A lesson I must strive harder to remember is that life likes to take that thing you are fairly certain of out of your hands, crumple it into a ball, and flick it into the waste paper basket with an amused smirk.
And so it was with me a few weeks ago. A guy I’d never met before came into the office for a meeting one Monday morning. We chatted, we did the usual, polite, follow up emails, which developed into an extended conversation, which then detoured off to a personal conversation, which tripped happily off down the path to meeting for coffee. I set the boundaries, in part thinking that I’d be seeing him around anyway; the Oxford publishing industry is pretty small and we already knew we’d be at some of the same conferences. Besides, Ms G and I have discussed how, at our age, when you meet people you like, you make a bit of an effort to add them to your group of friends, ‘cos fer why not?
So, this man and I met for an hour that went by in 20 seconds, during which time, although I hadn’t thought I was living in black and white, life went Glorious Technicolor. I switched up into the mental gear that is rarely required of me and did a lot of fast, focused thinking. I then looked at my boundaries and, with great care and deliberation, I drove a bulldozer right through them.
Here’s the kicker. The guy I met for coffee is not the man I had recently started seeing. Despite the fact that he is all I said he was and hadn’t put a step wrong, a week of emails and texts proved fairly conclusively that my attention was elsewhere. It was not a situation in which I could take the unfair luxury to myself of waiting to see how things turned out, emotionally short-changing him in the meanwhile. By the weekend, I conveyed the difficult and hackneyed news that ‘I’ve met someone else.’ Then I slunk off home, feeling like a double-dyed criminal, who might possibly also be crazy.
So now I am happy in more fraught and complicated ways, because this new scenario is not straightforward. It’s legit, but there are excellent reasons why there’s no immediately clear path. I have a fair conviction that there’s a route to be traced to high, open ground and clear skies, but the map says ‘Unexplored territory’. Fortunately, I can’t tell north from south anyway and I don’t mind a meandering trip.
Anyway, it doesn’t matter: alea iacta est.