Chris is standing in the cafeteria queue, staring at me and Martin having lunch. When I turn to look at him, he narrows his eyes and holds my stare. He has not replied to my voicemail dumping him.
I turn back to my tuna melt but it suddenly looks inedible. I look at the pile of food on my plate and can't imagine it all in my stomach.
"He's still doing it," says Martin, nervously.
"I know," I say.
Martin begins taking his BLT apart to remove the tomato.
"I thought the tomato was integral to a BLT," I say. "Without it, it's just a BL."
"I don't like tomato," says Martin. He has disassembled his sandwich completely and it is taking up rather more than his share of the table. He makes a small tower of tomato slices and then begins to carefully re-layer the bacon and lettuce.
"Can I have the tomato?" I say. Martin hands it to me silently.
He takes a sip of his Coke.
"He's still doing it," he says.
"I don't know why you went out with that guy anyway," says Martin. "Everyone thinks he's a cock."
"Do they?" I'm genuinely surprised by this, but then since we were dating it's unlikely anyone will tell me they think Chris is a cock. But if Martin knows this is what people think then it must be a universally acknowledged topic of discussion, because Martin doesn't really talk to anyone very much.
"Yup. They do."
"Because he's in a junior job but he tries to tell people how to do theirs. Because he gets angry about everything, like if the photocopier is left switched on, and then finds who did it and tells them off like in a way which suggests they are an inadequate human being."
He looks down at his BL, stifles a cough with his hand.
"And he's always...chasing girls."
"Yup. All the attractive girls."
Out of nowhere, a huge wave of feeling washes over me. I feel stupid. I feel used. The intensity of my jealousy and despair shocks me. I don't want Chris any more, but I wanted him to want me.
Inside me a voice quietly tells me that of course that was the case, of course you were one of many, I doubt he even liked you very much, why would he, you're not attractive. You're just easy to fool.
But I know this is wrong. I'm not easy to fool.
When I'm in love, I adore to the point of insanity. Makes sense, really. I'm intense about everything from my brand of perfume to my friends to my clothes to my music to what I spread on my toast (Marmite or Nutella only. You can fuck off with your peanut butters and honeys and marmalades and whatever. Get lost) so naturally one would expect that I would be intense about my romantic relationships.
However, in order to be happy, I need to know that the other person is also in love, that we are equally in it together. And - unfortunately - while I'm rather too good at intense emotion, self-deception is not my forte. It doesn't matter how much I love someone, I can't delude myself when I know they don't feel the same.
I knew Chris didn't feel the same.
I take a deep breath and shut the voice off. We'll talk later, at home, in private, over a glass of wine. I know this voice is not right about me but I also know that now is not the time to argue with it.
"He's a prince among men," says Martin. He crunches a crisp, staring me straight in the eye.
"OK, I'm sorry!" I say. "He was a mistake! We all make mistakes. What about you and Tina?"
As this sentence leaves my lips, I realise I have made a tactical error. Martin does not like to talk about Tina, who did not so much break his heart as put it through the blender.
(and at the same moment, on another level, I realise it wasn't an error; Martin just hurt me, so I wanted to hurt him back. But this thought is too distressing for me to acknowledge fully)
Tina worked here for a year. She pursued Martin, got him, he fell in love, she got bored, he got dumped. Happens to everyone, but he took it very badly. I feel this is partly because he's shy. He doesn't approach women, he waits for them to approach him. This does not happen often because Martin is not talkative and lacks the immediate physical impact of the Chrises of this world. Womankind in general is indifferent to Martin's existence.
Chris's cheekbones, his air of the glamorous, tortured intellectual, would more accurately reflect Martin's personality. If Chris's face had been on Martin and Martin's on Chris, both products would be more as advertised. But the world's unfair like that.
"He's gone," says Martin.