A couple of weeks ago, while at a concert hall, I bumped into a man I used to date. It was bound to happen one day: we always loved the same composers and frequented the same venues.
It is hard enough to meet a man in my age group who enjoys classical music as much as I do, let alone one who’s also tall and handsome, highly educated, erudite and speaks several languages fluently… He had read all the classics, his bookcases were brimming with beautiful leather-bound editions. He could talk eloquently about operas, composers, literature, poetry, theatre. His idea of hot sex was doing it to the sound of Maria Callas blasting out a passionate aria in the background.
Even the many synchronicities seemed to indicate we were meant for each other. A poster of a Paul Klee painting hung on the wall of his lounge, and Klee is my favourite painter. He had a published book, in which the main character had the same name as my ex-husband. His ex-wife’s name was the female equivalent of that of a man I had deeply loved in the past. We had studied the same subjects at university. We had both survived cancer, and of the same kind. We liked the same foods, even the same types of pudding. We had the same thoughts at the same time. How could I not fall in love with him. Suddenly I was the happiest woman in the world; I couldn’t stop smiling. In the autumn of my life, I had finally met Prince Charming.
Or so I thought.
I had sat the first half of the concert having solo use of a box seat overlooking the stage, which I’d been offered at a discounted price by a nice ticket office lady. I was in a good mood and had joined the ice-cream queue during the interval when I first caught a glimpse of him coming towards the direction of the ice-cream stand.
It’s funny how the mind works when you go into a state of shock. In a split second three distinct thoughts raced through my head in no specific order, “Damn, do I have time to duck away?”, “His hair has grown!” and “Please don’t tell me he’s with that woman.”
It was a fight-or-flight moment, but I was as pathetically equipped for escape as a rabbit caught in the headlights. By the time I had registered he had a date with him, he had registered I was standing there, looking as if I’d seen a ghost.
We’d had a falling-out a couple of months before…one of many in the time we’ve known each other, during which we broke up and got together again, broke up and got together again, as if we had a vicious addiction to each other neither of us could permanently break. I had told him I wouldn’t contact him again, as his unexplained periods of total silence, the inconsistency in his behaviour, his hot-and-cold games were driving me insane. I had told him, if he ever wanted to do a programme with me again, he knew where to find me, but I did not want to continue making a fool of myself.
Yet, here I was, on the brink of losing my dignity again. Was this woman the reason for his silence or did the woman happen as a result of our latest rift?
In the same split second in which I had the three thoughts above, I also gave his his brunette a once-over, checked whether they were holding hands (they weren’t), whether either of them looked enamoured (they didn’t), the pace at which they walked (too fast to indicate romance; couples in love walk slowly and enjoy each step they take together), the distance between their bodies (more colleague-like than lovers).
I checked her fashion sense…as you do: girly dress, black high heels, glossy black clutch. Trying waaay too hard! Maybe a first date? I was in skinny blue jeans from Uniqlo and a Cos navy-and-white stripey tunic. Ankle boots, medium heels. Smart casual. Understated elegance. One-oh.
As he passed and said hi, looking embarrassed but resigned like a little boy who’s just been caught by his mother masturbating in his room, I was drawing the conclusions of my audit, “Friends only, no sex… Yet.”
“Hi.” I spoke fast, without smiling.
He took two steps forward as if he’d carry on walking, probably going through the same thought process as myself, do I ignore do I not ignore. Then he re-traced his steps to stand squarely in front of my terrified self, first looking behind to check his date’s reaction, or maybe that was his sign to let her know he needed to talk to me privately.
“Hi. How are you?” he said.
“Good.” I sounded like a mosquito had spoken, if mosquitos could speak.
“It’s good to see you.”
I said nothing but he was smiling widely to stress how happy he was to see me, suddenly turning from naughty boy into Casanova.
“I hate you so much,” I thought.
I noticed my mind noticing how lean his body was, and how hard and strong his chest looked underneath his yellowy sweater. Regular gym training was obviously paying off. He looked youthful, healthy. Virile. Trying to impress women, you fucking philanderer! I want you to die. And you need a haircut too!
“I’ll be in touch soon. You know…about…about various. I’d been thinking of contacting you anyway, so I’ll be in touch.”
Liar! Liar liar liar. Die die die!
“Fine.” I blurted out almost too abruptly, putting a full stop to an increasingly awkward conversation.
I wolfed down my ice-cream without tasting it. I read the programme three times and didn’t take a single word in. After the interval, I melted into Brahms’ Second Symphony, as if Johannes (that’s Brahms for you) had written it for me. I clapped so enthusiastically my hands hurt.
I was delirious. I prayed I had ruined their date. That the brunette had asked him who I was, that she got jealous and had gone home in a huff. Or..that..if she’d been stupid enough to end up in bed with him regardless, he’d have accidentally called her by my name.
That evening I dreamt I was puking. I was puking and puking non-stop.
(continued in the next post…)