A Story a Propos of Nothing Much
September 15, 2011 § 27 Comments
This is a story I have wanted to tell for a while and haven’t quite got round to. It’s along the mixed messages sort of theme, but not exactly.
It is almost a year since I went to dinner at Janey’s (who else?) and met a wonderful man, the first man since being on my own with whom I felt a real connection that sparked and fizzed and lifted us both several inches from our seats. I have held a pointless candle ever since. I stopped myself from falling in love with him, quite, but just meeting him that night has at least given me a glimpse of the fact that it could be possible, even if, sadly, not with him. So it’s a story not entirely devoid of a happy ending.
I have talked to many a broken man at dinner about his recent divorce. Divorce is a very compelling subject for those of us who have been through it because it is quite unlike anything you could imagine before the shit hits your own marital fan and the whole awful process happens to you. I thought I got it – I have known so many people throughout my life who have gone through it and fancy myself as an empathetic type – but I knew Jack Shit till it actually happened to me and in many ways I had it relatively easy (respect and affection remained on the menu throughout and still do). I think others feel the same about it. In a strange sort of way, divorce is a kind of bonding experience – not with the ex-spouse, obviously – but with a whole host of other people’s ex-spouses. I have found women to have been extraordinarily open about their own experience, but men too. I guess, because I am naturally one for honesty and openness myself, and don’t shy away from truths, it gives men especially, the confidence to wear their hearts on their sleeves and be the same with me. I have definitely found that the more I tell people, the more they tell me. It is not a calculated, sinister thing, it’s just the way I am, but it has certainly meant I have been party to some eye-opening revelations, emotions and secrets. Riveting.
This man was no exception. His wife of thirty years had had lovers and had left him a year before. Over the starter we discussed various common aspects of divorce but by the main course we were in full-swing on the irresistible subject of sexual jealousy which no one ever talks about, not really, not in the way it needs to be discussed; only ever euphemistically, politely, namby-pambily (euphemism, politeness and namby-pambyism with sexual jealousy do not go). It is a topic ripe for blunt, properly coruscating discussion. He told me that the way I expressed it was one of the most moving things he had heard in a long time. This is not a boast. As we know, I say it like it is, and that’s nothing special, it’s just people aren’t used to hearing things in the raw, least of all at a dinner party. He then admitted that I had said four things in ten minutes that were so affecting, he wanted to remember them to tell his shrink. Tears pulsed down his cheeks. He apologised and wiped them away saying he promised he was over it, really. Well, I thought, maybe not exactly quite yet but I then made him laugh so that he bent forward and his shoulders heaved and then I thought, a way to go yet but at least going in the right direction. At least he can laugh.
At the end of dinner, everyone else moved next door into the sitting-room but he and I didn’t notice, so intent were we on each other. We stayed at the table. I felt, as the cliche goes, fireworks. Call me arrogant, I know he did too. I say this because as we got up to leave, he looked at me in a certain way, touched me, and came out with what I thought was a really cool line – you may beg to differ, but I am not a woman who gets given many lines and it worked on me – “Let’s not be complicated about this, Plankton [not my real name], can I have your telephone number?”
It was a pathetically thrilling moment; a major splash in a plankton’s otherwise romantically arid existence. My stomach went flip. He fished a torn scrap of purple paper from his pocket and a pen. I wrote down both my numbers (I know, I know; TMI! Heat of the moment).
The weeks passed and the call never came. Janey did everything she could. For months, at decent intervals, she rang or emailed him, not mentioning me at all, but just to make contact. But he disappeared to such a degree that we could only conclude he had had a breakdown and holed up in the Priory. Who knows. But of course, a year on from the break-up of his marriage to his beloved wife, he was far from “over it”. He just wasn’t ready. Timing, alas, was against me, and there is nothing you can do about that.
At New Year there was a sighting of him on the Continent and I thought about what might have been had the stars been of the right configuration and had I remotely believed in that sort of gobshite, but they weren’t.
Neither his old friend Janey, nor I, have heard tell of him since.