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Forcing yourself to date, when you’re already in love is no mean feat.
I had spent three decades building and honing my perceptions of love and then three years ago I met a man that would shatter every single one of them, I affectionately called him Mr. Snowglobe, as he shook my settled world.
It didn’t happen right away. There was a spark but nothing that would indicate anything other than a mutual admiration. However, as we learned more about one another it became apparent that there was something instinctual there. In fact, that does it no justice whatsoever. With every moment in one another’s company, a jigsaw piece slotted into place and bound us together.
It was never going to be simple though. This is no Hollywood romcom or Austen novel, this is the real world and the simple and unsurmountable truth, was that he wasn’t mine to have.
Mine is not a conventional story, I left home at sixteen to move in with my first love and his family, only to move back again a year later when it was clear that our ‘growing up’ was happening in different directions. I then fell in love online, back when your email address was made up of numbers, Compuserve chatrooms were populated with people that didn’t lie about who they were and the term ‘catfish’ hadn’t been invented. This intense whirlwind relationship became a lifelong connection, when I became pregnant. We had twelve years together, some happy, some not so much but did the very grown up and responsible thing of uncoupling before we became toxic and remained friends throughout the process.
When my daughter's father and I separated I took a little while to think about what I wanted from a relationship. Took time to understand who I was on my own, having been in some form of ‘couple’ from the age of fifteen. I was lucky, I met someone who not only understood that my daughter would always come first but also allowed me to be me, or at least continue the journey of finding out who that was. In truth we were never meant to stay together for that long, he wanted children and having a teenage daughter and a career that I enjoyed, I didn’t. However, one year turned into two, which turned into six. In the end and with the knowledge that this man would be an exceptional father (and indeed had been to my daughter), we agreed that we needed to separate before he missed out on the opportunity to meet someone and start his own family. A testament to the man he is and our relationship, four years down the line we are still friends and my daughter maintains a very close relationship with him.
Mr. Snowglobe. I had started a new job and a couple of months in was introduced to a consultant that occasionally worked in our office. There is a comradery in our company, we’re a small group of twenty and are sometimes more like a family than co-workers. So, a fair amount of joking and playfulness gets bounced back and forth. Everyone seemed to flourish in his presence, his friendly and sincere nature coupled with his sarcastic joviality bought out the best in people around him. It wasn’t long before we hit it off, the office bearing witness to who could out cuss the other, to the point where there was scoreboard on the wall noting who won the verbal matches. One day a week became two and the more time he spent with us, the more we got to know one another. A shared passion for music, reading and similar personalities, we found as much enjoyment in the quiet conversations as we did tearing strips of one another across the office. I suppose our sparring could have been perceived as flirting but it was never open or overt and I don’t think either of us thought any deeper into it. We became friends, we would lunch together, sitting on the bench with a sandwich talking about our lives. Married, with two young children he often asked questions about how I raised my daughter and shared stories about his life. There was no denying that he was attractive, but I had always observed it in a way you do when someone is completely unattainable, somewhat objectively. Much like life as you get older, months flew by and much as life at any age, you don’t really acknowledge something that grows quietly but steadily in the background.
I had been single for two years when my daughter proclaimed that I should get back ‘out there’. In truth, I hadn’t really felt any inclination. I was utterly content on my own, I had always loved my own company but was in a place where I had a good life, surrounded by amazing friends and family. My daughter was set to move away to University which meant for the first time in my life, I would be living alone. I think she along with many others, worried that I would be lonely.
I let the idea simmer for a few months and then somewhat fatalistically, I was asked out for a drink by a man I crossed paths with every day on my morning commute.
I am an intensely private individual, I don’t share many details of my personal life with my friends or colleagues. I am a confidante for those around me but keep my cards close to my chest.
It was a couple of days before our Christmas party and I had stayed later at work to meet my date at a local pub. I hadn’t mentioned anything to anyone but the change in outfit and freshly applied make up was enough to instigate a barrage of questions and innuendo. From everyone, that is except him. The date went ok, but he was surprised that I had a daughter in her twenties and confessed to wanting children himself therefore, a lovely man but not for me.
I didn’t see Mr. Snowglobe until our company Christmas lunch, where he studiously avoided me. As the drink flowed, my normal internal compass for propriety failed and as we left the restaurant to go to the pub, I fell into step beside him and asked him what was wrong. Shrugging his shoulders, he dismissed it as nothing and walked to catch up with the others.
At the grand old age of 39, I had managed to acknowledge when I’d had enough to drink. So, as talk of shots started circulating, I finished my wine and started saying my goodbyes. I left the noise of the bar and started to walk toward the station.
I heard my name being called and turned to see him walking quickly towards me. I smiled, because I always did when I saw him, then frowned a little as I noted the expression on his face. He asked if we could find somewhere to have a drink and sensing that this wasn’t the usual social behaviour we shared, I agreed.
We found a pub and a quietish corner, we sat for a long time in silence and if it had been anyone else I may have felt uncomfortable. Finally, he sighed and looked at me, he asked me how my date had gone and I remember feeling like that was an odd topic of conversation. I told him and he said that it may sound strange, but that he was relieved. In that moment he looked at me and I just knew, it made me catch my breath. Haltingly, he tried to explain to me how he felt saying that he had tried to ignore our connection or diminish it. How he had been coming to the office far more than he needed to, just to spend time with me. Nothing could ever come of it, in fact its mere presence tortured him. Not just married, but happily so he couldn’t reconcile the guilt he felt for the feelings he had for me. Burying his head in the sand had worked up until a certain point however, he confessed that news of my date had shaken all the feelings he had repressed to the surface. The thought of me with someone made him feel jealous and a little nauseous.
Do you ever look at someone and feel like you’re seeing them for the first time?
I listened to his explanation not wanting to interrupt, but I also watched the way his lips moved and his hands gestured. I looked at the blue eyes I hadn’t realised I knew so well and more than anything I just wanted to reach out to him.
Pausing to drink, he looked at me and asked me what I thought.
I told him the first thing that came to mind and more so an instinctual truth, that it didn’t matter what I thought, or even what I wanted, nothing could ever come of it.
Very suddenly I felt incredibly sad and as if sensing the shift in mood he reached out and took my hand, holding it in his. They were beginning to herd people out of the pub and I said it was probably a good time to leave. I stood and we were told to leave via the rear exit. As we made our way through the pub garden, he reached for my hand and pulled me to him.
Such a small word, kiss. Yet it triggered something monumental inside of me. I didn’t know it was possible to feel every centimetre of your skin. I didn’t know that you could feel gloriously giddy and inexplicably calm at the same time. It was the kind of kiss where you want to crawl into the other person to be as close as possible.
I didn’t know what ‘home’ felt like until that moment.
Although it could have only been minutes, it felt as if time stood still. Eventually I pulled away and I looked at him, I touched his face and watched him make his way back to this place.
I watched as realisation dawned on him and also as he searched my face for some indication of how I was feeling. Concerned about the hour, he hailed a cab and gave the driver some money to take me home. We stood for a moment, he kissed me softly, tucked my hair behind my ears and said goodnight.
I didn’t see him again until late January. I had on countless occasions written out emails and texts that I never sent. I replayed every moment of the evening until it was etched in my memory. When he came in the office I feel ridiculously emotional, both pleased to see him and horribly anxious of what the atmosphere would be like. It was just as it had been before and when lunchtime came, we put on our coats and walked to the shops. He apologised, both for the action itself and the distance since, said that it was a selfish act, that I was a selfish indulgence for him and that it could never happen again. It wasn’t like me to be silent, but just as I had done on that evening, I didn’t think that anything I would or could say would make any difference. So, I simply nodded and said I understood.
In a way, I hoped his time in the office would lessen. I didn’t want to let it go and I knew his presence would only be a constant reminder. The weeks passed, he was there just as he was before, but there was something new, a new depth, a new understanding. We would laugh and joke as before, but we would stop and look at one another, as if trying to say to one another all the things that were off limits.
One night we were last in the office, he stood at the door as I was locking up and turned to me, he told me that it would sound ridiculous, but that he missed me. I knew exactly what he meant.
A year had passed and I knew that despite our connection being just as palpable, the circumstances would never change. I am a logical woman. I am a fixer, a problem solver. I am practical and rational and yet this man elicits the complete reverse in me.
So, I decided to date.
I am not one to ‘hook up’, don’t do meaningless sex or one-night stands. However, when you’re in love with someone else, nor did I want a life partner. Where does someone go, when they need someone to help you fall out of love with someone?
I took a deep breath and signed up for Bumble, hoping that within the app would be someone that would help me move forward and lessen the hold that he had over me.