Wednesday, January 25, 2017

How I Survived Christmas and Other Stories - Chapter 2: Moving on or not really

Leye - Every other Wednesday. 

Chapter 2: Moving on or not really

Photo: Ask Joanne

From here on after, I'm just making it up as I go along.

They say there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But, ... Ain't nobody got time for that!

So, this is what I'm doing instead. I'm going through my phonebook for that person it could have been but I / they were with someone else or some other legitimate impediment like that. You know, that person you meet just after you've committed to someone else. That person whose existence keeps you awake at night, watching your partner sleep, wishing they'd just die a natural death. Something painless, you know, because you just can't bear to hurt them, your partner, that is, so, you can't leave them for the person you should be with because that would break their heart and you do not want to hurt them.

Anyway. I found her. Cold Shoulder. So named because:

The day we met, it was a party. A party in a club. So, it was really jumping, even though the party was all of five friends and two other people only one of us seemed to know; a random dude and a girl who had me at… At entering the club, really.

So, Cold Shoulder. The next day, my friend, her friend who she came with, sent me a text message asking what I said to her. A loud bell went off in my head. I was still under the duvet at the time, grateful it was a weekend, staying awake just long enough to flick through Facebook and twitter for that important piece of information I should not miss, but that message jolted me to full alert. What did I say to her? 

I was pretty sure I didn’t say anything to her. At the very least, nothing to warrant a fact-finding text from my friend. I did not even ask her name - she'd been introduced to the rest of us, along with random dude. Think, boy, think. I could see inside the club as clear as day - or as dark, light-stroby, and smoke engulfed as it had been the night before. I’d gone and sat next to her, but only because I wanted to ask if she'd like to dance and it was too loud, the music, you see, and the chairs in the club were too low, so I had to sit next to her to make my proposal regarding a dance, into her ear. She did not hear me first time, so I leaned in closer and said it again, louder: 'Would you like to dance?' She got it then, because she pointed at herself, her long index finger with the large silver ring pointing between her breasts. And looking at me so I could read her lips, she asked, 'Do I want to dance?' I mean, would I have been asking her if someone else wanted to dance? Anyway, I nodded and she, she shook her head and wagged her long finger at me and rested back into the chair and crossed her leg (the one next to mine) over her other leg, and lifted her Mai Tai off the low-low table, and took a sip and turned her face and her body away from me. Cold shoulder. Icy.

But I didn't DO anything to her. I re-read the message. I didn't SAY anything to her. The allegation was that I said something. Something horrible. Something bad. Something wrong. Something I shouldn’t have said.

Apprehension at a crescendo, I replied: I did not do anything to her. I pressed send, then I read what I'd sent. I corrected the error with another text: I did not say anything to her. I waited. It was a long time ago, before modern chat apps that show you whether someone has read your message or not. My apprehension grew. Oh my God. The girl was crazy. Cold Shoulder, she was crazy. How didn't I see it? She must have said I said something; something really bad. Self-doubt crept in. Or did I?

I searched my memory of the night. I hadn't been drunk. I did not have a hangover, for Christ's sake. Or could it be, (and this scared me) that she heard something else when I asked her if she wanted to dance? It was loud in there. Oh my God. What did she think I said? I searched for similar sounding words to the words I'd used. What were my exact words? I was still holding the phone in my hands, panicking over what I might have said, only that I didn't say it but it sounded like I did, even though I'd said something different, something perfectly normal to say, then the phone began to buzz in my hands. Trepidation as I read: 'I'm calling you in 5.' Lawd Ghad!

I think I dropped the phone, or sat up so fast it dropped from my sweaty grip. Either way, when, standing next to the bed, I bent to pick it up, I felt the depth of the sinkhole that had opened up in my belly. What the hell did I say to her, that I did not really say to her, but she heard instead of what I really said to her? 

The phone rang. The monotone ringtone stirred the pit in my tommy. I don't think I've ever looked at my phone the way I did that day, as if it was guilty of treachery.

I answered. My mouth was dry. The conversation went something like thus:

Them: Hello?

Me: (swallows) Hello?

Them: Dude, she likes you, man!

Me: (silence)

Them: Dude. 'You there? Did you hear what I said?

Me: What did she say I said?

Them: What?

Me: You said she said I said something.

Them: No. Oh. I get it. My message. No. She didn't say you said anything. I meant, what did you say to her like, she really likes you. It was a joke. But man, the girl really likes you.

Me: So, she didn't say I said anything?

Them: (tone becomes serious) Did you say something?

Well, it turns out that Cold Shoulder, after giving me the cold shoulder, asked our mutual friend about me. She wanted to know everything. And when mutual friend let on that I was single, she asked for a hook up.  Wow.

It would have been the greatest, most pleasant, most exhilarating piece of news to receive first thing in the morning had the ‘what I might have said’ panic not occurred. That, preceding 'she likes you,' reduced the thunder of the latter news to nothing more than a puff. I learnt, that morning, that emotions cannot simply be switched off and on. The bile from absolute terror of what terrible thing I might have said (that I really didn't say but she thought I said), remained in my mouth, rendering the WOW news less than wow and in fact almost tasteless. 

I said almost tasteless. I did collect Cold Shoulder's number. And after waiting a day, (I was told to wait two - not by mutual friend), I called and we arranged to meet. It was the most awkward first date ever. Little surprise it was the last. As far as jinxes go, 'she likes you' turned out to be the worst for me. I mean, what do you do with that? My suggestion is, if someone likes me, don't tell me they like me. Just arrange a coincidence that puts me and the liker in the same space and encourage us to interact. Like, invite me to put up your brand-new Ikea bookcase and then leave the house on some errand, and as you leave, casually tell me you're expecting liker and could I let them in. That's how I'd do it. A proper production. But tell me someone likes me and you’ve jinxed it already. Thanks. 

Well, that was years ago. I've just been checking her social media. She seems to post a lot of selfies, an indication of potential singleness. And I haven't spotted one food photo, so all good. 

So, I am going to call Cold Shoulder. And if she's single, and in the same city, I'll try for that second date many years later.

Maybe enough time has passed for it to be a new first date, and this time it wouldn't be jinxed becasue I wouldn't know that she likes me because, who likes someone for that long?


  1. Okay, Leye, the doctor is in . First things first. By, "From here on after, I'm just making it up as I go along," are talking about the terrific prose in telling your tale, or in how you plan to run your life?

    I'm assuming the latter, so, let's talk. You are in the the sixth stage of arises when the source of your grief is being jilted, dumped, cast aside. It's called the stage of "Trust no one with my heart," where pessimism rules. You seem to be in full bloom with that, so my prognosis is you're well on the way to healing.

    Your description of consistently lying in bed at night (lying has two connotations in this context), thinking of all the other partners you'd prefer to be with, I submit is more an expression of how you think your ex was, and future partners are likely to be, rather than a true expression of your own MO.

    My suggested Rx is that you simply dive right into the pool by calling or asking whoever it is that you want to spend time with, considering every rejection with the optimistic view that it's just one less person to clog your recovery. Simply keep plowing forward without any expectation of anything more that a passing good time. Hanging too many hopes on a fresh meeting is like hanging too many ornaments on a new tree --it will likely topple it. Slow-slow is the key. And for G-d's sake, please try your best to avoid talking about your past relationship, even if your date raises it...that is something that will come later and more naturally, assuming there is a later.

    Follow these instructions and I can assure you that Christmas will soon be a distant memory as you come roaring into a Happy Valentine's Day.

    My office will bill you.

    1. :-) Thank you, Jeffery. I'm taking everything I can from this. Everything. From here on after, I'm simply making it all up as I go, fictional account after fictional account. 'Take your pain and turn it into art' is what I'm doing. But, great advice not to talk about the ex. lol. So now, my fictional self might very well commit that very sin on one of his road-to-recovery dates.

    2. Sooner or later you'll realize that the only way out of this is moving forward. Put differently, the advice of going to bed with two aspirin to defeat a headache, sure beats Cleopatra's two asps to beat a heartache.

    3. Or two asses to haul a heavy load...

  2. Another great column, Leye. You're either livin' the life or writin' the life, and either way, you tell a mighty good tale.

  3. OK so you a either a great writer. Or a great writer with a true tale to tell. If it's the latter, I will offer myself as a provider of my 'bang your head against the wall until you get some sense into it' service. ( It's a Scottish thing). Don't get involved with women who are hard work- get one that makes you laugh, makes your heart fly and if you are really lucky, can do a good copy edit. Women who jump in puddles if they think nobody is looking are generally a good bet.

  4. Bingo, Caro...we who've been lucky enough to land in the puddle with the right partner--after far too much mud-wrestling with the wrong--salute you!

  5. Great column, Leye. I'm usually the one who ends up building other people's bookcases for them. Sounds preferable to me than going on a date with anybody.

    I'm still at the 'sooner or later, everybody screws you over' stage -- which one is that, Jeff?

  6. Have you told your mother? That is the penultimate stage of this sort of grief.

    1. Spoken like a true Italian Moma.

    2. You only say that, bro, because mamma

      always liked you best.