This is hard to do with one hand, but it can’t be helped. I’m texting her, phone in one hand, slice of pizza in the other. I’m trying to craft the perfect text in preparation for tonight’s meet-up. We’re going straight to the pub this time, to play pool, according to her last instructions. I get together with friends from time to time and just play pool all evening, letting the focus on the game fill in the gaps in the conversation.
I want to text her all the thoughts I’ve had today, about how nice my new sheet is, and how comfortably I slept last night. That could be misconstrued though, so I pull it back a little. I’ve been thinking of her all day, thinking specifically of her fingertips. I can picture them in my mind, her uneven fingernails and the one with a flake of nail polish left on. I want to tell her that too, tell her all about her fingertips, tell her she probably didn’t realise what magic lay in those fingertips. Again, I stop. That kind of thing is context specific and may be lost in a text message. These things are better said face to face anyway, I know. The text message ends up being a confirmation of our plans, and I send it without hesitating. The message was so utilitarian there was no chance of any mistaken meaning or confusion. I look back at the screen and see it, right at the end, hanging alone, a single ‘x’. Did I type that? Did I just sign off our second or third text with a kiss? Oh dear, oh dear, I put the phone down on the bed and lay back again.
A hundred thoughts run through my mind, building in complexity and breadth. Have I offended her, sending an impromptu and presumptuous kiss to this girl. Is she reading that message and feeling awkward about our meeting later, or is she deciding not to come along any more? I’m wide-eyed and staring out the window, searching for a solution or answer. My phone buzzes and I look down at it, there on the bed. The display immediately advises me there’s a text from her waiting. The small screen illuminated with her name stares back at me. It’s a quick reply, which is good, whatever the outcome. I tap the screen and the message opens up:
“Cool, see you later :)”.
No reciprocal ‘x’, but not a cancellation either, and even a smiley in there. That can’t be bad. I relax again and decide texting is a bad idea generally, and that from now on I’ll write letters or emails.
Getting ready is a matter of filling my pockets with the usual gear and brushing my teeth on the way out. Out and down the steps to the road and I’m off again. Bus, wide eyes, nerves, headphones jammed into my skull, as if they are the only thing holding in my brain. I feel good though. I’m going to see the girl with the amber eyes, the girl who smiles from the edge of her lips inwards. I’m picturing her in my head and, as usual, predicting and planning out the evening. I think about the conversations we’ll have, the games we’ll play, the drinks we’ll imbibe. I even start to wonder if tonight may end with a kiss, a nervous and hesitant kiss.
I step down off the bus and see the pub we’re meeting in, just over the road. I cross over and see her waiting outside, looking impatient, rocking sweetly back and forward on her heels. As I step closer she looks up and sees me, that smile comes over her, and it’s like the world glows in that moment. She walks to meet me on the pavement-edge, my foot reaches up off the road and I feel her lips on mine, kissing me softly, but deeply. Time slows down, my brain goes blank, devoid of activity. She lingers for a few seconds, there right on the kerb, my heels resting over thin air, my heart hovering a few hundred feet above the ground. Her face comes into focus as she pulls back, my hands on her hips, my mind frantically trying to recall how to control the muscles of my face, which I’m sure have me currently pulling a ridiculously goofy grin. There is nothing I can do, I’m frozen. She grabs my hand and pulls me into the pub, straight to the bar. I feel like I’ve tripped and am stumbling downwards, deeper into the core of an unpredictable timeline, which is kind of nice, albeit well out of my comfort zone.
The alcohol feels smooth and warm, and cheers my spirits. I feel really centred, really in the room, in the moment, and yet focusing on her. I can hear every word she says, and I can focus on her without the usual noise from my darting eyes. All my normal filters have dropped, and the conversation feels easy. It’s only after a few drinks, and a few games of pool, only then do I realise I haven’t been paying attention to myself. I really haven’t noticed her either, like I’m sitting off to the left, watching in on the interaction, but the signal is fuzzy, the sound muted. It all comes down now, and fast too. My filters are going up and I can feel my heart rate increase. I look into her eyes and notice for the first time how dull they are. Something of the spark has disappeared, and I realise the moments we are sharing are not living up to the expectations. The world stutters and shudders to a halt. I’m frozen again but not for the same reasons as earlier. My mind is blanking the moment, focusing much more intently on the escape routes than the here and now.
I’ve been here before, many times. My heart races as I try to examine the situation, to work out why I have the fear again, the guilt and the panic. All I can think is that I need to get out, at any cost. It’s as if there is danger in my remaining here, being in this place with these people. I feel like the danger is prescient of a possible outcome, that will come to fruition if I don’t run. I need to go. Now.
I make several rushed and totally fabricated lies and make my way outside. She is quick on my heels and spins me around just outside, asking what’s wrong. I can’t possibly put into words what I want to say, even if I wanted to tell the truth. I do want to tell her everything, to explain what’s happening, but I have no idea how to start. How do I tell her about the cameras in the street lights, the two people inside who were watching and observing me, the person walking past right now who I recognise from somewhere. The voices in my head are screaming at me to tell her anything. I just need to get away from this place. The streetlights are glowing orange above me, but I wish it would just go dark and let me slip away. I blink, and when my eyes open I see the end of a flicker. All down one side of the street the lights are dimmer than before. I know this is real because she has noticed too, and is looking down the street. Almost immediately I feel calm again, like I’ve slept and just awoken to the evening light. I look back at her and into those eyes, and taking her hand I walk us to the bar near the station.