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?"
"Desperation."
"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.