Thursday, 11 July 2013

Take a deep breath and jump right in...

The next couple of weeks hazed into a grey London fog. I’d returned to work and life had returned to normal.
Sat in Mantos with Pedro, I span the oversized Hoegaarden glass around in my hands.
“You know, I just feel like I’m drifting. Not really doing any of this because I want to, more coz I just happened to be in the right place at the right time for it to happen to me.”
“What are we talking about, work?”
“Well everything really. I mean when I split up with James, I moved in with you guys right?”
“Mhmm,” nodded Pedro, the head of his beer caught on the moustache of his goatee.
“Then Claire found the house and I moved in with her, to Walthamstow. Didn’t know the area, but hey it was cool,” I shrugged, “I got the job at Sainsbury’s because someone had passed my resume on and when I got offered it, it seemed like something I could do.”
Pedro held up a hand to stop me, “So good things fall in your lap and you think it’s a problem?”
“I know, I sound like a spoilt brat right?”
“Well babes, a lot of people would give their…” He paused looking for the right phrase.
I raised an eyebrow and leant in towards him, a smile forming as I waited for the next Portuguese pearl of wisdom to come.
Pedro saw the look on my face, pursed his lips and straightened in his seat, “I’m just saying they would give a lot for those opportunities. And you can wipe that grin off your face, I’m serious.”
He sighed and reached a hand over the table, “What’s the matter?”
I took his hand and frowned, “I don’t have a plan. None of it’s been planned. What if this is it, if I just drift through life this is all I get? I mean there’s so much out there I could be doing but if I don’t make it happen, take the bull by the horns, seize the day and all that crap, if I don’t do it for myself I could end up a Personnel Manager in a bloody supermarket for the rest of my days having seen nothing else”
I laughed, bollocks coming from Pedro in his weirdly Russian sounding Portuguese accent was guaranteed to put a smile on my face, “What?”
“That’s not what this is about. You miss Tom. You think you want to go back. You’ve probably already looked into a way of doing it and are now trying to rationalize the situation so it’s not all about him.”
I sat up in my seat, smoothing my tie and dropping my head like a chastened school boy.
“I can get a year’s working holiday visa. I have until I’m 27 to enter the country on it.”
“I knew it! So that’s what this little after work chat is about. You’re going to leave us for a fling down under. Can I remind you, you thought the scene was nothing compared to here. That you thought the men were just men rather than the gorgeous bronzed gods we’d been told to expect and you couldn’t see what the fuss was all about. If I remember rightly, you’re not into the beach and you hate prawns. They’ll never allow you in!”
I snorted, Hoegaarden spurting from my nose and the corners of my mouth, “What have prawns got to do with it?”
“They eat them by the bucket load; you should have seen the barbie at Nicole’s – obscene amounts of prawns, giant things, stinking up the place.”
“Look at you speaking the lingo! We’re home now, it’s Barbecue if you please. And anyway I thought they called them shrimp, y’know – throw another shrimp on the Barbie”
“No that’s an Americanism and they hate it,” his eyes glazed over with a far away look, “Or so Nicole’s Papai said.”
“Were you flirting with Nicole’s Dad?”
Pedro blushed.
“Pedro, shame on you! What would her Mum say, you a guest in her house?”
“She loved my salted cod recipe and she thought I was gorgeous!” He pouted, chin held high.
“And you think the Prawns stank the place out!” I laughed “and you are gorgeous babes, how could she resist?” I drained my glass, stood and nodded to Pedro’s half empty pint. “Another?”
“Nicely done, but I didn’t just arrive from Portugal y’know. Sit back down”
I sighed and dropped back onto my chair. “I knew it was going too easily.”
“Well normally you are the master of the subject change.” He looked me in the eye and quietly said, “When would you go?”
“A year. It means I can save up some cash; I have to have a grand and a half in the bank I think to apply for the visa. Maybe two, I can’t remember. It’s to show I can support myself. You’re not allowed to work the entire time you’re there, it’s supposed to be educational, exploring the country and stuff. And I’ll have been at Sainsbury’s for nearly two years by then so it won’t look so bad resume-wise.”
“And Terry?”
“Terry. Yeah I need to sort that out don’t I. I think he knows something’s up.” I slumped, “Fuck, why do I always do this!”
The lights dimmed suddenly and the music cranked up a couple of notches.
“Ok interrogation over.” Pedro raised a warning finger, “For now! I take it there’s a change of clothes in that bag?”
I nodded.
“Well then, you get yourself to the ladies and change while I get the next round. I’ll meet you downstairs on the dance floor.”
I got up, grabbing my bag and lent in over Pedro’s chair giving him a tight hug.
“I love you y’know. You’re the best.”
“Hmmm, spread the word baby,” He purred.

A week later and I’m pulling up in a cab outside a block of flats in Leytonstone.
Terry and I had met a few months before I’d gone to Sydney and I’d determinedly pursued him both online and at XXL. He was taller than me, older than me and broader than me. My favourite combo. He was also kind and gentle, softly spoken with a deep baritone, a chest and forearms covered in soft grey hair and a pair of dimples framing a permanent smile. His eyes were crystal clear blue and were as open and genuine as he was. All in all, Terry was one of the nicest guys I’d dated.
So why was I telling him it was over? And more importantly, how was I going to tell him without breaking his heart? Or was that just me and my inflated ego; would he be that upset after all?
Terry had been frank when I met him and had told me he was dating several guys at the time, while looking to settle down. We’d dated regularly going from once a week, to three or four nights a week by the time I was due to leave for Australia. The night before I left he’d told me he’d stopped seeing the others guys and that he wanted to give things a go with us.
“Go to Sydney baby and have fun. Go crazy. Sow those wild oats of yours and live it up. Know I’m here waiting for ya and when you get back, it’s me and you, right? Me and you baby.”
And maybe therein lay my problem. Terry was just too nice a guy for me, the boy who dated bad boys and wondered why it never worked out. If I settled down with Terry where would the challenge be? I needed to be challenged not only by the situation, but mentally, to be constantly learning and pushed, driven. Could Terry do that for me? Again, the inflated ego.
And to be honest, none of this really mattered. Sure, whether Terry and I would have worked in the long run was debatable, but the reason I was going to end it had nothing to do with that. I was calling time on it because I was in love with the idea of someone else. Someone who lived overseas and who I barely knew, but then of course that was where the challenge lay. And the drama. And the romance of the situation. And those things were hard, if not impossible for me to resist.

I walked down the cold corridor to Terry’s apartment.