‘That’s six pounds and 45 pence, please.’ You pick up the glass of chilled dry white wine from the bar, hand over a tenner, take the change from the barman and then turn back to the person you have been talking to. ‘Are you sure you won’t have another?’ you ask him again. ‘Not even a soft drink? Crisps? Nuts?’ ‘No, no,’ he says. ‘Really. I’m too upset.’
He’s upset because his girlfriend has left him.
‘I can’t believe it. She’s left me,’ he says again.
‘Yes,’ you reply. ‘You said.’
He has actually said ‘She’s left me’ 31 times. You know this because you have been counting. The first time he said it was an hour ago when he rang you to ask if you wanted to go for a drink. You did want to go for a drink. He then said ‘good’, because he needed ‘someone to talk to’. You were less sure about that. ‘Why?’ you asked. ‘She’s left me,’ he said.
You were momentarily thrown by the idea that any woman could enter voluntarily into a relationship with a man who you know for certain regards his dishwasher as a storage unit rather than a cleaning device and who last bought socks under a Labour government. But then you remembered that, yes, there had been a woman, apparently sane and certainly attractive, in his life at about this time last year.
‘Siobhan, of course! How is she?’
‘I just said: she’s left me.’
‘Oh, of course. Sorry.’
He continued saying ‘She’s left me’ through the drinks that followed. All of which you drank very quickly in order to maintain your sanity as he took you detail by grim detail through the minutiae of a break-up that, it strikes you now as you take a sip of your latest chilled dry white wine and which you realise isn’t that dry and not really very cold either, has followed the same course as every other relationship break-up in London.
Which goes something like this…
Two women are talking to each other in a bar. A slightly drunk man approaches them. It’s darkish, so his physical shortcomings are not immediately manifest. And, after all – the first woman thinks as she finishes the drink the man buys her – he really is quite funny. So the first woman agrees to a date. Then another. They start having sex. Which is kind of okay. Within three weeks she is introducing the man to people as her boyfriend. After six months they are living together. But presently she realizes that he has no decent socks to call his own and is constitutionally ill-equipped to maintain a relationship. She also notices his physical shortcomings; in fact she wonders how she could have missed them in the first place. To save the relationship she sends small but significant warning signals that even a man of medium sensitivity would pick up on. He doesn’t pick up on them.
A little dispirited by this situation she goes out with a girlfriend to a bar where a different slightly drunk man approaches her. It’s darkish, so his physical shortcomings are not immediately manifest and, after all – she thinks as she finishes the drink the man buys her – he really is quite funny. And so it goes on, week after week, month after month, year after year: love, London-style.
So the news of Siobhan’s departure hasn’t exactly knocked you off your feet. Anyone who encountered this man and his now former girlfriend would have wondered how long it would last, with most people opting for around 30 seconds. The only real surprise is that it lasted as long as it did. But there’s something else that’s nagging away at the back of your mind. Hang on! Six pounds and 45 pence? For a glass of dry white wine?
And another thing… More wine-based relationship disasters
THE FIRST DATE SPILL: You’re telling your date an interesting story. To make it even more interesting you wave your hand. Catching the wine glass with your wrist, you watch 175ml of cabernet sauvignon head directly for his/her crotch. A bad start? Possibly.
DUTCH COURAGE: Nervous ahead of the first meeting with his/her parents you steady yourself with a cheeky merlot first. Unfortunately it weighs in at a hefty 15 percent alcohol and you open the evening with one your ‘jokes’.
WEAK AT THE KNEES: The opposite problem. He/she has left you and you are drinking to forget. However, you have also taken yourself off to Germany to aid the healing process, and all the local wine is only 8 percent alcohol. As a result, it takes you three days to forget and even then you can sort of remember.
QUICK ONE WITH AN EX: You broke up last year, so what harm can there be in a quick chardonnay? After all, you said you’d stay friendly. But not, it strikes you both when you wake up together, quite that friendly.
Read about more of Michael Hodges’ adventures.