Wednesday 24 July 2002


Reading (a blog I've been reading on and off for a couple of months) one day I was struck by a compulsion to mail the author and tell her that I (enviously) enjoyed reading her entries and way with words.

Delightfully, she wrote back and a brief but entertaining e-mail conversation followed. When she mentioned she would be passing through London for a few days at the start of a long bout of travelling (can you have a bout of travelling, I believe I may be making it sound like malaria) I decided I'd like to meet her, to see if the lines of a blog accurately sketch the real person.

Surprisingly (I couldn't help but imagine myself being imagined as some pale, wan geek, wedded to a broadband connection and a crate of Pot Noodles) she agreed and we arranged to meet up on Sunday night.

I wasn't going to be nervous - I'm a competent, capable, adult, I have many friends, sometimes I even feel like a winner - I was really looking forward to an excellent random venture. I had a fabulous weekend of seeing wonderful friends and having a great time and pitched up back at home just an hour before I was due to meet her.

Then the fear started. I don't know specifically what fear I had, maybe fear that she would be an impossibly high maintenance Manhattanite asking for cocktails I'd never heard of in a run-down Marylebone boozer, perhaps a fear of feeling like a loser in front of a glamorous urbanite who ran her own website and strode in designer shoes around the globe with dotcom millionaires, fear that I wouldn't even recognise her and she'd walk straight past me. Whatever the source, the fear reduced me to pacing nervously around Baker Street Tube ticket hall, barely able to swallow, continually repeating the opening lines of pre-planned conversations in my head.

The worry was pointless, none of the fears were realised. The evening was wonderful from the moment she confidently strode up and introduced herself to the moment three hours later when she said goodbye, take care, stay in touch, good luck.

And now I'm left happy and sad. Sad that someone whose company I thoroughly enjoyed has walked out of my life as rapidly as she walked in and I've no idea when or if I'll meet her again, sad that maybe three hours is all I'll ever get. But happy that there are still marvellous people out there and that I know one more of them, that I can meet them through my own actions and that life will throw up serendipitous delights if I let it.

Tuesday 23 July 2002

She just fainted

Supping milky tea and eating biscuits around a typical town hall table, slowly coming to terms with having left a very important pint of my blood in a small plastic bag just minutes beforehand, the woman opposite me performed a perfect demonstration of a classic, cliched faint:

  • Look pale

  • Place hand on chest just below neck

  • Roll eyes to ceiling

  • Fall off chair

The only areas she disappointed were

  • She didn't place her hand on her brow at any point

  • She didn't close her eyes

  • She scored low in the dignity stakes by fitting and starting very briefly

She seemed untroubled by her unconsciousness and recovered composure very well. I thanked her for her effortless confirmation that things only become cliches when they're rooted in fact.

Tuesday 9 July 2002


Recently reading White Teeth by Zadie Smith (very well-written but with an unsatisfying ending) one particular passage struck me as descriptive of me and her. One of the characters is thinking about how the word involved is the best way to describe a complex and torturous web of relationships:

Involved happened over a long period of time, pulling you in like quicksand. Involved is neither good nor bad. It is a consequence of living, a consequence of occupation and immigration, of empires and expansion, of living in each other's becomes involved and it is a long trek back to being uninvolved.... They are not wanting this, they are not willing it - they are just involved, see? They walk IN and they get trapped between the revolving doors of those two V's. Involved. The years pass, and the mess accumulates and here we are. Your brother's sleeping with my ex-wife's niece's second cousin. Involved. Just a tired, inevitable fact....An enormous web you spin to catch yourself.

And in a soul-sapping M40 service station, to the tune of looping adverts and the accompaniment of grizzling, tartrazine-powered children, I started the long trek back to being uninvolved, I dumped her. That is, obviously, dumped her as much as it's possible to dump someone who's said she doesn't want to go out with you and is living with someone else.

It was on the 3000s weekend, and I'd found it very difficult to be with her. To talk and be with her was to be constantly reminded of how she was changing without me - trivial things like her new rucksack, or talk of weekends she was going to spend with him just demonstrated how I was losing her. I'd hoped I could be mature and rise nobly above how I still felt for her - the wronged hero, like Bogey in Casablanca - but actually I couldn't handle her company and resorted to being uncivil and uncommunicative - more like Mr Bean.

And whilst things between us thawed over the course of the weekend to the extent that I really rather enjoyed spending Monday with her, I knew that if I continued to be her friend, then I would just be accurately and painfully charting the decline of our friendship as our orbits around each other changed from spiralling binary system to distant astronomical object (see here, change e from 0 to 0.9), a process that would cause me too much pain.

So I told her I didn't want to speak to her or see her other than when we were walking (something about the group dynamic smooths the raw edges). It was the last step I could take to prove to her how much I meant to her, the romantic equivalent of the Cold War Mutually Assured Destruction, and the only step I could take to protect myself to some degree.

Although I don't regret any actions over the last two years, I wish it had never come down to an action of such finality, I wish the story had played out with a different ending. But now, a month later, despite missing her and thinking of her every day, I know it was the right thing to do, every week I feel more in control and sorted.