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?

CC Image courtesy of Toxictea on Flickr

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‘… and I remain not in love.’CC Image courtesy of furibond on Flickr

This is the bad news. But we’re only 15 minutes into a 45-minute conversation. I’m not feeling great, obviously, and he’s sounding increasingly uncertain to the point that he wants to tell me – he does tell me that he’s confused in his own feelings. He really likes me, and tells me so several times. He thinks I’m witty and beautiful. If I can’t do what we’re doing could I find a way to being friends at some point? But no, he says in answer to his own question, you’ve said no to friends.

The idea of being friends with someone I fancy as much as I do VP makes me shudder. I can barely refrain from kissing him when we are together and it’s OK for me to do so; the idea of making polite chit-chat over herbal tea doesn’t bear thinking about. No, this has to be a clean break, for now anyway. Perhaps, I find myself thinking, when I’m happily married to Tristan with three children, and the back catalogue of Country Life in the downstairs loo (joke), I would be able to see VP. But even I know that’s a terrible idea. We were never friends. I love the way he kisses me, the way he invades my personal space, how he says ‘tell me’ when I begin a story, at once fierce and gentle. The things I love about him are what lovers do, not friends.

So I say no to friends. And no when he asks if we could speak again soon.

‘Do you think at some point in the future,’ he says, ‘when you’ve got five kids and you’re incredibly wealthy… and successful… and happy, we might be able to have a peppermint tea together?’

What is it with him and herbal tea?! He doesn’t even like tea! And neither do I.

‘That’s a lot of hypotheticals,’ I say, again thinking of Tristan. ‘I don’t know… maybe….’

This is when I start thinking about how to shut down the conversation without resorting to When Harry Met Sally sound bites. And I’m assuming from his mutterings that he’s doing the same thing. There’s a pause, then he says in a different tone of voice, clear and precise:

‘I’m moving back to London.’

I half-laugh. ‘What?’

‘Early next year.’

He tells me about the new job and his plans for the intervening months. I let him speak, prompting with the occasional question. I don’t know why he’s telling me, or what to feel.

 

A short while later and again I’m casting about for suitable parting words.

‘We’ll see…’ I begin. The sentence peters out.

‘Yes, see you.’

He must have misheard, must have thought I said ‘I’ll see you’. I want to put him right, I want honesty and truth to carry through right to the end. But I stop myself. Perhaps this way is better, a white lie.

CC Image courtesy of robin_why on Flickr

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‘Well, have a nice life!’1030540576_9e36e707d9  I say.

I’ve seen When Harry met Sally too many times.

‘Don’t be silly,’ he says.  ‘We’ll see each other before I leave.’ 

‘Yeah, you’ll have a leaving party.’ 

He chuckles.  ‘And a welcome party.’

‘Yeah…’  I feel a pang of jealousy towards his new flatmates.  ‘Well, it’s been really nice, living with you.’

For ‘really nice’, read ‘mental torture’.

‘You too.’

‘See ya.’  I turn to walk away.

He makes a sound as if about to speak.  I spin on my heel.

‘Is there something else to say?’

You couldn’t write this shit.

He hesitates, colouring slightly.  ‘If…’  

I’ve never seen him like this before: diffident, ill at ease.

‘…if you’re ever in my part of the world and need a place to stay, get in touch.’

‘Ditto.’  

CC Image courtesy of Greg McMullin on Flickr