Imperfect Timing (or Oxford – Blew It!)

Well would you Adam ‘n Eve it! Just when you think things can’t get any more uncertain than they are right now, I go and complicate things further over an innocent little dinner beneath some dreaming spires…

I’ve been continuing to stall Gina about heading Essexwards. It’s amazing how easy it is to use the bad weather as an excuse when you live close to the sea (well the estuary). Besides her place remains much more ‘convenient’, and we’re not seeing each other anyway. It is… well I told you what ‘it’ is already.

Still she is a lawyer, and by all accounts a good one, so I guess she’s got it in her sights to crack me on this eventually. Luckily however I managed to put it off for yet another weekend by recently taking a trip. Only not so luckily this trip appears to have had consequences. Ones that I really don’t need right now, or maybe I do; maybe that was the point it of having them.

It was Joe who invited me Oxford. That’s where he graduated; one of those old colleges possessing a mix of medieval gravitas and Georgian elegance, its own deer park and some overnight digs with the kind of windows you can stare whimsically out of in true Merchant Ivory fashion. We were attending a rather posh dinners where graduates from across the generations could pass the port and catch up on how their lives have gone since; I’d been invited because Joe’s wife, Beatrice, was currently back in Italy visiting family. And to be fair it was great to be out with Joe for longer than the few hours he allots himself these days in favour of matrimonial bliss. I’m being unfair though. I mean that’s what he’d wanted. Or thought he did. It hasn’t been quite the paradise found these last few years. But that’s Joe for you.

I don’t need to tell you much about the day itself, i.e. our arrival and afternoon stroll around such picturesque academic austerity, or the polite drinks reception the evening began with. What I will recount is that suitably black-tied, I sat down at one of those famous long, candlelit tables, said hello to someone on my left (Joe was on my right), and to all intents and purposes should have… should kept my focus on Joe’s contemporaries at his end of the table who were lively enough and most accommodating to my inclusion in their overdue reunion. But, well you know me, I looked left.

She’d graduated a couple of years before Joe. Which made her around Gina’s age, or older; I still don’t know. She’d come alone, being independently minded enough to brave it since there were friends posted at other tables that the usual switch around after speeches would cater for as comfortable company. My role was merely to provide courteous pleasantries on her right until then. Indeed prior to the main course’s arrival, venison no less, we really didn’t say very much. Instead it was a comment about how sumptuous the meal itself was, along with a gentlemanly top up of some red wine that really broke the ice.

Since I’d hardly expected to meet someone here, and with it being such grand occasion too, I’d decided to for once keep the more ‘predatory’ aspects of BD (or rather my personified ‘front’) subdued so as not to show Joe up. Besides I was with him when I met Gina so I didn’t want to start making a habit of getting ‘distracted’ every time we went out as I see him rarely enough these days as it is (as I’ve already said before). So even though she had beautiful brown, big eyes and lovely long dark hair, and even though I kept making discreet glances down the imagined softness of bare, pale arms, I held off flirting. This wasn’t the time; this wasn’t the place (although let’s be honest that’s never stopped me before has it).

What we talked about once we’d agreed on the food? Well here’s the beauty of my job. I’m trained to ask questions. And so I innocently asked; and from there we went through work (a part-time lecturer at an unnamed local college), to home (Suffolk), to who she knew at this dinner, to had life turned out as expected, to a failed marriage because he just hadn’t shared the same aspirations, to what those aspirations were (she just wanted to prove herself and he’d never seen that), to mine (and here I identified with hers, although wistfully I added, “and to be happy I guess”), to which then she asked what would make me happy, to which I replied that in truth I had no idea, to which she smiled and agreed; and added this was what kept us restless, searching, although this didn’t mean we couldn’t find it, it’s just harder for those of us who think too much, and too often, since compromise is just out of the question.

Which was spot on! And that awoke further enthusiasm in me. Suddenly I was speaking to her like me, really ‘me’, the post butterfly third stage finally aloft as we explored this hypothesis; continuing to whisper through the speeches, and afterwards when she was supposed to have by now swapped tables. And it wasn’t like when Zoe the pole-dancer took apparent interest (where it all began), or when Jane sat on my knee, or when that woman at Joe’s wedding called me ‘dangerous’, or that recent ‘date’ where I thought I was being me but was I really, or even Gina’s assessment of my current biological and psychological crossroads, as scarily accurate as that was. Here was someone looking for the same things. A little older true (and surely I’m looking the other way now) but a fellow traveller nonetheless who hadn’t completely changed direction like other equally bold women I’ve adventured with these last few years. Sure she’d now reached a level confidence to be what she wanted, but she was still seeking something else. And as attractive as she was anyway, ultimately that’s why I way more than just fancied her, why I should have asked for her number.

But I didn’t. And I don’t know why I didn’t. It wasn’t like that lovely green-eyed Dane of perhaps similar mind I’d met a while back where professional propriety stood in my way. Sure I was Joe’s guest here, but I mean it was allowed wasn’t it – hell I could tell you of professors at my old uni who’d got up to far worse at their own parties! However, when Joe discreetly tapped me on the shoulder and said he was off to the college bar with his pals. I felt somehow duty bound to follow.

So what happened next was a hurried, fumbled farewell and where a suddenly formal shake of hands took the place of what should have been a kiss. I stood up, paused, pondered, lingered and, well… went; but was that a tinge of sadness on her face before she turned away (she was now going to catch up with her own friends and afterwards so to bed, so I wouldn’t see her in the bar), and had she noted mine.     

Later, in my rooms, having all but faked a couple more hours of jocularity in the bar, I just sat there for ages, fully clothed, aroused, enamoured, muddled and disappointed; half wanting Gina for a right now shag to get this out my head, more than half wanting ‘her’ (Miranda, somewhat fittingly for this location, was her name) to knock. But she didn’t know where my room was, and I didn’t know hers, or her surname (meaning LinkedIn or Facebook were/are out of the question too). A fated chance meeting the next morning didn’t occur either; and so I had to leave behind those dreaming spires with just one more dream.

Perhaps that was all it was ever supposed to have been. But I’ve not stopped thinking about her since, while avoiding Gina too.



By Bastian Dash, read more of his adventures on your personal home page under TBWxtra

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