Say It With Clip Art

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CC Image courtesy of CameliaTWU on Flickr

I’d never told a guy ‘I love you’. I came close with my sixth form boyfriend.

‘I love… your hair.’

Close shave.

 

VP asked me, was I in love?

‘What – with you?’

It was a pertinent question since at that precise moment I was in love with several different people: Tristan, Max (always), Tobias Menzies (the real life version and probably the blog version a little bit), not to mention several people who have never existed but been dreamt up by various novelists.

I ummed and ahhed a bit, thanked God that we’d opted to Skype without cameras, recalled my mother‘s advice never to tell a man you love him (‘What, never? What about Daddy?’ ‘Oh yes, well, I might’ve, in a moment of weakness…’) and wound up:

‘I’m not not in love with you enough to keep doing what we’re doing.’

Which made sense in context, sort of.

 

Four minutes until the next train.

‘Damn.’

I’m getting later everyday.

In the lift I mentally rehearse an excuse which I know I won’t use, rather I’ll slip into my seat hoping my arrival has gone unnoticed. As long as I get my work done, I tell myself, it really doesn’t matter when I start the day.

I power up the computer, deposit my lunch in the fridge, get a glass of water. Back at my desk I find a new email waiting. In the subject line, ’09:53′. The body of it is blank. I do a quick Google, copy, paste and send. And there it goes: ‘I love you’, courtesy of Clip Art. That wasn’t so hard.

CC Image courtesy of MAGIC CHARM GRAFIX on Flickr

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Four Candles

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CC Image courtesy of rvr on FlickrOne of the perks of writing a dating blog is that I hold the editing power.  I don’t have to include the less-than-brilliant moments, which expose me as human and fallible.  Like the fact that three minutes before I was due to meet James near Oxford Circus on Monday evening, I could be found sitting on a bench, coffee in hand, pondering a friend’s housing dilemma – in Hyde Park.  My phone flashes up with a message.

‘Sorry, got held up at work, going to be a few mins late – but not too many hopefully….x’

That’s odd, I think, looking at my watch.  We’re not due to meet for… oh SHIT.

I grab my bag, do some quick mental calculations, and start running in the direction of what I hope is Marble Arch.  At the subway entrance I hit send on a breathy apology.

The gods are smiling on me: a train pulls up as I arrive on the platform.  Bond Street… Oxford Circus.  At the ticket barriers, I search my pockets.  Nothing.  I put my bags down, and root around in their depths.  Bingo!  Muttering expletives, I dash through the barriers.

On the pavement, I try to dredge up the memory of the street plan I’d googled earlier that day.  I start running northwards, dodging pedestrians.  Ahead is what looks like a concert hall.  It should be the next building.

CC Image courtesy of Sarah.Marshall on Flickr

I scan the courtyard, then check my watch.  Ten past.  Not too bad, but still, I don’t think he’ll like it.  I toss back a mint and rush inside.  No sign of him.

‘Hello,’ I say to the man at reception.  ‘I’m here for the comedy…’

‘I am the comedy’ might be more appropriate, given what follows.

‘Just off to your left, Madam.’

Madam goes left, and that’s when I see him, standing in what must be the side entrance, frowning at his phone.  I smile and go over to him.

‘Hello!  I’m so sorry!  My excuse is a very poor one.  I just found out a friend might be made homeless and I was a bit distracted – and for some reason thought it was 8 we were meeting.’  I pause for breath.  ‘I’m so sorry.  I hope we’re not too late for it.  When does it start?’

‘Hello.  Don’t worry.’  I can’t quite tell if he means it.  ‘Not til 7.30, so we’re OK.’

Security waves us over.  ‘Bags please.’

‘It’s like an airport!’

James concurs.  We deposit our bags in plastic boxes, ready for the scanner.  I hold out my jacket.

‘Is there anything in it, Madam?  A wallet or phone?’

‘No, nothing.’

‘Then you can take it through with you.’

I approach the lady with the handheld scanner.  She looks at the jacket.

‘Has that been through the scanner?’

‘Oh, no.  Your colleague said it didn’t–.’

‘It needs to go through.’

CC Image courtesy of Theen on Flickr

I double back, giving James a weak smile.

Jacket-free, I get the green light, and go over to where the bags are accumulating.

‘You’ve got a fork, Madam,’ the guard says.

I look down at my bracelet, a remodeled silver fork, and make to take it off.

‘In your bag,’ he says, pointing.

‘Wh–?’

Oh God.  I find the offending article.  The prongs are wrapped in kitchen paper from when I didn’t have time to wash it at lunch.

‘Would you like to collect it after?’

‘No, don’t worry.’ I glance behind me.  James is out of earshot.  ‘Actually…’

He appears at my side.

‘… no, it’s fine, you can chuck it.’

Too late.

‘Would you sign here, Madam?’

James is looking mildly curious.  I don’t say anything, but take the clipboard and sign.  I’m about to turn away.

‘And here please.’

The guard holds out the bagged fork, ready for me to write on the label.  I’ll have to come clean, which is more than can be said for the fork.

‘It’s a fork,’ I say, reddening.  James’ expression is hard to read, somewhere between bafflement and amusement.  I nod in the direction of the theatre.  ‘I don’t think we need to go in there for the comedy!’

We go through to the bar.  I can feel beads of sweat forming on my brow and lip, the legacy of my earlier sprint.  And I need the loo.

‘Shall we get a drink?’ he says.

‘Mmm some water would be good.’

The barman brings two glasses.  I take a sip.  A voice comes over the speakers, calling for holders of tickets 1-50.  I can feel my face glistening.

‘It really is like an airport!’ I say, looking anywhere but at James.  ‘Shall we find a table?’

Once seated, conversation turns to the show.

‘It’s perfect,’ I say, brushing sweat from my lip.  Except that sweat won’t be brushed, not really.  ‘Cos I’m trying to write a radio script at the minute.’

‘I didn’t realize.’

‘Yes.’  More ineffective brushing.  ‘It’s about – no that’s a stage thing – what’s the one for radio I’m doing? – this bodes well!’

James is looking at me the way a doctor might look at a mentally ill patient: a mixture of pity, puzzlement and despair.  Which, by anyone’s dating standards, isn’t great.  

By the time our ticket numbers are called, things are looking up.  The sweating has subsided, and we’re agreeing it takes a lot to make us laugh.

I laugh pretty much non-stop for the next three hours.  Must have been the coffee.

CC Image courtesy of realjv on Flickr



Cinder-fuckin-rella

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CC Image courtesy of auntie rain on FlickrSeven minutes and counting.  I stare at my phone, willing the digits not to change.

 

Earlier in the evening…

He comes over to me.

‘I think this is yours.’

My bracelet.  I left it on the piano during our first dance.

‘Oh!  Thank you!’  I say, slipping it on.

I feel like Cinderella.

Prince Charming says something about how he didn’t want me to forget it, and I agree that that would have been very sad.  (For the record, and because my mother is reading this, and she gave me the bracelet with the tender words, ‘if you don’t like it, I’ll have it’, I would not have forgotten it.)

 

Half an hour later, having interrogated friend of PC and established that he is single and decent (whatever that means), I’m in the pub.  I’m not talking to PC – that would be ridiculous – but I am in his general vicinity, chatting to Rachel.  He glances my way occasionally; Rachel, under strict instructions not to stare, is ogling at him.

I look at my watch.  ‘I can’t stay too long.  I’ve got to get this application in by midnight.’

Quick glance at PC.

‘I’m not a fan of ‘The Rules’ generally,’ I say, ‘but where do we stand on waiting for the guy to come to us, in this situation?’

Rachel wrinkles her nose.  ‘Hmmm nah.’

‘But, in my experience, if a guy wants to talk to you, he’ll make it happen – he’ll seek you out.’

I’m thinking of Joe – and look how well that turned out.

‘Y-es, that’s true,’ she says, ‘but nah.’

This doesn’t surprise me: Rachel is pretty, flirty, and vivacious, and smart and funny and has an incredible figure.  I must get some ugly friends.

At this point, we’re joined by a guy who evidently shares my high opinion of Rachel, and I head off in search of PC’s friend.  He’s surprisingly amenable to the idea of playing Cupid.  Five minutes later, PC and I are chatting at the bar.

‘Are you a Casualty fan?’

He looks surprised.  ‘No.  Why?’

‘Nor am I, but I’m having to fake it for a job application, and it’s proving quite tricky.  One of the questions is “which do you think has been the least successful storyline in the last twelve months?”‘

He suggests Google, putting an appeal out on Facebook (‘I tried that, but it seems my friends have taste when it comes to television!’), and every other shortcut known to modern man. I’ve neglected to mention that the application deadline is in less than an hour – at midnight. I should really be making a move. We start talking books: he’s going to a literature festival on the weekend. Another five minutes won’t hurt, right?

CC Image courtesy of jonas.lowgren on Flickr

I check my watch.  ‘I’d better go.’

‘Oh – well – good luck with it!’ he says.  ‘And I’ll let you know how the weekend goes.’

Weekend… weekend…

‘Oh, the festival!  Yes!’

 

En route to the tube station, it occurs to me that the journey time to get home is longer than I thought.  That there’s no internet signal between here and home.  That my phone’s nearly dead.  That PC has no means of contacting me to let me know about his weekend.  That I might not even fancy PC that much, in which case I’ve put my career on the line (slight exaggeration) for a guy I’m not even that interested in, and with whom nothing will probably ever happen.  That I had better bloody end up marrying the guy!  That even if I manage to get hold of my mum, a phone call which will very likely wake up my dad causing all hell to break loose, she probably won’t be able to access my account and submit the application in the course of the three minutes or so that I’ll have on the line before my phone dies.  And that, as we approach my stop, I can’t find my bloody Oyster card!

I run up the escalator.

‘I’ve got an emergency!’ I pant to the guard.

I’ve been watching too much Casualty.

‘And I can’t find my Oyster card!  Please let me – !’

‘Go on.’  He waves me through.

There’s a guy loitering outside the security gate.  As I approach, swearing and gasping for breath, he wanders off.  I enter the code.  Nothing happens.  I enter it again.  Nothing!  He must have disabled the keypad with the wrong numbers.  I’m looking around helplessly when the gates start to open.  I slip through the gap and make a dash for the front door.  Key in lock, lights on, collapse on stairs, power up laptop.  Two minutes to go.  Connect to network.  Ninety seconds.  Flatmate tramps downstairs to see what all the fuss is about.  Log in to account.  Error message.  Arghhh!  Flatmate brings my stuff in from the step and closes the door.  Tick box to complete final section.

‘I’m too late!’ I gasp.

The screen refreshes.

Would you like to submit your application?

That’s a stupid question.

 

I trudge back to the tube station, Oyster card in hand, and thank the guard.

‘Was – was everything OK?’ he says, looking concerned.

‘No, not really.’  I feel a bit ashamed.  ‘But I found my Oyster.’

He looks surprised but doesn’t enquire further, only swipes the card.

 

I emerge into the open air and glance at my watch: quarter past midnight.  My bracelet catches on my coat pocket.  I laugh, and head for home.

CC Image courtesy of disneyandy on Flickr