In which The Author gets caught in the fallout

In When the Inevitable Happens I told you how the topic which Gareth L. and I have been skating around for months had eventually reared its head.
For the best part of a year I’ve managed to avoid mentioning Emma. Gareth, for his own reasons, had also kept her name out of our many drunken conversations. On Saturday, though, it happened, as I knew it would. After we’d had a fair session together he raised the subject, and I rather forcefully told him my take on things. On Sunday afternoon I came to the pub and wrote the previous entry.
I’d just about finished it when Gareth came in. I was talking to a couple of the boys about the election results. Gareth bought a pint and went into the lounge to watch the sport. When my Netbook went into standby mode, I took it into the pool room, plugged it in, and typed the last couple of paragraphs. The entry was just ready to go live when Gareth came over to me and asked what my feelings were about the previous night’s conversation.
I said, ‘Have a read for yourself,’ and hit ‘Publish’.
Gareth read it and then we chatted for a while about the content. It was better that everything was there in black and white(-ish), so that there was no possibility of confusion about what I meant. In the other room, the boys finished their drinks and told me they were leaving.
I said, ‘Yeah, I’m off as well.’ I said goodbye to Gareth and he headed back into the lounge. When I was leaving I glanced through into the lounge and realised that he’d gone as well.
Yesterday I was in the library, killing some time before going to the surgery. I wasn’t in the best of moods anyway. I’d had a very bad stomach upset the day before, and I hadn’t slept at all, or eaten a thing since lunchtime on Tuesday. Gareth walked in and joined me without being invited. We chatted politely for a minute before I packed my stuff up and we headed for the exit.
I’d already had to give Elfed D. and a couple of Bores and Loteks the runaround in the morning. As I’ve observed before, the prevailing wisdom in Aberdare states that unless you’re digging coal, or humping buckets of cement around on a building site, or doing something mindnumbing in a factory, you can’t possibly be ‘working’.
For my part, I was looking for publishers to contact about possible proofreading work. I think that probably counts as ‘work’ in modern people’s eyes. Not in this backwards fucking Valleys shithole, though, where most people don’t even realise that heavy industry finished when I was still in school, and the Knowledge Economy is in full swing.
When Gareth came in, I knew I could kiss goodbye to any hope of being left to my own devices.
We sat outside for a few minutes, in the pleasant spring sunshine. It had been far too warm in the library anyway, so it was nice to get some fresh air.
Gareth asked me to refresh his memory about a business idea I’d talked about on Saturday night. It had seemed like a great (though impossibly ambitious) plan at the time. That was before he mentioned Emma’s name, though.
I outlined it briefly while we walked to the surgery, where I made an appointment to see Dr Wardrop. Then we called for a glass of lemonade in the Lighthouse. Gema was there, so the three of us sat and talked rather awkwardly for about twenty minutes.
Before he and Gema went for a smoke, Gareth said, ‘Steve, I haven’t got your phone number.’ I was about to write it down for him, but for some reason I thought better of it. Luckily, by the time they came back inside, Gareth seemed to have forgotten about it. He finished his glass and headed for The Cambrian. I went home.
I think I already knew that the E Factor would throw our friendship into disarray again. I don’t feel comfortable talking to him any more. I have a clear understanding of why Emma left Aberdare; on the other hand, he knows I’m still hung up on her. If he had my phone number, would he be able to resist the temptation to pass it on to her if he’d a had night on the piss?
It’s not that I’d expect her for one moment to pick up the phone. It’s just that her very presence is an unknown quantity in the old friendship between me and Gareth.
Maybe that’s why I told her, at the very end of our last face-to-face conversation, that I knew she was the One. Ever since we first met she’s been a random factor, an inherent instability, an unbalancing element in my life. She’s just like ‘the One’ in The Matrix and its sequels, in fact.
I think I’ll be seeing a bit less of Gareth from now on. I won’t be giving him my phone number any time soon. I don’t know how long we can maintain the status quo, now that Emma’s in the mix again. It’s probably best that we maintain a safe distance, rather than risk falling out again.
Isn’t it amazing that a girl I haven’t seen for well over ten years, and who’s now somewhere on the other side of the world, still has the power to fuck my life up? I told you, didn’t I? She is the One!

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