So . . . it’s over. Let me tell you why. Get comfortable, help yourself to some more wine and don’t hold back on the food, it is displayed on this fancy étagère for more than just aesthetical reasons.
Tom sat me down yesterday, after work, you know, I was already running late after spinning class and hurrying to get ready for our fun-night-out. And as I was rushing through the flat, he comes in through the front door. I just see him out of the open bathroom door, in the mirror as I’m standing by the sink trying to do that new fancy lid-line thing you showed me last week, which does not seem to want to come along. So I’m frustrated with myself for being unable to get my makeup right, to get it to look the way I want it to. He just walks in. All suited up and with the briefcase, sets it down and walks in right through to the living room. Shoes on. You know how that irritates me, right? He does too. But he didn’t even seem to notice that he was doing it again. And I was in way too much of a rush already, using the magical power of makeup removing wipes to reset the achievement to zero. But not the time, right. I wish there was an actual reset button on the mirror. Imagine that. Every time you mess up one thing you can just reset to before the mess-up and start over. Do it over. Without losing any time at all. All these minutes adding up to hours adding up to days to weeks months years decades that you wasted on making up for mistakes, correcting mistakes, recognizing mistakes.
Well anyway, he’s in the living room, I buzz around the bathroom for a while until I surrender to genetics and frustration and decide that this is all I’m going to get tonight, the best I will look. And who cares anyway, right? Tom won’t come along, it’s just us girls and I don’t really care much for the whistles on the street anyway, always made me feel like a harlot. So I skip out of our bathroom to change from bra and panties into something more appropriate for the public eye and walk barefooted through the hall into the bedroom and hear him turning on the music in the living room, quite loudly. I mean pretty loudly actually. And I don’t even mind the music that much. I like his taste in music, it was one of the first things we found out we had in common, on our first date. I think I’ve probably told you this story, what? Like a begillion times?
But you know, that first time we went out together, I don’t think I liked him all too much. At first that is. I had been cornered by Millie to go out on a double date with her. Thinking all the while she tried to convince me to come along that I was surprised that people actually did this double date thing in real life. I mean, the first date as a double date, semi-blind. You know. In movies? Sure. Cheesy sitcoms, very likely. But actual people? Grown-ups like I considered her and myself to be, having just graduated from college and secured that job with the magazine for myself and her going on to med school. Seriously mature and all. Don’t laugh, I really thought I was an adult having gone through some kind of a rite of passage. Matured over night. No more childish parties and all-nighters, no more crazy hair and fun little outfits. No, I was headed towards the big-career, fancy-chic, glamorous real life. Not like Las Vegas or Sydney, no, the actual thing.
But yeah, Millie has always been this very persuasive character and so I gave in eventually. We got all dolled up together, she and I were living in that tiny apartment down on Baker’s Street at that time, you know? The one with the fire ladders right outside the back alley windows of our bedrooms. The ones I snuck out on to for that very rare midnight smoke, secretly. Although I think Millie knew about it at the time, but didn’t want to be that moral zealot about everything all the time. You know how she nagged me to go vegan too, or at least vegetarian, to live healthier or whatever. And to go on her 5 a.m. runs before classes and work, or do yoga with her and all that stuff. And her recycled paper all the time, do you remember how she used to praise the value of using recycled paper? So lame. But whatever. She just competed in this triathlon thing last Sunday. I wanted to throw her a party afterwards but she was so knocked out exhausted, she fell asleep in the cab on the ride home from dinner and I ended up calling it off last-minute. Just dropped her off at her place and I think she and Wally ended up watching a movie together. They went to the Hampton’s this weekend actually, for their one year anniversary. Funny how the clock seems to be reset with the wedding, right? I mean, they have been together for four years now but they celebrate the year they have been married instead.
Well, the night we went on the double date, dubiously, she and that guy, whatwashisface, were talking something medical and Tom and I were sitting with them, bored out of our minds. Until he all en passant mentioned that he had gone to that The Killers concert in the Roundhouse. And I was like, no way, and what a coincidence and all and that I had been there as well and we, basically, spent the rest of the night enthusing about the show, their music, and other bands we love.
And when we got ready to leave the restaurant and he asked me whether we would see each other again sometime soon, I was excited, you know. It wasn’t like I wouldn’t have said yes to seeing him again without the music thing, he is quite good-looking, and had that grungy look back then, with his thick curly black hair that you could lose your hands in and those blue eyes, with that spark of excitement in them, the unpredictably reliable. And he was so lean and tall. I probably would have given him another shot even if the date had been boring and slow, anyway, even though I wasn’t that super intrigued by him quite yet. But it was an awkward situation we were put in by our friends to begin with, and Tom and that friend of his were already on their decline. Don’t think they stayed in touch with each other after this weird experience.
But anywho, whatshisface got lost on the way and Tom and I went out to gallery openings and into grungy back-alley bar concerts and fell in love.
And then Millie met Walter and he turned into Wally and we went on couples’s dates together, living the mature live, playing charades and Trivial Pursuit and going to wine tastings and musicals and all that stuff. Always having a great time. I mean, she and I have been best friend for more than half of our lives, and growing up schedules get more complex and planning meetings more complicated, especially after we moved out of our flat and in with our beaus that one summer, it was really very convenient that the guys got along so well and that we all could spend time together.
But then yesterday, he had The Kooks all pumped up, and I could just imagine Mrs. Proctor next door shake her fluffy white hair and her tiny bejewelled wrist, cursing the young folks and their inconsiderateness. So I hopped back out into the hallway, still in my undies, barefooted, and into the living room. He was sitting on the couch, still dressed and shoed and had his eyes closed. Listening to the song, apparently. Or waiting for me to come in and nag about his wrongdoings. I don’t know why but I got kind of annoyed about the casual way he was resting his shoes on the coffee table, again. So I turned the music down, and just stood there by the stereo waiting for him to open his eyes and face me. He did, eventually, and I gave him the expected reproach. He took his feet off the table and sat up straight. Looking at me.
“We need to talk” was his only response to the pretty accurate list of things he had done wrong since walking into our home 10 minutes ago. All during my presentation I kept checking off the things I wanted to mention in my head, all professional and mature-like, I proudly thought to myself.
This comeback, though, I had not anticipated. I had to get ready and meet my friends downtown I said. Truthfully. In my head, giving him the grown-up, factual list of mistakes should have prompted him to right his wrongs. But that plan, like so many of my well thought through ideas landed flat on its belly.
He asked me to sit down.
I contemplated it for a while and then reasoned that I might be able to speed this up by compromising a little.
* * *
As she stood there in front of me in her matching navy blue bra and slip, obviously thinking very hard about whether to give in and sit or argue my blunt request first, I couldn’t help but admire her. This stern, sweet-faced woman. The way she positioned her left hand on her waist to seem more imposing, to stand up a little taller.
I had known that I loved her from the moment she had explained her theory about time travelling. We had gone out on a couple of dates before that day and I had liked her the very first night, appreciated the things we had in common and the way she could eat an entire steak, all the sides included and then, guiltlessly order a sundae with an extra scoop of ice cream. Most girls I dated before her wouldn’t even go near desserts, all too refined for such lowly desires. I had only been living in London for about three months when I met her; Accompanying an old college friend of mine to a date, double date that is. He had been after Millie, which now strikes me as odd, for I had only ever really known her with her husband of a year now, Walter. I missed New York, my family and friends, and that old bond to Eric, who had moved to London for work, just like me, had pushed me to call. We hung out every once in a while, very much aware of just how passé our brief friendship was, that is I was aware of this fact at least. Eric probably not so much, since he asked me to come along to this awkward date.
But that afternoon on the way to a gallery opening of one of her friend’s exhibition on Ramillies Street, as she was walking next to me in that little black dress, emphasising her elegant curves and slender legs, I knew that she was special to me. She had switched into earnest factual talk mode, seriously presenting her theory, referring to semi-actual evidence and scientific quotes every once in a while to make it sound more credible. She believed that in the future, time travelling had already been invented and that there were people from the future, quite possibly, among the pedestrians with us on this very sidewalk. At that time I had already figured out how important it was to her to be taken seriously, even while saying such outrageously geeky things. She would walk as tall as her fragile 5’3 frame allowed, seemingly towering everyone else around her. Napoleone. Her father’s nickname for her when she was a child. She had been so upset when her older sister Anne had mentioned it over supper last Christmas.
In one movement she wrapped the black comforter around herself, swung her left leg around and, catlike, sat down on the couch, facing me. I considered how to go about this. How to move on. Settled on blunt honesty. Thinking that she wouldn’t appreciate bullshitting anyway. And, most likely, would see right through it if I tried.
In retrospect, I think I already knew how it would go down, how she would react. We had been down this road, in theory of course, about a million times. New York or London, London or New York. I had never intended to stay for longer than the 8 months contract. But when I met her, I compromised. I wanted to be with her, I loved her. Still do. And I knew that she wanted to be with me. Yet, there was this nagging presence of biting suspicion in the back of my head, that if put before the choice, she would not, could not.
That she liked the convenience of it all too much, of the geographical and social compatibility. Of my compatibility to her. More than once have I tried to push the thought down that one way adaptation is not the best foundation for love, for an equal relationship.
Pushed it down because I wanted to see the best in her.
Wanted to believe that I was just being paranoid, silly.
Yet, we had been down this theoretical conversation over and over again. New York or London. But this time, there was an actual deadline, quite literally. An actual prompt for a decision.
“They offered me a job back in New York.”
* * *
I was making the pro and con list in my head. Processing, quickly.
Pro: Singing Sinatra is never quite as awesome as when sung in New York.
“Are you taking it?”
Con: There really is no place like London, dear Sweeny, ‘tis true.
“It is a serious promotion. And a considerable raise. More than double of what I make over here.”
Pro: My miles-account will get a serious boost from the commute to my family and friends
“So you are taking it.”
Con: I don’t have any family and own friends overseas.
“I think so, yes.”
Pro: my potential future in-laws are there.
Con: My potential future in-laws are there.
“I haven’t given them my final response quite yet. Wanted to run it by you first.”
Pro: Snow and Christmas in Manhattan. Seriously. Gorgeous
“That is very considerate of you. Thank you.”
Con: summer… 32 degrees Celsius for three days are what we consider a heat wave. How would I possibly be able to deal with 106 degrees Fahrenheit for weeks and weeks on end broken only by torrential thunder storms at night?
“I know you love your job here and you just got promoted and you’re earning more than well. I wouldn’t ask this of you if it weren’t for its being the opportunity I have been waiting for. I feel like I’m stalling, staying here, wasting time in a low paying position without appreciation. You know I wouldn’t.”
Pro: Spring. Flowers in Central Park.
Con: There are flowers here too.
Pro: Broadway shows
Con: West End shows
“Long distance never really works well, does it?”
“I don’t think so”