’t know that!’

My mother doesn’t say anything.

‘So really,’ I go on, ‘if he did get in touch, then I’d be better off not going there at all, because it would only end in misery.’

‘Yup.’

‘And heartache.’

‘Yup.’

Another pause.

‘So you’re saying it would be best not to go there, knowing it would all end in tears?’

‘No, well, I’d go there.’ She looks thoughtful. ‘But I think perhaps you wouldn’t.’

CC Image courtesy of Sheep"R"Us on Flickr

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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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‘Did I tell you I spoke to Germany?’CC Image courtesy of las - initially on Flickr

Gus looks round. ‘No – no you didn’t.’

‘No.’ I laugh. ‘I know I didn’t. Well, I did, and I wanted to say thank you, cos your advice really helped. Do you remember the advice you gave me?’

‘No….’

‘You said I’d need to be assertive – or maybe it was something else, a word ending in ‘ient’… not subservient…’

Gus is probably mentally filing for a move of desk.

‘… anyway, I can’t remember what the word was, but I thought of what you said when I was talking to him and it really helped. Because he – he did push quite hard for keeping doing the non-committal thing, but I said no. No. And that was all because of you!’

Gus bites his lip. ‘That’s – that’s quite a weight to bear….’

I laugh. ‘Can you take it?’

‘… but I think you did the right thing.’

‘Oh but I haven’t told you the punchline.’

He looks pretty engaged for 7pm on a Thursday. ‘What’s the punchline?’

‘So, we’d got to the end of the conversation and I thought we were figuring out a way to say goodbye without it being, y’know, sad, and there’s a pause, and then he says – what do you think he says?’

‘What does he say?’

‘There’s a pause, and then he says, ‘I’m moving back to London’.’

‘What?’

Gus is such a good audience.

‘Exactly – ‘what?’ And he said ‘early next year’ – he’s got a new job – here. And I was thinking like, but, well, we’ve just – but that doesn’t actually change any of what we’ve just talked about, I mean, the fact is, he’s still not in love with me. That’s what he said – that’s why he doesn’t want to take the plunge, so to speak, and his moving back here wouldn’t change that.’

‘N-o.’

‘But arguably,’ I say, frowning, ‘it’s easier to be in love with someone when you’re in the same city – is it?’

‘Yes, probably. It’s not very romantic to say it, but it probably is easier.’

‘Yes, because you’re seeing them more, and things remind you of them all the time…’

And you’re probably getting laid on a regular basis, which can’t hurt.

‘… but anyway, that was that, and there’s been no contact since. And I haven’t looked at his Facebook page once, or re-read any of his texts or messages or anything!’

‘Wow, that’s really good!’

‘I know! I don’t know myself! It’s entirely uncharacteristic. Of course, one hopes that by staying silent he’s gonna realise he’s made a mistake and get back in touch, but, well, that strategy hasn’t worked so far!’

‘N-o, but, what you need to do…’

We’re interrupted. Something called work beckons, even at 7.15pm on a Thursday, and I don’t get a chance to revisit the subject before it’s time for Gus to leave. But I’m sure as hell gonna find out what it is that I need to do.

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