In which The Author changes his relationship status
This morning I did something I should have done months ago. I’ve been putting it off, mainly because I couldn’t be bothered with trying to log in via Aberdare Library’s pisspoor wifi and changing my password. This morning, after the latest junk email pinged into my inbox, I decided to go through with it. The latest bout of depression and/or self-loathing forced my hand, and I had no real choice in the matter.
I deleted my Plenty of Fish profile.
It might surprise you to learn that I even had a Plenty of Fish profile. Me – dating online! I know, it’s fucking farcical, isn’t it? Bear in mind that I’ve been out of the dating game for so long that I don’t know the rules any more.
I’m not even interested in the fucking game, to be perfectly frank. A couple of months ago, Gareth L. and I were chatting over a pint, and he said something like, ‘You’re never going to meet your sort of woman in a shitty town like Aberdare. You need to go to Cardiff.’
I replied that I wasn’t looking for anyone any more. (This was before Emma’s name came up in conversation, of course! After all, I’ve already met the only woman whom I was remotely interested in spending the rest of my life with, and she fucked off back to Australia fourteen years ago.)
I’ve had my fair share of fucked-up so-called ‘girlfriends’ and near misses in the last few years. Go through the backlist from summer 2009 to about the end of 2012, and you’ll see what I mean. I’ve dabbled with computer dating before, though. I even struck out on Bondage.com. If I wasn’t going to meet my next girlfriend there, I wasn’t going to meet her anywhere, was I?
I’ve even had robots and agents (in The Matrix sense of the word) trying to hook up with me, as I related in Computer Love. After getting my fingers burnt too many times, I decided a long time ago that it was safer to stay out of harm’s way.
As I told you in Half My Age Plus Seven, I got invited to go speed dating in Cardiff by Hannah a few months ago, and very firmly threw cold water on that suggestion. Hannah might have decided to go on her own. I haven’t seen her for a month or so, so I don’t know.
Signing up for Plenty of Fish was a last ditch attempt to meet someone new, a couple of years ago when I was still interested in playing the game. I uploaded a photo, got halfway through filling in my profile, and lost interest pretty much as soon as I started getting daily emails with ‘my latest matches’.
I don’t think there was a single photo I found appealing. I’m sure they’re very nice people, but when you’re just shy of your fiftieth birthday you don’t want to be reminded of the fact by a daily gallery of ropey forty-something Valleys women – usually with at least a few kids in tow – looking for a sugar daddy. Most of them looked like the sort of women who always turn up at ‘live band nights’ and use the Kings of Leon’s best-known song as the excuse to shout ‘sex’ to try and shock everyone. I’ve met hundreds of women like them over the last twenty years or so of pubgoing.
If they weren’t the women I already know, they were usually the equivalent from the neighbouring valleys. Given that virtually all public transport in the valleys closes down after 6 p.m. on a weekday, travelling outside a very small area becomes an extremely expensive pastime. I’m fucked (no pun intended) if I’m getting a taxi home from Caerphilly or some equally Goddessforsaken place at chucking out time.
Oddly enough, women joining these dating sites usually get in free. The same racket is operated by nightclubs which let girls in free, in the hope that a plethora of totty will draw in hordes of male punters – who, naturally, have to pay through the fucking nose. If I had spotted someone who took my fancy, I’d have to pay for ‘full membership’ (exactly the same scam as I reported in From Russia With Love and its sequel). At least phone apps like Tindr and Grindr (I’m told) allow you to just skip through the mugshots and weed out the horrors without paying up.
There might well be plenty more fish in the sea, as that old cliché has it. But I’m not interested in fishing any more. My profile has been deleted as of about two hours ago. It’s a long drawn-out process to delete it, involving a complicated procedure of signing in, answering some questions, and then endlessly verifying that yes, I do want to delete my fucking profile, otherwise I wouldn’t have accessed this particular fucking menu in the first place!
Oddly enough, the dropdown menu to give your reason for leaving Plenty of Fish doesn’t include the option I’m NOT FUCKING INTERESTED ANY MORE.
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!
Being a Non-Linear Account of the Life and Opinions of The Author, Cross-referenced and Illustrated, with Occasional Hesitations, Repetitions and Deviations.