I'm sitting outside at a friend's house party on a slightly soggy cushion. The damp sensation against my skin is unpleasant but I'm damned if I'm going to wear black opaques at what has been billed as the last party of the summer. I spot my friend's boyfriend wandering about picking up and examining bottles that are unsurprisingly all empty and beckon him over. We exchange the usual pleasantries for about five minutes before I am aware that he is about to deliver 'The Speech'.
I've heard The Speech many times and it gets a bit boring, but don't get me wrong, The Speech always warms my heart a little because it shows that my friends are looking out for me, and care about me, and want me to be happy. To sum up, it basically conveys an expression of disbelief that I am still, technically, single. I've stopped trying to give a definitive answer, because there are so many issues involved, we'd be there for days debating it. Employing a kind of lateral incarnation of the The Speech, my friend Zoe tells me, on a weekly basis, that she's going to put a dating profile for me online. I've given up trying to forbid or encourage her, because she always just does what she wants regardless. (Thankfully, so far she has not to my knowledge, cyber-pimped me out).
I reassure him that all is not lost, and I haven't descended into cat-owning spinster-dom just yet. In fact there have been several rather interesting recent developments. I pour us each a glass of god-knows-what and tell him the latest.
Good old Serge continues to be a constant fixture, if an unpredictable one. Sometimes we will meet and it will be strictly platonic. He'll tell me about his latest obsession (currently the history of map-making) and treat me as nothing more than a 'mate'. Then other times, when in a more playful mood he will taunt me about whether I have a boyfriend yet and ask if I want him to hook me up with various (entirely unsuitable) friends of his. If we are in the car he will grapple suggestively with my right thigh - I swear the reason he drives an automatic is to free up his 'happy hand'. We went for a drink recently that turned into a bottle each and ended in a steamy clinch on the street that I swear was hotter then any time we've actually slept together. And so our distinctly odd affair drags on. He tells me constantly that he adores me, I continue to return the favour. But neither of us are under any illusion that anything will really change.
But then I go and run into Posho at a party. I suspected he might be there and was wondering how the land would lie since I dumped him rather cruelly after a month-long attempt at having some sort of conventional relationship about a year ago. We continued to chat occasionally after that but I was keen to gently 'phase him out' as I didn't really see the point of it. I concluded that I could never truly respect a man who has his accountancy certificates on his bedroom wall. But there he was, visibly shaken by my presence, or perhaps the fact I was wearing full Day of the Dead makeup, as you do. There also happened to be a tequila tasting going on and the man in charge of the shots took rather a shine to me - I ended up having about four in quick succession. Excellent idea. I'll spare you the exact details but reader, I went home with him (Posho, not the tequila man). And I've seen him a couple of times since. I'm not really sure what it's all about, but he's a 'nice', fairly uncomplicated guy who doesn't appear to want to make anything official which suits us both. Well it does until he gets drunk and maudlin and sends me flurries of texts that reveal rather more ardent intentions. At one point I felt so bad about the fact that I basically just pick him up when I feel like it that I sent him an email apologising. He was having none of it though and claimed he has no problem with the way I treat him. It's like he gets a kick out of being my bitch. It's a bit of an odd situation and I'd be lying if I said I don't feel a bit uneasy about it.
Things got even odder however, on the Monday after said party. I was finally shaking off my incredible tequila-flavoured hangover when I received an email from Kay. She had written a piece about the event the day after and had subsequently received a private message connected with it. It was from a man called Callum who told of how he had randomly met a girl on the stairs, whilst attending a separate party within the same building. They'd got chatting and had failed to exchange numbers, and he was very keen to see her again. The only lead he had was her name. And that name was mine.
I had one of those weird little flashes of misty memory, of meeting someone and sitting on the stairs with them and laughing a lot. But when I tried to summon up his face or what we talked about I came up with absolutely nothing. I vowed on the spot that I would never drink tequila again. But I can't deny I was secretly thrilled that someone would go to so much trouble to track me down. I left it a couple of days before contacting him. He got back to me within minutes. We messaged back and forth until I gathered enough intelligence to do some quality 'investigating'. I tried not to betray the fact I didn't really remember anything about him. We carried on chatting that evening as I pieced together that he was 10 years younger than me (!) and had a penchant for older, let's say 'buxom' women. With ginger hair. I'm not saying I fit those credentials but he made no secret of the fact that he was keen. The messages got flirtier as the night went on and we decided to meet for a drink the next night.
However I woke up the next morning feeling a bit odd about it all. And when he texted me at 9am saying he'd booked a hotel room for later I panicked and told him I couldn't make it. This was all going WAY too fast. There's keen and then there's plain desperate.
I was intrigued enough to keep in touch with him though. And NOT just because it transpired that he is a man of some means. I figured that that there must have been some connection for us to sit together giggling for half an hour. And for me to try and steal his watch (allegedly). So recently we've fallen back into messaging each other. A lot. And we were going to go for lunch in a couple of days time. Which has now changed into dinner. For the first time in ages I confess I'm rather excited.