Elephants Can Forget

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Slowly you move on. Little things help, like hearing him say he’s contributing to her mortgage.

No, that’s a big thing. The big thing. The thing you take away from the evening, that makes you glad you drank that second glass of wine so you don’t go home and cry into soup but instead drunk-message men with trouble written all over them.

But you still think about him. And, the following night, at 2am, with sleep feeling too far off, you draft an email.

***

Not for a moment do I consider declining Ryan’s invitation. Even though I’m tired and have lots of work on but no make-up. I toy with the idea of asking my too-cool-for-school colleague if I can borrow some eyeliner but think better of it.

I’m running late and fire off a quick message to Ryan, checking they’re still there.

It’s a shorter walk than I thought to the pub. He’s sitting in the window and my face breaks into a smile as I head for the door, push it open.

He’s exactly the same. The same jumper, the same trousers and shoes, the same hesitant smile.

And I want to ask him everything. I want to know every wretched detail of his life. I just want to look at him.

So I go to the bar with Ryan and we chat about his new job, the overpriced wine, our love lives. Glasses in hand, we go back to the table. Tristan’s talking to a girl – a stranger. I hate her for being there. It crosses my mind that the evening might come to an end and I won’t have spoken to him.

I’m telling Ryan about my recent spate of self-destructive dating behaviour when Tristan cuts in.

‘Shall we…’ He motions to suggest more of a group conversation.

I’m across from him. Bitch to my right, Ryan on my left. Bitch tells me she used to work with Tristan – she takes credit for talent spotting him. Once I’d have remarked on how brilliant he is. Now I just nod and say, ‘Ah’.

Bitch and Ryan are at the bar. I’m trying to crack open the more resilient pistachios with a metal knife. I press down on the nut and hear the shell crack. Our laughter turns to confusion when I hold up the intact shell.

It’s almost how it was before.

Our eyes meeting occasionally.

Him telling me about things that matter to him.

Like the mortgage. I need to hear it. It makes me check my phone, prepare my line about needing to leave.

***

At 2am I draft an email. Something about elephants in the room and wanting to acknowledge what happened, just to clear the air.

I don’t send it.

Slowly you move on.

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Tristan’s back soon.’

I turn. ‘Sorry?’

Kate rinses her cloth in the sink. ‘Tristan’s back soon.’

‘Oh… yes!’

She screws up her face. ‘On the… 18th, I think?’

‘Oh! Right! I knew it was something like that. An old colleague told me he was back later this month.’

She smiles fondly. ‘He’s so shy.’

‘Shine?’

‘Shy.’

‘I’m sorry… shine?’

‘Shy. Shy.’

‘Oh, shy! Oh… really?’

‘Yes. When I go there, he just says hello then goes straight back into his room.’

‘Oh.’ I think for a moment. ‘I guess he can be shy at first. But… he can be the exact opposite!’

We laugh.

He’s a good person,’ she says, wringing out the cloth.

‘Yes.’

‘Really nice.’

‘Yes.’ I frown. ‘But… but you know that even though he doesn’t speak?!’

‘Yes, he’s just, you can tell, a good person.’

‘Yes, he’s… he’s…’

I want to say ‘special’. The word is on the tip of my tongue. But I can’t. For one, it would sound odd. For another, I’d be lying. His behaviour last summer – it was the opposite of special. It was so fucking ordinary. And it broke my heart a little. So I go with:

‘… he’s really lovely.’

Part of me wants to tell her I still ache for him. That, since Ryan mentioned his return date, I’ve found solace in the thought of it.

She goes on. ‘But mostly I speak to Holly.’

‘Yes. I know her a bit.’

‘She’s good, I think.’

Her enthusiasm is more moderate, and it comforts me.

‘Yes, I think so.’ A pause. ‘Well, it’ll be nice to see Tristan again!’

‘Yes,’ she says.

Will it?

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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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Sister Act

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CC Image courtesy of Indigo Skies Photography on FlickrI look up to see Tristan approaching.

‘Are you busy?’ he says.

I think of my post-holiday to-do list: twelve tasks and counting.

‘Err why?’

‘Could you witness the signing of a contract – if you’re not too busy?’

I glance in the direction of my boss.

‘Yes,’ I say, ‘that’s fine.’

I start to rise.

‘I’ll come and get you when my sister’s here,’ he says, ‘in about five minutes.’

‘Your sister? OK.’

 

I turn back to my computer screen. He could have asked any number of people: Tobias, Ryan, Harriet who sits opposite him…. I glance again at my boss, before bending to root around in my bag for a tube of lip gloss. Lucky I put on make-up this morning. It wouldn’t do to look sleep-deprived when meeting my future sis– oh for fuck’s sake. Frowning, I focus on the screen.

The minutes slip by.

I’ll say something really daft probably, offend her. ‘Hi!’ and a smile. That’s safe. I can’t say ‘I’ve heard so much about you’, because I haven’t really. I must remember not to say her name.

It’s definitely been more than five minutes.

I mutter words under my breath, looking for the best phrase for an email. This is good. I should be working when she sees me for the first time.

More like ten.

He rounds the corner. ‘Don’t worry,’ he says, ‘it’s fine. Harriet witnessed it.’

‘Oh, OK.’

He walks away.

I really need to get over this.

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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.

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