Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Gordon's Breakfast - 19

"So I'm babbling at this stage at Adam, about all these thing I'm seeing, but it wasn't just babbling it all meant something. And I'm at the stage where I'm starting to think that something will just happen, you know that if you look at something for long enough, and note its shape and form in terrific detail, something will happen when in real life it doesn't unless you seize the day. I kept saying that seize the day, over and over.

"I think it's about now that I hit the wall and become stuck. It's also when I start having this debate with myself where you tell yourself that the stunning brunette on the table across from you is just another stunning brunette. I should explain that very quickly before I dig myself into a world of trouble. You see, what you do is tell yourself this so you don't feel so bad when you can't find the nerve to get up and walk across and say something to the stunning brunette, who is after all just another stunning brunette. Does that makes any sense?"

"I'm trying to work out if I am in fact a stunning brunette, or just another stunning brunette? That's the confusing bit," Larissa says playfully.

"Right now you're a stunning brunette, but stunning brunette or not getting up and walking over to you is akin to being asked to go over the top and charge into a hail of machine gun lead. I mean that sounds more attractive, and achievable, than walking to your table.

"Adam by this stage has had enough and is threatening me with getting up and walking over himself if I don't do something soon. I think I only just escape Adam getting up and saying 'my mate really fancies you', as it would have felt ironic and post modern to do that to him whilst feeling like ritual humiliation to me."

"But you still failed to move didn't you? I think by now Charlotte and I might head off down the river."
"You're walking away from me?"
"I am you had better think fast. You have to get from there to here, so what do you do next?"

"Good question, I sit there for a few seconds and am totally floored that you'd done it until Adam pulled on my arm, dragged me up and told me we were on a mission. So off we went walking behind you. You were doing that thing girls do together in twos, arms linked, occasionally leaning shoulder to shoulder, swerving left and right every now and again, and ambling, slowly, which makes it hard for guys who happen to be following along behind you, as we just don't do that slow motion almost without purpose walk very well. It just doesn't work for us. We're directional and, of course, we walk faster. If we hadn't have been following you we would have been half a mile down river by this time. Sure, we were aimless in our own way, just with more speed and go faster stripes storming on to nowhere.

"So we're behind you, a respectable ten feet or so and I'm now thinking that Adam's idea was incredibly stupid as although, as Adam put it, we had a fine view of both yours and Charlotte's behind there was no obvious way that conversation could naturally develop from there. While it mostly seems quite difficult to get up from the table and walk across to someone it seems slightly more impossible when you're moving as it seems to require a more complex intervention. We started to speculate where you might be heading - the Tate seemed a good guess - it's that kind of day."

"Charlotte and I of course being the kind of super smart girls that we are, know that those two guys from the café are walking behind us."
"And how do you react to that?"
"Oh we're being very giggly in a teenage kind of way. Following girls is after all the kind of thing that teenage boys like to do. I think we maybe encouraging you as Charlotte looks over her shoulder a couple of times to see that you're still there. Actually by this stage we're kind of surprised that you haven't started to speak."

"You're right, we've been pretty poor up to this point, but we know with Black Friars Bridge approaching fast something had to be done. Its like suddenly there's this ticking clock and whatever happened I had to come up with a really stupid idea before you reached the steps to the bridge. Then it hit me. I thought I had come up with the best stupid idea in the world."

"Are we talking Nobel Prize quality for stupid improvised techniques for meeting girls?" Larissa asks.

"Absolutely this is the best. We're talking sagacity free zone and just about anything sounds stunningly brilliant. I think its proper name is in fact total desperation. I'd like to think this was an incredible British trait, but deep down I worry it's a global guy thing.

"This is what I do. I shove Adam and tell him to run after me. Adam came straight back and told me that 'I was so gay it wasn't true', which caused me to just shove him harder making him stumble and then I started to run."

"So it's kiss chase we're talking here?"

"You know more or less - without the kissing. Only problem was that as soon as I start running, and having left that temporary common sense free zone, I realise I only have half a plan and I think with every slowmo step I take my plan starts to reduce in the amount of sense it makes at a steady pace. So after about half a dozen steps I start thinking that if something didn't happen very soon I would have no plan left at all. I don't want to exactly crash into you I just want to make sure you notice me as I come hurtling past, but at the last moment I swerve to avoid some little kid who was obviously out to bring down a random adult, like some Ewok tripping a Storm trooper, and I brush your arm about the same time that Adam comes from behind and smashes into me and knocks me crashing to the ground down more or less at your feet. Mission pretty much accomplished."

"So you're at my feet?"
"I'm at your feet."
"But now you have to say something, that's the hard bit isn't it? What's your first line?"
"Okay so I'm lying in a pile with Adam on the floor and I say 'I don't do this all that often' and you laugh, which is a good sign."

Larissa smiles.

"Okay so I laugh, I've already decided I like the look of you and I say 'I thought you looked like you were in need of practice'."
"That's a pretty damn cool comeback."
"Why thank you. I think as you're on the floor I'm going to ask you if you need a hand."
"You're a forward kind of girl. I'm of course going to say yes, it would be rude not to. So I take your hand and I try not to pull too hard. As I come up I'm very close to you and I think that's when it really happens. What do you think?"
"I think that's a good story."
"Yeah, I think it is too."
"Do you think it would have been different it we had met like that before?"

I smile at this, it's a perfect opportunity to tell her how dissimilar I think it would have been and how differently it would have played out, but I don't think it would have, I mean I don't know, but some how its all too easy to say it would have been different.

"No, I'm pretty sure I would have still vomited over your shoes."
"I think you're right," Larissa says laughing, "I think you would have done so as well."

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Gordon's Breakfast - 18

"Anyway, you shouldn't have any problems, advertising chick, flat, car, girl about town, you should be hanging out with friends drinking cocktails in London's finest selections of bars and restaurants. You'll have some suave type in a designer suit dropping his card in your lap in no time."
"Oh thanks and you make it sound so appealing. I don't want some slick prick staring down my cleavage, thanks."
"You don't?"

Larissa gives me that look down her nose again.

"I don't."
"Don't worry I'm sure there's a selection of types out there - some who do not stare down your cleavage while talking to you. I'm positive. I've seen Sex and the City."
"But that really isn't me, I'm not cocktail bar girl. Besides I don't think it's just me. It's lots of women I know who are over 30 and work. We don't do dinner and up town cocktails and get up at six thirty and start over again."
"So you're saying that even if I did get up off my backside and go out I wouldn't meet any Sex and the City type glamorous women?"
"I'm sure you might, what colour is your credit card?"
"You know last time I saw it I think it was a bluish kind of green, with bits of purple. Bit new age?"
"Well it's not one of the two core food groups: black or platinum."
"Damn, my chances are fast receding."
"There must be another way."
"You know I don't think there is. You could try internet dating?"
"Internet dating? The whole concept sounds depressing. It doesn't seem to allow for personality."
"Possibly true."
"You mean you haven't tried it?" Larissa asks.
"Not really. I've written about it and heard about it, but not you know...actually done it. I'm more your theory kind of bloke. Application is tricky."
"But you don't go out? It's ideal for you."
"Yeah, I know, besides I photo badly, apparently scowling is not attractive."
"Who would have guessed."
"Tell me about it."
"So what is 'you'?"
"That's a good question. I'm not totally sure I know. But I think it's something like girl looks over, we do the whole eyes meet thing, she walks up to me and we start talking - pretty much go from there."
"Sounds familiar. That must happen to you so often," Larissa says laughing.
"You know now you mention it? Not for a while."
"What kind of while are we talking about?"
"Let's see? Must be about the four going on five year kind of while."
"Remind me again how we met?"
"Lets see, I think we met the old fashion way. In a bar."
"That's right you were the guy in the corner."
"You were the girl in the middle."
"Were we drunk?"
"Not then, but definitely later."
"Whatever happened to just, you know, meeting people?"
"I think that was an urban myth."
"I don't believe it. Let's say that we just met. I mean literally minutes earlier, say it was sunny day down by the river, tell me how it happened," she says smiling.

It's a cool idea, it's like a story, a narrative of romance, so I start to think how it might have happened if we had just met whilst sitting down by the river watching people walk by enjoying a clear blue sunny winter's day.

"I like that, okay, tell me what you're doing first of all?"
"Okay, I'm with my friend, Charlotte."

And Larissa gives a little wave to her imaginary friend Charlotte.

"...we're enjoying a girly walk and talk down by the river, what about you?"
"Okay, I'm with Adam. Two blokes hanging out together like you and Charlotte. We're doing the same river thing, a bit of people watching, it's a perfect day for it after all. Anyway, I think we are vaguely heading towards the Royal Festival Hall, where there's bound to be some quaint folk or world music thing playing, plus Adam is always convinced it is a great place to meet women."

Larissa laughs at this reference to Adam, as she knows that Adam thinks most places are great for meeting women.

"Yeah, right, so I try to tell him yes it is, but for some reason only Danish and Japanese tourist women with just a few sentences in English, but you know what he's like - not easily put off."
"What a girl only needs a couple of serviceable phrases for what he has in mind?"
"You said that, I couldn't possibly comment. Besides, I think Adam believes he's fluent in the international language of lurve, which I'm total convinced is like Atlantis and is also a myth. It is right? A myth I mean?"
"Oh I think so, unless you happen to be a tall Greek god type I think they're hardwired to speak it. So let me see? To scupper Adam's plan you insist on stopping off at the NFT for coffee, so you could watch people buy books, a much underrated pastime, and drift along by the river?"

We are definitely on the same wavelength and I try to remind myself why it didn't work. Oh, yeah, that's right, it was the total lack of communication problem. Just a small detail.

"That's right, so we get coffee and we sit and we start to look, to watch people go by, watch the river, and then I see you sitting just across from us."
"Do I see you as well?"

I shake my head.

"No, not at first, I see you for a long time before you notice me. I'm doing that thing where you keep looking up and hoping that at some point the person who has caught your eye notices you too? It must be five minutes more maybe, before that happens. It's absolutely freezing and after a while Adam wants to go inside, but because I'd seen you sitting there I just had the feeling. I was already nervy even though I didn't think I would ever say anything to you, which of course I didn't."
"You didn't get up and speak to me? Oh I'm disappointed. I was expecting brimming confident guy to spin me a line."
"It's okay it gets better, but just then I'm rooted to the spot, it's like when sometimes, you have those moments and despite knowing that you don't have the courage to get up and walk across and start talking you don't want to move either? Well, it like that besides I'm the guy who likes to drink hot coffee in blasting sunlight whilst freezing and stealing the odd glance of this dark haired girl in a big red scarf."
"And it's about then that I look up isn't it?" Larissa asks.
"Yeah, then you look up and we hold eye contact for just a second," I say.
"Oh and there's a click isn't there? A little click like a static charge of electricity. Then I started to look away as girls do, but I see your head turning, and you smile. I didn't expect you to smile, as English boys never do. They seem to find it so hard to flirt like that."

True enough spontaneous flirting is difficult. I should have taken a class or something.

"So have you noticed anything about me while you were sitting there? What colour are my eyes?" Larissa grins at me when she says this and eyes me narrowly.

Oh boy, what can I say? Among the many crimes I committed was once telling Larissa not to do that thing, to give me that reproachful look, with her "big brown eyes". I'm not, Larissa replied, because my eyes are bloody well green. Stylish, I know.

"Oh I've started to notice loads and I started to read into the fact that I'm noticing things that sometimes I never notice until much later. I know you think I'm a cynical sack sometimes, and I am, but I think I've been radiated by the winter sunlight as I start babbling at Adam going on about how you look cold that you're cheeks were burning red and that your eyes were such a vivid green."
"They're definitely green are they?"

I nod, smile, suitably put in my place.

"Definitely green, a very affecting green, if I might add."
"I think I'll allow you to add that," she says.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Gordon's Breakfast - 17

Back in the world of speed dating, our three minutes are ticking by.

"I was wondering when you were going to turn up. It's been quite a while."

Larissa I think like me subscribes to the inescapable view that sooner or later, and usually quite out of the blue, old boy friends and girlfriends turn up one day or another. It's a rule they just do. And it usually happens at the most unexpected times and places. I think tonight qualifies perfectly for that.

"Well, I've been trying not to for various reasons, which I'm sure you're probably aware of. You know for my own safety as well as for the general well being of your shoes."

Shoes? Did I really need to mention those? I'm such a fool when it comes to bringing up very humiliating incidents about myself. I guess I should explain, it seems only fair, what with everyone else already knowing the story.

Larissa had invited me to some work related party - it was Spanish themed and there was free Tequila and, well, I drank a lot of it and I'm reliably informed that I was so drunk that I held onto her arm for the rest of the evening occasionally resting my head like a dead weight on her shoulder, and oh yeah, apparently I mumbled incoherently for likes hours?

Clearly, not being quite satisfied, I didn't stop at mumbling and refusing to let go of her arm, I topped this off by vomiting on her shoes in front of about 30 witnesses who were all magically sober, I mean how does that happen? The whole magical sober thing it always gets me, I swear.

The worse part is, oh yeah, there's a worse part. The whole thing was all related to me after the fact. As I heard it, Larissa sort of half dragged me with the help of one of her strapping colleagues into a black cab and back to her place. No idea how she got me up the stairs, but I did have a few bruises the next day and I'm still not sure if this was in transit or if appalled as she was she used me - justifiable I think, we can agree - as a punch bag. When I came around it was two o'clock in the afternoon, which is when I found the note.

I should say here that normally, I would be with you and say 'she left him a note?' that's so harsh, what a bitch, but in this case I think I got just about what I deserved. The note was written in block capitals, in case as retarded as I am I should miss its meaning 'NEVER SPEAK TO ME AGAIN. EVER. EVER'. So that's the story with the shoes.

And as I say the word shoes Larissa doesn't storm off or turn all fiery and annoyed, instead she asks me to sit down.

"Are you sure?"
"Oh sit down, our date's already started," she says with a tremor of a smile.
"Oh-kay," I say.

I sit down, really slowly, in case, you know, she's joking and is really lulling me into a false sense of security so that she can throw a drink at me.

"Were you expecting a different reaction then?"
"Well to be honest yes, you know considering your last message."
"Have you still got that?"
"You know, I think I might have."
"Well, I've mellowed and besides you're one of the funnier people, sober or generally otherwise, that I know. "
"That's one of those comments that walks like a compliment and talks like a compliment, but really isn't, right?"
"That's what I mean," Larissa says, drawing her hands together.
"This is weird as dating experiences go."
"Isn't it? I have to tell you that you're three minutes are flying by and you haven't done much impressing yet."
"Yeah and about that? Nothing quite says failure like going to a dating event and failing to impress someone you have already dated and been dumped by."
"Mmm, well you have a least another 90 seconds, maybe your luck will change?" Larissa offers.
"You think? Well, considering I got Susan immediately before you, who is generally the person everyone thinks I should be going out with..."

But I interrupt Larissa and cut her off, as I know exactly what she is going to say. Did I mention that besides my mother, Larissa is the only person who calls me Gordon? And I don't know what that's about either.

"...and I followed Susan up with you. Who I've been out with. Speed Dating? I'm thinking not for me."
"No not terribly successful, but funnily enough I was thinking quite recently that it would be nice to see you again."

When she says this I have her note framed in my head: NEVER SPEAK TO ME AGAIN. EVER. EVER.

"You must have mellowed. What are you a sucker for punishment?"
"Dream on, besides I'm off at the end of the year."
"I heard."
"Oh you did? Keeping tabs?"
"No, Radio Susan. Barcelona, you're a lucky girl."
"Oh, it's been said, now lets go and get a drink."
"A drink? What about the dating?"
"Oh it's not really for me. My first guy didn't look at my face at all and my second, well, his feet hardly touched the floor when he sat down. They sort of dangled, I wanted to give him a lollipop."

With that Larissa takes a quick sip of her gin & tonic, stands and picks up her coat with me following just behind her. As we move away I look over my shoulder and back towards Adam and Susan who seem to be laughing away like two people sharing a private joke. To be honest I'm not entirely sure how much of a good idea that is, but then I turn my attention back to Larissa who is almost at the exit.

Outside of the bar Larissa is putting her coat on and I ask her where she is thinking of heading. She names a bar around the corner, which I know I've been with her to in the past. It's a basement bar off Haymarket and I seem to remember getting kind of drunk.

"Oh one thing, I should say, you know that under no circumstances would I ever go out with you again, right?"

I can't believe she's even mentioning this, I mean seriously as it totally goes without saying.

"Oh absolutely. To be honest I'm surprised you're even talking to me."

Larissa crosses her arms.

"Oh stop that. You're doing your thing."
"My thing? I don't have a thing. I'm like thingless, everyone says so, they point, you know, 'look, hey, over there, it's thingless guy'. That's me. No thing."
"Gordon you have a thing and you know it. Your thing is self deprecation to the point of overkill," and then she starts to mimic me, "I'm surprised you're even talking to me. Oh pleazzzeee."

I shrug.

"Okay, a small thing."

We walk to the bar still laughing about the whole dating experience and how we progressed from drunkenly meeting people in bars and clubs to precision organised events, which are run by people with clipboards.

Inside the bar, we order a bottle of wine, and find a table. I pour the wine and pass Larissa her glass.

"I'm kind of surprised, I have to admit," I tell her.
"And what are you surprised about now?"
"About you, being here, I always thought you were a sure thing, a slam dunk at the alter just waiting to happen, where's the marriage that's what I want to know?"
I'm laughing as I say this as I can see Larissa's face screwing up with every word I say. Larissa is not a slam-dunk kind of girl.

"Oh Gordon, a slam dunk? Do I even strike you even remotely as the kind of girl who slam dunks?"
"Thinking about it you're more of a gentle forehand than a slam dunk kind of girl."
"Gentle forehand? Oh, damn me with faint and limp wristed praise."
"Okay, well if we're playing truth, for a while there was a possibility."
"Thought so, how close did you get?"
"Well we talked about it and then I decided that no, he wasn't the one. That was a year ago."
"So what happened?"
"I woke up one day and realised that I'd been kidding myself. It dawned on me, we had really little in common, had a better than okay time and were really quite good at holding down long term relationships. Holding down somehow isn't quite enough. It was that hard making the break, but I did the right thing, but on the other side its impossible to meet people."
"I'm with you on that, I can for the life of me remember the last time that I met someone, who I wanted to go out with."
"But Gordon you are literally famous for not going out."
"True. Yeah and what's that about?"
"I'm sure I don't know."

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Gordon's Breakfast - 16

I then move around the thick square pillar and on to my next date. I'm stumped, I really am, and I start to relax thinking that Susan is probably here on her own, but then there is a seismic shift in the force. I think the shroud of the dark side just fell.

"Larissa? Oh come on you have to be kidding," I say holding my arms out.

Larissa is laughing. Somehow, she finds it all terribly amusing, but I don't know why.

"How on earth did Susan manage to recruit you for this?"
"You know, I'm not terribly sure. It really isn't my scene."
"That's kind of funny as it doesn't seem to be anyone's scene."

I guess at this stage I should come clean. Larissa Snowe and I have history, it's true. Not very long history and not very good history, but history's history none the less (is that even a saying?). What's the best way to say this? It's difficult, but I guess what it comes down to is this: we went out and during which time I managed to get myself dumped three times. The third and final time was irrevocably. Definitely a three strikes and you're out.

This was along time ago, but sadly not long enough ago for me to claim youthful ignorance, what with being 30 at the time. If that suggests it was fairly disastrous that would indeed be correct. I'm still trying to work out what the 'thing' (and it was a thing) Larissa and I had, the bumpy, tempestuous, wrong grooved, awkward, drunken, jagged and fumbling. I think it was in fact the closest I have come to experiencing the joys of a teenage relationship since...well since I was a teenager and it was never much good then.

Alison said once that never had two guarded people decided to date each other.

"It was like some Frankensteinian experiment in guardedness mixed with alcohol."

Errr, that is exactly what it was.

When I see her I have to say Larissa looks great. Her long dark hair is a maybe a little shorter, but still around her shoulders, but even though it has been at least four years very little else has changed. Her eyes are still pools of emerald green and high cheekbones, which require no help.

I get that jolt, that little internal churn, as my body reacts, which is good and bad. Bad as she still has an effect, but good as it takes me like an express train all the way back to the first time.

What is it with first times? Maybe it's just that people want to have good stories to tell so that they can look at each other every now and again and say "remember how we met?".

How we met is like this. It was a small birthday party in the upstairs of a bar in Notting Hill called Beach Blanket Babylon. Adam had been dating a friend of the birthday girl.

Adam was off and I was doing a pretty good impression of surveying the party scene from some corner wall. I'd seen Larissa earlier, noticed her as she moved through the party, and again I saw her later when for a moment she was on her own, and paused mid room, as I again looked her way and she looked back.

Boldly, I thought, Larissa gave me a half smile and continued to look. I returned her smile and radically went one step further tipping my bottle of beer in her direction. Cool, I know.

Larissa walked over to where I was standing. Her arms crossed, and her feet close together as she came to a stop, she rocked back and forth a little before either of us spoke. She smiled. I felt awkward standing there on my own somehow and I started to smirk. I couldn't help it.

Playfully Larissa said, "So you're the guy in the corner that everyone is talking about."

I returned her smile.

"Everyone's talking? Wow that doesn't usually happen to later, you know when I start falling over."
"Oh really? Well it's started already, word is out about the guy on his own in the corner."

I nodded: "I'm not technically on my own," I said sweeping my beer bottle hand out in front of me," "I'm with him," I said pointing to Adam who was deep in conversation with a blonde.

Larissa looked over her shoulder.

"You're not exactly mingling though, are you?"
"I was getting ready to mingle, you know working my way up to it. Slowly."
"What? And you can't rush these things?"
"It's what I heard," I said nodding to myself as if imparting some deep truth, "it's the secret to mingling that many people simply do not know. Too fast too soon crash and burn, it's a sad story."
"I see and your strategy is to stand in the darkest corner on your own drinking beer. You're a fun guy," she said smiling.

I half tipped my bottle of beer towards Larissa and snorted a laugh.

"Yeah, I make all the smart moves. Everyone says so."

Larissa nodded, "So you're one of those people who turn up at parties and like to try and populate your own bit of the party."
"Funny you should say that, but it's true, I like to try. I was pretty successful at one stage. My corner was buzzing, but it led to a party power struggle. The host wasn't into splinter groups forming on the fringes, she fought back and my fringe group crumbled."
"I see. And you are always the guy in kitchens at parties right?"
"You've seen my work then? Cool. I can be rented by the hour to stand in your kitchen in case you're worried that it might remain empty during a social function. My attendance can make you look much more popular than you really are."
She smiled: "I'll keep that in mind, but what you're really saying here is that you are waiting for people to stop and talk to you, as you hold court with your bottle of beer and cigarettes."
"Well to be honest that does sum it up pretty well."
"It's a good job I stopped by then."
"Yeah otherwise I could have been standing here all evening on my own."
"How long would you have stood here on your own before you made the decision to start a conversation. Annabel, who is the host, long ago noticed you standing here, she considered calling security."
"Security? Wow that could have been embarrassing, but hey I'm always up for novel new experiences."
"Is that so."
"So are you prepared now to go with the flow?"
"Oh you mean to mingle? With other people? Radical. Did I mention I was the shy and retiring corner of the room type guy? You get a good view of what's going on."

Larissa turned and looked back across her shoulder pivoting slightly to look across the rest of the room. She turned back to face me.

"We don't have to I could quite easily stand here for a while."
"You could?"
"Sure," she said.

And so we did. After a while, as it got later, and when it seemed we had talked about everything from London to Barcelona, and with that feeling of departure creeping in, I started to ask her a question.

"Look, I just wanted to ask you...errr..."

Larissa smiled, "I'm not seeing any one, and besides I have the worst luck in the world with men. I thought I would tell you that in advance."
"Oh, me too," I chimed.
Larissa arched her eyebrows, "Really?"
"Absolutely...but with women."
"Oh we should definitely date then," she said laughing throwing her hair back as she did.