If you hadn’t noticed I’m feeling very nonchalant when it comes to men. I can’t say I’m too worried, but I am slightly bemused at my new outlook. I guess I miss the white-hot crushes and fly-by-night romances of the pre-Will Drew. Maybe I’m just not meeting the right guys (The Brazilian, by the way, turned out to be a right nut
and I'm currently looking into several witness protection schemes in the local London area).
Yesterday was sunny. There was an important football match in the early evening and it seemed everyone was making the most of the good weather to get well and truly tanked before the game. Not being particularly big sports fans, the Scoobies took the opportunity to get well and truly tanked anyway. Olly and Lorna had placed sheets and duvets in the garden, and, for general effect rather than a means of abating the sporadically scorching heat, a small electric fan. Lorna and Olly, always revelling in the role of host’s supreme, made a Pimms punch in a metal bowl, and after we ran out of cigarettes to smoke, Terry - the friend who’s been staying with them since he arrived from South Africa, made thick handmade cigarettes with a green roller, the filters coming loose after a few puffs. Katy sat in the shade following a night on the sauce and frequent trips to the bathroom in the early hours. Sam was there; Gavin. The only proper guest was Luke. Sam and Luke had been to a party the night before and were taking the time to warm themselves on the duvets like lizards, before heading inside for any proper amount of sleep.
Luke and I have a wee bit of a history. Almost two years ago we shared a passionate kiss at a club after a weekend long gay pride celebration. It was a perfect kiss: the music soared, we’d both chewed gum a few moments before and so our minty lips locked together in equal parts lust and tenderness, the right mix, a perfect mix. Play on funky house music, play on! Let your sweeping violins and guitar solo’s herald a new era when Luke and Drew will come together as…
Unfortunately we lost contact after that, and it wasn’t until a few months later that we got all smoochy again. Luke’s in the biz
, so he was often away rehearsing or performing. He moved in different circles and at that time I was still unravelling London myself, trying to make it my own. Truth be told, there was something about his charisma that made me wary of calling him.
However, the next time we met there was more kissing, most infamously in a Jacuzzi (but, in my defence, I did insist that we have one foot outside the Jacuzzi at all times). Even after a confusing mobile text (my humour, as I’ve discovered the hard way, does not translate well into 100 characters or less) we still felt compelled to meet for a proper date. I really liked him; he was quick and feisty and when he talked people turned slightly in their nearby tables to hear what he had to say.
We went for a beer and afterwards I remember thinking “that went well” but the next time we saw each other he informed me that it wasn’t going to work. Something about an ex-boyfriend. Something about him being complicated. I felt foolish and a little hurt; like I’d been awarded a prize and it had been taken back on a technicality.
As Luke is a good friend of Olly’s, I turned the whole event into one of my bitter old women routines, spitting “good-humoured” vitriol about him whenever his name was mentioned to save face. The shtick worked so well that, until yesterday, I’d almost completely forgotten why I liked him in the first place.
He hadn’t changed much. His hair was still trimmed short and his face scrunched up the same way in the sun. Luke’s not classically handsome, yet I could never imagine him feeling intimidated when he met someone who was. Sitting on the duvets he told us about the new play he’s in that will have a season in New York (and which, I noted to myself conceitedly, was a “gay play” so had less credential, Big Apple or no Big Apple).
Sam was resting his head on Luke’s leg and, as Olly observed, they both looked like they were “on the verge”, so I played much more distant than I’m used to, ironically trying hard to appear as nonchalant as possible. We drank the punch and when nobody was looking, I counted the freckles on Luke's back and noted that his body was like an adolescent boys – solid like a man's, but not overly defined, his legs connecting to his feet without the need for ankles. Despite trying the ol’ cool approach I was intensely aware of the body language between Sam and Luke. I don’t think I was jealous – but I was compelled to watch. It may have been wishful thinking but there were moments when I felt a little spark between Luke and I. He rested his foot on my knee or slipped his hand so that his fingers would brush my lower back. When we did speak, we chatted animatedly; the subject briefly turning to our failed attempt at dating.
“Well, you were playing hard to get.” He said, squinting.
Me playing hard to get? I’ve never played hard to get in my life. Could he have forgotten the jaccuzzi incident? Nothing in that turgid pool of lukewarm water was in the least bit “hard to get” - I have witnesses to prove it.
Soon after, when Sam announced he was going to finally get some sleep, there was an audible hush as we waited for Luke to make some excuse and join him. But instead he stayed in the garden. We were all quite drunk by now. The football game had started and the neighbours would occasionally roar in unison when someone on the telly scored a goal.
“Look at you with your curly, flowing locks” Luke teased, watching me, “You look like someone from…”
“Wuthering Heights?” I offered, saying the first thought that popped into my slightly inebriated head.
“Yes,” he said extending a hand to flick a wisp of hair behind my ear, a strand that had escaped due to sun and sweat, “Wuthering Heights, that’s it.”
Next door, the crowd went wild.
On the bus ride home I realised we must have lost the big game. Dejected looking punters rolled up St George flags as they filtered out of pubs together. I didn't exactly feel victorious myself. I’d wanted to get Luke’s number - but then what would I say? I still couldn’t fight the notion that it was something about me, some flaw, that had been the real reason we hadn't worked out. Maybe I did play hard to get?
When I arrived at the house I noticed a man in an “England” shirt sitting dejectedly in the gutter opposite my front door. He alternated between cradling his head in his hands and staring at the ground by his feet. Normally I would have laughed to myself as I shut the door but this evening I felt like making him a cup of tea and patting his shoulder.