the wedding hall
This is where you first meet. You are both married. He is in love with his wife, but you are not in love with your husband. There is live music and dancing, platters of food and a cake, and afterwards you both continue to be married, you both work at the lives you hope to have.
the lounge bar
You interview him for a story you want to write, sitting at a table on the terrace on a chilly spring day. You sense a nervousness in him and this in turn makes you nervous, interruptions mingling with paused confusion, the awkwardness palpable as you try to talk and eat, concentrating on your questions and his answers, being professional. He is funny.
the kitchen (1)
You are dancing with your friends, the room filled with light and warmth. He sits at the table laughing, his fingertips touching the base of his wine glass, and he is looking at you with pure unfiltered adoration. You believe he is still in love so you keep dancing, pretend it never happened, there was nothing to see. You have become good at this over the years. An emotional baseball player, knocking the truth out of the park.
the living room (1)
He asks you to water the garden at his house while he’s away. The summer is hot, the plants are thirsty, and once the humid air smells of wet earth you go inside where he calls you on the telephone. You pour a glass of wine and sit in his chair looking out from his window. He sips his own wine looking at a mountain and river and forest. You sip your wine looking at rooftops and chimneys, dog-walkers going past in the street. You talk about the lives you still hope to have and the people you are still trying to love.
By the time he returns home, the strawberry plants have perished.
It is mid-week, midday on his birthday, and you both go to your favourite cinema where there are blankets and foot stools and staff who care about what they do. The film is funny and sparky and you laugh, eat popcorn, drink the wine you’ve smuggled in, aware of his leg beside yours. Sometimes his hand rests there too. When you emerge into daylight it is raining so he orders a taxi. On the back seat you are aware of his leg beside yours. Sometimes his hand rests there too.
You suspect he is no longer in love, but still he is trying to be loved.
the kitchen (2)
You visit his house with the man you are trying to love. You carry the thick weight of disappointment at his presence, but the three of you talk and drink and you pretend this is the evening you wanted. Each time you visit the kitchen, you or he stacks the tangerines higher in the bowl, an orange tower topped with a coffee pod or a plastic cup or a pencil. You have a headache but still you stay, this second-best kind of seeing him better than not seeing him at all. When you leave, the man you are trying to love makes a cutting remark and you argue on the drive home. You are not fighting about the cutting remark, you are arguing about your disappointment.
Still you try to love this man, while trying not to love the other.
You have not seen him for a long time. You are no longer trying to love someone else and he has stopped trying to be loved. You sit at a table in the middle of the restaurant drinking gin and tonic, the freedom of being with him surging through you like a torrent. The room sparkles through his eyes and around you both, and you get the sense that people are staring at this torrent that swirls around your table pretending to be nothing more than friends.
When you go back to his house you sleep in his bed and he sleeps downstairs in his living room.
But neither of you sleep.
the living room (2)
Again you cannot be with him, but then, no-one can be with anyone. In many living rooms across the land things are said that have been left unsaid and lives change imperceptible or monumentally, all without leaving the building. You too sit or pace or stand at your living room window, talking on the telephone. You talk to him every day. You say the things that have been left unsaid. You talk about the spaces you have been and the places you have seen. You talk and you wait. You talk and you wait.
And then one day he climbs into his car, and he drives to you.