Listen to Your… Chest (Part 2)

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(Continued from Listen to Your… Chest (Part 1))

Around 8pm on Christmas Eve I got a call from a private number.

I picked up. ‘Hello?’

The briefest pause. ‘Hello.’

Another pause, while I let the accent sink in.

‘Hello,’ I said again, heading through to the sitting room.

‘Happy Christmas.’

‘Happy Christmas. I didn’t realise it was you – it showed as a private number.’

‘Oh.’ Another pause. ‘How are you?’

‘Yeah, good.’ My tone was flat. ‘I, er, I’m just with family, so it’s a bit of a tricky moment.’

‘OK.’ He sounded sad. ‘I just wanted to say Happy Christmas.’

I hesitated. ‘Oh, er, well, thank you.’

Pause.

‘Well, I’ll let you get back to your family.’

‘Thanks and… Happy Christmas.’

 

Channels of communication re-opened with my new zero expectations in place. I went on the odd Tinder date; he filled in the gaps. We never chatted for long – he rang too late for that – but I didn’t much mind.

Work got busy and I missed a couple of calls from him. Things were still busy and I had a bad cough to boot when, one Saturday evening, a year after we matched, I dropped him a text. He rang the next morning and we chatted about our plans for the day. He was meeting family; I had a book to read for work. He was clever and successful in his own field but the only literature books he’d read were those that his school had forced on him.

I’d seen my ex the previous weekend and, in the wake of it, had suffered some kind of existential crisis. He was a Harvard, MIT and Cambridge-educated theoretical physicist who dabbled in etching and filmmaking – your definitive Renaissance man. Since our last meeting he’d got a great new job, bought his second London flat and bought a yacht. I was interning, unpaid, at production companies in the hope of securing a badly paid entry-level position. The contrast made me feel shit on many levels.

Neuro didn’t care about my job. Admittedly, I sometimes got the feeling he didn’t care to know much about me at all. But when he started to fulfil the surgeon stereotype and hold forth about every aspect of his life, I could at least call him on it. Two and a half years on, I still analysed most of what I said to my ex, either before or after it came out of my mouth. Neuro got the unedited version and it felt good.

My cough was bad by the time I hit the hay on Sunday evening. That morning, Neuro had said we’d ‘speak later’, but I hadn’t heard from him. That was fine: I had work to do and he would be in touch, eventually. I was doing my best impression of a consumptive when I heard my phone vibrate.

‘Hey, I’ve got a cough so I can’t stay on–.’ I broke off, coughing.

Neuro asked about the cough. It sounded worse than this morning? Was I taking medication?

‘I think – am I right in saying – you can’t medicate a productive cough?’

I descended into another coughing fit.

‘What colour is the stuff you’re bringing up?’ he said. ‘Is it white, yellow, green, red… grey?’

I’d spoken to my mum that afternoon and said I’d ask my doctor friends what I should do about the cough. I’d meant Rachel, or Stephanie.

I laughed. ‘This is amazing.’ Then: ‘Yellow.’

He explained what it could be and the different treatments. If I couldn’t get to my GP in the next couple of days, he’d email me a prescription for antibiotics. I thanked him and said I’d book an appointment the next day.

‘Let me know what happens.’

‘I will.’

The coughing had stopped.

‘I should probably sleep,’ I said.

‘Yep.’ A pause. ‘I’m looking forward to finally meeting you.’

‘Me too.’ I laughed. ‘Was it the cough that did it?’

‘No. It’s just… I’m looking forward to putting a face to the voice.’

‘Yeah.’

‘And the moan.’

‘I’m hanging up now.’

He laughed. ‘Night Anna.’

‘Night.’

(TO BE CONTINUED)

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A few years ago, over coffee, my friend Rachel told me about a junior doctor with whom she was doing her medical training. She praised him to the skies: he was funny, thoughtful, clever and very conscientious. There was talk of her introducing us but it never happened.

When he came up on my Tinder, I hesitated. Physically, he wasn’t my type. But I remembered Rachel’s eulogy.

He messaged me almost straightaway, and moments later I received a friend request on Facebook. I made a mental note not to swipe right on the back of one good review.

The next day, he texted to say he’d had a dream about me. I was at work at the time and remember weighing up tackling my to-do list and replying to his message. I knew which had the greater chance of being interesting.

‘What happened?’ I sent back.

‘Really???!!!’

Again, I hesitated. ‘Yeah.’

That evening, a colleague stopped by my desk and asked about the old love life. I mentioned that things had turned a bit… risqué with the latest Tinder prospect. We swapped notes on the only surgeons we knew – all a bit full on – and he went on his way.

But I was bored. Work was getting crazy and my social life was about to be dealt a deathblow. When the surgeon called during one of his night shifts, one thing led to another.

‘What are you wearing?’ he said.

‘Pyjamas.’

‘Take them off.’

Sometimes we were interrupted and I’d listen, fascinated, as he barked instructions at an unsuspecting nurse over the phone, before hanging up and giving me orders of a different kind.

Occasionally we chatted about life stuff and it turned out Rachel was right: he was funny. Fabulously direct too – my British diffidence drove him insane – but I liked that. He rang me one lunchtime while en route to the airport…

‘I might be, it depends, I’m not sure, I might have to–.’

‘Look,’ he cut me off, ‘I’m not asking if you can be free to talk to me later, I’m asking if you want to be free to talk to me later. Do you want to be free to talk to me later? Answer… answer me like a non-English person.’

I laughed. ‘OK, yes.’

‘Yes you will or yes you want to be free to talk to me later?’

‘The latter – I want to be free to talk to you later.’

‘OK.’

We continued like this for a few weeks. Then it happened. He suggested meeting, the appointed day came and… it was like he’d dropped off the edge of the universe. I deleted his number, he got back in touch – on Valentine’s Day – and the same thing happened. The third time he went AWOL, I called time. His number went, so did the Facebook friendship, and after a few attempts he stopped calling.

I fell for a guy off Bumble, my colleague kissed me, life went on. And because of those two men, I was probably more susceptible than usual when, in early September, I found a couple of messages from Neuro (as I’d come to call him) in my ‘Message Requests’ folder on Facebook. We started chatting again. He pushed for a first meeting at his place; I resisted (this had always been a sticking point). He relented and we fixed on the following Saturday for drinks.

This time I blocked him. I installed an app called MrNumber – which blocks people you want to speak to as well as those you don’t, it’s genius – and put him out of my head. The app also helpfully told me when the blocked number had called.

I lifted the ban just before Christmas and discovered my expectations had changed. I didn’t care anymore about meeting. When he suggested it, I went along with the idea, but I wasn’t surprised when a plan failed to materialise. I was however astounded at his lack of sympathy when I came down with a vomiting bug. He went back on the block list and I concentrated on getting better.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

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  1. You’re 29.
  2. You go on a date with a guy you met in a club. He’s 25 and, when you reveal your age, he says, ‘Well done.’
  3. You start wondering about felt tip pen as a viable, affordable fix for prominent grey hairs.
  4. You decide it’s now or never with giving the dream career a shot. Hell, there has to be an upside to not having a joint mortgage!
  5. You go to parties and are the token single person there, fielding questions like, ‘What do you think of Tinder?
  6. So you embrace it, cast aside your inner Charlotte, and sleep around.
  7. When that doesn’t prove to be fun (bad sex and, oh, bad sex), you go back to focusing on that dream career.
  8. Which proves to be a nightmare, so you get to wondering if children are really that bad.
  9. And decide they are.
  10. Maybe New Zealand is calling. There’s Tinder in New Zealand, right?

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CC Image courtesy of Larry He's So Fine on Flickr A few weeks back, Tom appeared on my Tinder. Seeing his picture was like how I imagine it would feel passing your rapist in the street. For a moment, I stared. Then, with the care of a lab technician handling corrosive acid, I adjusted the app settings and the screen refreshed.

By the second encounter, something in me had hardened – or softened – and I tried to convince myself he was redeemable, dateable even. Perky came to the rescue.

‘He sounded like a douche to put it nicely!’ she says.

Beatrice echoes the sentiment. Tom, we agree, is a straightforward case.

‘But,’ I say, ‘Jack didn’t mess me around like that.’

This is Exhibit A in the case for swiping right on Viable Prospect: compared with Tom, he behaved pretty damn well. He made me miserable, sure, but I got over it. And it only took, like, 18 months.

Beatrice doesn’t say anything.

‘And, well, I’m desperate! And there’s just… nothing going on!’

She starts clearing the plates. We both know that swiping right on the man who broke your heart is plain daft.

 

A week later, I learn I’ve got my dream internship. That evening, Viable Prospect crops up again. I do what I always do – change my settings and a new set of potential matches swims into view. But I know, as I head for bed, that VP’s not what I want. I could handle the Monday night dates when I had a 9 to 5. I could even handle the sleepless nights – my permanently frenzied state, like a cat on hot coals.

I remove my contact lenses, cleaning them in the palm of my hand. I don’t want the drama, the not knowing, the games. For the first time, I can see clearly.

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CC image courtesy of debsilver on FlickrI met Tom on Bumble, though he thought we’d matched on Tinder. This, combined with the fact he revamped his entire dating profile on the eve of our first date, rang alarm bells. I was also his first date after five years in a relationship.

When his communication slowed and his dating profile changed again in the days leading up to date #2 (supper at his), I ran scared. I was looking for a relationship; he appeared to be looking to get laid. So I did something I’ve never done before: I lied to get out of the date.

‘Could we rearrange?’ I wound up.

It was a test. I was 99% sure he wouldn’t reschedule.

He did.

In the days that followed, his bio underwent several rewrites. My favourite of his tag lines was ‘Not a complete dickhead’. I badly wanted to believe it.

Read the full article at Singles Warehouse.

CC image courtesy of clarestoker on Flickr

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