By John Turner
John is an aspiring writer living in Cambridge with his wife, senile old dog, and two cats, all trying to make sense of this strange and wonderful world (except, that’s not quite true – the cats have it sorted!)
I stare lovingly into her eyes. No-one else in the room exists. She glows for me; she shines for me. The band plays only for us; the waiters serve only us; the wine flows only for us; the beautiful people watch with envy only us.
Except, that’s not quite true. There was no real relationship between us. I just needed a partner for the formal dinner at the end of my academic year. She shared a house with my best mate’s girlfriend. And she had agreed – out of pity, perhaps, or looking for a night out with food and drink aplenty and, hopefully, some pleasant company. But there was nothing more to it than that.
Except, that’s not quite true. To her it may have been nothing more – for she had a steady boyfriend back home (somewhere near Newcastle, I seem to remember). But not for me – I wanted her from the moment we first met, although even then I accepted, as the saying goes, that she was ‘out of my league’.
Except, that’s not quite true. I couldn’t accept that. This was my big hope – the night when my natural charm and good humour would win her over, into my bed. Not that sex was high on my agenda (now, surely, that is not true!). The true romantic, I was besotted by my desire to find my one true love. Of course, it didn’t happen.
Except, that’s not quite true. The evening went well, very well. I recall the close dances, the snatched kisses, the walk to her house along darkened streets, the fits of giggles as we raided the fridge, balancing together on the rickety old kitchen chair to avoid the cockroaches, and the final wonderful denouement. My confidence sky-high, skipping home in the cool morning light, liberating a pint of milk from a doorstep, I could do no wrong. I was the consummate lover.
Except, that’s not quite true. The details are mercifully blurred and indistinct. My first time (if you discount the rather inept fumbling with the girl from the kibbutz), she was probably just mildly amused. I remember the talk with Roger in the pub a few nights later – the gentle way he explained the reality, her as good as married (she was, soon after – I wasn’t invited), this her final fling, nothing serious. The need for me to remove my rose-tinted glasses. And so, I moved on.
Except, that’s not quite true. I longed for her, certainly for months, maybe for years. Mixed-up emotions never quite resolved. The party a while later, a first reunion, but her not there – by design or circumstance, I often wondered. Everyone else excited about their new lives, planning for the future, but my mind elsewhere, stuck in the past.
Except, that’s not quite true. I did plan, I’ve had a wonderful life. We never did meet again. Although I heard of her often, through friends in common – her married life, her three children, her comfortable lifestyle. She probably never gave me a second thought. Unlike me. She remains on a pedestal, for other women to aspire to, unsullied by future slights and disappointment. The rose-tinted glasses may have grown old, but I’ve never quite taken them off.