When days fly by with no message from her new love interest, Sarah’s left pondering what the silence means
YYou know those days when the weather is a perfect mirror of your mood? I’d like to be looking out my window at a clear blue sky and a friendly sun – but it’s quite the opposite. A wild wind is blowing, the trees are shedding showers of leaves like green dandruff, and occasionally there’s a burst of hail. In other words, it’s Weather Gone Wrong. Nature at its chaotic worst. And my state of mind is just the same.
There’s plenty I could and should be doing. Proofreading a novel by an aspiring thriller writer. Editing an article on the gentrification of Berlin. Finishing three half-drunk cups of coffee, washing two loads of laundry, paying one monstrously large tax bill. Instead, I’m waiting. I glance once again at the jittery world, and then I start pacing.
Pacing is one of the most irritating actions ever. Irritating in a film, irritating when the person in the apartment opposite you is doing it, and most irritating of all when done by you. Especially considering that, ever since your divorce, you’ve worked incredibly hard to reach a state of post-traumatic calm. Realising that I’ve regressed to Pacing makes me annoyed, and my annoyance is heightened by the fact that here in my inner-city shoebox apartment I can only take three strides before reaching a wall. Not Pacing as much as Swivelling – and every time I swivel, I see my phone lying mutely on my desk, refusing to deliver the text message that will release me from my frazzled state.
Since my recent weirdly unsettling
I’ve entered a time machine. Now I’m back at the age of 16
evening with my old friend who suddenly and unaccountably transformed from his nerdy reliable self into a potential love interest, I’ve entered a time machine. Now I’m back at the age of about sixteen. That angst-ridden emotional age when I knew damn well that the boy wasn’t thinking about me the way I was thinking of him. That he wasn’t obsessing over whether or not his phone would ring. In short – that he wasn’t pacing.
‘He’s working,’ I say out loud, ‘and so should you be.’ Then: ‘He’s German – and so should you be.’ If there’s one thing I’ve come to learn about the German character, it’s their ability to compartmentalise and to contain inconvenient emotion like a human version of the Hoover Dam.
Hail rattles on the windows and I wince. I’ve just remembered how we walked together to my corner, and he stopped and looked into my eyes in a newly curious, searching way. ‘Is it all right if I do this?’ he said, stooping and… But my mind baulks at going further. It’s widely known that my friend’s relationship is in trouble – but all the same, he’s married and I shouldn’t go down that path. The problem is, I want to go down that path so much that it feels like a pain.
When my phone rings, I snatch it up without looking. It’s my friend Tiny: do I want to go antique-china-shopping with him today? ‘No, Tiny!’ Mortifying, I’m almost shouting. ‘No, Tiny, I can’t look at tea cups today, because I’m really freakin’ BUSY.’ ‘Busy doing what?’ He sounds wounded. ‘Pacing,’ I say lamely. ‘Waiting. Waiting, and pacing.’ There’s a short pause and Tiny clicks. ‘Oh no, doll. Not that geeky married friend of yours? He doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing.’
‘He knows!’ There’s a shrill sixteen-year-old defensiveness to my voice. Then, like an echo, my phone tings in my ear. ‘Gotta go,’ I say weakly, triumphantly. ‘It’s him.’ There it is. The text message I’ve been waiting for, for seven frazzling days. I understand everything.
I stare at the words on the screen in disbelief. I want to smash my phone into smithereens but I need it to call Tiny back. ‘What does I understand everything mean?’ ‘Oh, doll.’ Tiny’s surprisingly sympathetic for someone who’s just been rejected in favour of a text message. ‘In Straight Man speak, that means he doesn’t have a f***ing clue.’