The Eyes Have It

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CC Image courtesy of markhassize11feet on Flickr

As I arrive a girl is coming out. She seems to know me.

‘I’ve got a blind date,’ she says. ‘He just called to say he’s here, so I have to go!’

She tells me the back story.

‘This time last year,’ I say, ‘I went on a really good blind date, so… hopefully it’s a lucky time of year!’

I do talk crap sometimes.

‘Aaw yes, hopefully.’

We say an affectionate goodbye – I still have no idea who she is – and I make my way downstairs to the bar. So much for not remembering the significance of today’s date.

 

Several hours later…

I see him first in a group. We’re introduced and there’s a moment – eye contact, I think they call it – before the crowd separates us.

Later it brings us together.

‘Tristan,’ he says.

‘Hi. That’s an unusual name. I called a character in something I’m writing Tristan but I’ve never met one in real life.’

As opening gambits go, I’m pretty pleased with this one, even if it does raise some awkward questions…

‘You’re a writer?!’ he says.

‘Oh, well, sort of – it’s not my main job but I like to do it on the side.’

‘What sort of thing?’

‘Like… romantic comedy?’

‘Cool, so, what, short stories?’

‘More like vignettes.’

Vignettes. Nice. I should talk about writing more often while under the influence. I go on:

‘But hopefully they’ll turn into something more substantial at some point.’

Just like that, without me having to so much as lift a finger. Wouldn’t that be nice? Speaking of nice…

Tristan moves closer, his eyes still fixed on mine. ‘But you said it wasn’t your main thing. So, what is?’

However original the opener, it always comes back to that inevitable question. And, after we’ve parted company, he having said he’d like to talk more at so-and-so event in a few weeks’ time, that he’d like to read some of my stuff, that ‘we’ll… Facebook’ accompanied by typing gestures – after all that comes the inevitable truth…

‘I like Tristan. Is he single?’

The hostess looks apologetic. ‘He’s got a girlfriend, and she’s one of my best friends so I have to look out for her.’

I like the implication that if the girlfriend wasn’t one of her best friends Tristan would be fair game.

 

The next day I find myself on said girlfriend’s blog, trying to determine a) how long they’ve been together, and b) (and this is the more challenging part, read: total waste of time) how happy they are. It’s preferable to hanging out on Tristan’s Facebook profile. I hadn’t noticed straightaway on meeting him but now, faced with an album of stills, the resemblance is unmistakeable. Long face, square jaw, good teeth, full lips… everything is the same – eerily so – except the eyes which, instead of a clear bright blue, are dark brown. But that aside, Tristan, well… he’s just another Viable Prospect.

CC Image courtesy of Unfurled on Flickr

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The Name Game

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The first person I see on entering the pub is Casper.

‘What do you guys want?’

Ryan and Gus request pints. Tristan pokes me. ‘What do you want?’

‘Oh… just water, thanks.’

‘Half or pint?’ he says with a grin.

I come back from the loo to find a gin and tonic and a half pint of water waiting for me. Once seated, I decide to do the honourable thing and make polite conversation with Casper who’s to my left, silently thanking God (and Tristan) that there’s hard liquor to hand.

The second person I noticed on entering the pub was someone I didn’t know the name of, incredible given the number of hours I’ve spent on Tristan’s Facebook profile. The guy in question is good-looking, casually dressed in jumper and jeans, with an intelligent face.

Casper is talking shop, which anyone should know is pretty much not allowed, unless you’re 007, and even then. And I’m listening, sort of. A couple of times my eyes drift in the direction of Intelligent Face, to find it directed at me.

Casper goes out for a smoke and I fall into conversation with the girl sitting opposite. Her face is familiar, and so is her name – Laura – though we’ve never met. I like her instinctively and the chatter is relaxed and easy. Talk of mixed schools leads to a discussion of whether men and women can be friends. She is for the motion.

‘Tristan for instance,’ she says, ‘I’ve known him for years, but I could never think of him in that way.’

What is WRONG with you, I want to say. But instead I smile politely.

People move round. I’m pretty much stuck between Casper and Ryan; Intelligent Face is a few seats away, between Gus and Tristan. Not ideal positioning for a tête-à-tête, so it feels somewhat pointed when he speaks across Gus and Ryan and asks me a question about my job. By this stage in the proceedings I’ve figured out who he is. Tristan’s spoken of him often. He’s a playwright and one of Tristan’s best friends.

Fast forward half an hour and Shakespeare has somehow engineered taking the seat next to me. We’re talking writing.

‘I didn’t know you had a blog!’ Tristan says, overhearing.

I look incredulous. ‘I told you I had a blog!’

I’m sailing pretty close to the wind here.

‘Yeah,’ Tristan says, ‘but I didn’t realise you actually posted regularly. What’s it called?’

‘Oh… it’s anonymous,’ I say, ‘I don’t promote it.’

Shakespeare tries pretty hard to get the name out of me, but I’m not forthcoming. I’m also a bit confused. I mean, here is a guy – attractive, intelligent, interesting – showing interest. And across from me is his best friend, a man I refer to among my immediate family as ‘Future Husband’, and among my best friends as ‘Perfect Colleague’.

Around eleven Tristan gets up to leave and I make as if to follow suit. Shakespeare looks mildly disappointed, and I’m disappointed too. But I mean really, how would it go, hanging out with Shakespeare and Tristan and Tristan’s girlfriend? I might be a masochist but I have my limits.

Things don’t go according to plan, and it’s nearly midnight when I find myself on the pavement with Shakespeare, Laura, Casper and several others, heading for the station. At the ticket barriers, Casper says he should take me out for dinner sometime, a suggestion which I laugh off. Shakespeare, when it comes to saying goodbye, looks at me steadily and says we’ll hopefully see each other at Tristan’s housewarming in the New Year, before going on his way. I head in the opposite direction with Laura and the others, chatting merrily.

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Wasted

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CC Image courtesy of francisco_osorio on FlickrThe Master of Ceremonies is wearing what looks like a high-end bin-liner.  ‘Turn to the person next to you,’ he says, ‘and share a story with the theme ‘Wasted’.’

‘I’m glad I’m next to the wall,’ I say, laughing.

Karl isn’t going to let me off the hook.  He goes first, with a story about how he wasted four months of his life working for an estate agents called Foxtons.  In that time he worked like a dog, to the point that he would get home to his girlfriend and be too tired to have sex.  ‘She used to beg me,’ he says, eyes wide with wonder, ‘but I just couldn’t!’  He shakes his head.  ‘It was such a waste.’

Now it’s my turn.  On reading the event description for the evening, I’d run a quick scan of the memory files for any relevant anecdotes.  Lately the saying ‘you regret the things you don’t do’ had been preying on my mind.  In Forget Me Not, the woman asks, ‘Any regrets?’  ‘Maybe,’ the guy says.  It’s a poignant moment.  Regrets, I realised, are something I never want to have and I don’t have many.  But there’s one I can’t seem to shake.  There it is, a wasted opportunity which fills me with feelings of regret.  It’s a trivial story, barely a story at all, but once lodged in my head, I can’t shift it.  And so, when Bin Liner invites us to share, it’s the only one that springs to mind.  I take a deep breath.

‘I should’ve gone to the ball at which I would have met the man I should marry but I didn’t because the guy who invited me I was still getting over and now the guy I should marry is going out with someone else….’

I said it was trivial, pathetic even.

Karl cuts in, ‘How do you know he’s the guy you should marry?’

I frown.  ‘Sorry?’

‘How do you know he’s the guy you should marry?’

I don’t, but the question is just annoying.  I mean, of course he’s the guy I should marry.

‘Because, when we did meet-.’

‘So you did meet him?’

‘Yes, we worked together…’

And if you’d let me finish the ruddy story, you’d have found this out!

‘… and we just got on really well.’

To the point that I was left in no doubt that he was the man I should marry.  Honestly, details.

‘But if you had met, you might have gone out together, and found it didn’t work.  I mean, you meet, you become lovers, and then you get to know each other, and then, if it works, it might become a relationship, but not necessarily.  More often than not, it doesn’t work.’

‘True.  But, well, I think it would work.  But anyway, now he’s got a girlfriend.  It’s such a waste.’

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Editor’s Note

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Tristan pushes out his lower lip.  ‘You never come and see me anymore.’

Which is ironic.

I come and see his colleague across the way all the time for no reason at all. I neglect to check if our fridge is stocked with milk and instead get it from the other one, the route to which takes me within three desks of where he sits.  I put my lunch in their kitchen first thing in the morning, heat it up in their microwave.

‘Oh, let me show you…’

He pulls out a well-thumbed copy of Country Life.

I laugh.  ‘I love that you thought of me.’

I do.

He turns to the page depicting a young lady and, in this instance, her horse. (Sometimes it’s a hound.)  I read the caption.  ‘Well, I’m happy to say I don’t know her!’

 

One lunchtime, a few weeks after joining, I’d glanced over at the magazine open on Tristan’s knee.

‘I know her!’ I said.  Feeling numerous Guardian-reading eyes upon me, I started back-peddling. ‘Well, not know, but I’ve met her.’  And, five minutes later, ‘I don’t really know her at all!’

 

Tristan points to a detail in the text.  ‘I haven’t heard of it.’

I laugh.  ‘You should write in to the editor: please only mention schools we’ve heard of.’

He looks slightly lost for words.

‘That’s essentially what you were saying!  Does it sound worse coming from someone else?!’

He laughs.  ‘Yes.’

Also laughing, I go back to my desk.

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The Definition Of Insanity

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CC Image courtesy of Stigs on FlickrThere are some people whose messages give you that feeling.  Butterflies.  Their name appears on the screen and you don’t open it right away.  Instead you use the fact it’s there, waiting for you, as leverage, to make you do some chore you’ve been putting off.  As you unload the dishwasher, or make lunch for the following day, you try not to think about it.  The message will disappoint; it always does.

 

It’s inevitable that when I go back on Tinder, Viable Prospect crosses my mind.  Imagine, I think to myself of an evening, if he got back in touch.  I would… ignore it.  Yes, that’s what I’d do.  It’s only a fleeting thought, I mean, why would he contact me?  How would he even know I was back on it?  Unless he was browsing his chat history and saw I’d recently been ‘active’ (shudder).  But people don’t do that.  I dismiss the thought.

 

Mid-week, I’m kicking back on the sofa, editing a post probably.  Or stalking Matthew.  More likely stalking Matthew.  I see my phone flashing white and swipe the screen.

There he is, in all his blue-eyed, bright-smiled, typo-free glory. Being witty, damn him.

Last time I held out twenty-four hours before replying – a Christmas miracle.  I also told myself that if he hadn’t suggested meeting up after two weeks, I would leave it.  Which I did.

I last all of ten minutes – ten minutes, for Christ’s sake! – before writing back.

Each time I hear from the guy I think maybe, just maybe, he’ll ask me out.  He doesn’t.  Not for a moment do I seriously believe I won’t reply.  That’s not true.  In the seconds immediately after reading each message, feeling that familiar wave of disappointment, I swear off the whole thing.  Even as I type the words, I’m hating him, hating myself for my complete lack of self-discipline.  How many other women are caught in his web?  To be fair, most are probably asleep.  It’s gone 1am and I’ve just been told I’m weird/attractive.  Which is enough to make me smile into my pillow.

Charming, blue-eyed, bright-smiled Viable Prospect thinks I’m weird/attractive.

I might be both, or neither, but I’m definitely a fool.

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