What can you say about a girl who didn’t love Bach, or the Beatles but was mad for you in every positive way you can define the term? What can you do with a girl like that? A girl for whom the acronym B.L.I.S.S. was surely invented. Blonde, leggy, intelligent, sexy, sorted.....with a voice like honey and a tongue that wasn’t just for talking. A girl who could do the voices and dialogue from ‘Chicken Run’ so perfectly you cried with laughter. A girl who had spent the nineteen eighties shagging anything with a pulse and thereby gaining considerable expertise along the way until you, yes you, have become the sole recipient of her practised perfection. This girl whose bookcase so resembles your wish list, whose taste in music is just different enough to be challenging as well as rewarding, whose smile makes you happy, whose legs just don’t know when to give up……well, it’s easy. Here’s what you do.
You pursue her by email for months, text her persistently for weeks, chat on the phone for days then because of the distance that separates you from her you decide to arrange a weekend at an anonymous midlands hotel chosen for its equidistance and economics. You do this because by now the pair of you have constructed such a mental map of the imagination that the only way to explore these territories is to get yourselves together and the first step is to meet.
There you have the mother of all first dates to end the genealogy of all first dates and from there on it just gets better and better and better until you think you’re going to die. Or burst. Or wake up.
Her mum and dad like you; her sister and brother like you; her friends like you. You look in the mirror and quite honestly you can see why. She’s made you a different person. You’re somebody to love; you’re someone special now.
The weekend has now become something to live for rather than to survive. The world of Monday to Friday work disappears in a haze. You forget to do routine things. People notice but nobody wants to ask. You send her flowers. You send her urgent pornographic emails. Phone sex becomes a reality. You send love in a variety of tangible media. A song comes on the radio and you send a text and before the song is over you receive a text in reply. An article in a newspaper gets the same treatment. The pair of you contribute to the profits of vast telecommunications empires.
Then the day dawns when the kids are catered for, the dog is kennelled and you have that long planned for weekend away in a smart European capital city. And it feels like a honeymoon. By this time you’re both dizzy from sex and love and you start to dream about holidaying together. When you do it’s just like the movies, exactly as it appears in the brochure. Bliss.
She’d never been to Greece before. Been loads of places but never been to Greece. You so hope it won’t disappoint. The sun needs to be scalding hot. The sea should be icy cold and clear to the bottom. The room whitewashed to such a dazzling degree that the image of your bodies will linger on the walls for minutes after you leave for the beach.
You just want it to be perfect. It’s not too much too ask, is it? A week of perfection. But then Greece can do that for you. You lie there by the pool with the sun battering the water into a flat glassy calm and the woman of your dreams stretched out on a lilo in the middle you can’t help but smile. And why not? It’s perfect is what it is. Just perfect. This island. This holiday. This woman. This life. All perfect. Even when she sneaks out of the pool and dumps the freezing water from her goggles on your chest it’s just perfect.
‘Want a beer, hon, or are you saving yourself for later?’ and she’s off to the bar with a wink and waggle that’s for your eyes only. You lie back and grin. Perfect.
The routine is quickly established. The sights are seen. The sea is swum. The restaurants visited. The cards posted. The souvenirs purchased. The pool is lounged by. The heat builds. The days dissolve. The holiday is an unqualified success. You look at the photographs now and marvel.
You get home tanned and tired, feeling gorgeous and suddenly the first anniversary of the Midlands hotel is looming and you’re scared that vertigo might throw you off this magnificent edifice the pair of you has built.
Given the distance you normally visit each other on a fortnightly rotation but you just can’t stay away. You visit her the next weekend despite the fact it’s not on the agenda, hasn’t been written into the diary but what the hey, you just can’t stay away. Why should you?
And as soon as you arrive it’s clear that just little things have changed.
Something’s not quite right. You wake up the next morning, for example, and she’s not there. Never before in the eleven month history of this affair have you woken up when you’ve been together to find her not there beside you in bed. Turns out she’s downstairs but she doesn’t come back with coffee and so you don’t have that lazy first-thing-in-the-morning shag. And that’s a first too. No coffee. No orange juice. No sex. The puzzle is uncomfortable. The dog walk later is fractious; the dog less well behaved than usual. The shopping trip is competitive. You can’t decide where to go or what to do in the evening. What’s going on? Everything is usually so smooth, so serene, so natural. The next day you argue. Over nothing. You storm off. You drive home. You decide that it’s all over. Fuck the anniversary. It was all a mistake. You get home and you phone her to reinforce the message. She pleads. You’re implacable. She’s distraught. She calls later. You won’t budge. You take off on a round of debauch. Nothing matters, least of all her. You take comfort in the arms of another. And it feels good. You don’t need her anymore. What were you thinking of? You begin to take comfort in a serial fashion. Then you wake up one morning and the face beside you on the pillow is the wrong face. You’re in the wrong room. Everything is wrong. Wrong place, wrong time, wrong life. The whole world tilts. When you look in the mirror you can see someone else is looking back at you and it’s not somebody to love any more. It may not even be you. In a real sense it isn’t you. You look into the eyes but there’s nothing there. The face is a mask of sadness. It looks like you. You peer closer. Closer. Eyes pouched and slightly bloodshot, hair a mess. Can this really be you? Where did that bronzed Adonis go? How long ago was it when were you walking hand in hand along a beach by the Mediterranean with the sun setting over the cliffs and the café lights coming on and the ice melting in the cocktails and the condensation misting the walls of the beer glasses? Seventeen days. Seventeen days ago and a world away.
That haunted face is staring back at you. And it’s you alright sunshine. The enormity of it all crashes down. There’s a crack in the sky and oh, if only somebody’s hand would reach down for you, reach for you, rescue you. But there’s no hope. Hope is gone. You’ve had your last email, your last phone call, your last chance and you’ve blown it in unambiguous and brutal style. Her tears were nought. And now?
So, dear reader, that’s what you do with a girl who didn’t like Bach or the Beatles but was mad for you. And for your next trick you plot, plan and pray that you can get her back. It will be a massive effort but you’re up for the challenge. She’s just so worth it. So, so worth it. You’ve been a fool. Well, you’ve been a fool before but this takes the biscuit, this takes the whole packet of custard creams and pounds them into crumbs. Humpty dumpty? Oh, you’ve had a great fall alright. But can you ever put the pieces back together again? There is no alternative. Failure is not an option. So you close your eyes and try with all your might.
To say that she is amazed may be a little understated. Shocked? No. Try a combination of insulted and hurt with some very pure anger on the side and you’re still not even close. Try outraged, pissed off and screamingly annoyed. Try blazing mad. Screaming mad. Shouting and crying mad. Phone slamming rage. Yelled curses. Incandescent. Painful. Temporarily insane. Unbalanced. Howling. Shrieking. Sobbing. Wailing.
You try to calm her down with soft words and apologies but the fury persists, increases, grows to a crescendo. There’s no words now, just a wounded moaning. You put the phone down on the settee beside you and the animal noises go on for ten minutes before the call is terminated with a click. You just stare at the handset until it bleeps at you to return it to its cradle. You’re scared to pick it up. It may bite. It may draw blood. It may take revenge. This was the same phone that you used to make those promises, to utter those suggestions, to arrange those dates, to flatter her, to declare your passion, your desire, your secrets, your longing, your devotion, your cravings and your wishes. On this phone you first mentioned love.
You go to bed, eventually. Sleep is a stranger. You stagger through the next day, wondering what to try next.
And then the unexpected happens. She calls you the next night. She’s calm. She apologises. She’s sorry for the things she said and your heart is released. The sense of relief is so strong you stop listening and hold the phone to your heart. Everything will be ok. Everything will be ok. Everything will be ok. When you return the phone to your ear she’s angry again. Asks if you’ve even been listening. She’s speaking with clarity and precision. No histrionics, no fuss, no emotion at all. She thanks you for the good times. Tells you she enjoyed it all. Every bit. Tells you she really loved you, tells you she thought you were the one for her. Tells you she’s sorry that it has to end this way but she realises it’s the best thing to do. Applauds your decision but regrets the manner of its execution. She wishes you well. She says goodbye. Her last words are ‘Bye, hon’. Then her voice falters. ‘Love you’.
And that’s it. The phone burns in your hand. Your grip is so tight your fingers still hurt twenty minutes later. Your chest hurts. Your heads hurts. The phone beeps at you again. You replace it gently, sit down and start to cry. After a bit you get cramp so you stand up and look out the window. For some obscure reason the world is still turning in space. The sun is setting in the sky. Birds are flapping about in the air. Kids are hanging round the shop where people go about their daily business. They don’t know what’s happened; they can’t know. Cars go by. A bus. A couple are pushing a pram. They laugh. How can they laugh? A woman emerges from the shop and unties her dog from the post. They’re heading for the park. You can see the expanse of grass just beyond the gates not two hundred yards away.
For a moment you think of calling back. You get as far as the phone and pick it up. You walk back to the window, phone in hand. Just press the button. But she’s just told you it’s all over. Well, if you look out of the window right now you’ll see that some people are on the park. Do they too think it’s all over? Well, it is now.