Friendly Fire

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My message to Tom goes through several drafts. My mother writes half of it.

‘This, I could send this?’

‘Much better,’ she sends back.

 

Tom is nice about it.

Let’s just go for friends then,’ he writes. ‘Go for a pint sometime.’

I stare at the words for a while. Somewhere in my addled brain, this doesn’t seem like an entirely daft idea.

‘Yeah,’ I reply, ‘I’d like that.’

No I wouldn’t.

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Joking Aside

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(Continued from Size Matters)

Tristan‘s section is deserted except for him. I double back, lunch in hand, and take the swivel chair next to his. We talk about the singular form of ravioli (my lunch), his recent illness (particularly common in women over 40 apparently), sky-diving as a potential cure.

‘How have you been?’ he says.

‘Good. Been dancing a bit more these last few weeks. Yeah, things have been good.’

‘Any dates?’

‘A few… but I think it’s nearly at an end.’

‘Why?’

‘I don’t think we want the same thing.’

In a ‘sourcing free condoms on my lunch break because he’s not interested in being exclusive‘ kind of a way.

‘We’re not on the same page,’ I add.

‘Is he a slow reader?’ Tristan says. ‘Did you meet at your book club?’

I laugh. Tom would never make a joke like that, which makes me feel slightly better about the whole thing.

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Size Matters

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CC Image courtesy of princess toadie on FlickrI push open the door and approach the desk.

‘How can I help?’

‘Er I’m looking for free condoms…’

Yes I am that tight.

‘Do you have any preference?’

The kind that stop you getting pregnant/catching STIs?

‘What are the options?’

‘Regular, large, just different sizes.’

‘Err… erm…’

And there, in the foyer of Soho’s express sexual health clinic, I find myself contemplating the size of Tom‘s manhood.

‘Large? No maybe…’

Are condoms one of those things it’s best to buy on the small side? I look round. There’s a guy – staff I think – hovering nearby. But this really isn’t one of those things where you can ask for a second opinion. I wonder fleetingly what you’re supposed to do if you need condoms before you’ve seen someone naked.

‘… regular?’ I wind up. ‘Or… can I have some of both?’

He must think I’m planning a quickie back at the office. Actually, judging by his expression, he’s not thinking anything at all.

‘It’s one pack per person,’ he says.

‘Erm… I don’t really know how this works. I mean, I do, but… this is surreal!’

He looks mildly bored. Hosiery sizing charts swim into my mind. For a mad moment I consider asking him how condom sizing works.

‘Then… large?’

Five minutes later I leave with my allotted pack and walk back in the direction of the office.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

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Yes Men

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CC Image courtesy of kimberleykv on FlickrI listen, spellbound, to Rachel‘s sister, as she details his every action and word over the course of two years. It would be cruel, I feel, and impolitic since we’ll be sharing bridesmaid duties come the autumn, to start spouting stuff like:

If you’re asking whether he likes you, he doesn’t.

None of that matters. If he’s not asking you out…

The distance thing – he’s using it as an excuse.

He’s having his cake and eating it too.

But I say it nonetheless. Rachel is more practically minded:

‘You should date other people,’ she says.

I agree, while secretly thinking only someone who’s been out of the dating game for a while could think that you can go on dates, with people you’re genuinely interested in, just like that.

‘Yup,’ is her sister’s response, the light easy syllable of someone who has no intention of following through on the advice they’ve been given.

 

A couple of hours earlier I’d received an email from my mother. It was in response to a detailed breakdown I’d sent her of Tom’s most recent behaviour.

‘Just to confirm,’ I wind up, ‘I shouldn’t contact him, should I?

‘You shouldn’t,’ she sends back. But it’s the next bit that stings, that makes me for a moment have to concentrate on not crying at my desk.

‘You need to deliberately park your mind elsewhere,’ she writes, ‘and develop a different interest, rather than dwelling on an area of your life where you are not in control.’

I’m reminded of the chorus of Carrie Fisher’s character in When Harry Met Sally every time Sally tells her that the guy she likes is never going to leave his wife:

You’re right, you’re right, I know you’re right.

‘Yeah, you’re right…’ I start writing, by way of reply.

But how the fuck do you do it?

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CC Image courtesy of Iain Farrell on FlickrBeatrice and I laugh.

I’ve just told her that, with Tom proving to be flakier than dandruff, Viable Prospect is starting to look like a ‘safe haven’.

‘I’m laughing,’ she says, ‘but we both know…’

‘I know.’

‘What did he say?’

‘He said, “Anna. How goes? Sor–”.’

‘Oh for fuck’s sake,’ she cuts in. ‘”How goes?” Argh. You know anything the guy says is gonna make me angry.’

In contrast to how I felt when his message came through.

I was sitting at the kitchen table, trying not to look at my phone, hoping for a message from Tom (yes, that’s a legitimate activity for a Tuesday night). It didn’t occur to me that the message from an unknown number might be VP resurfacing. It even took me a moment to recognise his photo.

‘And I felt… nothing.’

‘That’s a really big thing,’ Beatrice says.

‘What do you mean?’

‘Well, think how far you’ve come. I mean, would you have reacted like that two months ago?’

‘I suppose not.’

I wouldn’t have contemplated not replying either.

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