Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Gordon's Breakfast - 41

I step onto the back of a passing number 19 bus on Upper Street and take it all the way back to Highbury where I jump off and walk back towards home, but as I walk pass my flat I keep on going for another couple of hundred metres until I get to Susan's mansion block style building.

I can see Susan's place from the front and all the lights are out, but the lack of light does not deter me from continuing to pressing the buzzer a few times. I don't get a reply, but this doesn't surprise me as I really didn't expect to. After trying Susan's buzzer I try a couple of others shouting "pizza" into the speaker box until someone buzzes me in.

Inside I climb the slippery ceramic tiled stairs to the second floor where I walk around to Susan's fire engine red door. I ring her doorbell, but like the buzzer I don't expect to get a reply. I press it a couple more times before I sit down outside her door and I start tapping with my fist on the hardwood.

"Suze, I know you're in there."

Again there is no reply so I tap with my fist a few more times and listen out to see if I can hear anything as I am absolutely certain she is in there. I'm certain not just because I saw Adam earlier this evening, but for other reasons as well and it clicked in the pub when Rob was talking about the Caribbean holiday Adam and Susan were supposed to be taking. It all fell into place then.

I worked out, of course, that Adam wasn't coming around to see me. He had been round on a fruitless mission to talk to Susan. It was for him just a happy coincidence that he happened to bump into me on his way home.

"Suze you'll like this, I saw Adam today, I know he came around to see you as he almost bumped into me on his way home. You probably heard him screaming down the street. You'll also be pleased to know that he chased me down the street and tried to catch me, but of course failed miserably in this endeavour. Second thoughts, you probably won't be pleased to hear me. It's just that while we both run like girls, I'm definitely the faster of the two girls among us. I think that's important, I might swing my arms around a bit, but I always get away."

There's still no answer and no movement from inside of Susan's flat, but it doesn't matter I am still convinced that she is in there so I just keep talking.

"It's not the fact that Adam came round that tipped me off, you know that don't you? It's because I know you would never go on holiday on your own. Just in case you thought I was never paying attention, I really was, and now I have this big arsenal of Suze knowledge that I can call up on at will. That's how I know that you wouldn't have gone. You don't see the point.

"This is why we have been on holiday three times in the last five years or so. I also know that you would certainly never go on a beach holiday on your own. You'd be bored rigid, you know that and I know that. Maybe Adam doesn't because he is lacking in Suze knowledge. I could have told him that, of course, but as I've been ignoring you for the last six months pretty solidly there really hasn't been a moment where I could have passed on that useful knowledge onto Adam.

"The Caribbean holiday had to be Adam's idea. He would see it as two weeks of beach sex and the ideal clichéd honeymoon destination. That's not a Suze holiday. Your ideal honeymoon destination on the other hand would be the Florida Keys, because of Humphrey Bogarde and Lauren Bacall in Key Largo, well that and the fact that you could stop on the way back in New York and intensively post wedding shop and visit friends. Thereby fulfilling all the elements of a classic holiday: shopping, scenery and romance in reverse order. That's where I would have gone."

There's still nothing and although I can't believe I got it wrong it looks like I might well have done so. So I just sit there for a little longer and don't move when finally my heart skips a beat as I hear some shuffling on the other side of the door.

"Suze? You know I'm sorry, you know about the not talking to you, the generally ignoring you and cutting you dead in the street. Not to mention not returning your telephone calls, emails or text messages. I really am sorry. Truth is, and you know it's true I missed you. I just wanted to say that. So that even if you don't answer the door at least you will know that."

I hear a little more movement, but still Susan isn't saying anything. I knock a couple more times on the door. I don't mind really, I'm here for the duration. I'm not going anywhere, I'm staying for as long as it takes.

"What?" says a sour sounding voice.
"Open the door."
"I said I was sorry."
"What about my wedding?"
"I'm sorry about that too, but to be fair…"

I'm about to tell her that I was doing her a favour with my wedding intervention come grand romantic gesture, but then I think better of it. At the end of the day a girl's wedding is still her wedding even if she plans to dump the groom at the airport.

"To be fair?" she says raising her voice.
"I'm really sorry about that as well, honest."
"What's wrong with a little holiday shopping? I ask you."
She makes me smile, "Nothing at all, it's totally essential."
"Hmmm, it's not that easy."
"I know."
"I'm kind of pissed off."
"Thought you might be, but why don't you open the door."

And then she does and we're sitting on either side of the door in the darkness looking at each other, me backlit by the communal hallway light, and Susan silhouetted in the dim light like a girl in between.

"So what are we going to do?" Susan asks me.

I shake my head, "I don't know, we could see how it goes."

Susan smiles.

"Okay, she says, "that sounds like a plan. I'm worn out getting married is tiring."

We both laugh at this, struck by the weirdness of the situation.
"They should mention that in the brochure," I say.
"Gord, there is no brochure, I think that's part of the problem."
"Really? Damn them and their lack of brochures."

Susan smiles, again, "Look, we can talk later."

"We could go out for dinner tomorrow? Anywhere you like?"
"Anywhere, I've been saving."
"Oh I like a boy who plans ahead," she says.

I nod and with that we get up and stand facing each other for just a little while. Suddenly we are both aware that we're in new uncharted territory and we're about to go boldly or boldly go, definitely one or the other and I suddenly worry if there's a difference and maybe it's really important in a way that it all comes down to the final emphasis and spin that you apply.

We're aware that there are new rules to play that we should now be enacting them. Susan underlines this as she offers her hands out and shrugs her shoulders, smiles, and the moment skids along bathed in an uncertain glow a little longer.

It's like she is asking what are we now? Have we crossed some finishing line?

That's the question waiting to be answered. I'm not sure what the answer is and I find myself grimacing, nodding, and then I step forward and kiss Susan on the cheek.

Susan nods, smiles, but doesn't say anything in acknowledgement that I seem to have answered the question for the both of us one way or another. For a little longer it seems that we stand as we stood, as it is when it was.

Susan give me a wave of her hand and I likewise and then I turn for the stairs and she closes the door to her flat behind me. I head down the stairs taking each step in turn, one at a time, in absolutely no rush and I head out of her building and begin making the short walk up the street that spells home.

Back inside my flat the lights are out and Johnny and my sister are not around. I turn on the stereo and select my mellow indie play list and the iPod begins to crank out the Foo Fighters who sing "...When I talk about it, it carries on…".

In the kitchen I take a beer from the fridge and crack it open. Back on the couch I lay back and listen to the music. Thinking about what I've just done and I just don't move and I'm sitting there going nowhere.

I've been sitting for an hour or more, and have drunk several beers just listening to the music and thinking over the weekend by the time the phone rings. I've kind of been expecting it and so when I lean over and lift the handset from its cradle I know that I don't even need to speak as by the time that it reaches my ear Susan is already talking.

"I've been thinking, about what I said."
"Oh really, which part are we talking about?"

Even before she tells me I know what she is going to say. I'm having one of those moments one of those sudden rare flashes of certainty that feels quite true. Susan is about to tell me that she wasn't exactly being truthful about this time not needing to be desperately in love. I just know that this is what she is going to say.

"The thing about being desperately in love. I was lying before. I don't know why I did that, I suppose I was having a funny turn, do you have any idea?"
"No," and I shake my head as I say this, "No I don't why you did that either."
"I thought that I would tell you so that you knew what was on my mind."
"Thanks…yeah," I say.

At this point it feels like I should say something else, rather than keep my answer staccato and short but I don't say anything. I close my mouth and sit there on the couch waiting for Susan so speak again.

"I was thinking that we could go for dinner tomorrow to that restaurant that you like so much. What do you think?"
"I think that's a very good idea."
"Okay, shall I meet you there?"
"You want to meet me there?"

As I say this I am tempted to add, but Suze we live on the same street as each other, doesn't it make sense to go together, but somehow I don't. Maybe it's for the same reason that I didn't keep talking before even when I felt that I should.

"Don't you think that's best?" Susan asks me.
"Yeah, I guess you're right, that's probably the best idea."
"I thought as much," she says.

And with that Susan hangs up just as she always does.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Gordon's Breakfast - 40

As we're leaving, well I'm already halfway up the garden path, I hear Alison's mother shout out, after us "Don't forget to stay out late," and it's true, it's just like Alison said I am in some alternate universe. Her mother is attempting to get me to date her daughter.

As we head up the street to hail a taxi I tell Alison that things with her mother have got seriously out of hand.

"Can't you get her something?"
"What do you suggest?"
"I'm not sure, a holiday? Your mother seems to have got the wrong idea."
"I know, she seems to think you are magical replacement for Paul since he became an unperson. Sorry."
"That's okay, tell her, I'm not magical."
"I'll try."
"Ali, try hard. Remind her of my long, long list of failings and general unsuitability?"
"Oh don't worry I have."
"Oh cheers."
"But in a good way."
"What kind of a good way."
"Well, I've mercilessly trashed you, but no affect whatsoever."
"Your kidding, I'm a dating disaster mother's always hate me. What's gone wrong?"
"Damn, of course, I need to get a Heisenberg desperation compensator. You know like in Star Trek, it solved all problems."
"My mother doesn't believe anyone could be quite that useless," she says smiling.
"Seriously, I don't mind, honestly keep going. I could, if it helps your case, provide documentary evidence."
"Maybe you should, if you could possible get your long list of exes to slate you on Youtube that I think would help your case."
"Ali, you know not a single one of them ever wants to see me every again?"
"True, but surely they would jump at a chance to wreck a future relationship?" "Good point, I'm on it."
"You know what I think I need, not a boyfriend but I think I need a GBF."
"Ugh? You lost me. GBF?"
"A Gay Best Friend, I think I need one."
"Aren't regular best friends okay?"
"Regular ones are okay, but I think every woman gets to a stage in her life when she needs a GBF. Susan's wedding was a case in point. I needed someone to go with. It would have been an ideal for a GBF. Besides I think it would take the pressure off with my mother. As I really can't imagine meeting anyone else. It sounds odd and I know that I probably will, considering how I got pregnant easy enough, but I just can't see it. I can't connect with how it might happen."
"You're a catch."
"Oh right, such a catch. Single mother catch."
"Come on, I imagine guys will be falling over themselves."

Alison looks at her feet.

"Nothing doing down here, no falling insight."
"Give it time."
"Sweet, but I don't think guys fall over themselves to bag 35 year old single mothers whose idea of a good night out is staying in and wondering why she hasn't got a GBF."
"Okay point, besides you have me, you know I have no fashion sense and don't know any Dorothy jokes, but…"
"Oh, but you're going to meet someone soon."
"Are you sure? My record is kind of poor."
"What about Larissa?"
"Larissa Snowe? That bird has kind of flown, you know like flown the country."
"Maybe you could fly too."
"I thought about that."
"You did?"
"Sure I did."
"And? What the whole chase the girl around the world thing? I'm impressed."
Yeah, but I don't really think I'm the flying type, besides…"
"She did dump you three times."
"Exactly. There is that."

Out on Holloway road, we hail a black cab and sail forward towards Islington.

The cab pulls up outside the Crown pub, just off of Upper Street, and Alison and I head inside to the dimly lit pub with its candlelight and mixture of rickety tables and chairs and old leather couches. I order some drinks at the bar while Alison picks a table. It's only when I join her that I finally get around to telling her about Adam.

"I haven't even told you my wildly surprising news about how I was chased down the street on the way over to your place."
"OMG, are you alright? What happened?"
"I'm fine, my legs still have what it takes to run like a crazy coward, but it's really who was chasing me. It was Adam."
"Adam? But he's meant to be on a Caribbean beach with Susan. What a mystery."
"I know, what's going on?"
"You're sure it was him and not some other person you might have pissed off at some point who chose this confluent time to chase you down the street."
"It was Adam, I mean he never got that close, but I could see him clearly."
"But I saw him get married and have the first dance and then head off in a taxi to the airport with Susan. It can't have been Adam."
"Maybe he forgot something?"
"You mean like he had just got married?"
"Well that would make sense. Seriously it was Adam he was shouting 'fucking bastard' and he was running down my street."
After a couple of drinks and still no further into unravelling the Adam mystery I come back from the bathroom to find Alison talking on her mobile phone.

"Ali what are you doing?"
"Oh, I'm solving the Adam mystery. I'm calling Rob."
"You're what! Not Rob, please put the phone down. Rob is awful."
"He's not that bad, besides he hits on me every time I see him and flatters me endlessly."
"You like that?"

Alison smiles, raises her eyebrows and manages to roll her eyes at the same time. Endless flattery who would have thought that would have worked?!

"Oh in a funny kind of way I rather do. He's never serious and he's quite charming in a dishevelled kind of way."
"Okay, that's all very nice, but please don't call him."
"Gordie do you want to know why Adam was chasing you or not?"

Alison pauses and looks up at me and when she sees no more sign of protest other than a look of pain she continues to make her call.

"I thought so. Rob will know the answer."

Rob was Adam's best man, but I can guarantee you now that Rob won't just tell Alison he will insist on coming down to the pub and make us suffer for hours. Rob is another friend we went to school with, but he's really more a friend of Adam's than anyone else who used to follow Alison around for years like a puppy dog in a leather jacket. Alison played up to it terribly.

Rob turns up about 20 minutes later and he looks exactly like he always looks. His hair is a curly wiry mess, flecked with grey, and his face has a growth of two-day-old stubble. He has on his thick black plastic Elvis Costello type specs, which are now popular again but which have been worn by Rob since he was 11. The right arm of which seems to be held on by cellotape. Even at school they were always broken, but back then it was because people were always punching him and breaking his glasses after another comment. Rob really was one of those people who asked for trouble, got it, and kept asking. Despite this Rob always refused to be silenced and by the time sixth form came and university beckoned and we had all generally grown out of punching each other his comments, while still as numerous as ever, were largely ignored or more often rejoined by matching invective. He is dressed in beaten blue 501 jeans, a black Joy Division T-shirt and an ancient (almost timeless) black leather jacket of the kind popular at various stages in years past. It is very much like he found his look 18 years ago and just stayed with it.

"Alright," he says as he spots the two of us.

It's at this point that it hits me that fading Australian accent. That is another thing Rob had working against him. He was a displaced Aussie whose parents had moved back to the UK after more than ten years living down under. Despite being in the UK for 20 years now he has refused to loose his Australian accent. He seems to hang onto it with a grim determination.

"I have to say Alison you look rather stunning tonight."
"You creep Rob."
"Ah know, but at least I know how to offer a compliment."
"Now, now, no fighting, besides I don't remember you saying anything about my dress."

I'm about to leap to my defence and bemoan Alison's disloyalty when I stop as I realise Alison is quite right. I did the whole unspoken language thing again. I thought it, but just never said it. Damn, there is nothing worse than getting shown up by Rob. Oh the embarrassment of it all.

"Come on then Johnson do us some more of ya comedy routine. I didn't know you did weddings until Saturday."

See what I mean? He still calls me by surname as if we were still out on the school rugby fields. If only a punch in the ribs for old time scrumming down sakes were acceptable.

"Sorry, Rob I only take bookings."

Rob just laughs at this and sits down opposite Alison and I and he's grinning wildly like the cat that got the cream, and I mean all of the cream, every last damn drop of it.

"Get me a drink then Johnson."
"I just knew you would milk this for all your worth."
"Well you knew right, now mine's a pint, and none of the cheap shite."

Alison smiles at me. She seems to find the whole thing rather hilarious. I think I might have to revise the whole best thing, as Alison is really not best when being endlessly flattered by Rob.

I move to the bar and get Rob his pint of beer and return from the bar to see Rob making his usually googly eyes at Alison. I worry that in a weakened moment she might take pity on him I mean it would be awful. At least as awful as Susan marrying Adam. I think I would be really incredibly jealous. I feel like dropping to my knees, throwing my arms in the air and shouting "NO", but instead I hand Rob his drink and take my seat.

"So darling are you going to tell us what happened?" Alison coos.
"I promised I wouldn't, you know as part of my best man duty to Adam, but I've never been able to say no to a beautiful girl," he says grinning at Alison who is just loving it, "besides Adam's a total twat."
"Will you listen to him? I mean seriously, come on?"
"Gordon?" Alison says.

Gordon? How can she possibly call me Gordon in front of Rob? Okay, I know it's my name, but that's really not the point.

"Okay. I'll sit here and say nothing. Seriously, I'm fine."
"Come on now David, tell us what happened?"
"You're never going to believe this. I thought it couldn't get any better after Johnson and that girl did the comedy routine at the back, but it got much better. It all went to shit when they got to the airport."

Rob is hooting with laughter by this stage, he can hardly get the words out.

"What happened?" I ask urgently.
"Yes, David tell us what happened at the airport."
"It turns out that Adam has been seeing Karen Young again and Susan knows all afuckingbout it mate, that's what's been going on."

OMG. Alison and I turn to each other delirious at the latest turn of events. At least I think we are delirious, we could just be consumed by schadenfreude, but that might just be me.

Karen Young, is the one. Well she's Adam's one at least. She's the one who got away. Adam dumped her after about five years ranging from the end of school to post university when they drifted apart ending up with her working on a PhD in Leeds and he hundreds of miles away in London. Karen is tall and willowy with red river brown hair that fell straight and loose around her neck. She had a warm easy smile, a soft walk, and there was always something about her.

"They found each other on Friends Reunited dotcom."
"But I thought she had a picture perfect marriage to some academic in the north of England and with a kid, right?"

Rob is still smiling, the guy is beaming, basking in his moment.

"She's an academic alright. I'll give you that."
"Rob you get far too much enjoyment out of this. It's not healthy," I say.

Rob just grins, "She's moved back home you know? She's single as well, with a four year old in tow."
"A four year old what?"

Alison laughs at this causing the grin on Rob's face to widen.

"A child Gordie, a four year old child."
"Oh, right, and what they met up?"
"They met up and have been shagging for months."
"I don't understand, this was going on for the whole time Susan and Adam were planning their marriage."
"The whole time. The story is that Karen, fresh from her divorce didn't want anything serious so was happy to carry on with Adam."
"So when did Susan find out? She kept that quiet," says Alison, "what happened at the airport?"
"Weeks ago apparently. According to Adam, Susan without saying anything tore up his ticket and passport right in front of him and told him it was over. He says she went off on her own."
"You have to hand it to Susan," I say.
"Too right," says Rob, "she gave him what for alright."
"It's fantastic news."
"Gordie? They were getting married."
"I know, which was obviously a massive mistake, I think it's great."
"He's right," says Rob.
"Thanks Rob, I mean I think, but I guess it also means that I am not responsible for wrecking Susan's wedding and marriage. Adam did it all by himself, come on Ali that has to be good news."
"Oh I suppose so, I just think of Susan alone on the beach. That just seems so sad."
"You're right it does, but it could have been worse. She could have gone with Adam. Who hasn't come out of this too badly as he still has Karen Young. Who lets face it is not a bad thing to have."

Rob takes a long drag of his cigarette.

"He's right, Adam might be a twat, but at least he's got Karen Young. And lets face it any girls name you can rhyme with bubblegum has to be a good thing."

I hold my hands out. Bubblegum? What's that got to do with anything.

"Bubblegum, what are you talking about Rob?"

Rob smiles at this and says nothing.

"I'm not sure that's the point," says Alison, "I can't believe what he's done to Susan."
"Nor can I," I say smugly crossing my arms to underline the point.
"I don't think your entitled to any self righteousness just yet, lets not forget you systematically ignored Susan for six months and then tried at the last moment to wreck her wedding."
"But it was a grand romantic gesture," I protest.
"Damn lazy last minute gesture is more like it. I don't think Susan is going to be welcoming you with open arms just yet. You have a lot of apologising to do."
"Yeah, at least he's got a couple of weeks practice to get in while she suns it up on the beach. I bet she'll meet some bloke and get a honeymoon shag in. She won't be on her own for long."
"Rob you really are..."

And I'm about to tell him how that he is the last of the romantics when I get this really strong feeling that I should go. That I should go right now.

"I just realised something," I say, "I have to go."

Alison looks at me like I'm slightly mad while Rob gives the impression that it's the best news he's heard all evening as he grins the biggest of grins.

"Go, go where?"
"I just remembered something," I say.
"You're a daft one Johnson," says Rob smiling.
"Rob, you are not wrong there mate," I say getting up and grabbing my denim jacket from the back of my chair as I do so.
"You're going to do anything very stupid are you?"

I shake my head and give this a moment's consideration. Well nothing too stupid.

"No nothing really stupid, you know give or take. I'll call you," I say.

I kiss Alison on the cheek and clap Rob on the shoulder.

"You know you can't just fly to the Caribbean, don't you?" Alison says.

I smile at this, do a double take.

"You can't?"
"Gordon," Alison says slowly.
"Look, don't worry I'm not going to be flying anywhere, see you later," I say and I am out of the pub and back on the street.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Gordon's Breakfast - 39

After saying goodbye to Larissa Snowe I take the tube back home, shower and change before heading straight out of the flat again over to Alison's house. Tonight Alison and I are going out on the town, well almost, we're heading over our favourite gastro pub in Islington for a post wedding evening, but it's still a big deal as Alison just doesn't go out anymore even though her mother is on the phone every day of the week volunteering to come over and look after Caitlin. Okay, it''s completely selfish on her mother's part as she wants to hurl Alison back into the post Paul world like some thirty something shock troop woman.

Alison's mother has won her daughter round tonight, but she's still not all that keen. Most of the time she says she would rather stay home drink some wine and watch DVDs.

As I head down the street I've only been walking for a minute or so when I hear some shouting coming from behind me. I sensibly ignore it first of all knowing that it has absolutely nothing to do with me and is likely to be one of the charming local drunks calling out for more beer who truth be told are not really that charming.

My favourite one is the Scottish guy who walks up to people and says: "I have nae eaten for three days". It doesn't matter when you see him or how many times you see him in a week it is always three days. It must be like a rule.

As I walk on ignoring the drunk behind me, rather than fading into the background the voice becomes clearer and more insistent and worryingly seems to be moving closer. I know this as I can now clearly hear the phrase "fucking bastard" being shouted repeatedly. The shouting is getting much closer, is accompanied by heavy footsteps, and worse still it is definitely directed at me.

It takes my eyes a little while to penetrate the gloom and when they finally do things get really bad as the shouting voice in fact belongs to Adam who is now running towards me at full pelt closing the distance between us at a rate of knots. I stand there for a few seconds and watch him run when I suddenly start to think that he probably isn't going to want to have just a quiet word with me, but more likely is going to attempt to use me as a punch bag. Now I think is the time to start running.

As I'm running I'm thinking to myself how weird as Adam is meant to be in the Caribbean with Mrs Wright who was once just known as Susan rather than running down my North London street hurling a barrage of expletives and murderous intent at me.

I'm breathing hard and pounding the pavement. Luckily being smaller than Adam's lumbering six foot four I'm considerably lighter and faster on my feet and have put enough distance between us to ensure that when I get to the end of the road I can make it to the next turning before Adam has even got to the end of the street. Taking myself back down the next street, I cut through the alley and keep going until it starts to bend when I stop and generally pant a little while my heart slams against my chest like baseball being bounced against a cage. I should really exercise more especially if I'm going to have to out run Adam on a regular basis.

Catching my breath I stand there for a while having these flashbacks of being a kid come rushing back to me, which I think means its been about 20 years since I've had to run for my life. I wait a little longer to check that I have given Adam the slip, which I seem to have done successfully, and then I break back into a run for a couple of minutes just to be sure and then I walk the rest of the way to Alison's. There's something rather satisfying at having outrun someone who is out for your blood, but I wouldn't like to do it on a regular basis just in case the running part failed to sufficiently pay off.
I mean I could have held my ground. Adam is no more of a street fighter than I am and all our moves are confined to the Playstation 2, as was witnessed by our pushing contest earlier this year, but I worry that he will swing and kick out at me and generally we'll look ungainly like two people who really don't know the first thing about fighting. Somehow I can't think of anything worse than that – oh hang on a second, I can. Getting a real beating would definitely be worse.

There's a slight concern that his anger might boil Hulk like over into something productive and more dangerous. I mean it's a long shot, but still.

Of course, he would have every right to do so. I after all did have a crack at trying to wreck his wedding and scuttle his future happiness, but in return I could argue I had every right to do so. Okay, so it's not a watertight argument. Come on I'm reaching, what can I say.

To be fair, well to be fair to me, they should remove that clause from the wedding ceremony as it surely only encourages people with crackpot plans (like Larissa Snowe) to attempt crackpot stunts. I feel it is only fair to blame her now as she has left the country and is heading out over the Atlantic Ocean.

Alison's mother opens the door and she offers me her check to kiss. I have to tell you that this is a bit of a new development and it really just adds to my general sense of alarm and concern. I mean I have no objection to Alison's mother and her cheek it's just that it's a new addition to our relationship and I'm worried what it all means to her.

"Oh look whose here," she coos, "young Gordon."

Instead I follow Alison's mother into the sitting room as she starts to tell me how much Alison is looking forward to her 'big night out'. This rings more alarm bells and frankly I'm now more perturbed than ever.

Alison's mother seems to be under the impression that Alison and I are teenagers and I am here to take her daughter out on her first date.

I'm just waiting for her to tell me what time Alison has to be back home ("She has school tomorrow Gordon") and that I had better not try any funny stuff, which is a shame as my jokes are really my best feature. I feel like I should at least remind her that Alison and I are no longer teenagers or attending school, but oddly I think that if I did this she would just smile indulgently at me like other people's parents can in that "oh you and your crazy young ideas" kind of way, which is really the cue for some more motherly advice.

I'm praying that Alison makes a fast appearance as her mother is starting to ask me lots of questions about work and the future (the what?). It's starting to remind me about this Jewish girl I dated.

On date four or five I met her mother at some family gathering and she grilled me intensively:

"A journalist you say? There's not much money in journalism is there?".
"That is very true," I admitted, "but I do enjoy it."
"You enjoy it you say, really?"
"Well most of the time."

It was one of the worst nights of my life. It went on for an hour. Wherever I went in the room she would saddle up to me. I wanted to ask her where the emergency exit was as I knew that she would gladly direct me ("here's £10 for your cab").

It's the opposite with Alison's mother she seems convinced I am the one for her daughter whereas Rachel's mother was of the opposite opinion.

Sadly Alison is taking her time, which leads to me becoming flustered and making an awful awful mistake. Instead of telling her than I am doing really pretty badly at the moment I tell her that I'm doing quite well and have loads of work on. Alison's mother loves this, she tells me she always knew that I would go far, which can't possibly be true as no one ever said that. It's all madness, but there is no way out so I keep on digging gripping my knees as I do as imaginary dirt flies over my head. I'll be up to my neck in no time.

Finally like the long awaited relief column Alison makes her appearance and I have to say she is looking great. Her hair is kind of shiny and she has this little black dress on that's kind of not too dressy if you know what I mean. I am up out of my seat and saying goodnight to Alison's mother and I'm moving towards the door.

"I'll get the door," I say, which makes Alison laugh.

I can't believe I said that. Everybody knows you only get the door when there is actually someone on the other side of it not when you are leaving. I am such a fool when it comes to making emergency exits.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Gordon's Breakfast - 38

It's almost six o’clock when Larissa Snowe and I are standing outside her house, her suitcases and bags packed and lined up in an orderly row on the pavement, waiting for Charlotte to arrive and drive her to the airport. It's grimy humid September day and feels like a rather perfect day to be leaving.

]I'm kicking the kerb with my shoe and I have my hands stuffed deep in my pockets of my now deeply crumpled post-wedding suit. I think I have pretty much perfected the look of the guy who didn't make it home after the party. Larissa Snowe is dressed in designated comfy travel gear loose fitting black cotton trousers and a white long sleeved top. She has her hands locked together and pushed in front of her and is swaying very slowly from side to side marking time to some silent beat.

"Errrm look," I say.
"You don't have to wait, she'll be here any moment, go. I only plan to get weepy once and Charlie has reserved that slot."
"I don't like to leave you standing, you and all your bags."
"Well you're going to have to."
"I could…"
"No you couldn't."
"You don't know what I'm going to say."
"Oh yes I do and the answer is no."
"I was going to say that I could still come to the airport."
"I told you I knew, you know you can't. Then we'd have airport history."
"What you mean as well as other more general history?"
"Yes as well as that, one can have too much history."
"True, altogether a lot of history going on there."
"I had something else I wanted to say."
"Oh really? Is that a good idea, people tend to get all mushy and say things they regret at times like this."
"I know, but I'm not going to regret this."
"Are you sure? Maybe we should do the regret test first."
"The regret test? And that would be?"
"It's where you stand and think about what it is you are going to say and ask yourself would you say it in public without being completely and utterly humiliated."
"Okay, I think I passed the regret test. At least I think I have, you'll have to let me know. It might be one of those things that teeters on the edge a bit."
"Gordon, you're making me nervous now."
"Go on then, hit me with it."
"You know, I'm kind of nervous now, I wasn't expecting such a build up."
"Oh get on with it."
"Okay...well, I was just going to say...that you know."
"You know? I know what?"
"Come on, you know what I mean."
"Not quite, but then communication skills have never been your strong point have they?"
"I guess, when you put it that way, possibly not."
"So in full?"
"I'm going to miss you," I say.
"I'm glad you said it. I think I’ve been waiting to hear that for a while. I don't think its something you would have said before that. Must be progress. I think you would have just smiled and been under the impression that we all speak the unspoken language."

I can't help laughing this it's so true. The unspoken language and me go back along long way. I've been miscommunicating with people for years quite happily. Apparently, and I didn’t know this, very few speak the unspoken language, shocker right? So if you really want to get through to someone you actually have to get the words out loud. I still find that hard to believe, but you know apparently it’s true.

"You're right, it does seem to work better when you say it aloud."
"Who would have guessed?"
"Not me."
"I'm going to miss you too, you got that bit didn’t you?"
"Yeah, my residual unspoken language receptors are still working."
And then it's Larissa Snowe 's turn, "Look..."
"Maybe I should just kiss you and be done with it?"
"I think so."

So we do and then really that's it, we're kind of done.

"I should go then."
"Guess you should."

There's a car pulling up behind us and I start to take a couple of steps backwards, I glance over my shoulder and see Charlotte's black VW Beetle gliding towards us. I raise my hand in front of my body like I'm saying 'how' and Larissa Snowe does the same.

"You should come visit me, if you've got nothing else to do," Larissa Snowe calls.
"What you mean we could be holidaying exes?"
"Don't get your hopes up, you know I would never go out with you again," she says smiling.
"Hey, I'm not challenged, besides I think there's only one girl who would go out with me."
"Well you had your chance."
"So I've been told. I'll guess I’ll be seeing you in Barcelona, although you do realise we will then have holiday history, right?"
"Oh I hadn't thought of that."
"Have a good flight," I say and I turn and walk away.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Gordon's Breakfast - 37

I'd like to tell you something about Sunday, but apart from that it's the day after Saturday and that it followed Susan's wedding, and our genius wedding intervention, I really can't help you out other than to say Larissa Snowe and I had a rather brilliant post wedding intervention lunch and end of summer cocktail session, which sadly confined me to the couch for most of the day drinking Darjeeling tea and watching black and white movies.

Larissa Snowe although groggy did manage to dedicate herself yesterday to a little more Barcelona packing, but she who is usually industrious under any circumstances agreed after a while that spending the rest of the day lying on the couch and not moving was really quite the best kind of activity that anyone could dream up.

I'm still lying on the couch on Larissa Snowe's couch today reading Nabakov, but mostly watching Larissa Snowe scurry around the her house like manic packing girl. I swear that girl loves to pack. Even though she has booked herself a sensible night flight and has hours to go, and all her bags are arranged like statues in a row, she keeps going. Larissa Snowe tells me that she knows exactly what her luggage allowance is and she intends to use it all. By this later afternoon stage she has checked off all her checklists and is really just engaged in a mopping up operation that has her combing her house looking for stragglers in the form of any items that she might have overlooked.

"Are you actually looking for anything in particularly?" I ask her.

Larissa Snowe puts her hand to her chin and surveys the room.

"I'm just looking at things that jump out and scream 'take me take me'."
"And how many calls have you had so far?"
"None, I thought more would call out, what do you think is behind the lack of calling?"
"You know why that is don't you? You've packed everything, your flat is almost bare, now Lissa please stop and sit down."
"The thing is I know that they are out there, just out of reach."
"Whoa? Yeah, whoa, you know what's happening don't you? You're turning into crazy packing girl."
"I thought you said I was a little eccentric?"
"I did, but like any good airline I've upgraded you it seemed necessary."

My phone rings as Larissa Snowe continues to look and as I pick it up and look at the blue lit up screen I see its Alison. I show the screen to Larissa Snowe who tells me to get as many details as possible about the fate of the wedding post our performance.

"Hey," I go.
"Hey back to you," says Alison, "I can't believe you kept that quiet, that is so unlike you, you never usually keep anything quiet."
"I know," I say, "I feel like I'm growing, my ability to keep big nuclear sized secrets is a sure sign."
"You're right about the sure sign," she says.
"So how did we go down?"
"Well I think most people were unaware that comedy routines are part of the ceremony. I think you were a big hit, if not in all the right places. Adam was burning."
"Ha! I can't say I feel bad about that."
"I have to say I was very impressed. I couldn't believe you would ever attempt anything so…"
"Bold yes, but…"
"But, you know I could really do without the but," I say.
"Sorry about that. I was going to say suicidal."
"Oh, I suppose, you're right, it was a bit last stand, but last stands are underrated there's the glory, the honour. People love that stuff."
"The death? I seem to remember that death is a part of last stands as well."
"Yeah, there is the death, but I'm trying not to think about that so much right now."
"Did you ever consider doing anything before the wedding?"
"You know we did, but in the end grand romantic gesture won out."
"Grand romantic gesture? Is that what they're calling it?"
"Well it's what I hear."
"It's a shame."
"So it goes."
"And it goes both ways," says Alison.
"Yeah, touché, so come on tell me."
"I suppose you want to know if it still happened?"
"Can I lie and say no?"
"Of course you can. Lying in your situation is perfectly acceptable."
"But I'm sure soon enough you're bound to bump into Mr and Mrs Adam Wright."
"Shocking, I feel like I just tripped into some alternate universe where only the madly impossible is possible. Is she keeping her name?"
"You know, I don't think she is. I don't think Susan is half as unconventional as people might think at times."
"True. Do you think I can make it out of this alternate universe?"
"I don't think so, you're travel permit has been revoked, for unspecified crimes. You'll just have to live in a world where there is a Susan Wright."
"That sucks, tell me it was a beautiful moment, you know after Lissa and I beat a retreat."
"It was a beautiful moment."
"Seriously, was it?"

There's a pause on the other end of the line as Alison goes mmm as she thinks it over.

"If you had asked me last year I would have told you that all wedding are beautiful moments in their own special way. Now…I don't know. I think Susan looked stunning in her dress and there was a moment when I first saw her walk by that made the day for me."
"That's a rather wonderful thing to say, Susan would love that."
"I know she would, but it happens to be true."
"I swear she's wasted."
"You swear a lot of things."
"True. How long do you think it will last?"
"Mmm, not sure, but I wouldn't get your hopes up?"
"Hey, you mean hopes go up as well as down? I never knew that, damn."

Alison indulges me and laughs.

"Are you taking Lissa to the Airport?"

This is a big question and the answer is no. I wanted to, but Larissa Snowe won't let me. She's worried that we'll have airport history. You know the joke when your girlfriend, or in my case non/ex-girlfriend, says to you 'how come you never take me to the airport anymore?'. I love that movie. And don't talk to me about the dark side.

"No she's worried we'll have airport history."
"It's a good point, no one need unnecessary airport history."
"I guess. What time do you want me over?"
"Oh my mother is coming round at seven, so after that?"
"You know my mother is looking forward to seeing you again."
"Ali, that worries me, you know?"
"I know it worries me too."
"You don't think she thinks, you know?"
"I think she might."
"I have got to put her straight, this could get out of hand."
"Are you sure about that? Last time you tried you ended up as the man in charge."
"Good point, maybe I should say nothing."
"I really think that's best," Alison says.

And with that we both hang up and I sit there for a moment or two and find myself saying "ugh" out loud. and then thinking, thinking…well really not sure what I'm thinking.

"What's wrong?" asks Larissa.

I shake my head.

"Oh nothing," I say.

And to myself, "it was just something that Alison said".

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Gordon's Breakfast - 36

Of the many things I wished I had never uttered that last sentence is up there quite highly on the list. Immediately after I've said it a fresh round of church titters rises.

"Yes and it was really for old time's sake," Lucy Snowe threw in.
"Anyway who told you," I shout.
"Alison did," and Susan stumps her foot.
"Oh Susan," Alison says sliding down in her seat, baby and all.
"Alison!" I shout, "I can’t believe you did that."
"I told you not to tell anyone."
"Why did you do that?" Larissa Snowe asks.
"Because I thought I was a secret."
"I don't care how many times you did it what are you doing at my wedding?"
"That's pretty obvious," Larissa Snowe cries back.
"Larissa Snowe? Maybe I can take over now?"
"Look can you two just pi…" Adam starts.
"Adam, be quiet," Susan snaps.
"You know why I'm here I can't believe you're marrying Adam."
"Ha, too late," Adam snipes back with a self-satisfied grin on his face.

Susan throws him another dirty look before she stamps her foot again.

"This is precisely why I couldn't ever go out with you even if you had got off your lazy backside and asked me, which you never," did and Susan stamps her foot again to drive this point home.

"What are you talking about this is a grand romantic gesture," I say.
"It's not a grand romantic gesture, you fool, it's a juvenile and immature stunt, which is you all over."
"Well I think it's a grand romantic gesture," Larissa Snowe says.
"I don't care what you think. I bet it wasn't even your idea. I bet it was her idea – who you're sleeping with! Now if you don't have anything else to say will the two of you please go! Now!"
"Of course I have something else to say," I shout back.
"What? I'm waiting," and Susan starts tapping her foot, did I mention Susan can be so demanding sometimes?

Truth is I don't have anything else to say, I can't believe how badly thought through this plan is, but as the seconds tick by I realise if nothing else I have absolutely certainty on my side and logic and so I fall back on the most reliable and quite unbeatable section of my argument.

"You can't marry Adam," I say.
"And why not?"
"Yeah, why not," Adam joins in.
"Adam," Susan says.
"Because he's...oh I don't know, but you can't, what better reason do you need than that?"
"That's not a reason," Susan cries.
"Of course it is," I respond.
"That's useless even by your half baked standards. Adam is mature. He's a grown-up, which is what you need when you're 34."
"That's absolutely rubbish, he's not mature. He's just tall, that's completely different, you're confusing two very separate things."

This last comment of mine is so successful that it draws another round of laughter, which possibly was not the effect I was looking for. Susan on the other hand just makes a loud growling noise in frustration.

"Urrrgh, that's it go, now! Immediately."

I think I'm pretty sure I've blown it at this point and so I look at Larissa Snowe who is grinning back at me sheepishly and then shrugs her shoulders and trying not to look at anyone else we slip out of the pew and walk back down the aisle to the church door. I am desperate to look over my shoulder as we retreat, but despite the strongest temptation I don't.

Outside the sun is shinning brighter than every before. It is in fact a beautifully sunshiny English summers day. Clear and sharply bright causing everything to sparkle. We put on our sunglasses and we light cigarettes.

"Well that went well," I say.
"Hmmm, I thought you gave up too easily."
"Gave up too easily?"
"Yes, I thought you should have fought it out."
"I kind of took my cue to leave when she said go now and immediately. I think it was kind of over by that point. It just left me with the impression that we weren't going to stop any wedding."
"Second thoughts I think you're right as wedding interventions go it was poor."
"Agreed, anyway I think that qualifies rather easily as the most stupid thing I have ever, and I mean ever, done."
"Well I really did think it was a grand romantic gesture. It worked for me."

I shake my head and I feel a smile spread.

"Thanks, you weren't quite the target audience, but hey I guess the market for grand romantic gestures isn't quite what it used to be."
"Well what does one do after trying to break up a wedding?" Larissa Snowe says grinning.
"You know, that's what I like about you, abject failure – you're okay with it. You're just so optimistic."
"Oh I can't hep it. I'm just ready for my next challenge."
"I'm thinking funeral? Not sure what the angle is, but maybe we can swing it. What do you say?"
"Take me to the corpse," Larissa Snowe says laughing, "any suggestions?"
"Well, it's damned sunny and rather a perfect day and considering how quickly alcohol goes to one's head in weather like this I say we drink cocktails and a lavish lunch to celebrate our failed wedding intervention. That leaves you one clear day to recover and sort yourself out for Barcelona."
"Oh I think that's a splendid idea. You do know of course that we will end up very drunk?"
"Hey I'm rather counting on it."
"You know what this means don't you?"
"Errr not exactly."
"We may end up back at my place."

I can't help laughing at this, particularly after everything that has happened back inside the church.

"I'm going to have to take you to weddings more often," I say.
"Come on let's go," Larissa Snowe says.

We walk away from the church, from the guests and leave the wedding to its own devices.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Gordon's Breakfast - 35

We definitely sneak in. We don't as Larissa Snowe said we would walk in with our heads held high because as soon as we're through the door of the church we are ducking our heads down and bending our knees in the hope that no one will see us and apart from a few small children I don't think anyone really notices our entrance.

My first thought is WOW. There are a lot of people here. I'm personally surprised I hadn't expected this many, but this is an occasion where both sides of the family have pulled out all the stops and turned up on mass. It's like everyone has thrown their hands in the air and gone "finally for my daughter/son a wedding" – of course they all turned Jewish also, but that can only be a good thing. There must be at least 80 to 100 people. I can see Susan very clearly flanked by her father. She's dressed in a sleeveless knee length dress, which I know shouldn't be a surprise, but I can't remember the last time I saw Susan in a dress so it gets to me anyway. Even from back here she looks great.

I can see Alison sitting with Johnny and my sister three rows from the front thankfully like the rest of the congregation they are blissfully unaware of the creeping entrance made by Larissa Snowe and I.

"There's a lot more people here than I thought," I whisper to Larissa Snowe.
"Mmm, I was expecting a small huddle, this is a proper wedding."

I think it's when Larissa Snowe says that (it's a proper wedding) that maybe it finally hits me and becomes real. It wasn't real before. We were just messing around with all the craziness, but now with all the people and girl dressed in white this is serious, genuine and grown-up. I come to an immediate decision.

"We can not possibly do this. It's an incredible stupid idea – do you mind if I say that again?"

Larissa Snowe smiles as if this was perfectly all right and really quite expected.

"Don't be silly."
"Yes, you'll regret this forever if you don't go through with it."

And I'm trying to think, am I going to regret this forever if I don't do this? Before I felt pretty certain (of something at least), but now I just feel an overpowering sense of nerves and fear. My whole body is trembling.

So we sit there and we sing some hymns and then it all happens really quickly, which is weird as my memory of weddings is that they take forever to get anywhere and I'm always sitting there thinking "come on marry them already". But it isn't like that this is a fast moving pacy and brisk event. The priest is already starting to do his business and he's talking those words that are so oddly familiar to us all.

"Dearly beloved we are gathered here today to celebrate one of life's greatest moments, to give recognition to the worth and beauty of love, and to add our best wishes to the words which shall unite Adam and Susan in marriage. Should there be anyone who has cause why this couple should not be united in marriage, they must speak now or forever hold their peace?"

At this point I'm sure, just as everyone else does inside the church, I hold my breath and pray no one says anything, except I don't hold the air inside my lungs for very long as Larissa Snowe elbows me sharply in the ribs forcing me to cough and splutter.

"Go on then," she whispers, "now, go on."
"Go on?"
"Yes, this is your moment."
"I don't want a moment."
"Yes you do."
"No way, this is a totally insane idea. Look! This is over look at them? There is no way…"

But I don't get a chance to finish as Larissa Snowe suddenly thinks she is in back at school as she is raising her hand in the air about to impress another teacher with the erudite prowess of her mind. God that girl has long arms I bet she always got noticed.

"We have something to say," and Larissa Snowe 's voice booms down the long stony church.

Then there's that almost indescribable sound from the congregation. That mix, that single voice, a soft wave of hush, murmur, alarm and surprise all rolled into one. I am pulling at Larissa Snowe's sleeve, but to no avail. I don't believe it.

"Since when did we have something to say? We are not a we, you dumped me three times.
"Get of with it," Larissa Snowe says shaking me off.

Get on with it? And before I have even vaguely thought through what I need to do, my voice too sounds like it too is booming down the aisle of the church. I think even god might be able to hear us.

"We don't have something to say, I have something to say!" and I seem to be grinning like an idiot.
"Well, I thought you weren't going to say anything," Larissa Snowe says indignantly.
"I wasn't," I say.
"I know that's why I said something."

Our conversation draws titters of laughter from around the church snapping Larissa Snowe and I back to reality. It has also given Susan a chance to recover at the shock of voice interrupting her big day.

"What on earth are you doing? This is my wedding!" she shrieks, "I can't believe you've bought your girlfriend to my wedding and taken the opportunity to ruin it."

"I'm not his girlfriend," Larissa Snowe says.
"What?" shouts a furious Susan.
"She's right we're just friends," I say in support of Larissa Snowe.
"That's not what I heard," Susan shouts back.
"Oh and what have you heard," Larissa Snowe lobs back.
"Larissa?" I say in reprimand, "do you mind?"

But before I can get another word in, Susan yells back.

"I heard you were sleeping with each other!"

"That's completely not true," Larissa Snowe says.
"Larissa!" I say trying to stop her, but its too late.
"We only did it just once."