I just need to get through this last afternoon meeting, and then I will have dinner with D.
My meeting runs long and I am running late. I message D to let him know, and he counters with That girl is here — what’s her name — the Canadian. You’re better with this stuff than I am.
I know the woman instantly, but I cannot recall her name, except that it begins with an “A.” She is a friend of a friend of his. This amuses me to no end, and I hurry out of the office, toddling out on to the Mayfair cobbles on my tall, wrecked heels.
I arrive at the restaurant, which we’ve been to before, and I meet D in the bar. We like places we’ve been to before.
Did you see her?? I told her I was meeting you and she said, Oh, I thought you two broke up!
I guffaw. We had dated briefly two years ago, and have remained close friends. Our manner together is that lovely and sometimes uncertain ease that comes when it’s long over, but you still like and respect each other, and, besides, you’ve got mutual friends. I have occasionally complained about this whole situation, as if I aspire to change it, but the honest-to-God truth is: I haven’t ever had any real qualms with the status quo.
If I had, I would’ve changed something.
I’ve learned this: men and women really can be friends — even after they have seen each other naked; even if they’ve shared sweet nothings and intimate moments.
As it turns out, there is life after sex.
D and I catch up on the basics, and we joke, and he says, in reference to something I’ve said:
So they’ve left no skeleton unturned — er no stones — er, no skeletons under any stones?
No stones in any closets? I counter.
Here, we say cupboards, he rejoins sternly, Unless, I suppose, you’re coming out of one. In which case, it’s a closet.
So what you’re saying is that in the UK, only homosexuals have closets?
We dissolve into giggles. The thing I’ve always loved about D is that we make each other laugh. And he makes me laugh at myself.
We move from the bar to a proper dinner. By this point, four people have joined the Canadian outside, but we do not say hello. We (by which I mean “I”) decide to allow irksome speculation as to the non-status of our relationship. We go upstairs, where the waitress tries to hurry us along in ordering, and as a result, horribly bungles our order. We try for bruschetta, instead she tries for proscuitto, and then charcuterie, which they are out of, and we wind up with a pizza and salad as a starter.
At this point, we take what we are given.
It is the same as always; the same as it ever was — which is surprisingly lovely in an era of change.
But then midnight is creeping upon us, and we realise how much we’ve had to drink — which is something that always happens. We part ways in the springtime night.
Which direction am I walking? Do you want a lift? he asks. I point him in the correct direction.
No, I’m just down the street, I reply. And he looks confused.
Let me know when you arrive at your destination, he says.
I walk back, and let him know when I am safely flopped in bed. And it is strange, because suddenly, I am aware of how how much has changed since the weekend two years ago when he convinced me to come back from Edinburgh. We were both new at everything then — we had both begun new jobs; we had both undertaken new lives. Now it seems we are much more confident in all we are doing.
Despite my best efforts to box him into the category of Things That Have Stayed The Same In an Era of Change, we, too have changed. And I suppose that is not a bad thing after all.