Leye - Every other Wednesday.
Chapter 4: Killing time
|Photo: Ask Joanne|
When people come up and stand next to me on a platform, I always feel the urge to confess to them that I don’t know where the train doors will stop. Of course, I never say anything, being London, you know. You don’t want to go about greeting strangers and being helpful and all, or else you’ll be a weirdo. So I just stand there warming my hands in my pockets, and when the train stops and we’re all facing windows instead of doors, I simply shrug off the guilt and I engage in polite shovelling with the people I’ve misled. Every damn time, like yesterday when I rode on a South-Eastern train to keep my date with Cold Shoulder.
Cold Shoulder. Not only was she free to meet, she also suggested the café we went to the first time. Of all places, there. But I shouldn’t read much into that, right? Too late. I already did. Signs everywhere. She kept my number after all this time. She’s single – I think. She jumped at meeting up with me. She chose the place we both had our first date.
So, the train journey. It took two hours in total from my office to the café. We’d agreed a time and I was on time, but Cold Shoulder wasn’t there when I walked through the café with my coat still on because I wanted her to see how good I thought I looked in it. It was rather toasty in there and I began to sweat under the synthetic wool pretty sharpish so she didn’t get to see me in it. I found a table for two and waited. I could see the door from where I sat. I could see the entire road, for that matter. Glass. I could see her before she saw me. I moved the chairs, rearranged the standing-upright menu on the table, and I chose the perfect waiting pose and I waited. And I waited, and I waited, and I waited. And I remembered how on our only date that many years ago she’d been late as well. And I waited some more, and in the time I waited, I started to think of all my deal-breakers and how tardiness was at or close to the top of the list.
Up there with not being on time is a behaviour that has divided my friends. Something that really screws with me. Roughly half of my friends agree with me that it’s just not on while the other half think it’s cute. The first half are mostly men, the other half mostly women. And it is this: taking food from my plate in a restaurant. Arghhhh! I just can’t stand it. I see that uninvited fork encroaching upon the airspace of my food and I go do def con 4. The nukes are warming up. And what makes it even worse is the lame, afterthought attempt at justifying the theft: ‘Do you want to try some of mine?’
NO! No, I do not want to try your dumplings. If I wanted dumplings I would have ordered dumplings. Do you see any dumplings on my plate? No. That’s because I did not want dumplings so I did not order dumplings. I wanted steak! I ordered steak! Now leave my steak the ef alone!!! (This is someone's rant. Not mine.)
Well, you get the picture. I go ballistic. But all on the inside, while on the outside I continue smiling. Wars are sometimes declared in silence. I have decided not to date someone because they were a plate invader.
Cold Shoulder was really keeping me waiting, so I had time to go over more of my bugbears. I even discovered one I never knew I had. At the end of my retrospective session I’d counted ten. Ten deal breakers. Ten things I just couldn’t stand in a partner. To qualify they had to be something that had made me end a relationship or refuse to proceed with a potential. I even attempted to rank them and that particular exercise led me to a life changing realisation. All this time I’d been discounting people based on my deal breakers, people have probably been discounting me to. Foreclosing on any form of intimate future with me. I have my deal breakers, they have their. I judge them, they judge me. On what was I being silently judged? My obsessive time keeping? My insane irritation at the innocent action of a date stabbing her fork into a piece of my steak?
A catalogue of faces began to form, each with a title beneath it: ‘Weird laugh.’ ‘Eats too fast.’ ‘Watches the Kardashians.’ ‘Does not know who Stephen Hawking is.’ ‘Thinks we speak Nigerian in Nigeria.’ ‘Always wants to hold hands in public.’ ‘Never holds hands in public.’ ‘Loud chewer.’ And slowly the titles faded and only the faces remained. Faces of perfectly normal people. People I should have made it work with, but for my crazy, insane, infantile, deal breakers. Little bugbears that kept me single and lonely when I could have been a couple and happy.
And with this realisation came a resolve so powerful that I felt its force as a wave that swelled and swept through me. From now hence forth, I will become mature and stop looking for flaws.