Sunday, 19 June 2016

Perfect for me

'How do you just keep getting better and better?' you once said, as we'd discovered yet another shared pleasure. It was something we observed regularly, this amazing compatibility we had and yet, when you re-joined the dating site that I was on, just in order to view my profile, I didn't even notice you, didn't actually recognise you, would certainly not have considered you as a romantic prospect. And yet, there it was, an irrefutable, wonderful, easy connection between the two of us that did just keep getting better and better.

'Are you like, just my perfect man?' I asked as we were walking along Ecclesall Road on an early date.  'You tick all my boxes.' We were on our way to Ann Atkinson's Memorial book launch, the night that you would dance with me for the first time.
I don't think you replied, just smiled and held my hand a little tighter, walking with an extra bounce to your step. You'd just told me that you'd quite like to learn to tango. I had always wanted a partner who would learn to dance with me. We hit a slight problem when you realised that the tango lessons would be at the Millennium Hall; you'd had an altercation with the manager having parked your van in the space reserved for religious officiates, but, hey, it was a small obstacle.

Other boxes that you ticked:

  • Like me, you loved to be outside but saw no need to turn the enjoyment of the countryside into a competitive sport. ('Beverley', one internet suitor asked, 'on your country walks, do you ever break out into a run?' 'No,' I replied. 'Never. Running would spoil a good walk.')
  • You loved swimming
  • Your idea of a good New Year's Eve night out was to be alone (or alone with me) contemplating the big questions of life, outdoors with a good vantage point - not a party or a drop of alcohol in sight
  • You loved a good bonfire
  • You loved music
  • You loved making things
  • You loved talking
  • You loved books
  • You loved words

This last one, along with the dancing, swung it for me. When I discovered that you liked doing crosswords and playing Scrabble, my head nearly exploded with joy. How I had missed having a man to play Scrabble with. Once we had discovered this shared delight, we played many times, mostly at my house but also on the mini-breaks we had together; you would neglect to pack food or clothes, but always remembered the Scrabble. I'm sorry to say that, when you died, I was in the lead. I know this will displease you immensely and that it was something you wanted to rectify. I'm sorry you won't have the chance. You will be pleased, though, to know that your mum and I have plans for a game soon.

The first game we played was on the 19th September. I know the date because it was the day of my son's fifth birthday party. After our first night together had left us confused and overwhelmed that week, we had agreed to be friends but there was no question that we were still assessing the situation, that we were on probation. That day you notched up a few more points in the wider game that we were engaged in. You were on call all day to help with the building of the Ninja Lego birthday cake for my allergic son and you fetched bouncy balls from Tescos for party bags, delivering them just in time for the party - as usual, I was running late. And then you waited for the evening when the children had gone back to their dad's and you came round after the party for Scrabble. I was exhausted and longed to curl up in your arms but instead we just hugged for a little longer than was decent and then set about playing the game. We disagreed on some of the rules but agreed, crucially, that there was to be no looking up of words. In my tiredness I knocked the board over at a crucial point in the game and impressed you with my ability to completely reconstruct the whole board. I can still picture the scene. You sitting across from me on the kids' dressing up box. You always looked big in my living room, like some kind of Hagrid figure who didn't belong in a normal house. When you died, I found a description of the game that you had written. Funny to think that, to you, I looked small.

Her son's birthday party has left her tired leaving our choices diminished.We hug for a long minute - her lonely, I needy. Small talk, pictures on laptops, then we play Scrabble. We appear close matched. I sit opposite her over the board and she looks small suddenly on a big sofa in a big room whilst I observe disembodied a fact in the room, not sure what to make of things. The game ends. It couldn't be better, a kind of quantum superposition of victory: by my rules she wins, by hers I win. Perfect. 

It was. You were. Perfect for me.