“Mate, I’m going to go,” a friend told me in the late night suburban bar.  Our Royal Wedding party, which had begun in a beer garden and passed through an Indian restaurant before ending in the late bar, had dwindled to two.  But I’d just begun chatting with a young female who seemed strangely interested in me.

“Ok, no problem.  See you later.”  And with that he left me.

Not willing to engage with my challenge of the long walk back across town, or getting a cab, I stayed there speaking to the female, whose name I instantly forgot, and her friends.  They were all in their mid-twenties, a handful of years younger.  She told me how they were mourning the very recent loss of her best friend, a 36 year-old woman, through cancer.  She confessed that it probably hadn’t really sunk in yet and told me how close they were.  I sympathised, thinking that she was cute, without wearing much make-up.  Unlike my date the previous evening, who wasn’t cute without wearing much make-up.  Perhaps, I wondered, my entertainment of a not hugely attractive female might pay strategic dividends and make modestly cute-seeming females appear more attractive?

Whereas the poor date had frustrated me by being so comfortable in her self-admittedly disengaged bubble of Daily Mail and chick-lit, this female was initially interested and interesting.  We spoke about business, what I did, her own connections.  She asked for a card and gave it, together with a small briefing to a group of uninterested friends.

I went to the toilet and decided to go, still none the wiser on her name.  After seeking her out, she asked for a card for herself so she could give me a text.  I obliged, not sure whether or not she would, gave her a kiss on the cheek – despite suspecting that more might have been in the offing (had we not been in such close proximity to her friends, I might have), and left the bar.  The considerable alcohol in my system helped propel me back through the suburb, into town and out the other side.  It also exaggerated my regret at not having her number or even knowing her name.


The next morning my mobile chimed with a text from an unknown number.  It was her.  There followed a series of chatty text messages through Saturday and Sunday, when we were both planning to be out in town.  She was interested, still ended all her text messages with Xs, still seemed smart and articulate (no LOLs or bad spelling).  There was hope.

On Sunday evening I went to a barbecue of football team-mates: themselves too in the 24/25 age zone, good guys I’d got on well with during the season.  While not a huge gathering in total, a fun atmosphere was generated and I found myself warming to another female with a similar background, who looked like a younger version of a friend’s wife.

During that stage of the evening, Friday Female was intermittently texting.  She sent a picture I didn’t remember posing for.  It threw me because I didn’t initially remember it, or know where it was taken.  I also have a minor phobia about having my picture taken, believing myself to be one of the least photogenic people on earth.  Was it unorthodox behaviour to send me a picture of myself?  Creepy or fine?  It slowly dawned that it was taken on Friday and she’d cropped herself out.  There had been no Facebook espionage.

After a few hours at the Barbecue, taxis were booked and we made our way into town.  As Barbecue Brunette continued drinking in the bar, she grew distant and uncommunicative.  A friend said not to worry: she gets weird when she’s had a few drinks.   I wasn’t worrying because Friday Female was by then a few bars away and summoning me over in yet more texts.

So I detached myself from the Barbecue group and went.  It was a huge, loud warehouse of a bar with a massive dancefloor where she was dancing with a clutch of guys her age.  There might have been one or two other females, but all I saw were the guys.  Being allergic to most dancefloors and what happens on them, I did what any brave male would do: I took a drink, watched from the side, and tweeted about my situation.  She looked young and carefree and like she was having more fun than I could possibly add to.  She kept pulling up a low slung top, which wasn’t becoming, oblivious to my eyes above.  She looked young (25?), happy, was with friends.  I was now alone, old and wrong.  The situation felt weirdly unorthodox, something not quite right.  I bottled it and left.

My phone rang as I was walking the five minute walk back to my flat.  She’d just left, her friends had gone, where was I?  Could she see me?  I turned around and walked back.  She was wearing a large green hoody donated by one of her male friends who was just a really good friend, honest.  We went to a late bar, I bought drinks – a fizzy water each, we sat down and she told me.

Here’s what she told me.

She was due to be married in three weeks’ time to a 53 year old following a 7 year engagement which began after he’d started grooming her at school, or college.  (SHe might not have used those exact words).  They shared a flat already but lived separate lives.  She felt obliged to go through with the marriage, as if she owed it to him.  This couldn’t be challenged, it was a view cemented in her head.  She had to marry him.

I don’t know exactly what my face did at this news, but I imagine it fell a little.  Initially I was unsure if she was about to piss herself laughing and cry GOT YOU!  Several seconds without further speech suggested that wasn’t going to happen.  Did I believe her?  Was she a spooky fantasist of some kind?  This dramatic news, added to the opening dramatic news of her best friend just dying: how plausible was it?  Did she ‘play’ men like me for creepy twisted kicks?

She said she really liked me and had never done this sort of thing before.  It sounded sincere, but..  I naturally doubt people and when presented with this story, it’s hard not to question.  She curled into me wanting to be hugged and I hugged her.  Lights came on and burly barstaff started asking us to move downstairs or leave.  We walked to a bench in the street.  She kept talking, trying to explain her obligation, trying to convince me it was true, everything she had said was true and she did really like me.  She could have not told me, played me along further, pretended.  In a way that approach would have made more sense for her, if she’d wanted a final fling, a fantasy pretence.  Why tell me this now?

I was grateful that she had told me, presuming it was all true.  But of course she’d sensed my shock, disappointment and general retraction.  I hadn’t immediately run for the hills but I really wanted to.  And yet still she curled into my arms, looked hopeless, cute.  It was then that stupidly, regretfully, I kissed her.

What did you do that for? she asked afterwards.  I was asking myself the same thing.  No answers.  I mumbled something about a goodbye kiss.  She said she wanted to come back to mine.  I pretended not to hear.  Taking it any further could only make matters worse.  Why had I kissed her?  I asked a different recycled question about her friend.  She withdrew a phone to show me a Facebook profile.  Sacred fucking Facebook.  I was reminded of the film, Catfish.  Was she like…?      It was all fucked up and ridiculously complicated and something I wanted nothing to do with.  I’d barely known her 48 hours.  I wanted to be gone now, leave, draw a line under the episode, forget it.

She didn’t.  Declining my offer to walk her to a cab, we parted in opposite directions.  I thought, and hoped, that would be that.  My phone rang on the five minute walk home.  It was her, she was in a cab, she felt sorry, had she hurt me?  It wasn’t hurt as such, just shock and a sense of disappointment.  I closed the conversation as quickly and sensitively as I could.  Two more text messages discovered on getting into bed.  Could we still see each other as friends?  I didn’t reply until morning: I don’t think that would be a good idea, look after yourself.  She tried calling me just as my parents arrived, she sent a text saying she just wanted to explain.  She sent another text gushing about more pictures of us from Friday.

Bunny Boiler?  Innocent fuck-up?  Very sad case?  All of the above?  Either way, every instinct is telling me to activate the ejector seat.  I’m pleased she doesn’t know where I live.


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  1. Pingback: office remembrance « Swashbuckled

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