Tuesday, February 13, 2018

how he became señor valentine

I met Ian this August in the doctor's mess (for those non-Brits, “the mess” is the appropriately dubbed equivalent of the on-call room which basically means a trashed area of the hospital where junior doctors can sleep at random hours, eat their food, and generally talk bollocks about the shit day they’ve been having. It resembles a fraternity the morning after a party - crumbs and excretion stains on the sofas, rumpled up sheets, a flipped over lamp (that has literally been on its side for two and half months), food wrappers thrown amok, curtains that don't actually open, a paper bag of stale donuts that someone will eventually eat, a free (!) vending machine that delivers watered down coffees and hot chocolate, and a big-screen television that displays a continuous feed of news articles about Brexit or Trump or accusations of some new American film producer/ British parliament member having been lascivious in the workplace). Anyway, I was in this mess place with some colleagues having lunch when I spotted Ian sitting there alone looking generally unenthusiastic and otherwise doing fuck all. He was just staring blankly into space with his arms folded. So I said HI. He did not seem much impressed by my exotic accent nor perky attitude. So I pulled up a chair and badgered him with questions in effort to make him cave to my charm in any capacity I could.

Nothing. This guy was impenetrable.

He tells me now that he had been having a particularly bad day between work and some rando girl he met on the internet having dumped him out of the blue after their second date. It doesn't really matter anyway, in that moment I failed every attempt to entertain him  and eventually surrendered, leaving him on that sofa statically depraved, just the way I’d found him, much like this:

Ian is the personification of my favorite emoticon innit: 😑

I decided this boy was probably a miserable loser and then really didn't think of him again. I didn't even think of him again when we apparently had a twenty minute convo at a bar party organized by the mess committee a few weeks later, one that I cannot recall. This was surprising to me as according to Ian it was a funny and interesting discourse about North Korea which happens  to be one of my very favorite topics! Whatever. I was barely even drunk. I call it payback for him having sloughed me off earlier that month. 

THEN. Then in late October I was referred to review a patient on the general medical ward where he (unbeknownst to me) worked. I walked into the ward and started talking with a colleague about the patient, when Ian suddenly emerged from an isolation room fully gowned in head to toe infection control yellow plastic. Like, a proper polycarbon trashbag dress with long sleeves and blue gloves. The way he looked at me in that moment was unforgettable- some wild mix of tender meets predatory. It was confusing but arousing and completely disarmed me. British people are in my experience terrible at making eye contact, let alone letting their gaze linger. But this particular lad was strategic, and after capturing my attention, asked his colleague to kindly fetch him a cannula, conveniently leaving the two of us alone separated only by empty and awkward space. He asked what my plans were for the weekend and then called me to task by requesting I write the date on his cannulation sticker. My pen wasn’t working and I definitely didn’t know the date. So he grabbed at the air for any other random cheap topic that could protract our conversation. He was flirtatious. Brave but wholesome. And then our time was up.

That evening I got a message from Ian via Facebook saying "it was lovely to see you on the ward today". Whenever I tell British people this story they invariably ask "WOT? Is he even  ACTUALLY British?" Apparently this is far too forward an advance for a bearer of the union jack over his heart- had he been true blue he'd have orchestrated his next move when he was drunk in the pub, saying something stupid or mildly perverted , hoping i too was drunk enough not to notice, or at least drunk enough to ignore it, and then we’d snog, and then maybe shag, and then after that perhaps he’d have asked me out for a cocktail weeks later. But this boy was different. He waited no time to ask me to join him at Shakespeare’s Globe theater for an evening of the arts.  

…but that never happened.

We got to talking about an imminent castle fireworks display in his hometown and decided instead to go with the risk and romance of having a first date as a weekend away together at Kenilworth Castle to see the Guy Fawkes Day celebration. It was unconventional and risky which I liked because either way I’d have a story to tell over brunch with my budding group of girlfriends. I got used to fishing for stories having dated half of London via various dating apps for the first six months of my time in the UK. At some point it began to appear as if I were hunting natural dating disasters. 

The build up was exciting and intense, we talked regularly on the phone and engaged often in random acts of romance .. I brought him a chocolate croissant to the ward one morning, he left a coffee in my department the morning after. I brought him home-made dinner to the ward on one of his long days, he brought me flowers and a card the following afternoon. We also got together for a cheeky 15 minute coffee date at work, just days after we had  bumped into each other in the pub when I was dressed as a yellowjacket for Halloween and he drunkenly whispered to me that I was the most beautiful bee he’d ever seen. Intoxicated, stupid, and slightly perverted indeed. But he ran out before the snog.

Our high stakes weekend finally arrived.  We took Friday off and left early in the morning, embarking on our 3 hour roadtrip out of London. In the first half an hour I almost lost my shit when a hairy brown spider dangled down from the windowsill over my left ear. Then I almost lost my shit again when we had not even made it as far as Chelsea before Ian shamelessly started singing along to some teenage pop garbage tune on the radio.

We stopped first at Stratford Upon Avon to see the home where Shakespeare allegedly grew up. It was all remarkably cheesy and hardly historical (placated by the bag of lemon sherbets I bought myself). But then Ian kissed my face for the first time in a tiny alcove of Shakespeare's garden. And I felt all those butterflies. And later in the day when we arrived at our AirBnb, there were two bottles of champagne in the room- one that I had organized to surprise Ian, and a second that Ian had organized to surprise me. He won because he also ordered flowers and chocolate. I mean...

And then there was Kenilworth. It was one of the dreamiest days of my life. Drama in the sky. A full moon rise. A castle in decay. And a good English boy. 


And of course, the intensity of a three day first date getaway would not have been complete without having met Ian's family. So on day three of date one I received formal and incredibly warm introductions to mom, gran, aunt, cousin, godson, niece, and in -laws. And when they asked us how long we’d been together, we smiled and said “well, we met in August”.


Kit said...

Happy happy happy Valentine's Day to you, sweet and delightful heart! So lovely to see that gorgeous smile again.

Allie Rose said...

He may have tried the typical British approach to hitting on you at that first bar party, you just can't remember. Happy Valentine's Day to one of my forever loves <3

The Allens said...

I love you and your beautiful stories 💕💕💕😍

EHo said...

Wait, but can you please put that lamp upright? It's give me an OCD melt down across the pond and vast land.