Waiting in the queue to enter a packed underground station is never the place for balanced thought. I feel a push from behind and some bloke feels it’s a good time to place his hand firmly on my arse in the sure confirmation he can get away with it. I push my bag around creating some measure of distance between his hand and my body at least forcing him to rethink his placement options. As the rain pisses down from the miserable dawn sky, the desire to get away burns like frost bite into my fingers and toes.
A few minutes patience and pushing gets me into the carriage but not a seat. I find a corner to hold on to whilst reading whatever freesheet is available. It’s January and the Newspaper’s full of holiday ads for two weeks in the sun. An end to winter blues. I can see why they do it. Who on this grim journey isn’t’ ready to sign in blood for an escape.
The difference is… and for the first time today, a smile forms. The short dark woman beside me who is complaining at being pushed, swearing at some vulgar suit, will probably kill for what I have on offer.
So why wasn’t I saying yes?
I suppose I always expected relationships to come in a linear fashion. Meet someone, have a bit of fun, fall in love, be married with the expected two children. I can’t say that I made a meticulous plan for this to happen, but I felt at some point inevitably I would fall into the right arms at the right time and the rest would take care of itself.
Now I’m 44, I’ve surgically removed from my memory the years wasted on poor selections. I had to wonder for a while whether it was me with a poor radar for decent human beings or I had a tattoo on my forehead which invited offers from the more unreliable members of the other gender. It’s not like I could even say it was a type, the only common element was the time I lost digging myself out of the latest hole.
The train shuffles into my first station change and I begin the march to the next connection. I note the lost and the found in the barrage of moving passengers, mostly with heads down, the direction predetermined. But as with every day on the underground there’s always someone without a clue holding up the flow. My mind is elsewhere after last nights’ proposal. My lack of focus meaning I start banging into people. I’m the one who’s lost and indecisive today.
A quick move bags me a seat for the next line and I give myself a metaphorical fist pump. Though it will probably be one stop before Mrs Pregnant come and waves her fertility badge in front of me and I am obliged to get up.
I’ve been seeing Rick now for two months. Actually two months is a stretch as for about half the time he hasn’t been in the country. This tells me quite a lot already about our potential lifestyle as a couple. I figure I will be waiting at the Melissa bus stop for the metaphorical Rick bus to come pick me up at whatever stage in his rounds I neatly fit into. I do like him? He is smart, has money, lots of it. Though he’s not a bragger. He has a certain lavishness that is beyond my means, but mostly he just does what he does and is quite matter of fact about his wealth.
He likes me which is also useful. It might feel like stating the obvious in a relationship but it’s the first time for years I felt when going out that I was the star attraction. He took care of the cab, the location on the river, spectacular table with a view. Told me I looked good, held my hand, just little things that make you think an effort was being made. My presence wasn’t taken for granted. And my, isn’t it good when someone gets the bill and there is no judgement made. No, ‘damn that’s a bit… or we’ll go cheaper next time.’ Just paid, done and back to the cab.
I didn’t stay at his last night. I needed to think and here I am still thinking.
He is shifting his base to South of France. He’s purchased a villa there and wants to know if I will come with him to live. It is too soon of course, he prattles out quickly, but tells me he must move now. Bad timing for us, but suggests why not come anyway. And when you think about it, why not? Sun, sea, villa, lifestyle, give up work. Fuck I’m 44, I can be a lady of leisure. I can spend my days drinking Pimms, fizz… anything. Lining up Vodka shots on a table on the terrace and nobody would care. Though Rick may get a little disappointed to find his new-found love passing out on the sun lounger each day.
Despite all the initial excitement, I went home after dinner. I needed to think.
The tube arrives into my station and I get up to join the day. It seems once again I’ve run out of journey time to come to a proper conclusion
Damn, the easy answer is yes isn’t it? Or maybe that’s the problem. The easy answer is no.
I’ve given myself 24 hours to decide. A bottle of red is open the table and a chicken fried rice take-away is satiating my hunger
Rick didn’t impose a deadline but I feel I need one. He will happily grab me at a later time, but I know, if I’m going to do it, it has to be now. If he’s commuting back and forth from France I will become even lower on the agenda. More time to think is more time to dither and it will only end one way.
Glass is topped up and I begin to move a set of coloured post-it notes around. My pen is in hand, focused for action. Green for the good bits, pink for the really good bits and then blue for the problem areas.
France: Sun, sand, freebies, easy life… Are they all pink? I with stick with green, might get bored of the sun if I see it every day. Love?? Oh shouldn’t that be pink. Leave that for a moment. It’s not that I don’t love him, more that we’ve have a about 10 nights together and now I’m making life changing decisions. Bit risking going with pink.
Sex. Yeah pink. Got to be or this is a complete waste. I’m distracted for a moment. He has a thing. Oh simple but effective. Even when we are in bar or walking. He puts his hand on the small of my back. All innocent and respectful, but as he pulls his hand away or moves down over my bottom, or up my back… anywhere, he drags his fingers. Just a small, almost accidental, but definitely not accidental millisecond lingering which curls my toes and makes my whole body tingle. So gentle. Even when I’m asleep in bed, he does the same, hands moving from my back to my stomach and…
Another gulp of wine. Stop it there, I say to myself. It goes in pink. Not dwelling on this anymore. Decisions based on half-drunk bottles of wine and needy sex are not going to take me down the right road.
Must be some blue post-its to come. My French is crap. I could learn I suppose, I’ll have sod all else to do. Would I bored? Seriously. Am I that fickle. Ok that goes on the blue sticky. Damn this is hard.
Staying in London now: Shit job, shit money, a flat that needs work. All blue Post-its. Friends… family. Friends, yeah it’s a point. Will miss them, but most of them are married with kids or boyfriend or girlfriend even. I am second fiddle, good for a night out or a baby sitter. There’s got to be more. But I leave them on the green. Could be a lonely time out there waiting for the Rick bus to stop by.
Then the flat. It’s mine. Could rent it out I suppose, it’s hardly glamourous but probably fetch £1,500 a month to cover the mortgage. Ok Pink for the flat. It’s the only solid thing I have.
I dig further into the rice and the bottle dwindles. I move the Post-its round, trying to rationalise further.
In the end, I screw them all in bundle and throw them in the bin. None if it makes sense. I look at the wine bottle looking for a metaphor. I can drink all the wine I want, it’s tastes good, I feel great drinking it but at some stage, maybe the first bottle, maybe on a good night I will get to the second, but it will stop being a good thing. I will fall over, be sick… too much of a good thing.
What if it falls apart? What if I get there and don’t like it? What if it’s a dump? What if I get bored of him? That’s a lot of what if’s. The bottle nearly empty. Come on Melissa, decide! Am I that crap that I can’t get over whatever it is. I would be a poor lost kitten without a man to look after me. Besides, whilst It might cost me, but he says he will pay all I need. I can just come home and start again. I’ve been in worse messes.
Can I really say yes? I collapse back on the sofa. Laughing to myself. I can’t speak anymore. I’m happy, my jaw locked in a smile. Really. Is this me?
I hear the knock.
Now’s the time. We agreed he would pick me up and take me to lunch and make whatever plans were needed. I am still debating but I know as soon as I open the door, I’ll say yes. I am so excited and scared at the same time. I can put it off the decision whilst that door stays closed, but as soon as it’s open I’m gone.
I take one more look at my bedroom, the crappy view and ask myself what this is all about. What if it all goes wrong? The bigger question, though, I fell on last night as I emptied the last drop from the bottle… was what if I didn’t?
I turn around hearing Rick’s third knock. I walk towards the door and open it.
One year passes
The winter sun shines on the terrace and unsurprisingly I have a glass of red in my hand. It’s four thirty, the last vague warmth of the sun is fading with the light as is my mood. One year ago I came here and here I am still.
I’ve taken the day off to reflect on where I am. Which is nowhere much. The rollercoaster is only just coming to the end and if I don’t get off I’ll be going around again.
I will never tire of this view or the villa. The bay a hundred feet below winds like a lazy snake towards the horizon. The sea breaks over the cliffs, the golden beach sands are visible in the distance. The pool. The facilities don’t stop, my own paradise. I never asked the price and he never told me. I can stay here as I want. Alone.
Rick has moved on to whatever and whoever is next on his rounds. I was right from the beginning. He flitted in and out like a butterfly grazing every flower in the meadow. One thing and one person was never his intention and he fluttered off to a new beginning in some other meadow.
At first I grew bored, frustrated… and had been lining up shots on the balcony entirely as predicted until I threw up into the pool below and cried at my own feebleness.
A confrontation and a decision made has left me with the place whilst I want it. Rick is nothing if not generous. He has little concern for the value of anything. With enough money in the bank he has no need for the same level-headed concerns as the rest of us. I figure one day he might turn up and want it back and if he does, well I will deal with it there and then.
But for now, it is my home and the Maserati in the drive is mine to drive. I have a job at a tourist PR firm in the town. My French is as crap as ever, though it has progressed onto ordering some decent restaurant food.
As for love.
I am the brightest fish in the sea. Just about every expat bloke in the vicinity has clocked my tanned slim features, lovely villa and most of all, my apparent availability. Naturally most of them are married and believe that they can take full care of my vulnerability and desperate loneliness, before they return home to their domestic misery.
I laugh at most of the crap chat up lines in London. I’ve heard the worst but here they didn’t even bother with imagination. It is pure assumption that I am up for whatever is on offer. The world looks so different in a place like this. I’d come expecting romance and dinners, courting the rich and glamorous, joining a lifestyle that I didn’t belong to.
To a certain extent, I have joined a lifestyle that I don’t belong to. It was handed on the plate like a lottery ticket. I learned a lot in the last twelve months, I would probably learn a fair bit more in the next twelve. I don’t have any more than I had before I came here, but I have developed my own terms of engagement. My life is never going to be that linear love or even some kind of screwed love spiral, it is a take it or leave it style. I learned quickly the fickle nature of people here, that money screws their sense of entitlement, so I play it on my own terms. Seeing something for what it is, gives me the ultimate power to pick and choose what I do with it. I have love…or maybe lovers. But the name on the door is mine for now. I’ll take that.
And that’s where I am now. Thanks for opening the door Rick, not to him, but to myself.