I definitely am. Just about. Here’s a thing that I’m working on at the moment. It’s from a book which won’t be released under the Ciarán West name, so you’ll just have to find it yourself when it comes out. It’s from the point of view of a woman, so stop imagining me when you read it. Enjoy!
There were emails in my inbox from Simon’s PA, wanting to know where we were, going forward, on Chavs vs Snobs vs Hippies. I really needed to come up with a real title for that, although the amount of fucks I presently gave about it came to the nice round number of zero. Just thinking about Simon and his slimy face was enough to make me want to chuck my job and start a new life restoring furniture, or selling antiques. My mortgage advisor wouldn’t be too happy about a move like that though, so I had to persevere for the time being. Simon had all the power, unfortunately, and he wouldn’t be moved when it came to the format or the execution. I was resigned to putting my name to yet another piece of low-rent, forgettable trash television, so that the nice people at the Woolwich and Capital One could have their monthly pounds of flesh.
It had been three days since the café and the pub, and Matt had been as distant and mysterious as ever with regards to the frequency of contact, and as apologetic and charming when the texts or calls eventually came. I didn’t know if he was intentionally keeping me in a state of constant confusion and neediness, but I hoped not. More likely it was my own interpretation of events which was colouring my experience of the whole thing. I tried to think back to my teens, when I first started getting silly over boys, but there was no fair comparison. Mobile phones and text messages simply weren’t a thing at the time, but I definitely remembered sitting by the phone for hours at a time, and hating my mum if she dared to make any outgoing calls lasting more than a couple of minutes. Eventually, I just put my phone in the drawer underneath my desk, and took myself outside for some fresh air, and a break from the tension of waiting for something that might never come. By some fresh air, I obviously meant a ciggie.
‘Got a light?’ The voice brought me out of my romantiflustered daze. I looked around to see Karen, who worked across the hall. She and I were part of a dying breed, quite literally. No one else in my office seemed to smoke anymore.
‘Yeah, sure. How’s you?’ I fished the matches out of my bag, cringing a little when I remembered my habit of putting spent ones back into the box with the rest. People always made some comment about it. Karen didn’t seem to notice them.
‘Me? Oh, you know. The usual.’
‘Yep.’ Everyone seemed to be afflicted by the dreaded Usual. There was a lot of it going around.
‘Anything exciting happening with you?’ She took a long drag on her white-tipped menthol Marlboro, a familiar look of relief crossing her face, as the monkey on her back got his medicine.
‘Me? Nah,’ I lied. Karen lived in a different universe to me. She had four children, and had been on maternity leave for about ninety per cent of the time I’d employed her. She was contributing to society on a massive scale, with her vagina.
‘Really? No man on the horizon? Whatever happened to that chap… the one with the Porsche? Robert, was it?’
‘Richard.’ Richard the massive prick, in every respect, except the one which might have been a consolation.
‘Richard, that’s it. What happened to him? I was sure you two were on your way down the aisle. Shame, really. I have a house full of baby things, you know. Dying to give them away.’
‘Yeah, well. Wasn’t meant to be, I guess.’ I said it in the sort of defeated manner that people expect from a woman in her thirties who hasn’t yet snared herself a man. That was how people thought of you; particularly other women, and especially super-breeders like Karen. No one ever uses the expression ‘young, free and single’ about a woman over twenty nine. That’s something you call a man. Even if he’s forty-eight.
‘Don’t worry. There’ll be plenty of time for you.’ She touched my arm lightly as she said it, and tilted her head in sympathy. I gave a weak smile back, and pictured myself punching her in the face. My fag wasn’t finished, but I stubbed it out anyway, and dropped the butt in the designated bin they’d installed for us social lepers.
‘Here’s hoping, eh? Catch you later.’ I went to leave, but Karen touched my arm again.
‘Listen, we’re having a dinner party on Friday. Just me and Geoff, and a few friends. Nothing fancy. We’d love it if you could come.’
‘Oh. Ah, Friday’s no good for me, I’m afraid, Kar. Fully booked.’
‘Oh. Well, that’s a shame. Hope it’s something exciting!’
‘Heh. Yeah, it may well be.’
It totally is. I’m going to poke myself in the eyes with sharpened chopsticks, because it would be less painful than going to your house and having you try to foist one of your single male friends onto me, in the hope that he’ll impregnate me, and then I can finally join your Amazing Club of Women Whose Wombs Aren’t Redundant, I thought, hoping that I had suddenly developed telepathic powers.