Even though the aftershocks still rumble at odd intervals (stories passed through the grapevine through old mutuals, surprisingly lovely conversations with his best friend), it's been two months since I broke up with my ex. In the meantime, the grey skies have been dip-dyed robin's egg blue. The trees are purring with new buds, the lawns are shaking with daffodils, and my winter jacket has been retired to the furthest possible recess of my tiny built-in closet. Spring in northern England might be the prettiest of all springs.
I'm not going to lie...spring fever has hit me hard and heavy. Inside, my eyes are turned by windows onto hazy blue-green fields and atmospheres. Outside, my eyes are turned by intellectuals baring their lower legs and upper arms for the first time since my arrival. I need a man.
In the sort of progressive hermitage I've been warned to expect of the remaining 2.5 years of my PhD, I have recently sworn off men in the following categories: undergraduates for their inability to grasp the difficulty of my undertaking, Masters students for their fleeting nature, PhD students from my own university for their well-used histories and incestuous connections to everyone I know. This left me the following options: townies, abstinence.
Last night, my flatmate/best friend in England dragged me to open mic night at our local pub. A friend of ours played, and we were needed on hand to clap, cheer, and wave mobile phones. We shared a corner table with a group of three strangers in varying states of handsomeness. The second-most handsome (whom I'd asked for permission to sit) kept bumping eyes with me in an optical Morse code that that I was unable to decipher as being either hostile or flirtatious.
This stranger, whose name I later learned to be James, looked like the boy next door, if you grew up somewhere in the Midlands of England in Thatcher's bleak mid-'80s. He did not look like the sort who would lope up to the stage after three songs from the first performer, strap on a guitar, and perform the following mismatched setlist:
1) Bad Moon Rising - Creedence Clearwater Revival
2) I'm Yours - Jason Mraz
3) Johnny B Goode - Chuck Berry
My gentle reader: is this not an ideal selection for gaining the instant devotion of the sentimental mop-headed American woman in the audience? When he returned to our shared corner, raising his shoulders and holding his hands out to receive comment, my friends glittered with praise and I chose to focus on his abrupt ending. When the audience refused to sing the last chorus of Johnny B Goode, James simply put down his guitar and left the stage. It was unclear whether he'd lost his pick (he hadn't) or simply decided to conserve his entertainment for a more deserving peer group (he had).
Though his pint was still half-full with what I took to be stout, my next turn at the bar was mysteriously accompanied by a tall, lean shadow, of grazing elbows and a peripheral tuft of brown hair. We talked. Rather, I did my best to abstain from cawing in my horrendous accent, and he, whiskey-voiced, answered every question correctly.
An hour later, before he left, he leaned over to me and asked, "Where is the linguistics department, anyway? Are our faculties close?" They aren't; in fact, he'd never heard of the building where my office is, and where his name would be Googled for a solid 30 minutes the following morning. He frowned, looking toward the door where his friends congregated to observe the exchange. "Well...perhaps I'll see you around?" he asked, and I sighed, "Probably not."
After they were gone, my flatmate/best friend demanded to know why I hadn't provided any critical details: a phone number, an email address, a last name for the purposes of Facebooking. I answered candidly: having gone so long since meeting a decent (if somewhat shy) man, the thought that he would want to see me again (having abstained from attempted groping or over-the-top euphemism) just didn't compute. Am I ruined?