I walk out of the building Chris is waiting at the bottom of the
stone steps, under the piece of corporate art which looks like a
jumbled-up pile of chairs and is supposed to represent striving
day is sunny but chilly and a fresh breeze is blowing his hair into
his eyes. He is checking his phone and frowning.
take the opportunity to study him before he sees me. We’ve just had
a hot summer but he’s still pale. He’s fit, but not skinny - he
has a gym-toned look, there’s muscles. I involuntarily visualise
what he looks like with his shirt off. Good, I would imagine he looks
good. He has beautifully shaped hands, long-fingered, with slim
try to imagine what it is like to be him, what he’s feeling, but
it’s a blank. It’s all tied up with what I want him to feel. I’m
too invested to empathise with him. This bothers me, because it means
I’m going to be too wrapped up in how I’m coming across to be
able to pitch the conversation properly. When I meet people, any
people, I can usually - after a few minutes of observation - figure
out instinctively how to relate to them. How to make them feel
comfortable, how to make them laugh, how to get them to open up to
me. It is a remarkably useful ability when developing relationships
of all kinds, especially professional.
difference is that sometimes, when I very badly want someone to like
me, I can't do it. It's always a shock when this happens because that
invisible sixth sense is usually with me. When it suddenly
disappears, it feels like I've gone blind in my emotions and I'm left
panicky and rudderless. I'm terrified it will depart today.
is wearing sunglasses, brown aviators, a white shirt which looks like
quality, and grey trousers. No tie. Again, no designer labels, no
identification. He’s a No Logo man, and I like that. I tend towards
sees me. He smiles, takes his sunglasses off and folds them and
slides them into his pocket.
reach him. I’m unable to think of anything to say. I’m suddenly
not sure whether the physical response I have to him is lust or fear.
thought we could go to the pub down the road,” he said. “Just get
good,” I say.
pub is nearly deserted. He orders a Guinness. I have a pint of
Fosters. He wants to sit at a table near the back, with a deep
leather sofa, near the window. He sits down beside me, not across
talk about the city. He doesn't like it here.
you think it's a bit provincial?" he says.
not sure what to make of this comment. I've never really understood
how people use "provincial". The strict definition is "of
or relating to a province of a country or empire" which is
meaningless in this context. It appears to be used to mean somewhere
or someone that is backward or behind the times and I think that is
how he is using it.
don't think the city is backwards or behind the times. It offers me
decent coffee, a cinema with a good range of independent films, a lot
of bands, clothes shops, art, restaurants serving food from a variety
of cultures, and many good pubs. Besides, in the age of the internet,
can anywhere really be said to be behind the times? These days you
can broaden your mind, see great art, and learn interesting things
whether you live in New York or on a remote Scottish island. All you
need is broadband.
you can also choose to be ignorant as hell in the centre of a
thriving world-class metropolis. It's not the place you choose to
live but how you think that matters.
he mean it's not a fashionable place to live? Which is also
you must know what I mean. You must have been a bit disappointed when
you moved here."
lived here all my life," I say.
He looks at me, brown eyes wide with surprise. "I thought you
came from London." There's a faint trace of disappointment in
don't look like you're from round here. You know how to dress. The
first time I saw you I thought you had style. I like this."
reaches out and strokes one finger lightly down the cameo brooch I've
pinned to one side of my grey cardigan. I consider telling him that
the only reason I'm wearing it is because when I got stoned with
Amanda two weeks ago I blimmed this cardigan and I used the brooch to
cover up the burn hole. But I'm very distracted by the way he is
nearly stroking my breast and anyway I don't think he will find it