The Sound of Silence

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CC Image courtesy of H.J.Righolt on Flickr‘How was your wedding? Not your wedding…’

I laugh. ‘No. Yeah it was fine.’

I try to think of something funny or interesting that happened, besides slicing my legs open with a men’s razor in my haste to get ready, calling for a very attractive patchwork of plasters.

‘How was the party?’ I wind up.

 

I’d missed Tristan‘s house party for the wedding – a couple I knew from university. For the first two years of our degree he had a long-term girlfriend and she we pined. For the third year, they dated and, on graduating, moved in together. She looked radiant with happiness standing opposite him at the altar.

 

‘It was good,’ Tristan says. I get the feeling he’s also struggling for material.

There’s a pause as we apply ourselves to our lunch.

‘So did you meet anyone?’ he says.

I frown. ‘You mean…?’

‘Did you meet the love of your life?’

I laugh. ‘Well I only had about four men to choose from! There was one guy – he had his own mobile home – but he wasn’t the most interesting company. Actually the bride messaged me today saying ‘I hear there was some excitement’ and offering to help, which was very sweet given she’s on honeymoon. But anyway, she misread the situation…’

So much for confining myself to the funny or interesting.

What the bride had actually said was ‘I hear there might be something for the blog’, but Tristan doesn’t need to know this. He’s not listening anyway; at ‘mobile home’ he’d started to laugh.

‘Was he wearing a wife-beater?’ he says. ‘And did he have long sideburns?’

‘No,’ I say, also laughing. ‘He was quite good-looking, but that’s pretty much all he had going for him.’

I could go on, tell him how the groom had come over to us and said with a meaningful look in Mobile Home’s direction, ‘I don’t think Anna needs to worry about accommodation tonight.’

How, faced with the story of my taxi crisis, Mobile Home had offered me a cup of tea in his van (he preferred to call it ‘The Van’).

How I declined in favour of a good night’s sleep, went home to my own mobile home and cried for I don’t know what.

There’s another pause.

‘Tell me more about the party,’ I say.

CC Image courtesy of Nic Taylor Photography on Flickr

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Model Behaviour

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CC Image courtesy of rayand on Flickr

At uni I launched a poster campaign. I was looking for a man. The precise wording:

Would you like to learn to dance? I’m looking for a 6ft+ male…

‘Really you’re just looking for a boyfriend,’ Tom said.

‘Actually I’m not. I do genuinely want to find someone to dance with!’

 

One morning, as I was coming out of a lecture, my eye was caught by a pair of cheekbones and a tall, slender frame. He was beautiful, the kind of man I’d normally be scared to talk to. But – and this must stand to show just how desperate I was – I asked him straight out, was he interested in learning to dance?

He was nice, pleasant, chatty… not interested in learning to dance. But I went back to college riding a little high, the kind you get after being in the presence of – and acknowledged by – the very beautiful.

 

We became library buddies: he’d drop me a line when he needed a particular book. Then he’d appear at the porter’s lodge, an exotic presence, looking every inch the catwalk model (which he was).

‘Why are you putting on make-up?’ Tom said, leaning against the doorframe of my room.

‘No reason.’

And, my twenty-year-old self knew, very little point.

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Faking It

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CC Image courtesy of Chesi - Fotos CC on FlickrTuesday, there’s a departmental meeting, most of which I spend thinking, ‘I don’t even care, I should be working in the FILM INDUSTRY.’

Leaving the room I draw level with The Man for Whom I Baked. He’s tall, slender, beautifully turned out and – and this is the real reason I love him – he always looks happy to see me. I worry that one day his illusions will be shattered and he’ll see me for who I really am, someone who spent a week in Berlin and didn’t visit a single museum or art gallery OUT OF CHOICE. Conversations with him are like an Oxford interview, or an episode of Faking It.

‘How are you?’ he says, looking into the distance before snapping his head round to meet my eye. It’s sexier than it sounds.

‘Yeah, fine thanks. What did you think?’

It’s too soon, like a diner asking his companion for thoughts on the restaurant before they’re out the door. And this man’s an aesthete; my clumsiness must grate. He looks round at the sea of colleagues, perhaps scouting for eavesdroppers or passing time until it’s safe to speak. He answers in a low voice then says again:

‘No but really, how are you?’

Six months I’ve been in my role and this is a first. Family and friends have shown an interest of course and when things got really bad threatened to airlift me out of the office, but this is the first time I’ve been asked by someone on the inside. Someone who knows what I’m up against, who knows the system. Someone who looks a bit like Tobias Menzies.

‘Yeah… OK.’

‘We should have coffee sometime and you can tell me how it’s going.’ He’s back to staring into the distance.

*

I’m plating up flapjacks for Tristan and Co. in the kitchen when Tobias walks in.

‘Would you like one?’ 

‘Thanks,’ he says. ‘How are you?’

‘Stressed.’

‘Stressed? What about?’

I tell him.

‘Is there anything I can do to help?’

That helps – just asking. Where’s that line from? Almost certainly Sex and the City given the breadth of my cultural references. Something else this man doesn’t need to know.

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A New Lead

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CC Image courtesy of JulyYu on FlickrBeatrice once wrote me a profile for My Single Friend. It concluded: ‘And if you happen to be a ballroom dancer then so much the better!’ I’d long ago resigned myself to the fact that ballroom dancing in the garden – or anywhere – would remain a solo activity. And if by some miracle I ever brought a guy home to meet the parents he would assume the role of amused onlooker while I chasséed and lock-stepped my way around the lawn (he wouldn’t – he’d be forced to get involved and we’d end up laughing so much it hurt and made it impossible to keep dancing…).

 

So when, late one Saturday night, I get a generic Tinder message from Fred Astaire it gives me pause for thought.

 

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried ballroom. It’s one of the most incredible feelings in the world, being led around the floor by an experienced dancer. That might sound horribly patriarchal – and it’s true that an incompetent lead is tantamount to torture – but with the right partner it’s a dream.

 

With Fred I cut to the chase in a ‘You’re a ballroom dancer?! Time and place and I’ll be there!’ kind of a way. Fortunately he finds it funny and suggests a date.

 

‘I’m not sure I fancy him,’ I say to Beatrice, in the run up to Friday. ‘But I think I’m right in saying I fancied all of the dance team at uni, so we’ll see.’

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Double Standard

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‘I’ve never had a double bed before!’ I say, clapping.london eye 1

Rachel looks momentarily dumbstruck. ‘Well that’s why you’re still single, luv.’

‘No, because its never got to the point where it’s been an issue with someone… in London,’ I add.

Whereas in Oxford I had them hanging from the rafters. Not.

‘And,’ I frown, ‘why does it explain why I’m still single?’

I’m worried now.

‘If you can’t invite guys back to yours… that’s why you’re still single.’

‘Yeah, but having someone back to yours does not a relationship make,’ I say, my tone serious.

‘So spake the prophet,’ she says, adopting a prayer pose. We laugh.

‘And anyway, I’ll have you know, having a single bed doesn’t stop you inviting people back to yours! It just means you end up with a few more bruises!’

We laugh. Rachel starts to choke.

‘Please don’t die on me,’ I say, patting her on the back, ‘cos if you do I’ll have to tell people what I said to make you choke! And then I’ll sound like a whore!’

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