Thursday. Michelle comes over with this brown Marks & Spencer box large enough to fit a microwave oven. Open it, she giggles, and sets it smack in the middle of my desk, completely messing up the delicate Feng-Shui of my keyboard, hand cream and half eaten salad. Several Look, no water! slogans printed in green curly writing all over the box and I think, these people must be crazy, who’s ever heard of kitchen appliances being delivered with water on the side anyway.
It’s flowers. A bouquet half my size as thanks for helping her out with a project I’ve already forgotten about. You’re crazy, I say, and she smiles. People come over to smell the roses. Some comment on how far science has come. Waterless, can you imagine, soon we’ll be using time machines to go back fifty years and hit on Marilyn Monroe. All I can think about is that I’ll have to carry that tree of flowers home somehow, and strangers on the street will think it’s my birthday or something, and I’ll feel like I have to smile and look super duper happy, so that everyone can then look forward to their own birthdays, and perfect happinesses just like mine.
I leave the flowers under my desk in a Guinness pint filled with tap water, hardly trusting this waterless business. I’ll have to take them home tomorrow, V. and I have plans for the evening. We’re traveling to Sutton to walk the streets of what might or might not be the place where we’ll be buying a flat soon, and I don’t want to be doing it arms full of roses and a dumb, fake birthday-girl grin on my face.
On Thursday afternoons, Sutton looks deserted. V is late. I walk along the streets, past closed shops and packs of shrieking teenagers killing time. I go inside the local Morrisons, and slowly make my way along every aisle, looking at canned beans and fresh pastries. I buy a strawberry scented candle in a large lidded jar, and an Ideal Home magazine. I know I shouldn’t, I mean, I’ve already got a stack of them at home, hopelessly losing their shine and gathering dust on my nightstand. But one of the few things I find comforting these days is to spend my evenings scribbling little hearts next to pieces of furniture I like in the pages of interior design magazines. It’s the closest I get to feeling like I’m working on a home of our own.
V finally gets here and together we head towards the flat development, to have another look at the walls and the windows from the outside. It’s getting dark. He’s tired and doesn’t want to look at a million horrible-in-every-possible-way homes anymore, so he’s decided this is the one, and unless the ever advertised end of the world hits us in the next couple of weeks, we’ll just sign the papers and be done with this craziness already. I’m not convinced, and I say it often. Whenever I do, he looks at me with this heartbroken look and all I can think about is that I actually found myself a man to love, to really love, and somehow I can’t help making him unhappy.
Friday. If my mother knew this she’d pretty much disown me, but I don’t own a vase in this country. I have to improvise one out of a tall glass, and set the unstable flower contraption straight on the living room floor, leaning against one of my book shelves. They do brighten up the room, I realise, and vow to get a vase soon and who knows, maybe a bunch of freshly cut daffodils every once in a while from now on.
Once I’m done taking a couple dozen phone photos of the off-handed flower arrangement, I change out of my t-shirt and jeans work combo and into something slightly more dinner date appropriate, and run to meet V for a bite to eat at a nearby Persian restaurant. We’ve been eating out a lot lately which has put my grandiose diet plans on hold, but we’ve been way too tired to even consider opening the fridge in the evenings, never mind turning the hob on and actually attempting any semblance of dinner making normalcy.
The place is packed and we’re sat next to a bunch of heavily made up girls on a hen night out. I’m hardly hungry but V insists on ordering this huge, mixed grill platter for two we’ve never been brave enough to get before, as it looks like it could easily feed a family of four for a couple of weeks at least. We eat slowly, intimidated by the sheer quantity of grilled meats and rice, talking anything but money, houses and baby making, which leaves crazy silly things to chat about, like The Walking Dead, our friends’ innumerable flaws, and the shade of my nail polish.
We barely manage to make a dent in the food mountain, so we ask for a doggy bag. (Nope, we’re not embarrassed to do that, are you kidding me? We’re talking about enough food to last us for the rest of the month here!) The waiter comes back with a couple of empty plastic containers which he leaves in the middle of the table for the two of us to pour our leftovers in. I look at V, he looks back, and we both burst into laughter. Yet another thing we’ll be relieved to talk about from now on, when we don’t feel like discussing our scary future: super duper, do it yourself doggy bag etiquette.
Saturday. I’m off to meet M for lunch in Oxford Circus. We got in touch through my blog and it’s the first time we see each other, so as I tread along Oxford Street, silently cursing my way through the endless outpour of weekend shoppers, I wish I had the time to straighten my hair properly and retouch my nail polish. This matters to me for some reason, that I appear somewhat normal on the outside though my inside life is an utter mess these days.
I doubt I’ve ever talked about myself for so long. It scares me, really, that there are people out there who share my anxieties. It makes them feel more real somehow, my fears, more difficult to push to the back of my mind. Leaning over our plates, we talk things over. Unpleasant things, the likes of which V and I try so hard to avoid touching upon, out of a silly sense of relationship preservation. But this particular relationship is only just beginning, it’s good to get the nasty stuff out of the way first. And then we’ll go ahead and build a friendship on top of lipstick brands and celebrity gossip centered conversations. Hard work, this making friends business.
Three hours and a fair amount of giggling later (we’re the kind who laugh in the face of scary stuff, who would have thought), we part in front of Bond Street station. A million disoriented people and all their friends and relatives are still dragging their carrier bags from shop to shop, bumping into each other at every step, as though walking down Oxford Street functions by a totally different set of rules than walking down any other street, and it’s really my fault for not knowing that, and insisting not to disrupt the normal flow of pedestrian traffic. Normally I find it impossible not to absolutely loathe humanity when stuck for ages on a cramped sidewalk, but today is different. I’m actually feeling hopeful for some reason, and when the one inch a minute crowd pushes me past the doors of a Waterstones bookshop, I break free. Just one book, I promise myself, something to remember this day by.
I buy a collection of poetry by Billy Collins, something to keep on my nightstand for months and turn to at times of no new Ideal Home magazines in sight.
I want to carry you
and for you to carry me
the way voices are said to carry over water.
Just this morning on the shore,
I could hear two people talking quietly in a row
boat on the far side of the lake.
They were talking about fishing,
then one changed the subject,
and, I swear, they began talking about you.