It’s Complicated

In which The Author ponders his relationship status

My title comes from what the status field on Facebook offers for people who may be in mid-split, or not quite ‘in a relationship’ (as I was with Jenny for a while last year), or maybe have two or more people on the go (I know a few people like that). And it’s never been more appropriate for me.
Since New Year, when I decided not to waste any more time waiting for Jenny to sort her head out, I’ve seen far more of Shanara than I’d ever imagined. We’ve gone to the pub to watch the Six Nations together (although she just sits politely like a cat watching a tennis match, bemused beyond words by the action on screen). We’ve been to the pictures together (at her suggestion). We spent an afternoon wandering around town, looking for all intents like a young(-ish) couple looking to set up home. We’ve made the Thursday curry evening in the Cambrian a semi-regular fixture, depending on when she finishes work. In the past week or so, she’s rung me practically every evening, unleashing the Torrent of Consciousness until she loses the signal or until I have to get my dinner ready.
About a month ago Matt H. said, ‘She’s really into you, mate!’
I think he’s right.
And therein lies the rub, of course. She’s the most beautiful woman in Aberdare – one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever met, in fact – and she’s completely my type. She loves reading, films, music, and going out to the pub. She only drinks soft drinks, of course, and that in itself is a challenge for the staff, as apart from coke and mixers most pubs don’t really cater for non-drinkers. Food isn’t a problem – we can both have the vegetarian option without causing any major upsets – apart from the fact that she’s got hollow legs and invariably goes home to have something else afterwards. She’s delightfully barmy and everyone likes her. It’s a novelty for me to spend time with a girl whose craziness is natural, and not drink- or drug-induced, with the underlying sense of danger that accompanies the latter variety.
But she’s got a husband, and a family, and all the cultural and emotional baggage that goes along with that. I can’t help feeling very awkward when she rings me from the train. She rang one evening last week to tell me that the waiting room at Queen St station was closed, so she was sitting on the platform in the cold waiting for the Aberdare train. I wondered why she hadn’t rung her husband, or one of her sisters, to tell them what had happened. I didn’t ask her, of course. That would be venturing into unknown territory again.
As I’ve mentioned before, a lot of people think we’re an item. I’d love it if we were. But it’ll never happen. A couple of weeks ago we were talking about films, and Shanara mentioned a particularly gory film which she’d seen. I said I’d watched a bit of it and given up – it wasn’t my cup of tea at all. Her sister Tas likes that terror-porn genre, apparently, and Shanara suggested that we should ‘get together.’ (I assume she meant as film-lovers, rather than in any other sense.)
I saw Tas on the train last week, for the first time in ages. She’s single, and seems to have fought off every attempt by her parents to marry her off. I wondered afterwards if Shanara was thinking along those lines.
At the end of the day it doesn’t matter, because we’re just good friends and that’s the way it’s going to stay. She can’t incur the wrath of her family and the disapproval of her community by being seen out and about with a man who isn’t a relative. I can’t make a pass at a married Muslimah, no matter how lovely and gorgeous and nutty she is. During our frequent text exchanges, I haven’t even risked putting an x at the end in case it gets misconstrued.
In the cinema my shoulder was hurting, and I was fidgeting in the seat. Shanara loves the warmth, so she was sitting on the aisle seat near the radiator. I would have rested my arm up on the back of her seat, but that old cliché wouldn’t have got me very far. At one point I caught her singing along to the soundtrack. I gave her a sideways look, and she threw her head back and laughed. She’s so beautiful it hurts. I’d love to kiss her. But the consequences would be disastrous for everyone concerned.
But on a lighter note. A couple of weeks ago I had a text from a number which wasn’t stored on my phone. It was quite chatty and full of smileys, obviously from a woman. At first I was afraid that it was from Jenny. But it turned out to be from Karen L. instead. That’s worrying in itself – when you welcome a text from a demented post-Section God-botherer, because it isn’t from the girl you thought had sent it.
Complicated, or what?

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