Brian had prepared himself, had expected it, but it still came as a suckerpunch as she refuted all his suspicions within an email, raised hope, then landed the ‘however.. friends’ blah in the final paragraph.

He had realised the obvious lack of chemistry too, of course.  Much as he tried to generate it, flirting doesn’t come naturally to Brian – being the victim does.  Being claimed by ropey tarts, not that that happens too much these days.  He understood that they were off kilter on a number of things, but on the same wavelength with a small number too.  She was more attractive than he’d remembered – had made a real effort, embarrassingly more than he.  On top of this, she was reasonably smart, demographically and culturally similar (white middle class English), not obviously insane: which all in all amounted to the best opportunity in some time.

They had missed and jarred in a few places throughout the course of the evening, she didn’t share his above average – ok, borderline fanatical – commitment to interests: football, film, music.  Brian internally groaned inside when she gave that empty, “oh, a bit of everything really” answer, in response to “what sort of music are you into then?”  That answer means you’re not really into anything.  He had sipped his drink politely and changed the subject.

Brian’s willingness to compromise unproudly grows with each year.  He no longer expects instant chemistry and fireworks, and if this were to ever occur, he would instinctively doubt the other.  He’s happy to be preyed upon by those who’ve been around the block a few times and see him as easy vulnerable meat, but if he were to be subjected to serious interest by someone who was smart and attractive, who he undeniably connected with and strongly liked from the outset: that would ring all manner of frightening alarm bells.  He simply doesn’t invest in the myth anymore, not for him.  Not after the things he’d seen.  Nobody could connect with him like that.

No, anything would have to be worked at, persuaded, coaxed along, requiring of effort; all of which he was prepared to do in order to not be a pathetically lonely idiot forever, to not grow more bitter, angry and generally miserable than he is already.  It would be fine, you just had to be methodical about these things, he reasoned to himself.  No point getting upset about it, not yet anyway. 

Brian works alone, lives alone and as a largely sour bastard, has few friends.  If he lived anywhere less easy to be anonymous than London, he imagines he’d be suspected of things, a source of gossip for elderly villagers perhaps.  The truth is that he’s not even that interesting.

He half watches a television news report in his immediate, mopey, blew-it-again rejected funk.  Something to do with the serial killer, Peter Sutcliffe and all the women he’d killed.  Always an option, Brian idly supposes, beginning to perversely empathise.  Not that he’d have the bottle to do that again.


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