I hit the forward button and type:
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Beatrice comes back minutes later:
I wondered if you’d react.
Of course I’d bloody react!
Her advice is not to go.
Two weeks earlier…
The first thing I see is a status update: he’s leaving the company, leaving London, moving up north. I don’t know what he’s doing there (getting married and having babies probably) and it doesn’t really matter.
As the leaving date approaches, I think of him occasionally. It’s sad, the way things have turned out. Given what happened, I can’t but think badly of the guy, and I’d much rather think well of him.
The afternoon is busy, my inbox awash with emails. ‘Drinks tomorrow’ is the subject, but it’s the sender’s name which makes me stare. I open the message, read the farewell note to colleagues. He’s sent it to his whole office, and in the ‘CC’ field included just four names.
I run into Beatrice on the station side of the traffic lights.
‘Hey!’ she says. ‘What are you doing here?!’
‘Oh… I’m just going to a drinks thing before dancing.’
‘Yeah. Where are you off to?’
A gallery opening. In fact she’d better go, she’s running late. We say a hurried goodbye.
I come to a standstill a hundred yards or so from the pub, make a meal out of turning off my iPod, bundling up the headphones. I check my phone, stow it in my bag, and look for traffic in both directions before crossing.
He looks a little awkward, which makes two of us, but pleased. Or relieved? He finds me a chair.
‘I think… the last time I saw you,’ he says when people have moved around a bit, and we have less of an audience, ‘was at the summer party.’
He laughs, a tad awkward. ‘I think I was very drunk that night.’
‘I think you might’ve been.’
He laughs again. I can’t think of what to say next.
A short while later, I get up to go. We hug.
‘Don’t let the man get you down,’ he says, with the same awkward laugh.
I don’t say that with him out of the picture I’ve a marginally better chance of following his advice.