Friday, May 1, 2020
The Audience Adventure - Day 12
The car was, of course, where Jack had said it would be but that hadn’t stopped them taking an elaborate detour right round the car park to the spot that Emma was convinced they would find it in.
“You really thought it would be here? Up in this corner?” Jack said laughingly.
“Yes! I was so sure we’d gone round that bit there.” She pointed to a bend in the car park.
“You are terrible. Come on. I’ll take you to where it actually, definitely is.”
“What a waste of time.” She said, “I deserve two shits in the hallway for this.”
“You might just have them.”
Emma laughed. Considering how little time they’d known each other they really did get on extremely easily. Her mind kept playing and rewinding the little memory clip she had made of him calling her beautiful.
‘He was just being polite.’ A very sober version of herself kept saying.
‘I don’t know, he didn’t say Fiona was beautiful.’ A more excitable thought argued as she climbed into the passenger seat of Jack’s car.
“True. But maybe he was saying it in more of an “older man” way?”
“Yeah… like an older man who goes to Thailand on his own every year maybe.”
“Oh give over Jack’s not like that. Besides he said you were beautiful, he didn’t say you were hot.” The stern thought was trying its best to be heard above the din of excitement from her other thoughts.
“Absolutely not hot.” Emma heard herself saying out loud into the car. She froze.
“You cold?” Said Jack. Emma didn’t know what to do, she couldn’t very well say:
“No, I was just reinforcing out loud for myself that you had not said I was sexy.” So she just nodded and then sat there as he turned the cars heater up and flicked all of the plastic blower nozzles to face her. It was already a hot day and now she had inadvertently landed herself in a DIY fan oven due to her uncontrollable mouth.
‘Well done Emma. You really do know how to spoil a fantastic day.’
“Could you put the address in the sat nav please?” Jack said, turning the wheel to start edging the car out of the car park and into the traffic on the main road.
Emma leant forward to reach the little box and felt her t shirt unpeeling from the seat as she did so. She imagined the sweat patch that must be developing there; sprawled across her back like Africa on a globe. She ran hot anyway, and embarrassment made her into a small ladyshaped furnace, put all of this into a small metal box under 6 mini hairdryers and it was a recipe for molten woman. She tried to twist in the seat so that Jack couldn’t see the sweat patch down her back as she reached in to the sat nav. She could just about get a finger to it and she began to prod her new postcode into it, wiping a bead of sweat out of her eyes.
“There we go.” She said, thumping back into the seat and feeling the unwelcome sensation of the fabric squeezing a bead of sweat down her trousers and into an unpleasant crevice. “And I’ve warmed up now. Phew!” She all but shouted and swiped away at the car control panel to do what she could to get the heat off.
“Thank god, I don’t know how you can be cold? I’m a puddle over here.” Said Jack, eyes on the road.
“Must have just been a cold flush. You get them at my age.” Said Emma.
“You get them at my age?” She then asked herself furiously on the inside, “What in the name of all fuck does that mean?”
“How old are you, if you don’t mind me asking? I know you’re not supposed to ask a lady and all that… or are you now?”
Emma laughed yet again, grateful once more that Jack had an innate talent for skimming over the more awkward sentences she served up during conversational tennis.
“I’m 28.” She said, “You?”
“42.” Said Jack.
“Meaning of life.” They both said together and Emma thought it would have been a really cute little moment if she hadn’t snorted loudly afterwards. The snort was quite mortifying, but then mid-snort she noticed she was snorting and tried to sort of reverse the snort action but ended up just forcing a gobbit of spit out of her mouth. It lay on the grey dashboard in front of her, glistening and winking at her. She glanced sideways at Jack but he was concentrating on the roads and the evening traffic. She shifted and casually wiped it, feeling, if possible, even hotter and more uncomfortable than she had before. For every nice thing there is an equal and opposite way that I react to it, she thought glumly, glancing around the seat for an ejector button.
“How long have you lived in the building?” She asked, desperate for anything to say that didn’t come straight from the Awkward Guide to Awkward Conversations.
“Coming up on five years now. I moved in after I split up with my wife.”
“Oh…” Emma didn’t know what to say…
‘Sorry you split up with your wife?”
“But then what if he says, ‘Eh she was a bitch!’ And we think less of him?”
“Why would he transform into a New York stand up comedian?”
Luckily Jack interrupted her inner trainwreck by carrying on, “She absolutely loved our house and I wasn’t bothered so I got the flat as a kind of temporary thing and I suppose… I suppose I’ve not finished this temporary bit yet. Although I feel like I’m turning a corner.”
‘There you go. He talks about her perfectly nicely. And he’s still from England.”
“Are you still friends with your ex?”
“Oh, no. No. I think if we’d split up a few years before we did then we might have stood a chance of salvaging something, but we really carried on trying to love each other until we really hated each other.”
“I’m sorry. Do you have kids? Sorry, I’m being really intrusive. Sorry.”
“No, it’s ok. I brought up my ex. No, I don’t have children. Do you?”
Emma spat a laugh across her lap and it bounced off the dashboard and hit her square in the face. “Jesus no. My life has… I am not there yet. Or possibly ever. I’m…”
‘Gosh, you’ve really started that sentence with no idea where it’s going.’ Said her brain interestedly.
‘Yes, that’s because it’s your job to finish them.’ She snapped back angrily.
“Ah, you have time.” Said Jack, “So… no boyfriend then?” He was peering through the gloom at the roads and flicking his eyes back to the sat nav periodically.
“Uh…” Emma’s minds eye was filled with pictures of Theo. Should she tell Jack about Theo?
‘Why would you tell him about Theo?’ She asked herself crossly, ‘He is not your boyfriend.’
“No, no I don’t have a boyfriend.”
Jack nodded. “I didn’t think so.”
Emma was quite used to not knowing what to say back to people but usually because she was being weird, not because they’d said something offbeat. “What do you mean?” She finally managed to ask him.
“Well…” he began, still scrutinising the sat nav, “Sorry, I’m just going to pull over in the garage and check the sat nav.” He flicked the indicator and began pulling in to the forecourt. “I’m sure this route isn’t right…”
“Maybe it’s routing us round traffic?” Emma said helpfully, desperate to get Jack back on to the subject of why she screamed spinster.
“No, this one doesn’t do fancy stuff like that. It’s only one step up from an Atlas.”
He stopped the car and pulled the sat nav out of its holder.
“Um, Emma… have you moved house?”
She peered at him, “Yes… I moved in with you?” Maybe Jack was just flat out losing his mind? That would be exciting - it would be nice to not be the doziest person in a friendship for once.
“No, I mean since then…? This is not our post code.” He tilted the screen to show her the postcode she had directed them to… it was the perfect bastard amalgamation of her current, previous and parents’ postcodes.
“I’m an idiot.” She said. “I’m so sorry.”
Jack was laughing. “It’s no trouble. I’ve no idea where we are though. Let me just reset this.”
“I’ll go and get us some sweets. I’m really sorry.”
“Honestly, it’s fine.”
“We must be up to three steaming turds by now.”
“Are you reviewing spending the day with me in steaming turds?” He said confused.
“No, I meant… Elliott. Oh never mind. I’ll go and get some sweets.”
She climbed out of the car and began crossing the forecourt to the garage. As she reached the door she had to jump out of the way to avoid being swiped by a flashy red car coming in to the pump. She stared at the floor and held up a hand to apologise for being in the way.
Stood in the sweeties aisle she suddenly felt very tired. It had been such a good day and now she felt like she’d added a sour element.
‘You only got the post code wrong.’ She reminded herself, ‘And he really doesn’t seem to mind.’
But fully accepting that fact wasn’t making her feel better. There must be something else… “I didn’t think so.” She could hear Jack saying. That was the thing causing the sickly sadness radiation in her stomach. Then, layered on top of that was the knowledge that if she hadn’t got the post code wrong he would have carried on explaining instead of getting distracted and she could have some closure on what he’d meant. Ugh. Why was it bothering her so much?
“Emma?” She heard her name and looked up scanning for Jack’s face amongst the shiny consumables. “It is Emma, isn’t it?”
Emma couldn’t believe her eyes. There in front of her was Theo. She reached out a hand and patted him on the chest. He was real. The knowledge that he was real made her retract her hand suddenly aware of what she’d done. Touching his chest made her think about her own and the aching that was the direct result of crouching behind a car to spy on the man now in front of her.
“You work for Futurescope don’t you? Sorry, unless you don’t and I’m going mad? You look like a woman I used to work with.”
Emma suddenly came back to life with full force and in far too high a volume. “Yes, hi, it is me - I am Emma and my name is Emma. I do work at Futurescope, well, or I did when I did but I don’t now, I can’t because I don’t live in London any more. I moved to Bath.”
The torrent of words and excitable explanation splattered Theo’s shoes and he blinked it all in.
“Right,” he said, “Me too. When did you moved?”
‘STRAIGHT AFTER YOU DID.” Screamed Emma’s brain but she managed to get out a vague mumble that she hoped sounded like, “A couple of weeks ago.”
“What a coincidence!”
The door to the garage opened and Jack came in. “You chosen yet?” He called cheerily to Emma. Emma remembered that Jack existed and waved back.
“No, no not yet.”
Theo turned round and looked at Jack, who scowled back at Theo. “Are you apologising?” Jack said, lightly but tense.
“Apologising?” Emma and Theo said in unison, and Emma managed not to snort at the duet. Progress.
“For nearly hitting her with your car when you raced in.” Jack was still eyeing Theo.
“Raced in! Alright Grandad.” Said Theo nonchalantly, but he shifted his weight to the other foot.
“Was that you?” Said Emma, “Nice car.”
“Do you know each other?” Said Jack to Emma.
“Yeah, we’re old friends.” Said Theo, and in a move that Emma would have thought was coming straight out of one of her most ridiculous fantasies he put his arm around her shoulders. And it was a good job too because had the weight of his arm not been there Emma felt she would have floated right off the ground and out into space.
“We used to work together.” She said, or at least hoped she did. There was every chance it had come out of her mouth as “Will you marry me?”
“Right.” Said Jack, “Well, sorry Em - don’t want to break up the party but I need to get back to Elliott.” Jack turned on his heel and headed back out to the car.
“He’s intense.” Theo said after a disappearing Jack.
“He’s not usually.” Said Emma, mentally preparing for a life where she didn’t have Theo’s arm around her and wondering if she should take up heroin to cope with the withdrawals.
“Well listen,” said Theo, still staring after Jack, “Here’s my number. I don’t know many people in Bath, so if you ever fancy a catch up let me know. Ciao.” He threw some notes over to the cashier and then walked ever so coolly out to his car. Emma paid for 8 packets of Haribo in a daze. She was really trying to work out whether everything she thought had just happened had happened.
“Was there a man in here just now?” She whispered to the confused cashier.
“There were two love.” Said the woman behind the till.
“Right.” Said Emma, “And one of them was the most handsome man on earth?”
The woman looked at her thoughtfully, “£7.92 please.”