Five Years’ Time

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CC Image courtesy of Lena_J on FlickrI remember running together along the cobbled pavement of St. Giles to catch the beginning of the play.  Something French and obscure.  Afterwards we walked back to college, said goodnight beneath the clock, went our separate ways.


He left suddenly part way through second year, and we lost touch.


‘Anna!  How are you?  If you’re in London – want to meet up?’

I stare a moment, and not because the punctuation is whack.


A few weeks back, I’d been invited to a salon in South London, the kind of terrifying Bohemian affair I can never quite muster the courage to attend.  I’d noticed his sister’s name amongst the list of organizers and his own, under ‘Going’.  Idle curiosity took me to a sparse profile, which took me to another, more active, full of smiles and blonde bubbliness.  Not what I’d expected, but they looked sweet together.


It feels strange, writing to a man without worrying that I’m coming across too keen or replying too fast.  Good strange.  I say I’d love to meet up, and how about this evening?  I can even fool myself, when he comes back minutes later saying tonight would be good, that I don’t mind so very much about VP‘s sudden silence.


The theatre comes into view.  I imagine he’ll be easy to spot, above the crowd.  He’s tall, very tall, I remember that, with messy red hair.  And then I see him.

‘Hello!’  We hug.  ‘I’d forgotten how tall you are!  I must have asked you to ballroom dance at some point!’

‘I think you did,’ he says, smiling.

His hair has lightened and – wait for it – falls down his back in a ponytail which reminds me of Legolas.

‘Shall we find a coffee?’ he says, scanning the street.


It’s a glorious evening, too hot for coffee, and the pavement is crowded with tourists and commuters.

He laughs.  ‘It’s not much better than Piccadilly Circus!’

Where we’d originally planned on meeting.

‘I was just thinking that!’

‘Let’s find some green.’


‘Are you hungry?’

I prop myself up on my elbows, look at my watch. ‘I should be.’

‘That’s a no then,’ he says, smiling.  He hasn’t changed.

‘I will be soon.’

‘Shall we walk?’


We rise, brushing leaves and grass from our clothes, and start walking in the direction of life.  He has a habit, initially disconcerting, of stopping every now and again to discuss something, so our progress is slow.  At the playground we pause.  He tells me he used to come here as a child.

The sign on the fence reads, ‘Adults may only enter if accompanied by a child.’

‘Which of us is going to be the child?’ I say, looking him up and down.  He gives me a look; we climb the railings.


‘What sort of food do you like?’

I lower myself gently to the ground.  ‘Errr… good food?  What sort of food do you like?’

‘Good food.’

Our eyes meet along the length of the see-saw.


‘I’m just going to find the loos…’

I examine my reflection in the mirror.  I look tired.  I should refresh my make-up, comb my hair.  If this was a date I would do those things, but it’s not.  Is it?  I frown.  I’m not sure what’s going on.  It feels like a date, but that might just be him.  He has a way of looking at you, piercing and intense, which makes you think… But he has a girlfriendFacebook says so.  I check my phone.  Nothing from VP.  The girl in the glass looks sad, wants to go home, but she’s agreed to dinner.


‘Have you tried this?’

‘Not yet.’

Skilfully he transfers a slither of perfectly rare beef to my dish.  I eat it.

‘Wow,’ I say.  ‘Wow.’

He nods, and again our eyes meet.  They keep doing that.


On the walk to the tube, I brush against him.


‘Don’t let it be another five years!’ I say with a nervous laugh.  ‘Well, goodbye.’  We hug.  ‘Oops I trod on your foot.’

‘And… I’m around on Saturday, so… let me know.’

‘I will – I’ll talk to Catherine, see what her plans are.’


The next day, I find myself once again on his profile, barren save for a relationship status.  He didn’t act like someone in a relationship.  I bring up the girlfriend, browse the pictures.  There’s one of them in the half-darkness, playing on swings, and a location: the same playground.  For the first time I feel anger towards him.  Just a week after Matthew and a virtual repeat.  I close the tab and delete the draft text suggesting Catherine and I meet him for lunch when she’s over on the weekend.

CC Image courtesy of electric.porcupine [] on Flickr

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CC Image courtesy of lefthandrotation on Flickr

At first I’m not sure it’s him.  Then someone moves aside and I get a clearer view.  I flash a smile – yes I do – give a wave.  In his face, I see a spark of recognition tinged with puzzlement.  Then someone blocks my line of sight, or he looks away, and I’m left feeling like a bit of a gimp.  He doesn’t remember.

Or does he?

Our eyes meet again.  He’s walking towards me, through the crowd.  Winning smile #2.

‘I had no idea you’d be here!’ he says.

‘Ben!  Wow, what, it’s been, like, six years?!’

We hug, crumpling costumes.


Two weeks earlier…

‘Thank you for the invite.  I’m really looking forward to it!’

Georgie clasps her hands together. ‘You can come?  That’s great!’

Hard to say which of us looks more pleased.

‘Also, how do you know Ben?’

She has a habit of doing this, bringing up a new topic as if it’s a continuation of what’s gone before.

I frown. ‘Ben?’

‘Ben Phillips?’

The name rings a distant bell.

‘Oh, Ben!  I saw he was coming!  Reeling, actually.  But quite random reeling…’

In a barn, near home, years ago.  At the time, he was dating one of my classmates.  She was cool and sporty and not one of my favourite people.  He was open and warm and friendly.

‘I really liked him,’ I say, throwing caution to the wind.


I pass him in the corridor, make tutting noises.

‘It’s work,’ he says, waving the phone in the air. ‘I’m on call.’

He’s not a doctor so I’ve no idea what this means, but it’s hot.  We fall into conversation, drift in the direction of the sitting room and the makeshift dancefloor.

‘Dance?’ I say.  For old time’s sake.

He declines; he hasn’t had enough to drink.

Which is when Georgie appears and gives him no choice in the matter.


There’s something quite ‘school disco’ about it, which is fitting: a sea of familiar faces; disco anthems playing; gradually coming together, first to dance, then to kiss…


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Forget Me Not

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CC Image courtesy of James F Clay on FlickrI’m watching a film on my computer, otherwise known as waiting for a Facebook message from the world’s slowest correspondent.  He’s called FFS for a reason.  I’ve twice given up on him and we’re yet to go on an actual date.

I know – and not just because Flatmate has told me as much – that so long as it’s evident I’m not at the forefront of the guy’s mind, I mustn’t let him anywhere near the forefront of mine.  Which is a lovely idea

So yeah, I’m watching a film, which it turns out is brilliant and wonderful and endorses all those dangerous myths about love and soul mates and relationships founded on a meeting of eyes and absolutely zero verbal communication.  They’re bad news, such films, because they make me nostalgic.

There’s a scene where the man and woman, who only met properly a couple of hours before, slow dance at a silent disco.

He’s walking her to a party when they have a blazing row, and she goes on alone.  He follows, and arrives to find a roomful of guests silently dancing, each lost in their own little world.  There, in the middle of the floor, is the woman, eyes closed, moving in time to music.  He goes over, puts a hand on her shoulder, and she turns.  They don’t speak.  She removes an earphone, offers it to him, makes a selection on her iPod.  A slow, sweet song comes on, and they dance, arms round one another.

I’d dreamt of just such a moment since the days of the dreaded school disco.  I remember one time, Angels came on and I grabbed a partner.  A minute of shuffling on the spot later, I realized it didn’t work with just anyone.  Ten years on, at an office party, I discover someone it does work with.  So, when the couple in the film starts to dance, it’s him I think of.


An hour in, I’m despairing.  Matthew’s not a patch on the male protagonist.  I’ll never have what the characters in the film have.  I bet they’re together in real life.  Hell, this isn’t a film at all, is it?!  It’s just two actors falling in love!  It’s probably not even scripted!  I want to cry!

Then, all of a sudden, the woman in the film is despairing.

Is there someone else – is that it?’

There isn’t someone else.  I won’t tell you what happens in case you watch it, which you should.  It’s beautiful, funny, and heart-breaking.  It’s the kind of film I hope to write one day; about the kind of love I hope to know.

CC Image courtesy of lisandroPeralta on Flickr

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