Saturday 28 July 2012

The Zoo Date

    "I don't want to watch the penguins!"
    "I'm sorry, what?"
    "I just don't, OK?"
No!  Not OK!  What sort of human being doesn't want to watch penguins?
    "Don't you like them?"
    "They're alright," he shrugs casually and turns away from me. 
    Behind me I can hear a sea of people clapping as they watch some amazing penguin display.  I immediately feel like a child cast away from a birthday party. 
    "Why don't you want to see them?"
    "I just don't want to,"
    But why???
    He starts to walk away and I stand there frozen in motion watching him in annoyance.  Another round of claps echoes through from the penguin enclosure.
    I know I sound ridiculous, but this entire day has been a nightmare.  I haven't seen anything!  Not a single animal.  Not a single insect.  Not a single bird.  Well, apart from those fluffy chickens that seem to run around by the cafes.
    Just walking.
    Lots and lots of walking.
    It hasn't even been the interesting kind with funny stories and romantic embraces.  It has been dull and boring.  Actually, no.  Wrong words to use.  Dull and boring should be describing someone who says things you have no interest in.  Steve says nothing.
    "The butterflies?" I ask hopefully.  "There's always one eating a banana,"
    Thank you.  No, thank you!  Whatever happened to manners?
    Imagine if I introduced this guy to my family!  My mum would think I've lost my mind.  I'm a talker.  I need to meet my conversational equal.  This man is clearly the opposite of me.  The anti-Ella, if you will.
    I follow on two steps behind him as he walks around pointlessly.  I attempt to ask him something else, but it seems futile.  I'm only going to get a brief  'no' in return and carry on walking.
    I dig out my phone from my handbag to quickly glace at the time.  It's three in the afternoon.  Four whole hours gone - just like that.  I could have done so much in those four hours. 
    He seems so glum, as if something terribly bad has happened but he isn't willing to share.  I have an overwhelmed urge to pry, but I refrain.  It's none of my business, after all.  After this dreadful day is done I'm hoping to never see him again. 
    I don't remember him being like this at the party last week.  When my friend, Lisa, introduced us he seemed perfectly lively.  And now, he's an empty shell.  He greeted me at the tube with a casual 'hi' and has made no conversation since.
      I have to do it.  I have to pry.  I have to ask.
     "Is something wrong?"  I run a couple of steps so I'm side by side.
     "Not really," he says - the same sombre tone he's adopted for the day. 
     "Surely there's something.  You've been like this all day," I smile at him, trying my hardest to make him feel alright to open up. 
    "Look, you're very nice and all that, but let's face it, not my type.  So, let's just get this day out of they way and move on with our lives!" He moves away from me again and marches ahead.  I'm left there standing like a moron, unsure of what to say. 
    "You asked for my number.  You called me, remember?"  I run after him, not wanting to walk away without having the last word.  "If you knew immediately I wasn't your type, why even bother?" but he pretends not to listen to me.  I can see he's trying to figure out the exit among the mazes of paths, but is failing miserably.
    I mean, what the heck is wrong with men???  So temperamental and unsure of what they actually want.  Once minute you think they're in love with you, the next you have no idea what went wrong. 
   I follow him a bit further down another (wrong) path as he furiously tries to get away, but I'm persistent.  It's my best and worst trait.
    "Am I not allowed an explanation?" I ask after him.  We've found ourselves near the monkeys.  Their loud screechings and mating calls surround us as Steve and I stare each other out.  He's finally managed to turn around, probably having figured out that I'm his only saving grace if he wants to get out of here. 
    He takes in a couple of deep breaths before starting, "Look," he pauses again and turns to face the monkeys.  One of them hissses at him and I almost feel like Steve will hiss back.  "I'm just a bit overwhelmed with stuff, that's all,"
    "But if you didn't want to be here, why bother?"
    He shrugs his shoulders and turns away again.  That's it.  That's all the explanation I get. 
    The monkeys have all gathered around our corner, clinging on to the cage tightly as they watch our tragic date.  I feel like I'm the one in a zoo, not them. 
    "The exit is that way," I tell Steve and watch on as he moves away briskly. 

Sunday 1 July 2012

Lexi - The Panic

  (Continuation of Lexi - The Decision)

OK, just relax, Lexi.  You're having a slight panic attack but there's nothing to worry about.  Just breathe deeply, calm yourself and ring the buzzer.  Just think of it as a fancy door bell...a talking fancy door bell. 
    My hands scramble inside the bag for the address just to make sure I have the right flat number.  Flat 33.  Now, you knew that!  Why did you have to get in such a flipping panic over it?  Stop being such a dweeb and press the buzzer. 

If I could remove one thing from my personality, it would be my nervousness.  I worry over the slightest of things.  Like that time I went to see some baby animals with my niece at the local farm and kept thinking a billy goat was staring at me.  It might not seem like such a big deal, but I was so convinced by it that I told Natalia (my niece) that we had to run away really fast or the goat would get us.  She's five now, and my sister still says she refuses to eat feta cheese.
    "Cup of tea?"
    "Oh, no thank you," I smile as Eve disappears into the kitchen and let out a huge sigh of relief.  Now, this isn't so bad, I tell myself.  I've managed to knock on the door, get the lift, and say hello.  And guess what, I did spontaneously combust in the process.
    I catch a glimpse of myself in the majestic mirror to my right and almost jump in shock.  I must get used to the fact that I'm now blonde.
    I wonder what John would say about it.  Oh no!  What if he doesn't like it?  What if blondes just aren't for him and he dumps me on the spot, and here I am looking like a muppet having made such a big move for him. 
    That would be an utter disaster!  Living in London, miles away from my friends and family, and now I've been dumped!
    Okay - you're getting too ahead of yourself, Lexi.  Stop with all this panicking.  It's doing no good at all.  And let's face it.  Who doesn't like blondes?
    "So, how'd you  like the house?"  Eve's voice calls out from the kitchen as I hear a few pots and pans clinking together. 
    "Umm, it's really lovely," I respond taking a good look at my surrounding.
    To be honest, I didn't take in a single detail when she was doing the tour.  Now that I'm concentraiting, this place really is lovely.  The ceilings are much higher than my Winchester flat and the furniture is incredibly modern, but Eve is quite clearly a homey girl.  All chrome shelves are filled with mis-matched picture frames, half read books in a random order stacked on top of each other, and cushions.  Lots of clashing cushions.  Everywhere.  I don't think I've owned a cushion in my life.
    Eve enters the living room once more, slumping on the sofa with force.  Feet immediately up on the coffee table.
    "I might knock a hole through that wall,"
    "I'm sorry, what?"
    "Well, the kitchen is so small.  I'm just wondering it would be so much easier to make this place more open plan.  Especially now there are two people here," she sips at her tea and stares straight ahead at the said wall, tilts her head to one side and ponders, "Yes, it would be an immense improvement,"
    "Are you allowed?" I carefully ask. 
    "Oh, of course.  My parents have set foot in here once, and even then I'm pretty sure they were glued to their Blackberries.  They'll be fine," she then turns to me with a wide smile.  Her mouth is rather big, and her green eyes are looking at me with some form of hunger.  I almost move away.  All the way to Winchester.  Maybe Mand was right.  Maybe she is a psycho.
    "So," she begins, crossing her legs on the sofa,  "Tell me everything about your boyfriend,"
    This must be what a girly chat is like.  I once attempted that at university but became convinced one of my flatmates was coming on to me.  I'm 98% sure that's not the case here.
    "He's lovely," I say like a shy teenager.  "We've known each other for so long.  He was my first love but it just never worked out back when we were in school.  About a month ago we bumped into each other again.  He'd moved back to Winchester after working in London, and walked into the restaurant I work at.  Worked at.  Well, we both knew it was worth another try,"
    "Aww!  It sounds so sweet.  You never forget your first love,"
    "That's what I hear," and I belive it's true.  I'd never fully got John out of my head.  Yes, I'd had relationships with other guys, but there was always this part of me - this niggling feeling at the back of my head that always wondered what he was doing.  Why it never worked out.  If I would ever see him again. 
    "Where's he taking you tonight?"
    I pause and think,  "I'm not sure.  We only agreed on dinner, not location," and then start to get another panic as I think about how I'm going to find my way around London. 
    "Where does he live?"
    "That's not far.  If you need help getting there, just let me know.  I've become a complete geek with London now,"
    Wow, she's so nice.  I instantly feel calmer.
    Eve's attention goes back to the wall.  "I might ring around tomorrow and see if anyone can come and knock it down before the weekend," and with that she has left the room.

I'm not sure John believes I've actually moved to London.  I half expect him to not turn up at the restaurant as his texts back to me seem to be mocking ones, as if I'm kidding about meeting up in London.
    Nevertheless, I'm almost at the restaurant.  I've googled, binged and yahooed the venue (you know, just to make sure).  Overall, pretty straight forward. 
    Eve let me borrow her Oyster card, and as of tomorrow, I shall have my own.  I probably sound mad - like someone who has never heard of London, but the truth is, I've just never been adventurous.  For me, it's always been about home comforts, who you know and what you know.
    I see John getting out of a taxi in a dark suit.  "Babe!" he calls out and embraces me tightly, "What are you doing?  Have you gone crazy?"
    OK.  I'm getting a little tired of people saying that. 
    "I give you a week," he escorts me into the restaurant.
    "A week for what?"
    "Until you give up and go back to Winch,"
    "I'm not going to give up," I insist.  "I've moved here for good,"
    He lets out a short laugh.  Wow!  He really doesn't believe in me, does he?  I want to stop this conversation before I start getting upset?
    "So...," I begin, "What do you think of the hair"
    He turns to look at me just after catching the waiter's attention.  With deep eyes he looks at my hair, then ruffles his.  "Is it a bit lighter?"
    A bit???
    "It's about 7 shades lighter," I say, quickly losing my optimism.  Damn it!  I knew he wouldn't like it.
    "You've always been blonde," he retorts.  The waiter leads us to a candlet lit table for two by the window.
    "John, my hair is brown,"
    "Are you sure?"
    "Certain,"  I want to go home.  I really just want to go home.
    "But in the sunshine...your hair is blonde in sunlight...that's all I mean," he tries to recover. 
    "So how was work?" I ask, wanting to move on from another conversation. 
    "Same old shit.  Just a different town this time,"
    I smile politely and peruse the menu, but really don't feel like eating.  Another panic feeling creeps up within me which I'm finding harder and harder to repress. 
    This really was a mistake, wasn't it.  I mean, who the hell am I kidding?  This sort of thing isn't for me.  I need routine and right now I've been thrown completely off course. 
    "What did they say when you left work?" he asks, not raising his head from the menu.
    "I don't think they were too bothered.  Apart from Mand, of course,"
    John snorts with laughter and closes his menu, "Ah, the lesbian,"
    "She's not a lesbian!"
    "Lex, she's mean, manless and mad.  The triple M, meaning she's a lesbian.  Plus she follows you around everywhere and speaks to you like you're her wife," he laughs again and calls back the waiter. 
    I watch him as he scrunches his face when the waiter tells him he'll be with us in a moment.  Even doing that he seems God-like.  Immaculate and groomed to perfection, John is as handsome as they come.  His dark brown hair is styled and swept in all different directions, but somehow it looks amazing.  With deep, brown eyes he glances at me, smiles, and throws them in the direction of the wondering waiter.  He then swears loudly when the waiter sees to another table.  Normally I'd be appalled, especially since John's potty mouth has grasped the attention of a few people, but I really don't care.  I could watch him forever.
    "How many times have you heard from her today?"
    "From Mand?  Umm...only one or two,"  The correct answer is actually closer to fifteen.  She's been wanting to know exactly where I am and what I'm doing, and why haven't I called her?  I haven't responded to them all because it would only lead to more.
    "I don't believe that for a second.  I remember how she used to be with you back in school.  No one was allowed to get near you.  Fuck knows how I managed it,"
    "She's a motherly person, John.  She's like that with all her friends," which could be true.  If she had other friends.
    Wow!  This really wasn't the way I imagined this dinner to go.  In my head I had an ideal, romantic picture of John and me holding hands across a candlelit dinner table.  He'd be extatic that I moved up here to be with him, he'd love my new hair, and most importantly he'd say he loved me.  But no.  We're sitting here talking about how my best friend in a lesbian. 

It's almost eleven when I eventually get back to the flat.  The apartment is in darkness so Eve has clearly gone to bed.  As quietly as I can muster, I make my way to my new bedroom, move a few unpacked boxes out of the way, and land on the bed with force. 
    And then I remember it's my first day at the new job in the morning and I'm not prepared at all.  Another wave of panic rises up again and I try my best to forget about it.  But I can't.  I just lie there on the bed too nervous to sleep, too tired to get up.
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