Back when I was at university, I went through a rather wrenching break-up. Relatively speaking, it was actually a fairly simple process – no more complicated than my girlfriend Chloe deciding that she was a bit bored of me and wanting to prowl elsewhere – but I was inordinately fond of her and so the whole thing took more of a toll on me than perhaps I would have liked it to.
Self-pitying sap that I am, it took pretty much every ounce of fight in me to put on a brave face and venture out into the world in the days and weeks after that split, but I did manage to get myself out and about and, after a while, I started to do a fairly good job of working through it all. However – and this was particularly true after a few drinks – it sometimes got the better of me. Whenever it did, I would always be anxious not to inflict my sour mood on anyone else and so would retreat somewhere quiet.
Sat in the corner of some dark bar, alone with an empty glass, I was contemplating going home to lick my wounds when my friend Ben came and sat next to me. As Ben was one of the few people I could bear to talk to in this sort of state, I welcomed him as he took his seat.
He asked how I was. I told him that I felt pretty miserable and that I might head home. He told me that he and Eva (his girlfriend) were absolutely shocked when they heard about Chloe dumping me. They thought that the two of us had made such a perfect couple.
I did too, but I had already tried to convince Chloe of this. I had already told her that she was wrong and that she was flying in the face of overwhelming public opinion by suggesting that we weren’t supposed to be together. She remained adamant though. She still broke up with me.
“Well,” he said, “I just wanted to let you know that Eva and I are sorry and if you need anything from either of us, then we’re here for you.”
It was sweet of him to say so, even though I realised I was being a mopey old twat and that I should really start pulling myself together. I was about to thank him for this little gesture of friendship when Ben did something rather peculiar.
He leaned over and started to kiss me. Not just planting a peck on my cheek either. This was mouth open, tongue in – proper, sloppy kissing.
It probably speaks volumes about me that my first reaction wasn’t to push him away and ask him what the hell he thought he was doing. My first reaction was to push him away and ask him what the hell he thought Eva would say if she knew he was doing this sort of thing.
“Oh,” he said, looking confused. “Has Eva not spoken to you?”
Before I had a chance to cast my mind back and recall any conversations I may or may not have had with Eva about French-kissing her boyfriend, she appeared – apparently out of thin air.
“Hey,” she said, cool as anything, “I’m thinking I might head home. Are you coming?”
Ben nodded and stood up. He patted me firmly on the thigh as he did so, a gesture I took to mean ‘Keep your chin up, pal – things will work out’.
After he was stood though, he didn’t seem to leave. Neither did she. They just stood there, waiting – looking at me.
Eva said again, “Are you coming?”
Reasoning that as I had been planning to leave before I was facially assaulted by Ben – and that a taxi split three ways worked out better than the one I’d take by myself – I shrugged and stood up too.
So off the three of us went. Together.
There wasn’t much in the way of conversation in the taxi home. In fact, it wasn’t until we pulled up outside our building and stepped out of the car that the first word not pertaining to directions or fare was spoken.
“Shall we have one last drink before we turn in?”
By now you would have thought that even people of the meanest intelligence would have seen what was happening here. Most would have twigged in the moments directly before Ben’s lips made contact with yours; others would have got up to speed when Eva mysteriously appeared mere seconds later. I, on the other hand, was still utterly blind to it.
So when Ben said that he had some beers in the fridge in his room, that is exactly what I thought I was being offered. A beer.
I didn’t even cotton on when I was sat between Ben and Eva on Ben’s bed, and she placed her hand on my knee whilst I morosely twisted on about Chloe kicking me to the kerb.
It wasn’t until she started to stroke my thigh up and down and Ben placed his hand on my other that the penny finally dropped.
These two people are trying to have sex with me! Both of them!
My mind started to reel and a cold, cold panic set in. As much as I liked Ben and Eva – both individually and as a couple – I could have named a hundred different ways in which I would have preferred to articulate my affection for them. I could have thrown them a party, cooked them a meal, placed twenty thousand pounds in used, non-sequential bank notes in a brown paper bag in their letterbox. Hell, I could have even stretched to poetry, but this was, quite possibly, the very last thing I was prepared to do.
As the small talk began to wrap up and I faced the inevitable, I clamped my hands hard around my beer bottle and, for lack of any better idea, squeezed my eyes shut and decided to employ the same technique you’re supposed to in the event of a bear attack: lie very still and hope they mistake me for a corpse.
It was all I could do to stop myself from jumping up and punching the air when, just a few seconds later, Eva slipped off the side of the bed and was violently sick into Ben’s waste paper basket. Spotting what was maybe my final chance, I wasted no time in thanking Ben for the beer, patting Eva sympathetically on the back and then hotfooting it out of their room, vaulting down the stairs and diving under the safety of my own duvet.
The next afternoon, I asked after Eva. She was feeling ropey and hadn’t left her bed all day. I asked after Ben. He was feeling bit ropey, but nothing worse than a slightly sore head.
They asked after me.
I told them I was fine.