This week has been a trial.
On Monday the traffic was appalling and I was fifty minutes late to work. There were roadworks on my route this week but I never thought they’d hold me up that much. Not the end of the world. “I’ll set off earlier tomorrow”, I thought to myself as I set my alarm.
On Tuesday, I went out to my car and I had a puncture. Again, hardly the end of the world. Swapped it for the spare, hit the road and with the awful traffic I was only thirty minutes late. “I’ll take my bike tomorrow”, I thought to myself as I set an earlier alarm.
On Wednesday, I hopped on my bike, feeling rather tired. It had been a while, but I quickly got back into the rhythm. About half way there, I began to turn and the handlebars came off in my hands. I frantically tried pushing them back on the frame, but I was thrown over the hedgerow before I managed. I walked the rest of the way, pushing the bike. Just ten minutes late. Getting better. “I’ll just take the car.”, I thought as I finally got home.
On Thursday, I oozed out from under my blankets to hush my sadistic alarm. Let’s go. I checked the traffic reports on my phone and the route was clear. Finally my bad luck was turning around. I was going to be at work a full hour early but I suppose I owe them a little time. I raised my garage door and backed out of the garage and over Mrs. Haverbrook in her pink velour jogging suit. I say ‘over’ it was more of an ‘into.’ She bounced clear and didn’t seem to mind too much but I thought I’d perhaps better take her to the hospital to check. Four hours late. “I’m staying in the hotel next to the office, tonight”, I thought as I left my desk at 9.00 p.m.
On Friday, I woke three hours before work. I showered, dressed and walked a few feet to the front door. I got to my desk. Two hours early. Finally, looks like my luck is turning around. I blitzed through my tasks since the office was so quiet until people began to arrive. A heavy hand dropped on my shoulder, I didn’t even need to turn to know it was my boss. “Good morning, Phil.” I warmly greeted him with a smile.
“I didn’t expect to see you at your desk.” Phil called out in a tone that was half sarcastic, half puzzled.
“Ah, I know, I’ve been late all week, sorry.”
“Huh? Oh, don’t worry about that, you’re our best worker. We can forgive you being late.”
“No, I meant, I thought you had a flight in about an hour.”
Bugger. I was going to France for a long weekend. I’d best book another flight.
“Ah, I changed my flight. I’m going this afternoon now.” I tried to force a smile to help reinforce my lie, but my mouth refused to go along with the foolishness.
“Oh, well, don’t stay too late then.”
I brought up the internet and looked for flights. They were all insanely priced or at the other end of the country. Forget it, I’ll be able to recoup some of the hotel money. A long weekend of TV then. I’ve been meaning to catch up on some box sets. This is a good thing, I suppose.
11.00 a.m. finally rolled around and I began packing my things away to leave. All of my colleagues wished me a good trip and shouted various requests for things to bring back.
As I walked out of the doors, quickly trying to Google how long it takes to import French cheese and wine, I decided to call into the shop across the street to get some drinks.
“That everything, pal?”
“Sure? Lotto’s a rollover y’know, pal.”
“Okay, I’ll take a lotto ticket, please.” I’d better take one, else I’ll never get out. I scribble down the numbers I regularly use and pass over the slip. Although, with the week I’m having, I’ll probably win but my mansion will burn down.
“Here, pal. That’s £9.40.”
I smile and reach into my wallet for a ten pound note. “Keep the change.” I say placing the twenty pound note in his sweaty hand. I struggle with the idea of snatching it back but decide, I’d better let it go. Ah well, my good deed for the day is done.
I stuff the receipt and ticket in my coat pocket and I grab the carrier bag.
I drive home and take my bag inside and drop it on the table, taking a beer out before sitting on the sofa. My cat hops up beside me to sniff around the can, awkwardly climbs on my shoulder and then leaves to the back room.
I pull the can’s ring pull and it triggers my phone’s ringtone, or it seems that way. My mother. I should be landing about now. I answer the phone wondering whether to lie or be honest. We quickly catch up and I decide I should just tell the truth.
“Great news, then!!” my mother screamed down the phone. I could hear my father call out in surprise followed by a brief lecture on his fragile heart.
“How is that great news?”
“Well, I was at Winnie’s bungalow yesterday and you’ll never guess who’s back in town?”
“I don’t know who Winnie is, so you’re right, I’ll never guess.”
“Watch that smart mouth young man, or I won’t tell you that her daughter is back in town.” She sounded thoroughly pleased with herself.
“Yeah, that surprised you, huh?
“No. I still don’t know who Winnie is mum, so I don’t know who her daughter is.”
“Genine Thompson. Your old school crush.”
“…” She had surprised me this time. “So what? She’s married isn’t she.”
“Wrong again, mister.” When was I wrong the first time? “She was engaged but she broke it off. She’s moved back into town and, according to Winnie, all her old friends have moved away so she’s spending her evenings alone.”
“God, I haven’t thought about her in a long time.” I had. Almost every day.
“Well, do you want me to give Winnie a call, get her number for you.”
“I don’t really want to go through our parents, mum! I need to show her I’m a man, all grown up. If you could maybe find out where she lives, or where she goes to work or shop or something, then I could just randomly bump into her, you know?”
“My son, the stalker. This is why you’re still single at 35.” Hmmm, I guess that is a little creepy.
“Yes please, mum. Just her number thanks.” A second chance. Well, a first chance really, I’d never dated her in school, just longed for her from afar. Wow, I am a stalker. “Oh, one more thing, mum…” … She’s gone. Bye, then. There’s no point ringing her back. She’ll be on the phone to Winnie by now.
I opened up my phone and clicked on the Facebook search bar. Her name was there in my search history from last week. Maybe I need help? I stalk through, I mean I read through her profile and then delete my search history. I finish the beer I had opened and go to my bedroom to find something to wear tonight.
I am still single at 35, but I’ve had dates and relationships. The relationships always start with The Outfit. I take it down from the hanger in the wardrobe. It’s just a pair of faded jeans and a patterned shirt, but all my best dates were in these, so I feel confident in them. Wait. They’re dirty. Damn, looks like they’re covered in hot sauce. Why would I hang these back up? I toss them in the washer and go about some tidying up, waiting for my mother to call back.
I pick up my phone. Genine Thompson accepted your friend request. What. The. Hell. I must have hit it by mistake. No wait. This is a good thing. It looks like I’m being assertive, right? Right? She’ll have heard from her mum and then seen the friend request. It looks like I’m reaching out to her ahead of getting her number. Yeah, I can spin it that way.
I open up the messenger app and send her a message. “Hey, Gen! Sorry to contact you out of the blue like this. I just heard you were back in town and I have a free weekend. Maybe we could catch up?”
I drop the phone on the coffee table. I feel weak. Maybe we could catch up. With what? I don’t think I ever really spoke to her, but I’m sure she wants to hear about how you live alone on the run down side of town. I try not to think about it.
I hear the washing machine click and I pull out The Outfit. I hold it up to the light to inspect it for stains. Good, it’s clean. Clean and dyed. I pull out the offending red t-shirt and throw it all in a basket. Never mind. This is why I have, The Outfit mk. II. I take the similar outfit out of the wardrobe and hang it on the front.
I go back to my phone. A message. “Hey! Sure, that sounds great. How about that Italian place we used to go to. Ha ha! Around 7:30?” I’ve never been out with her. She must be mixing me up with someone else. Luckily there’s only one Italian in our town.
“It’s a date!” Send. What is wrong with me? I quickly get a reply. Just an “x.” Okay 7:30. I look at my watch. It’s already 4:00. Where has my afternoon gone? I’ll get dressed. I walk into my bedroom and the cat is jumping up the shirt dragging it’s claws down it. Again and again. This one’s on me, I should have seen this coming. Well, what kind of fool has The Outfit mk. III? I throw on a pair of old jeans and my most casual work shirt. It will have to do.
I finish tidying up the place in case we come back here. A guy can dream right? I call for a taxi and figure I’ll kill time in town. I should get to the town centre at around 6:00 by the time the taxi actually makes it to me.
I arrive and stand beside the taxi rank. I’d not actually thought about what I’d do. Maybe I’ll just get a drink at the Italian place and wait. I start to walk. As I pass the cinema, Genine steps out with a tall, dark, handsome stranger. Okay, her brother perhaps? Her eyes light up when she sees me.
“Hey, it’s been so long. You’re early.” I’m somewhat thrown off by her enthusiastic greeting.
“Yeah, hi.” Me and the tall guy just look at each other and then at her.
“An old friend?” He enquires pointing his finger at me.
“Huh? Oh, no. He’s my 7:30 date.” Me and the tall guy looked at each other again.
“And he is?” It’s my turn to point now.
“Yeah, he’s my 4:00 date.” She smiles brightly at us both.
The tall guy makes a thin smile and pats my back before walking away around the corner without even saying goodbye. We walk towards the restaurant in near silence until I finally pluck up the courage to speak. “So, it’s nice to see you again after all these years. You look great. What have you been up to?”
“Oh, nothing much. Travelling. Meeting people. Thought I’d move back home to settle down though.”
“That’s great. I’ve kind of just stayed here, really. I live a few streets over from when we were kids.”
She just smiles and reaches out for my hand. The atmosphere becomes less and less tense and pretty soon, I forget she’d had a date before mine and the conversation begins to flow more freely. We circle the town centre, walking past the Italian restaurant three times before we decide to just skip dinner. It feels as though we’ve known each other forever. I see a few people I know from work, but I’m having such a good time, I don’t even care about the questions I’ll get next week.
It has gotten late and cold. I suggest I walk her home and she shivers before agreeing. I throw my coat around her shoulders. A cliché move, but it makes me feel incredibly suave. We walk to her house. She lives in one of the huge houses right by the town centre. How does she afford this?
We stand on her doorstep, looking into each other’s eyes. I feel awkward.
“Well, I had a great time. We should do this again.” I suggest. Without a word she leans in and kisses me. Wow, this week sure has turned around. I feel like my future is flashing before my eyes. Growing old together, having kids, moving to the country. She pushes her key in the door and leads me inside. I can hear people moving around. Oh, I guess she house shares.
“Hey guys, there’s someone I want you to meet.” Three men join us at the entrance. She points to them each in turn. “This is Greg, Dan and Mark.” I reach out and shake their hands in the same order. Mark pulls me in for a hug.
“Nice to meet you guys.”
“And you too, you lucky guy.” Mark says back. We chat for a few minutes and then they all turn and go back in the direction they came from.
“Wow, that’s a lot of roommates.” Male roommates. They’re all male.
“Oh, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. They’re boyfriends. Greg is Tuesday, Dan is Wednesday and Mark is Saturday.”
“Oh, wow. That’s great!” I lie. “I thought polygamists were just made up. Like the Easter Bunny.”
“You’re so funny, I knew you’d be a great fit. The guys seem to like you and I’m really into you.”
“Oh, but my mum had said that you’d broken up with your fiancé. You know, that you’re single now. She specifically mentioned you spending nights alone.”
“Yeah, well, I was engaged to Greg, but we broke it off since you can only legally marry one person. It didn’t seem fair on the others.”
“Perfect!” I lie again. I’ve got to get out of here.
“So you’re okay with this?”
“Sure, sure.” You guessed it. That’s a lie. “The more the merrier, that’s what I always say.” That is what I say, but about parties or days out, not dating. “You know, it’s getting pretty late though, I should be getting back.”
“No, come on. Stay.”
“Sorry, I really should be getting back.”
“We’ll meet up again though, right? I’ve had a great night.”
“Sure, sure, maybe.” No.
“I can see you tomorrow, Mark won’t mind just once. You did say you had a spare weekend.” I hear him call in agreement from the other room.
“Well then, how can I refuse?” No seriously, how can I? I’ll get mum to cancel with Winnie tomorrow.
She kisses me again and I grab the door handle behind my back. She stands at the door waving me off until I turn off the street. I’m sure I can see Mark waving from one of the windows too. The further I walk the funnier the story gets in my head. Sure, the girl I’ve always dreamed about is gone, but at least I’ve got a funny story to tell my future grandkids now.
I get back to the town centre and catch a taxi back home. I get to the front door and reach into my pocket for the key. Oh no. It’s in my coat pocket. It’s a good job I keep a spare hidden in the garage. I go inside and pick up a warm beer from the table. I sit on the sofa sipping at the beer and eventually fall asleep with my cat on my lap.
I wake up to my phone buzzing on the coffee table. It’s a message from Genine.
“Great news!” That’s all it says. She’s clearly teasing a conversation out of me. I decide to bite.
“What is?” A pause.
“About our plans for today…”
“Yeah?” Just spit it out. It doesn’t really matter to me anyway, since I’m going to cancel.
A picture message comes through. A selfie of Genine and the guys. I don’t know what she means by that but, no thanks. A message comes though. “We won.” I look back at the picture. She is holding a small pink slip of paper. I turn on the TV and search for a channel with the results. One UK winner. £150 million. My numbers. I leap up and cheer.
Wait a minute. I look back. We won. We. Oh god no. The ticket was in my coat. Another picture message comes through. Another selfie but now they are all in a car. “We’re coming to get you!!!!”
Now that I really think about it, polygamy might not be all bad.