“And that’s when I know it’s over. As soon as you start thinking about the beginning, it’s the end.”
― Junot Díaz, This Is How You Lose Her
This hurts like hell, preposterously so. Not that she’s told me that “it” is over (whatever “it” was) but I know the vibe I’m getting. It’s a sign that things are terminally on the wane, even if it’s barely a week since I last woke up next to her. I’ve only known FR for a few months. Somehow she’s reduced me to tears on a re-routed train through the flooded north of England ,so I’m listening to sad and angry songs, swilling lager and trying to lose myself in the wet and wintery scenery. What a Hogmanay this will be, should I ever make it to Edinburgh. “Fuck it, I hate new year’s eve anyway”, I think and chuckle maniacally to myself, drawing concern from at least one fellow passenger. Ah well, I’ll miss her but we had some good adventures. She showed me the hipster dens of Bern, and kindly invited between her sheets from time to time.
It all started on Tinder, like so many modern love stories. I liked her photo and she must have liked my grizzly black and white profile picture (cheers CG). Ironically, it was taken the day after I was last dumped. I’d managed a cheeky smile in spite of having felt like I was wading through the ruins of my life. I was soon enamoured with, both her, and her techno phobic naivety. We got chatting about music and I’d sent her some escalatingly silly messages about the likes of Larry Gus while she introduced me to some of her favourite twee Swiss indie pop (she would later take me to Howlong Wolf and Sophie Hunger). We did find a kind of middle ground when I mentioned I saw Björk in Berlin last summer. What a name dropper I am but it seemed to resonate which culminated in me tipsily suggesting I come to see her in Bern that weekend. This was all new for me, I didn’t have a clue how the fuck dating worked in 2015. I’ve not even been on that many dates, ever, despite being almost forty. Back in the day, I mostly copped off with my sister’s friends, or met random girls in nightclub queues. As it turned out, I think she was pretty clueless too.
We agreed to meet on Saturday with me getting a train down early evening. In preparation, I got fairly smashed Friday night with PP and his cadre of pan national nerds. We didn’t even go anywhere good, just stopped at the Welsh pub, where I probably should have eaten more. I awoke feeling dreadful but managed to pull myself together and into an ensemble of largely clean clothes. It turned out this was bloody stressful, maybe even worse than playing golf with my dad. I succumbed to the pressure and had a galvanising pint with PP. I tried to convince myself that I didn’t like her (her being a picture and some flippant chit chat on my phone) and that I probably shouldn’t even bother going. Go in the end I do though, muttering something about it being “a job interview for a position I might not even want yet”. I had one more beer on the train then brushed my teeth and drank some sparking water. I realised I was exceptionally nervous.
She’d said that she would meet me at the station but having only ever really changed trains here, I had no idea where she meant. I swilled more water and spat it on the tracks with vigour as I walked toward where I guessed she probably was. After a few dead ends, I saw her stood at the foot of an impressive bank of escalators. She was short, elfin and suspicious, a bit scruffy too but so was I. To my relief, I liked her immediately. Which is probably why I pretended not to see her and walked up the escalator, intending to nonchalantly head down again once I’d got my story straight. She tapped me on the shoulder as we reached the top. I almost fell over while giving her my best smile. Once on dry land, I went for a three kiss greeting, Basel style, which seemed a bit awkward. Oh well, the consensus seemed to be that we should get a drink. So we walked off into the Bern twilight, two strangers that it would turn out had both made pacts with their friends that they would somehow rescue them if the night turned either murderous, dull or something even worse. I’d gone one step further and left instructions with a friend on which photos to give to the press should I be found floating in the Aare. I never did tell her that though.
She took me to a place she assured me was cool and boasted pretty good cheap food. I noticed it was pretty close to the station and also boasted a number of escape routes. I can’t remember what we talked about on the way but it was perfunctory at best. She seemed a bit edgy about the scene when we arrived, there were lots of wasted teenagers and a smoke machine right enough, but it wasn’t that threatening. Once we were settled with a drink, I quipped that she was worried she might bump into one of her students. It drew a smile and the conversation seemed to flow from there. We ended up de-camping to a Thai place where we discovered we were both part time vegetarians. I think at this point we both discreetly messaged our guardians confirming our safety and at least was then met with teasing messages like “oooh, he likes her, he’s going to fuck her!”. Pretty highbrow shit. The food was OKish but I didn’t really care, I was having fun and even if the conversation stalled at points, it never felt laboured. I would muse later at just how nice it was to be with her only for friends to point out that was the worst possible thing you could say about someone. Maybe I need different friends?
After dinner (bill split for anyone keeping score) I wasn’t sure if it would go any further. She suggested another drink. I agreed, flashing a smile but trying to remain somewhat nonchalant and we walked to a community art space, the sort that are omnipresent in the cities of this country. This one had a couple of stages under railway bridges and some makeshift outdoor bars. I loved it although the sound systems seemed designed to make it impossible to stand in a place you could only hear one act. FR mused that she thought some of the people there might be on drugs, I concurred and tried to look alarmed. At that point, I forgot myself and it just flowed. I think I may have broken a cardinal dating rule or two (asking if she wanted children, talking about cricket) but she didn’t seem to mind, or at least didn’t understand. At midnight I decided it was time for the “last train” discussion. She laughed and said “but of course you would stay at my place”, the slight clumsiness of her English making it all the more enticing . I made a joke about a friend once sleeping a park and she laughed again, as if I were a small child. I think I messaged my friends at this point, cue more constructive teasing. I hope she was getting it too.
We actually laboured through a few more beers at venues closer and closer to her place and I started to feel like a privileged guest in a part of Switzerland that had been hitherto closed to me. I don’t know what we talked about but we walked back to her place arm in arm. I remember feeling so relaxed that I was I having to stop smirking as she led me up the road. We fondled one another cautiously up the stairs until she broke to open the door. She gave me a brief tour, including her pet snail (it would turn out her friends had cautioned her about this in the way mine had warned me not to talk about cricket). She poked it a few times and put it back in it’s tank and I took in her wonderful plants, one growing out of the leg of a old mannequin. At some point she led me up to her sun deck on the top of the building. It was 2am so there wasn’t much sun but she pointed out dimly lit things in a delightful way. I wanted to kiss her. Our smiles coincided and we did, at this point, I still didn’t know if I was sleeping with her or on the couch but I felt pretty good about life. As she led me to her bedroom and discarded some clothes, I suddenly hoped this wasn’t just about the sex. Later she would look at me and ask “you’re not going to run away are you?” Nothing was further from my mind.
I throw off the drunken nostalgia as the train pulls into Edinburgh Waverley. I realise I’ve arrived in another beautiful capital city, now also haunted by ghosts of women I used to know. I’m off to meet friends though and soon I’m drinking heartily in good company and joking about how I’m going to print out her Tinder profile picture just so I can cut it up with scissors. I defiantly grab a fistful of free condoms from the toilets (gay bars are good like that) and swagger toward the new year. I get a pint or two with some cricket friends and attend a fairly mental party later. I’m away with it and I’m having fun. I’ve almost forgotten it but know that thoughts of her will be as persistent as my hangover tomorrow.