The Thai and I are seeing each other again. I first bumped into her at a fancy dress party looking cute in a unicorn horn. Three weeks later I bumped into her in my bed looking cute in nothing at all. I had assumed she’d want nothing to do with me after the whole fiasco with the Friend, but when she drunk texts me at 5am I know she’s still a tiny bit interested.
Still, it’s not easy. Gradually it becomes clear there’s a wall between us, but no matter how much I scrabble and claw at it, the only place I can get a leg over is in the bedroom. I peel off her clothes trying to get closer but she’s miles away. “Do you trust me?” I ask her. “No,” she replies simply.
I plan a nice date for her – seafood and gin and comedy, all drenched in London’s dazzling Christmas lights. I want her to feel special, to feel spoilt, to read in my gestures what I can’t yet say in words – that she makes my heart thump a little harder.
But even a nice date can’t make a dent in her armour. She doesn’t like the octopus or the ceviche or her drink. She doesn’t like the location because it’s too close to her work and she’s worried she might bump into her colleagues. She doesn’t like our table in the bar, or her drink (again), and she doesn’t like the bar as much as she thought she would.
At one point she asks grumpily which street we’re going to:
“Dean Street,” I reply.
“I know for a fact there’s only one good thing to do on that street and it’s the jazz bar.”
“Well, we’re not going to the jazz bar,” I say sardonically.
I take each knockback on the chin until my jaw’s bloody and all I want to do is crawl into bed. Part of me wishes I could confront her: “The problem isn’t the octopus or the drink or the bar, IT’S ME YOU DON’T LIKE,” I want to shout.
I worry about whether this is who we are: squabbling and bickering and Christmases bereft of goodwill. I worry that she’ll never forgive me or trust me, that I’ll never be able to bridge the gap in her cynicism and my intentions. I worry that I’m too hot-headed to give her the time she needs to open up again, that I’ll bolt before she’s in full flower. I worry that I worry too much.
But then, something shifts. The next weekend we go on another date. She takes me to a Christmas market where we try gin and buy socks and I eat a samosa and get potato in my hair. Later we go for dinner and she nicks duck donburi straight from my bowl with chopsticks: “This is good, it’s a sign I’m comfortable,” she says, helping herself to some fried egg.
It is good. Not just the egg – all of it. I’m not sure what’s changed but somehow it feels like she trusts me a little more, or maybe I’m worrying a little less. That night, when I take her home and peel off her clothes, it feels intimate and gentle and real in a way it hasn’t for a long time.
The wall’s still there – but it’s looking shaky.