male fracture

Initially I never minded his relentless, mid-twenties, labrador-like enthuasiasm.  I respected it, was entertained by it.  At least it was character.  He wanted to build an empire, an agency, but he was essentially a freelancer or a small businessman like me – except his speciality was design, he could operate photoshop and believed he had an eye for graphics, although he still needed a developer.  Did that really amount to an empire..?  His confidence was unwavering.

We’d only met around eight or nine months before and liked each other, although our professional interests didn’t align.  I respected what he wanted to do, his bullishness and disrespect for the established industry clique.  It irked me in only a small way that he couldn’t grasp what it was that I did, or that he didn’t want to, had faint interest.  “He’s a writer, a reporter, he’s.. I don’t know.”  I paid him interest and that was enough.  I connected him to relevant people, he helped me with a website.

Despite the pokey Camden flat he worked from, he always spoke big games, frowned upon my contentedness with my scale and platform, my lack of desire to build.  Perhaps he laughed.

Knowing the organiser, we attended an all-day event and joined them for drinks, as well as a meal afterwards.  He thickly laid on his entrepreneurial zest to a successful CEO he thought it would impress.  When I told him a member of the dinner table had (quite understandably) tired of his apparently endless gushing, he was obviously slighted and bitter, pretended not to care but did.

Over the dinner he had voiced ideas about line-up photographs like Sergeant Pepper or Sillicon Valley in the 1990s, charting us all now before we had built our own incredible dynasties.  To me it seemed idiotic, laughable, embarrassingly ridden with ego.  Nobody had a revolutionary game-changing idea or a specific technology (that they were public about), we were all ostensibly performing standard services at a medium to low level.  Nevertheless, everyone made encouraging and agreeable ‘yes-let’s-do-it’ noises.

Having planned to go for drinks after the event and make an evening of it, we left the restaurant, but it was later into the evening than expected when arrived out our favoured Soho bar.

Once seated with beers he fluffed his own self proclaimed business nous, said he was good at identifying valuable stocks and shares.  I quibbled, “you can speculate about the value of any brand and what they’ll do next; it’s all a punt.  Does predicting that Innocent will make food or Bentley will make a champagne mean you’re a visionary, or does it mean you’ve taken an informed guess?”

He disagreed with me that successful bankers needed to be numerate, that it at least helped.  “Bollocks, you and I could be minted bankers if we wanted.”  I disagreed, said I would be if I could be but I wasn’t.  I’d struggled to get a C at GCSE Maths.  I could do what I do and be moderately successful but there was no way could I be a banker.  This disgruntled him.

He was the epitome of a guy from small Scottish provinces who had come to London seeking fame and fortune.  I was arguably similar – but had been dealt little fortune, perhaps had created none, and believed significantly less in my potential for major prosperity.  I wasn’t entirely pessimistic about my future but had no pretensions of fame, above average wealth or building a famed legacy.

“Get me another beer then,” I said into the sulky pause, as we both reached the bottom of our first bottles in the late bar, hoping we could shift conversation on.

Never having divorced from checking his phone for messages, he said “no, ahv gotta be gone in five minutes mate.”

A text message may have changed his course – from his girlfriend or another friend.

“Girlfriend curfew?”

He mumbled unintelligibly.  I didn’t ask further, but it was strange given that he’d said we had a good hour and a half of drinking when we arrived.  Something changed during our discussion, my scepticism was too much, I had depressed and tired him.

“Ok then,” I said, abruptly accepting.  “We’ll call it quits,” an awkward atmosphere had been draped over us.  I had too honestly chided his ambition and he had shrugged, resented it.  I had never meant to quash his enthusiasm, his passion or drive.

Or had I?  Neither of us would speak of it further.

Out into the street, we shook, clinched, spoke token words of next week – I invested little in them – and turned away.

I looked over my shoulder as I walked off, seeing him lingering, diagonally pacing back and forth across the road outside the bar, not walking away, waiting for another.  I wondered if we’d ever see each other again, if this was it for us.  I wondered who he was waiting for, his girlfriend, a mate, a new business partner who he could change the world with.

I imagined we were done.


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