This is the fifth (and last) episode of the fourth series of Muselings. I talk about profit and product and read the Dream Dates, which made up the third series of the podcast.
(Incidentally, I don’t say so during the episode but there are fourteen Dream Dates.)
Marked as explicit on Apple Podcasts because of swearing.
A transcript of this episode is below.
You can find the podcast and subscribe on Apple Podcasts here.
I find it hard to remember a time when I didn’t know that I might die at any moment. During the night, for example, or while crossing the road, or while in the shower. Nevertheless, it’s hard for me, as I guess it is for a lot of people, to imagine that I won’t still be the centre of the universe after I’ve gone and, as such, I find myself thinking – not in exactly these terms, perhaps, but it comes to the same thing – that I should really be creating a better narrative for my completed existence. Some people seem to manage to live lives that make really good stories, don’t you think? And, I mean, I know that that’s also a kind of fiction. But it’s a seductive fiction, isn’t it?
So I think about that. I think about what I should be doing to make a better story for people to tell, assuming that anybody will want to be telling that story. And, you know, I can tell myself that that kind of a preoccupation is fully in line with many of the teachings that I’ve come across in various different spiritual traditions that are alive across the world today, including the Anglican Christian tradition that I was brought up in and that still casts its quietly judgemental shadow across much of my existence, except that, in general, I have the feeling that contemplation of this kind is supposed, at some point, to lead to some kind of action. And that, in any case, making a good story is not really the point.
So, in my neoliberal, capitalist way, I start worrying about profit and product. What do I have to show for all of the money and the resources that have been invested in me and in my life to date – and we’re talking about a considerable amount of both of those things.
But then, thanks to my high-church Anglican Christian education and my childhood preoccupation with goodness and, more specifically, with the Bible as a source of instruction, any thought of profit and product puts me immediately in mind of Jesus’s words to his disciples as ‘recorded’ (and I’m afraid I put ‘recorded’ in inverted commas these days) in the gospel of Mark, chapter 8, verse 36 (although, actually, I should probably say here that I was never one of those Christians; I have no sense of chapters and verses, so I’ve had to look that up, together with the precise text of the quotation), which is: “For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?” Which is an excellent question, no? Note the singular ‘they’ in that quotation, by the way, as chosen by the compilers of the New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized edition) of what, in its own words, is called the Holy Bible, back in 1995, when, purely coincidentally, I was probably at the peak of my own personal religiosity.
And I suppose, if I were a chapter and verse type Christian, that might have been the verse that I would have had affixed to my letterhead or tattooed on the inside of my wrist but, singular ‘they’s aside, I should say that I’ve always preferred the translation of that verse selected for the King James Version of the Bible even further back, in 1611, which confines itself to concern about members of a single gender but which is arguably better known, and goes: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” I think ‘lose his own soul’ is much more interesting than ‘forfeit their life’. And then verse 37, which is the following verse, reads: “Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” And what a question that is, right?
Um. Quite incidentally, and as I’m sure some of you will know, that King James phrasing is almost certainly based on William Tyndale’s 1525 or 1526 translation of Mark’s gospel, which asks: “What shall it profet a ma yf he shuld wynne all y worlde and loose his awne soule? or els what shall a ma geve to redeme his soule agayne?” “or els what shall a ma geve to redeme his soule agayne?” Isn’t that wonderful?
That’s from Wikisource, by the way, online. I don’t have a copy of Tyndale’s Bible at home. And neither do I have a copy of John Wycliffe’s Bible, which, all the way back in 1394, gave us “For what profitith it to a man, if he wynne al the world, and do peiryng to his soule? or what chaunging schal a man yyue for his soule?” I find that extremely beautiful.
Oh, and let me just tell you that, while I was looking all of this up online, I found the transcript of a lecture entitled The History Of The English Bible given at the Lancaster Bible College in March 2001 by Daniel B. Wallace, who quotes the Jewish poet Chaim Nachman Bialik opining that: “He who reads the Bible in translation is like a man who kisses his bride through a veil.”  Which, of course, is not just sexist in its assumptions but heterosexist, but it’s also… kind of gorgeous, don’t you think? I suspect that’s not at all Bialik’s intention but, as Chris Goode almost puts it in his book The Forest And the Field, we might see desire as being “a kind of curiosity, about the lives of other people and about the nature of the distance between us and the possibility of our closeness in spite of that distance.” That distance… that’s the veil between us and our bride, isn’t it. Keeping us just a few millimetres apart as we kiss.
Now, The Dream Dates, which you’re going to hear in just a moment if you keep listening to this episode, were commissioned by me, essentially, because I wanted to put something out into the world, to redeme my soule agayne, perhaps, after some prolonged indolence. I’d already talked on the podcast about the trouble I have getting things finished. And, in an episode that I found incredibly hard to start, let alone finish, I’d talked about the trouble I was having getting things done at all. So I wanted to just put some short things together and put them out, and not to worry too much about whether or not they were really good enough. They were designed to be a kind of palette cleanser, after all of the heavy, auto-biographical stuff that came before, and I think that they ended up expressing a lot of the same things that you’ll have heard if you’ve listened to any of the last three episodes of this series of this series of the podcast but in a slightly different way.
Of course, some of you will have listened to all of these before because they were put out as the third series of this podcast so maybe you’ll think it’s strange that I’m putting them out again, given that they’re all still available on the feed – and, really, it’s not so long ago that they went out in the first place – and I think you’re right, but I also think that it’s worth having them here in a single chunk, as it were, to compare with the other chunks that I’ve been characterising as ‘writing from my 30s’, a decade during which I have largely proceeded arse-forwards, as it seems to me, clutching the precious things of my life to my stomach so that no one can get at them to hurt me. So don’t feel as though you need to listen to them again, obviously; but, equally, feel free to do so. They are here for you. I’ve taken out all of the jingles and so on so it’s just a smooth 40 minutes or so of the kind of solipsistic endeavour that regular listeners will have come to expect of this podcast.
For those of you who haven’t listened to any of these before, I should perhaps say that they don’t have titles. They just have numbers. I don’t know why I like numbers so much. I suppose that numbering things might help me sustain the illusion that the world could be made sense of if only I could adequately systematise it. Please feel free to stop and start whenever you like as you listen to this. And give up, obviously, if you need to. I’ll just say that some of my favourite bits come towards the end.
Content note: consent, attraction, depression, kissing, wanting to kiss, apps, dancing, sweating. I’m not sure that there’s any love in there. Or, well, if there is, it’s in disguise. Recorded earlier this year, these are the Dream Dates.
It doesn’t occur to me, because I didn’t have that kind of an education, that I might be pushing the boundaries of consent by letting my leg rest against yours on the train home. You even ask me at one point if I need more room and I say: “No, I’m perfectly comfortable.” And you don’t move your leg either. It seems to me that it’s tit for tat because you sat unnecessarily close to me in the station waiting room an hour ago and I have never been so aware of contact with another human being. Your friends, who are sitting all around us in this train compartment, have no idea of what is happening. We are being so subtle about it. And what is happening, after all?
Night has fallen by now and, from where I’m sitting, I can see your face reflected in the window. Sometimes, our eyes meet, and one of us looks away. Sometimes, I move my leg just a little bit and then check to see what your face is doing. You look… embarrassed? I’m not sure. This is the first time that I have ever done anything like this and I feel incredibly confident. Where has this confidence come from?
I decide to test you. When we change trains, I board an open carriage just in front of you and go to sit in a window seat, with the aisle seat free next to me. Sure enough, you come and sit there, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. We don’t touch. But you start to ask me about myself. I don’t think you know that I’ve seen you before, that I’ve watched you across the room at dances and wished that you would come over and ask me to take the floor. But I didn’t know your name! I had no idea, when your friends told me who would be coming on this trip, that you were on the list. And you were so nearly too late this morning; you would have missed the whole thing. And, instead, just as dawn was lightening the sky, you opened the door of that first train and jumped into our compartment a moment before it set off. You had to squeeze in between me and Jean-Baptiste, who I still think has a crush on you. He hasn’t left us alone all day. But we’re in a modern train now, on the last leg of our journey home, with airline-style seats in pairs, and he’s had to go and sit somewhere else.
And now I’m asking you what you like to do for fun. “Swimming?” I say when you tell me. “I love to swim!” I don’t, as it happens, but I’m more than happy to pretend. And, in the French that I can command at this stage, it’s easier to say than “What about we just hang out sometime and see how it goes? I think I like you.”
Screwing my courage to the sticking place, I finally give in and text you to ask if you want to meet up later, like we talked about. You text back immediately to say that that sounds like fun. So I text my friend Maggie and cancel our plans “Because,” I write portentously, “I have a date!” Exclamation mark. I text you again to say: “What do you feel like doing, btw? We could go and see a film? Or we could just watch something at my place. I have DVDs?” Question mark. Wink emoji. “Cinema sounds fun,” you message back. “But I don’t know what time I’ll be free.” “OK,” I write. “Let me know when you know.” An hour later, you text: “Sorry. Just got this. Yeah, sure. I’ll let you know.” And then an x, which means a kiss. I look up film times and try to work out if I definitely have time for a shower. OK, so… even if you text me in the next five minutes to say that you’re free, there isn’t a showing that we could make for at least forty-five minutes… so I do have time. I have a very quick shower. Then I check my phone but you haven’t texted. I eat some oat cakes with cheese. I had been planning to make a lasagne but I don’t know when you might suddenly be free and lasagne takes a while. Another friend of mine calls to find out if I want to meet for supper later and I tell them that I’m probably meeting someone else. “Kind of a date,” I say. “Oh!” they say. “Is this who I think it is?” “Yup!” I say. “Omigod finally!” they say. “I know,” I say. “I have to ring off. I’m not sure if I get notifications while I’m on the phone.” I check but you still haven’t texted. Sometimes I don’t get the texts that people send me, which is worrying; but you don’t use WhatsApp and email feels way too formal. I start reading a collection of poems that a poet friend of mine is going to put out and wants my thoughts on, but I can’t focus on the writing and I’m starting to feel angry about it. I spend five minutes drafting the message: “Hey. Just checking in. Sometimes I don’t get the texts that people send me. Do you want me to look up film times so that we can work out which one to aim for? No worries if not.” I spend another five minutes wondering whether to send it. I send it. Then I wish I hadn’t written No worries if not. I hate that phrase. And, anyway, I shouldn’t have written to you at all. This is not my first rodeo. I already know that we’re not going to the cinema today. I start to hope that you will text me even just to suggest we go for a drink so that I can tell you in person that I don’t feel as though this is going very well. But you don’t text me. Until I’m lying in bed much later and my phone buzzes and I’m immediately awake again, adrenaline pulsing through my system. It’s you. Your message reads: “Shit. Sorry. It’s been one of those days. Did you go to the cinema in the end?” I text back: “Haha. No. Just spent a quiet night in. I hope you’re doing OK.” After half an hour you write: “Not bad thanks. It’s just been one of those days. But we should totally catch a film together. Maybe when things calm down a bit? I’ll text you.” I text back: “Yeah. Cool. That sounds good. Let me know. Sleep well, yeah?” And then I wish I hadn’t sent that. Either way, I know that I’m not going to feel sleepy again for a couple of hours. I could have texted you later, in the middle of the night, as if I’d just woken up again to find your reply. And my text might have jerked you awake and you might have thought to yourself: “Huh. What are you doing still awake at this hour of the night?”
It never crossed my mind, when I suggested this, that you might never have been ice skating before. I’m far from proficient myself but, along with roller-skating, skate-boarding, snow-boarding, skiing, sledding, cycling, riding and running, it was just one of the ways of travelling through space that I was introduced to as a rich suburban kid who needed entertainment in the school holidays. It was what we did. We went to the ice rink and drank slush puppies and made cow eyes at each other and talked about slumber parties and, very occasionally, held hands and kissed. I thought it would be entertainingly retro for us to have our first date on skates. But here you are edging your way onto the ice for the first time in your life and you seem awkward and uncertain and definitely ungraceful. I regret the whole thing. It feels horrible. We can find nothing to talk about except how unco-ordinated you feel and how I don’t want you to mind and how we can leave whenever you want.
Afterwards, we walk across Tower Bridge to a pub you know, where you buy me a drink in return for the skating, which I paid for but which, by now, I feel as though I inflicted on you. I wonder why I didn’t make an excuse to head home as soon as we left the rink but then… I don’t remember why… maybe we’re talking about your t-shirt… about the fabric? Because it’s made of really soft cotton… and I reach over and touch it, just where you’ve rolled the sleeve almost to your shoulder. And, suddenly, I feel this deep physical desire for you.
After we’ve said goodbye at the ticket barriers – because you’re going to walk home – I turn to look before I step onto the escalator and you’re still there, waiting for me to go out of sight. And when I get home, I message you through the website to say that I wish I had kissed you. You message back to say you wish you had kissed me too.
My friend, who is sitting next to me on the couch, gets up and goes… to talk to someone else, I suppose… and I’m left there with you. But I don’t remember your name and when I tell you that, you say that you don’t think we were ever introduced. And then you say: Why don’t we keep it like that because it’s so much more fun this way. Maybe we’ll never find out who the other person is and there’ll be no way of finding them on Facebook or of asking mutual friends for phone numbers or email addresses or whatever and this will be the only time we get to talk to one another. We just have this moment to share something. And what’s it going to be?
And I suppose I think I probably wasted the opportunity because, very soon, you tell me that you’re a relationship counsellor – which, for some reason, I think is very funny – and that you think that all of us have one relationship that we carry around with us. A relationship that marked us in a way that we can’t get rid of, and we’ll never get over it, and it flavours all of the relationships that we try have now. I tell you that I think I have a relationship that fits the bill – it led to a break-up that I’m still angry about, that still makes my heart hurt to think about, and it’s more than ten years ago now. And the more I tell you about it, the more I start to think that it’s not about the relationship but about the break-up, and it’s the break-up that I can’t get rid of, it’s the emotions that were triggered by that break-up that are flavouring all of my other relationships. And you say that, no, the break-up was a part of the relationship from the beginning. It was latent in the first meeting I had with this person and that that is the whole reason the relationship happened in the first place and that, really, if we dig right down to the bottom of this, what I was doing by getting into this relationship at all was looking for a way to have this break-up. You think that something about this person almost certainly triggered abandonment issues in me that I hadn’t been aware of, perhaps, but which would have had much deeper roots than this one relationship and, in fact, the relationship that you’re talking about – the ur-relationship, if you like – is a much, much earlier relationship. And, although the one that I’ve been talking about is the relationship that seems most obviously to fit this pattern, in fact, if I looked at all of my other relationships, I’d probably find elements of this ur-relationship inside all of them and I’m either trying to recreate the conditions of this ur-relationship in order to, kind of, fix it after the fact, or I’m trying to build a relationship that will keep me safe from whatever it was that hurt me so badly in this relationship, in this ur-relationship.
So, I stick to our agreement and I don’t ask for your number but, later, it occurs to me that you might not have been a relationship counsellor at all. You might just have made that up. I wonder if ‘relationship counsellor’ is even the right term.
I have a question. How is that I’ve not noticed before that you are really very beautiful. I mean, you caught my eye the first time we met but… I never thought of you as beautiful, exactly. I just… I suppose I would have said that you looked nice. I like how you dress, for example. And you’re a very good height, somehow. And, OK, so it might be because I have my head in your lap right now and I’m looking up at you, which I haven’t done before, obviously. And, I mean, this is super weird for me, I am not sure what’s going on. I remember that I asked you to join me on the couch and that you slid off the back of it, where you had been perching, to sit next to my head, and that I moved so that I could lie on you like this but… Just because I remember what happened, it doesn’t mean that I understand… how it happened or… Or why it is that you are so beautiful suddenly. It’s not alcohol. I haven’t drunk anything. But it is a kind of intoxication. It’s probably not important. Oh god I want to cry. How are you doing this? I mean… I know it’s not you, exactly, but… why does it feel like this to lie here and look at you? What is it about your face? You have extraordinary hair and extraordinary eyes and extraordinary lips and can I kiss you? I say that out loud: “Can I kiss you?” And you say “Yes” but I… this feels so much more important than just a kiss on a couch. I’m going to have to find a way to talk to you about this because this is too much. This isn’t fair. This is not your fault.
I make sure that I get to the café first, and I’ve found a table by the time you arrive. You spot me and come over, and I get up to give you a hug that lasts for about a minute. Your head is squashed against the top of my chest and I quite like that. You take off your coat, unwind your scarf and sit down. I get you a pot of tea while you’re doing that and put it down in front of you, together with a little metal jug of milk and some packets of sugar. I ask you if you want to talk and you shake your head. I put my hand on yours for a moment. Then I get my book out of my bag. I’m re-reading a collection of interviews with gay teenagers that I bought at a bookshop in Bologna in the very early 2000s – it had a tiny gay section full of Pasolini and erotica and one or two other strange things, including an account of famous gay love affairs between notable people, which was a hoot, and this collection of interviews, which, if I’m honest, is mostly the kind of writing that makes me cry. Every now and then I look over at you. Usually, when I look up, you’re looking out of the window, or else you’re taking sips of your tea with your eyes closed. At one point, you cross your arms in front of you on the table top and rest your head on them. I reach over and touch your shoulder, squeezing it very gently before taking my hand away again. A server comes over and asks us whether we’re planning to order any food and I tell him to buzz off.
Did we meet after a gig? I suppose I must have given you my number because, ever since then, you’ve been pushing me to go for a drink with you. Which is flattering, I suppose. You send me texts saying things like: “Hi there! I don’t know if you remember me. We should go for that drink! I’m free on Tuesday if you are.” And then a tongue hanging out panting emoji. Or… I mean, there might as well be. Sometimes, I ignore the texts. Sometimes, I text back something like: “Argh. Tuesday’s no good. Nightmare!” And sometimes I even put an x at the end, which you’ll take to mean a kiss but which is just the first initial of the name I like to pretend I go by. Sometimes, I notice that a fortnight’s gone by without a sign from you, and then I’ll text you something like: “Hey. You’ve gone quiet. Let me know when you’re free for that drink, yeah?” just to keep things ticking over. Because, although you need to realise that you’re not the only boi on my books, as it were, you are fit, and I don’t want you to stop texting. We might even meet. Eventually. Although… you’ll have to learn to calm down a bit first.
I don’t think that you can say that it’s my fault that the bar where I suggested we meet turned out not to have any phone signal. It’s not like I chose it specifically to inconvenience you. And I didn’t make the rain happen either. So the fact that you had to go outside and get wet every time you wanted to find out if I’d been in touch to explain why I was late is nothing to do with me. And, actually, I did get in touch to explain why I was late. I told you that the traffic was bad. I sent you a text. And, when I knew that I was going to be really late, I texted you again to say that you should get yourself a drink. And then, when I arrived, I told you in person about the traffic, which was basically an apology. And, well, if you didn’t understand that, there’s not very much I can do about it.
Also, it bothers me that you say I didn’t ask you anything about yourself. As soon as we sat down, I asked you how your day was going and, when you said that it had been quite stressful, I don’t think it was way off base for me to segue into telling you about my day, which had been really stressful, actually, but in an interesting way. Listen, one of the things that a lot of people worry about when they’re dating is that the conversation is going to dry up and you cannot pretend that I let that happen at any point. Maybe you need to ask yourself whether, in fact, you’re not as good a listener as you think you are.
I find it really strange that you think that there was any awkwardness between us. I wasn’t aware of any awkwardness. It’s awkward now, obviously. But it wasn’t at the time. OK, so we disagreed about the Oscars. I remember that. But when I asked you where you got off being so dismissive of other people’s enjoyment, all I was saying was loosen up, lighten up, realise that there are other people besides you in the world. That’s banter. That’s what flirting sounds like.
In general, I have to say that I thought it went really well. And I actually liked you. I would still be happy to do it again and I would quite like you to reply to some of my more recent emails please.
I miss touch. I miss being touched. I miss the intimacy of touch – the feeling that someone desires me, and the illusion that they will look after me and support me. It’s not enough to have a stranger brush past me on a busy Tube platform or to be roughly caressed by security at the airport. I’ve been trying to make time to touch myself more, for all that it feels silly, and I’ve started to notice some of the times that I touch myself already without being fully aware of it. When I cross my arms, for example, I tend to clutch my ribs just beneath my armpits. I often hold my chin and pinch it slightly between my finger and thumb. I stroke my bottom lip while I’m thinking or reading. When I’m tired, I pull at my earlobes and at the top of my ears. I scratch my nose a lot. I pick my nose quite a lot. I like to run my fingernails across my scalp. It used to be that, when I ate, I would use one hand to hold my fork and push the other hand between my legs, holding on to the back of one of my thighs. I don’t do that so much any more. I don’t know why. When I’m feeling particularly nervous, it can be helpful just to put my palms flat against my lower stomach. Sometimes, there’s a lot of warmth there. I like to rub my feet together in bed very slowly. And when I’m sleeping alone, which is most nights, I hug a pillow, which gives me the illusion that someone is touching the whole of my chest and the top of my stomach. I find that very calming. What I can’t replicate is the feeling of someone lying on my back, pushing my body into the mattress. But that’s all right because I can imagine it. And that’s almost enough.
We go and see a film about the financial crisis. Your suggestion, which I really like because it makes me think you must be kind of serious. I wonder all the way through the film if you are also wondering whether we could get away with touching each other in some way. Arms alongside each other on the armrest, knees touching as if by accident, that kind of thing. I quite want to hold your hand but I don’t know you very well yet and I don’t want to distract you from the film. Afterwards, you suggest that we get something to eat, which is great because it means that you can’t want to get rid of me just yet? While we’re waiting for our food, I start to worry that we’re going to disagree about the film, and you’ll realise that I am a shallow and a frivolous person. But we don’t disagree about the film, so then I start to worry that you’ll think that we’re not different enough… distinct enough. And maybe you’ll think that I’m being sycophantic in some way? Which I’m not but… I do really like you so it’s not like it’s totally out of the question. We are at the restaurant for quite a long time and… I feel like it’s going quite well. We split the bill. I don’t know how I feel about that. I think it’s OK. And then, we’re both walking in the same direction. I’m going to get on the Tube, you’re going to get a bus. And we both stop talking. And, at first I think “Oh shit. We’ve still got quite a long way to go before we get to the Tube. This is going to be really awkward.” And I turn my head towards you a little just to check… And maybe you catch the movement in the corner of your eye because you turn your head as well and then I step forward and we’re kissing. And I’m holding on to you and I find that I’m trembling, which is so embarrassing because… it’s not cold. It has nothing to do with being cold. I’m just… it feels so good to hold on to you. You’re so… present. And warm. And it is so nice to kiss you. And I think… if I wasn’t holding on to you, I might actually fall over. A man walks past us. I think he must be a bit drunk. He says something about us being in love and that we should look after each other. I mean… it’s just a first date. I don’t even know if you’re going to want to see me again. This kind of stuff might happen to you all the time.
I have this app on my phone now and it means that I don’t even have to go anywhere and I can just talk to people. And exchange photographs. And… I mean, just chat about the weather if I want. And I don’t really know anything about these people, except what they choose to fill in on their profiles. And they might not even be real. That’s the strangest thing. So I’m here in my kitchen doing mini-Turing tests… You know, just… asking for more photos and writing “Where are you based?” and “OK. Favourite George Eliot novel.” And suddenly your photo comes up with a message that says “Hey”. And I tap on your profile and you’ve written that you like Lisa Ekdahl, which is strange because I have never met anybody else who even knows who Lisa Ekdahl is… except for a friend of mine who’s into European music, and another friend who’s Swedish… And so I immediately write “Lisa Ekdahl. OMG. I love her!” And we start to chat about her and, in no time, I’m explaining that the only reason I know who she is is that I used to live in France and there was an advert on tv for her new album, which she made with her husband, and I bought the album because I was looking for more French language stuff to listen to and it was only months later that I realised that, not only is Lisa Ekdahl not French but she wasn’t even singing in French, she was singing in English and how had I not noticed that? It’s so embarrassing! And we are getting on so well at this point. You send crying with laughter emojis and write that we should go to Sweden together and see if she’s playing somewhere and I write: “YES!” in all caps with an exclamation mark. And then you send me your phone number and you say: “Do you want to speak on the phone?” And I block you. Which is an idiotic thing to do. I could just have written “Oh. No. I don’t think I’m ready for that” but I… And you’ll never know why I blocked you. And I’m way too embarrassed to unblock you and explain it. And we could have been perfect for each other.
Last time we met, it was quite definitely a hook-up. There was no real doubt about that, except the usual waiting to see if we really would want to have sex with each other – if the sight and sound and smell of each other would set off the right reactions after all. I knew that you were horny and looking for sex; you knew that I was. We’d already exchanged messages about what kind of sex we usually liked and we’d signed off of the idea that it sounded like it could work. We had a good time, I remember. Afterwards, we spent some time talking and I started to think that you were someone I might like to get to know. I told you that you should get in touch if you were ever in town again. And then, the other day, out of the blue, you got in touch. And now we’re having coffee. Well, you’re having coffee. I’m having a really wretched green tea and trying to read your body language for clues about what you might think this is. So far, you have relentlessly not talked about any plans that you might have for the rest of the afternoon, or a person that you might be meeting up with straight after this, or… some partner or other that you’ve got yourself into some kind of exclusive, monogamous relationship with since… we… saw each other last time. And so, eventually, when the coffee and the tea have both been drunk and you’ve started tearing at one of the cardboard cup holders, I force myself to say: “So…” And you say: “So.” And I say: “Do you have any plans for the rest of the afternoon?” And you say: “Not really.” And I say: “Do you fancy getting out of here?” And you say: “Sure.” And I say: “Would you… like to come back to mine?” And you say: “OK.” And I say: “Does that mean yes, you would like to come back to mine? Just to be clear, I’m saying: do you want to come back to my flat and have sex with me?” And you smile and say: “Yeah. Yes. Sorry. I mean: yes, I would. I would like to go back to yours.” “And… maybe have sex?” “Yes. And probably have sex. Almost certainly have sex, if you’re up for it. Yes.” I say: “I’m sorry. I know I’m being a bit… It’s just that I’ve got it wrong in the past.” And you say: “Don’t worry about it.” And we both smile.
I am in bed, under the covers, curled up on my side. You come in and take the duvet off the bed, then you lie down behind me and put your arms around my chest. I can feel the warmth of you against my back, and against the back of my legs. You kiss my shoulder and the back of my neck, nuzzling amongst the hair that grows there, and you say, softly: “You should get up and have a shower.”
Eventually, you persuade me to shift over to the side of the bed and you help me onto my feet, holding me for a moment against you. My head rests against your shoulder and I am dry-eyed. You lead me into the bathroom and turn on the shower, leaving me sitting on the side of the bath while you go back and change the sheets on our bed. You come back and you help me undress. We stand together under the water that falls like rain from the showerhead. I hold you, loosening my grip only when you start to soap my body.
You turn off the water and hand me a towel. I pat myself with it. When you have dried yourself, you come back to help me. You lead me back to our bedroom and, still naked, I get back into bed, between clean sheets.
Why is it that clean sheets are always so much firmer? Or… maybe what I mean is: Why it is that they soften so much around our bodies as we sleep on them?
I am grateful to you for changing the sheets. It makes me feel as though tomorrow might be a better day.
I have been dancing so hard that my clothes are wet. I think of a German friend of mine who, whenever we go out dancing together, makes me wait until I’ve dried off before he’ll let me go home. In case I get sick. So I sit down on one of the couches they have in the bar and I text him, saying “Hey. I thought you’d want to know, I’m out dancing and I’m totally wet but I’m waiting until I get dry before I go home. You should be proud of me.” And he must be awake because straight away he texts back “I am so proud of you sweetie. Have a good night.”
Something makes me look up from my phone and I see that you’re looking at me. You’re sitting at the other end of the couch. I hadn’t noticed you before. Now I notice you. You look nice. I smile at you, which is a thing I never do. I never smile at people in clubs. Sometimes I look at people for too long and they turn away and I wonder if maybe my eye make-up is too much but I never smile at people. But I smile at you. And you smile back. You say something that I don’t catch over the music so I lean towards you and say: “I’m just drying off for a sec before I go home. I’m really sweaty.” And you say: “Do you wanna spoon, though?”
I think about that for a moment. I say: “Ha. That would be so cool. I would love that. Imagine if there was a place here where you could spoon. So, when you’re done with dancing, you could just spoon. That would be so great!” You say: “What do you mean?” I say: “If they had beds here or something. We could all just spoon. It would be so great. Why don’t they do that? They should put in beds so that we can spoon!” You look at me. You say: “But do you wanna spoon?”
I say: “Wait. Are you asking me if I want to spoon? Like… now? Like… with you?” And you say: “Yeah. Do you wanna… go somewhere and spoon?”
I say: “We could… go to my place if you want. We could… I mean… we could spoon there… if you really want to.” You say: “Are you sure?” I say: “Yeah.”
You say: “I’ll just tell my friends.”
I say: “I’m gonna get my bike. I’ll meet you outside.”
Thank you for listening. This has been the 31st Museling. It’s the last episode in this, the 4th series of the podcast. For more information about the podcast as a whole, as well as links to previous episodes and transcripts, please visit muselings.uk. My name is Charles Adrian and I’m on Twitter as @chardrian.
 https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Bible_(Tyndale)/Mark#Chapter_8 (last accessed on 26th October, 2020)
 https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Bible_(Wycliffe)/Mark#Chapter_8 (last accessed 26th October, 2020)
 https://bible.org/seriespage/1-wycliffe-king-james-period-challenge (last accessed 26th October, 2020)
 Chris Goode in The Forest And The Field, published by Oberon Books in 2015, p.115 (https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/the-forest-and-the-field-9781849438605/ – last accessed 26th October, 2020). Chris is talking about a particular kind of desire here.
This web page and its contents © Charles Adrian Gillott October 2020