Someone told me to trust my instincts.
I would like to take her advice, but I am wrought with so great an uncertainty that I don't recognise my so-called instincts.
Do I have instincts?
I want to blame the man (the one with the smile who swept me off my feet) for my insecurity, but to be fair, I know he did nothing to contribute to my naivety and ineptitude; he just served to shed a light on it. I should see his appearance as a happy circumstance: in a relatively painless episode, the universe used him to show me just how long out of the game I have been, just how far out of my depth I am, and just how mistrustful of whatever romantic instincts I might yet have I should be.
Here's what happened.
Toward the close of the conference, the conference participants made their way to their respective homes - heading off to nearby airports, train stations, or car parks ... for those who lived close enough to the venue to drive. I skulked around the town centre for another a couple of hours because I had made plans to spend the night with a university friend whom I hadn't seen in a couple of years. (Since the last time I saw her, she had moved to the city.) I walked from my moderately priced accommodation to a swank hotel that had what looked like a decent looking restaurant.
I checked emails. I ordered a light lunch. A glass of wine. For all intents and purposes, nothing atypical had occurred. To observe me, you would think it was just another business trip.
But, A fog had seeped into my consciousness. Butterflies flitted about my belly. I left half my meal on the plate.
I couldn't get my mind off the man with the smile.
I replayed our conversation. Again and again, I visualised him approaching me where I had been sitting, happily feeling sorry for myself. I pictured his hand, extended for the introduction, his quick, toothy smile. Then I replayed the image of him from across the room at the conference the next day. He exuded casual confidence as he talked shop. I replayed our accidental good-bye, and his endearing, childish wave good-bye from the back of the taxi.
Here's what my instincts told me: there is something there; you should pursue it.
I toyed with the idea of sending him a text. I think I even subtly turned to the Internet (you lot) for some direction.
After undue agonising and a couple of glasses of wine, I did send a text. Something non-committal and coy, but enough to let him know that I was thinking of him, that he had made an impression, that I liked him.
He responded (positively).
I didn't dare send another text so quickly on the heels of the first. Plus, it was now just about the weekend, and in the context in which we had met, communication over the weekend would be approaching a whole new level (quite possibly off-limits).
Over the weekend, I obsessed. I googled-searched and google-translated (he was from a country with a language I would have no hopes of blagging my way through). I told myself to stop it. I told myself to think about something else. My mind inevitably returned to the man with whom I had shared a most unexpected but undeniable spark.
A small part of my brain still operated on a somewhat sensible and prudent level. It asked questions.
Is he married? Does he have a girlfriend? If not, why not?. If so, why are you working yourself into a needless frenzy?
On Monday, I let myself respond to his response from the Friday before. I would not, I told myself, allow myself to write more than one text a day. I had to turn my phone off just to stop myself from listening for the beep beep of an incoming message.
When I turned the phone back on, there he was!
We each sent a text a day for the next three days.
Each SMS was painstakingly composed to strike a balanced tone: interest but not desperation; cool, yet funny and warm, and with cues to elicit more information.
Finally, I decided to take a risk. I would be direct.
In what I thought was a funny, yet cool text (I have reread it - yes, i have actually kept the text exchange -- and now, with a recovered sense of decorum, it embarrasses me. My face turns red, in the re-reading; I am ashamed).
"Are we flirting?" I asked.
The response came whilst I was in a flight over the channel, so I only accessed it whilst disembarking the plane. When I turned on the phone, the familiar beep beep of a text notification gave me a bit of a thrill. His name appeared! Happy excitement drained from me as I read the message dragging my luggage behind me in the aisle of the plane. In a most admirable and gentle way, he let me know that he did think we were flirting and he questioned the appropriateness of it given the fact that he was in a commtted relationship.
I should have known.
There was a fleeting flash of anger.
So why would he come and talk to me ... why would he charm me ... why would he get my hopes up ... why would he do that to me?
This reaction disgusts me because it assumes that a man cannot approach a woman ... or a woman cannot approach a man ... without ulterior motives. I have always been proud that I could maintain friendships with the opposite sex; I have always found it annoying when a man has found my friendliness to be more than being friendly; so I had to concede. I do think the man with the smile is a sincerely nice person; he just caught me in a needy moment ... too ready to look for more.
I am afraid to repeat the mistake. I am afraid to get my hopes up. It puts me immediately on guard with the CFO who runs.
Saturday, 26 May 2012
Maybe he's not really friendly. He has confused me with someone else.
We passed each other another couple of times, and acknowledged each other with smiles as early morning joggers sometimes do (rarely in London). I didn't think of him again until much later the night of the same day; I was well into my third glass of wine at a major industry party, when I realised he was standing right next to me.
"Hi." I extended my hand to introduce myself, "you were running in the park this morning."
He snapped his fingers as he made the connection. He hadn't immediately recognised me in the different context. "Voila! I think you go fast"
"You're kidding." I was secretly pleased that someone would think I was quick. I am faster now than I've ever been before* though I know I am merely average and have never considered myself a real runner.
My self-effacing tendency responded, "maybe I was having a good morning; but I'm currently getting stuck at 45 minutes. I'm getting bored or losing focus or, I don't know, just hitting up against a wall."
"You're going too fast. You need to slow down."
For as moderately pissed as we both were, the conversation was a relatively sober one, lapsing into flirtation only at the end when either he or I suggested that I needed a trainer, and he'd happily take up the challenge. I agreed to be trained.
"In the park tomorrow at 700 then." he suggested.
We exchanged business cards to close the chit chat. We hadn't touched on business once. I gave his card only a disingenuous glance. I was in no shape for reading fine print: wasn't wearing my specs, the venue was dark, and I was near pissed. I went to the back of the venue to take a little break, where I was unexpectedly swept away by a fabulous smile.
My mouth was unnaturally dry when my alarm went off at 6:45.
I reached for the bottle of water I had swigged from before falling into bed at 3:15. My head throbbed; my stomach heaved, and then I remembered my 7am training session. For half a moment I panicked. I take commitments seriously.
I took inventory of my current state and tried to repiece the exchange to evaluate the seriousness of the "commitment." I determined I could stay in bed. It had just been idle banter.
When I had eventually showered, dressed, and sat at the desk in my hotel room to nurse myself out of shakiness with a bad cup of instant coffee and dairy substitute, I picked up the small stack of cards I had picked up the night before. My would-be trainer's card was easily recogniseable: a bright orange swooshy patch across the top. Under his name, three letters: C, F, O.
The kicking of myself started: I should have been more friendly in the park (though of course I couldn't have known who he was.) I should have talked shop whilst we were at the industry event. I shouldn't have drunk so much. I should have gotten my ass out of bed when my alarm had gone off.
I kicked myself into damage-control mode and fired up the laptop. I stared at the blinking cursor in the un-composed email. I whipped off something casual yet cool, a lighthearted apology (that didn't say, but intimated that, of course, we hadn't been serious) for having missed my first training. I would be open to a rain check once recovered. I hit send and tried to stop kicking myself for missing such a potentially perfect professional door opener.
A response came quickly: "a run is often the best cure for a hangover" he emailed me. He had obviously lived up to his end of the bargain whilst I had pulled the duvet over my head.
Fortunately, the email exchange has continued. There seems to be some valid business opportunities.
There could be more, but I am distrustful of my instincts and don't know what to do say or do, so my head goes into the sand.
* At 16 I was doing 30 minute 5Ks. Now a 5k is my minimum distance and I have shaved off 5 minutes.
Friday, 18 May 2012
When I was a child, I didn’t really listen much to music. I read. Or played. Music was background noise for adults.
My brothers, I thought, had horrible taste in music: loud, ear-deafening, dark screaming vibrated from their teenage bedrooms. Consequently, thinking contemporary music to be all of this ilk, I shied away from the music of my or nearby generations. I preferred my mother’s penchant for the romantic ballad or even the military marches my father played on the 8-track cassette deck of his late 1970s Cadillac.
I only remember enjoying one album as a child: something by Cat Stevens. My parents would put it on the record player in the evening, and I would listen to the friendly man sing whilst I ran barefoot on the grass in the backyard giggling at the moon as it chased me. Cat Stevens always reminds me of a full moon and soft grass underfoot.
Maybe it was the record player itself that put me off embracing melodic adventure: records were sensitive things that had to be held with care; once you had fitted the record snugly in place, the next challenge was to gently lower the needle onto the rotating vinyl. I hated even just watching this process; I was certain a hand was going to slip, and the record would be scratched forever. God forbid I be given the responsibility to lower the needle. I was a kid who was afraid to get ice cream cones – preferring the cups – because I always managed to see a ball of ice cream spill off and roll under the driver's seat of my father's Cadillac (Shhhh. Don't tell; I never did.)
Whatever the source, I’ve never had the most keen ear. I do enjoy a good song – and when I find an album that I like, I will play it over and over and over again (just like my mom with those romantic ballads and my father with those military marches – I wouldn’t know about my brothers though; I couldn’t discern one album from another).
What I definitely know about music I enjoy: when I do listen, I can’t do anything else. I can’t read or write or study. Maybe I can fill in my timesheets, or cook … I suppose I can chop an onion and sing along to Sonny and Cher. That is just about it, though.
I have always been a bit in awe, and a bit jealous, by what seems to be the whole general populous’ ability to listen to music whilst supposedly concentrating on something else. I cannot comprehend ho those types who purport to ‘live for music’ are able to appreciate it by giving it their full attention whilst putting some of their attention elsewhere.
Do you listen and read / write / study concurrently? Do you do it well?
Wednesday, 2 May 2012
It all happened impossibly fast.
In one prolonged moment of reality I talked and walked my way through (at least a moiety* of) Paris. The friend - considered both new (a new face, a new voice) yet tried and true (a familiar spirit with experiences shared through words - episodes that perhaps required only a bit of re-sequencing to make the pieces of my new, yet not-new friend's life fit into place in my mind) contemplated the state of our shared hobby, "I think blogging, it might be dead," she said.
It is not a new sentiment. I've heard bloggers of all degrees of rabidness discuss the longevity of this habit of ours.
But, when Franklin touched on it, a minnow-y little sadness gnawed at my heart. If ever there lived a craftsman with words, she'd live in Franklin. I would miss Franklin if I thought I would never again switch on the internet to find a couple of her paragraphs telling me something new or reminding me of something forgotten. She is a clear and insightful writer, and a firecracker of a woman. I don't want blogging to be dead because I would miss the firecrackers.
The Tuesday after my weekend in Paris, I think of Franklin's words as the taxi circles into the Zurich airport.
"She's quite possibly right, you know." I tell myself. "You've not written consistently in years. Since you've moved to Madrid. Maybe you've lost the spark, but just can't be honest with yourself."
Then I counter myself, "But there's always something to write about. You're just out of practice. Just open your eyes. Right now, as you pull into the Zurich airport, there must be something worth repeating!"
I'm suddenly overwhelmed by the deja vu of the circular entrance from the highway into the departures lane where the taxis drop off their early morning cargo. "That's it! That's the something, the observation you're looking for!" and what I had noticed was the sameness of airports. A sameness that extends as far as the gently-curved double-lanes that lead traffic inwards, counter clockwise, along the curbside where hardly any-departing-one checks their luggage anymore.
I thought I had stumbled upon an interesting, write-able observation (the sameness of airport 'driveways' - quite dull in retrospect).
The day progressed from Switzerland to Spain and then on to Dusseldorf.
Between countries, I had let work distract me. I hadn't written my insightful observation worthy of a blog post.
"Maybe in the hotel when you arrive." I tell myself on the airport shuttle bus which has just pulled away from the arrivals curbside, which, I notice, is curved inversely to its departures brethren.
I take out my phone and check my emails. Nestled between industry spam, a jaw-dropping message:
"Ellie: Good news! I've found your birthmother. She is excited to hear from you. She told me to tell you that you have a half sister and half brother, and they know about you. She will need to sign the consent form and then I can give you each others' contact information, so start thinking how you will want to proceed!"
Impossibly fast. Didn't I just write that letter?
*Word chosen because of its superficial kinship to the la-de-la-de-oooh-la-la gallic tongue.