In Development

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CC Image courtesy of "Stròlic Furlàn" - Davide Gabino on FlickrI’ve made so many bad decisions in the last 48 hours.

The first was telling Tom I didn’t think men and women could be friends. Which he took as a green light to kiss me.

The second was telling him not to get an Uber.

The third was swiping right on my one good job contact.

 

‘Did I mention I keep seeing my TV contact on Bumble and want to swipe right but think it would be a mistake?’

‘Anna, this is the third time you’ve mentioned it,’ Beatrice sends back. ‘We have agreed twice that it would be a mistake…’

 

Chris and I match and, a couple of days later, I meet a girlfriend for lunch. His name comes up in conversation.

‘I love Chris,’ she says. ‘He’s such a sweet guy.’

‘Yeah,’ I say, smiling. ‘I really liked him.’

CC Image courtesy of Sarah0s on Flickr

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The Worst of Times

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CC Image courtesy of Juska Wendland on FlickrA couple of years ago, just after the car crash that was my 26th birthday party, my brother gave me some good advice.

Don’t invite someone you’re dating to a party because it will make it all about them.

When I drew up the guest list for my housewarming, Tom‘s name was conspicuously absent. Obviously. I’d said I didn’t just want something casual and he’d suggested ‘being friends’.

Colleagues featured heavily on the list. Then the usual round-up of friends, my brother, and men I’ve always had a vague crush on but nothing has ever happened with.

It was safe. The latter wouldn’t come; the former would treat it like after-work drinks.

Then Friday happened.

‘Can I invite Tom?’

Beatrice says no. I play the Friday card. Tom is the least of my worries.

I don’t see Tom everyday and feel a jolt in the pit of my stomach. I don’t don my headphones to drown out his voice when he comes over to talk to Ryan. I don’t look up mid-meeting, see him walk past, meet his eye, struck by the sadness of his expression, and spend all afternoon wondering what it means.

Tom doesn’t pass my desk on his way out…

‘Bye,’ I say, with a wave.

… and acknowledge my farewell but keep walking.

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CC Image courtesy of DavidMartynHunt on Flickr

My message to Tom goes through several drafts. My mother writes half of it.

‘This, I could send this?’

‘Much better,’ she sends back.

 

Tom is nice about it.

Let’s just go for friends then,’ he writes. ‘Go for a pint sometime.’

I stare at the words for a while. Somewhere in my addled brain, this doesn’t seem like an entirely daft idea.

‘Yeah,’ I reply, ‘I’d like that.’

No I wouldn’t.

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Saturday Night Fever

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CC Image courtesy of pedrosimoes7 on Flickr

Everyday for about a year I woke to the same piece of dating advice. Written in pencil on a scrap of lined paper blue-tacked to my bedroom wall, it read:

If you’re attracted to a guy who isn’t pursuing you, DON’T EVER BE AROUND HIM. It’s masochistic.

At some point, perhaps because I thought it had done its work or because it didn’t meet my stringent standards for interior décor, I took it down.

 

Saturday night…

‘Did he invite you?’

I laugh. ‘No… no, it’s never that simple.’*

Beatrice smiles. ‘No. So, what, he said, ‘I’m going to this thing, you should come’?’

‘Nooo…’

What had he said exactly? He’d said: ‘I might be going to this ball. All Latin and ballroom dancing.’ Then a smiley face.

Cue puzzled face. He ‘might’ be going so, what, I ‘might’ turn up and find he wasn’t there? I recalled a guy friend’s insight into male dating behaviours (‘there are no hidden meanings’), waited a few days, then replied in a similarly ambivalent fashion.

 

By some miracle we are both in the same place at the same time on Saturday night, dancing. Well, he’s dancing. I’m sitting on the sidelines with Beatrice.

‘So, what do you think?’ I say. ‘Does he fancy me?’

‘Do you fancy him?’

‘Yes.’

‘Right. Well… why don’t you suggest going for a drink and see what happens?’

I stare, then spout the usual guff about how it should come from him.

‘Yeah, but what have you got to lose?’

 

Apparently nothing because an hour later I’m sitting opposite the guy in a pub, laughing more than I have in months. Then we’re walking to the bus stop. Then we’re saying goodnight.

 

And the next morning I’m contemplating reinstating the scrap of lined paper.

CC Image courtesy of Dr Stephen Dann on Flickr

*For the record, I am aware that sometimes it is that simple.

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The Name Game

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CC Image courtesy of johanoomen on Flickr

The first person I see on entering the pub is Casper.

‘What do you guys want?’

Ryan and Gus request pints. Tristan pokes me. ‘What do you want?’

‘Oh… just water, thanks.’

‘Half or pint?’ he says with a grin.

I come back from the loo to find a gin and tonic and a half pint of water waiting for me. Once seated, I decide to do the honourable thing and make polite conversation with Casper who’s to my left, silently thanking God (and Tristan) that there’s hard liquor to hand.

The second person I noticed on entering the pub was someone I didn’t know the name of, incredible given the number of hours I’ve spent on Tristan’s Facebook profile. The guy in question is good-looking, casually dressed in jumper and jeans, with an intelligent face.

Casper is talking shop, which anyone should know is pretty much not allowed, unless you’re 007, and even then. And I’m listening, sort of. A couple of times my eyes drift in the direction of Intelligent Face, to find it directed at me.

Casper goes out for a smoke and I fall into conversation with the girl sitting opposite. Her face is familiar, and so is her name – Laura – though we’ve never met. I like her instinctively and the chatter is relaxed and easy. Talk of mixed schools leads to a discussion of whether men and women can be friends. She is for the motion.

‘Tristan for instance,’ she says, ‘I’ve known him for years, but I could never think of him in that way.’

What is WRONG with you, I want to say. But instead I smile politely.

People move round. I’m pretty much stuck between Casper and Ryan; Intelligent Face is a few seats away, between Gus and Tristan. Not ideal positioning for a tête-à-tête, so it feels somewhat pointed when he speaks across Gus and Ryan and asks me a question about my job. By this stage in the proceedings I’ve figured out who he is. Tristan’s spoken of him often. He’s a playwright and one of Tristan’s best friends.

Fast forward half an hour and Shakespeare has somehow engineered taking the seat next to me. We’re talking writing.

‘I didn’t know you had a blog!’ Tristan says, overhearing.

I look incredulous. ‘I told you I had a blog!’

I’m sailing pretty close to the wind here.

‘Yeah,’ Tristan says, ‘but I didn’t realise you actually posted regularly. What’s it called?’

‘Oh… it’s anonymous,’ I say, ‘I don’t promote it.’

Shakespeare tries pretty hard to get the name out of me, but I’m not forthcoming. I’m also a bit confused. I mean, here is a guy – attractive, intelligent, interesting – showing interest. And across from me is his best friend, a man I refer to among my immediate family as ‘Future Husband’, and among my best friends as ‘Perfect Colleague’.

Around eleven Tristan gets up to leave and I make as if to follow suit. Shakespeare looks mildly disappointed, and I’m disappointed too. But I mean really, how would it go, hanging out with Shakespeare and Tristan and Tristan’s girlfriend? I might be a masochist but I have my limits.

Things don’t go according to plan, and it’s nearly midnight when I find myself on the pavement with Shakespeare, Laura, Casper and several others, heading for the station. At the ticket barriers, Casper says he should take me out for dinner sometime, a suggestion which I laugh off. Shakespeare, when it comes to saying goodbye, looks at me steadily and says we’ll hopefully see each other at Tristan’s housewarming in the New Year, before going on his way. I head in the opposite direction with Laura and the others, chatting merrily.

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