It’s funny, but since I decide to give up on men, it’s as if they’ve decided to give up on me.
Now that I’m safely ensconced in an office for 37.5 hours a week, rather than roaming about like the footloose freelancer I once was, I’ve had no random nutters approach me in the street, The Bull has been quiet as a mouse, Normal Guy has been holding his silence and I’ve only had the occasional email from the Darkly Intriguing.
In short, it’s been pretty peaceful.
Of course, the fact that the nights are drawing in and the air is getting a little crisper naturally changes things. The joie de vivre of summer is fading, but we’ve yet to substitute it for the cosy charms of winter. Everyone’s getting low on bounce and facing the fact that a whole heap of cold, murky weather awaits us.
But despite my natural aversion to wind and rain, I’ve got to say that I’m quite enjoying my romantic solitude. Or at least, I was until I encountered The Guttersnake at a friend’s birthday party.
It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen him, but my discomfort in his presence has remained undiminished since an ill-advised lip-lock shortly after my break-up from The One I Almost Married.
Reader, I snogged him. And he’s pursued me with a burning ardour ever since.
Now, you’d think I’d be pleased to be desired with such passion. But the truth is that The Guttersnake is one of the slimiest, creepiest, most unctuous human beings I’ve ever met.
Or at least he is with me.
I’m assuming that most of his many friends don’t have the same impression of him, but then his hand probably isn’t tracing a path from their shoulder to their behind on a regular basis. His endless innuendo knows no limits: he never tires of making suggestive comments, or flashing come-hither eyes at me despite my greeting his every advance with a marked froideur. Heaven knows why I ever thought it was a good idea to snog him.
In my defence, I have a vague recollection of whisky being involved. I’d also not long had my heart smashed to smithereens, but everyone was telling me that I’d have to jump back into the fray sometime… And so I thought, why risk a snog with someone you might actually like when, as experience had taught me, it could all go so horribly wrong?
With hindsight, I can see that this logic was distinctly flawed. But now we’re almost two years on, and I daren’t say something as simple as, “I’m tired” in his presence, as that will remind him of the bedroom and start him on a litany of ‘romantic’ proposals, usually involving alcohol or massage oil. Or both.
Tonight he’s on fine form.
I’m having a quiet conversation with a girlfriend about my recent insomnia and she’s offering me her suggestions for a sound night’s kip. Naturally, The Guttersnake pricks up his ears.
“Oh!” says the spellbound eavesdropper. “You’re having trouble sleeping?
I reluctantly acknowledge the problem, with a sinking feeling about what’s coming next.
“You must be stressed!” he says. “I’m sure could help relax you. A warm bath, a glass of wine, maybe a soothing massage…”
And he gives the kind of smile that makes my skin crawl.
We then engage in a polite, verbal battle wherein he pretends to be interested in my welfare whilst trying to work out how my predicament could help him get into my pants … and I watch him doing it and squirm.
I’m saved by a call from another girlfriend, who’s waiting outside to take me to another party. (I know, I know. Sometimes you just have to live the lifestyle…)
He leaps up to say goodbye.
“You’re leaving so soon?” he says and paws at the back of my neck as he gazes into my eyes.
“Umm, yes,” I say awkwardly, “Places to go, people to see…”
“Don’t forget my offer!” he calls, giving me a wink as I head out of the door.
It takes a good five minutes for the shudders to subside.
The next party is already in full flow and my girlfriend hands me a drink.
“Thank you,” I say, and raise my glass.
Suppressing a little shudder, I make a toast: “To romantic solitude!”
My girlfriend gives me a curious look. But she raises her glass and smiles.