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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Déjà Vu

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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 "Stròlic Furlàn" - Davide Gabino on FlickrI’ve made so many bad decisions in the last 48 hours.

The first was telling Tom I didn’t think men and women could be friends. Which he took as a green light to kiss me.

The second was telling him not to get an Uber.

The third was swiping right on my one good job contact.

 

‘Did I mention I keep seeing my TV contact on Bumble and want to swipe right but think it would be a mistake?’

‘Anna, this is the third time you’ve mentioned it,’ Beatrice sends back. ‘We have agreed twice that it would be a mistake…’

 

Chris and I match and, a couple of days later, I meet a girlfriend for lunch. His name comes up in conversation.

‘I love Chris,’ she says. ‘He’s such a sweet guy.’

‘Yeah,’ I say, smiling. ‘I really liked him.’

CC Image courtesy of Sarah0s on Flickr

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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.

CC Image courtesy of Vickilgh's Pictures on Flickr

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Paradise Lost

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CC Image courtesy of Glen Bowman on FlickrSeveral years ago, the BBC broadcast a period drama called The Paradise. It was about a department store in the north of England run by charming entrepreneur Moray. The local totty thought he was the best thing since sliced bread and badly wanted to marry him (which would have been to his advantage, since totty’s father had pots of money ready to invest in the store).

Enter Denise: pretty, clever and ambitious. She makes her mark at the store (lots of bright ideas for displays, that kind of thing) and even catches the attention of Moray. Cue URST (UnResolved Sexual Tension).

Just when we think Moray and Denise are about to sail off into the sunset, there’s a twist (SPOILER ALERT). The crucial speech:

Denise: I don’t want to marry Moray. I want to be him.

That’s the line from the series that most stayed with me. And it’s the line I resisted the urge to quote when, earlier this year, I found myself on a date with the man who’d helped script the series.

‘It was great!’ I said. (I probably clapped.) ‘It was better than Mr. Selfridge.’

He grinned. ‘Aww bless you.’

(I should have known then it was doomed.)

 

We saw each other a couple more times, and each time conversation turned to his job.

CC Image courtesy of Marvin (PA) on Flickr

I’ve dated people from a range of professions: engineers, a journo, an architect, a theoretical physicist. Infatuation, I find, is usually accompanied by a heavy dose of job envy. And if I don’t fancy doing the actual job – me as a theoretical physicist LOL – I’m seduced by the lifestyle that goes with it. I still have no idea how the physicist managed to go on fortnightly holidays.

But – the journo aside – it’s all been fantasy. Until Moray.

 

I hung on his every word. Date one, I admitted to having tried to get into script development a while back. I’d even spoken to several script editors about the best routes in. He knew the people I’d spoken to. It just gave us more to talk about.

But, unlike Moray, he didn’t come to me on bended knee. So, shortly before the inevitable parting of the ways, I started mourning the relationship. He was fun; I’d miss that. I’d miss the sex too. But what I’d miss most was sharing a passion. We’d watched the trailer for The Crown and agreed about the lack of conflict. We hadn’t agreed about Michael’s character in Mum (I found him a bit annoying), but we did both love the theme tune (‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’) and listened to it together the last morning I spent at his.

I told him the best bit of screenwriting advice I’d ever read. He told me about the alien story his company was in the process of pitching. He loved his job. I loved his job.

I loved his job. I loved his job.

Five-hour meetings to determine characters’ back-stories. Brainstorming plot lines with a writer in their hotel room. Working all Sunday on a scene breakdown.

 

I set about updating my CV, making over my LinkedIn profile, emailing potential contacts – the works.

 

Occasionally I thought of him, pictured his head resting on my pillow.

I like you.’

I smile. ‘I like you too.’

We kiss.

‘What do you want?’ he says.

It’s a script joke – a protagonist should always want something.

The same thing as you,’ I whisper, and pull him closer.

If only that had been true.

CC Image courtesy of Oceans of Lilim on Flickr

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