Sunday, 15 September 2013

69. I didn't realise he even knew you

Things with Martin are awkward at the moment.

This is probably because Gin and Amanda think he fancies me, which has led me to worry about every conversation Martin and I have ever had.

It's also, partly, because Chris appears to have taken against him.

"I think he thinks you dumped him for me," Martin remarks one Friday afternoon.

"I didn't realise he even knew you," I say. Martin's daily routine is designed to avoid as many people as possible.

"He didn't," says Martin. "But he's obviously seen us together, and I think that piqued his interest."

"Piqued is a nice word," I say.

"It is," Martin agrees. "And seldom used in general conversation."

"Seldom's also nice," I say.

We are drinking some of the 20-year-old single malt whiskey the Director of Boring Things stored in a cupboard in his office and forgot about when he left (suddenly, and under a inexplicable cloud which I have never got to the bottom of despite pumping everyone I could think of for gossip).

He once offered me a glass to celebrate some PR triumph or other and I remembered where he stored it. I checked his office two weeks after his inexplicable departure without much hope, expecting such a luxury to have been taken with him - or at the very least stolen by another enterprising member of staff - but it was stashed away safely behind the reams of paper for his printer and shortly found its way into the large handbag I had brought specially into work on the offchance.

Martin and I keep it in the unused office where we have our Friday "meetings". It's really very good.

Martin drinks his out of a pink mug which says Queen of Fucking Everything. I drink mine out of a KitKat mug with a chipped handle. Despite what many people would have you believe, the lack of a crystal glass does not impair the flavour.

"He keeps staring at me whenever he sees me," Martin says. "I find it intimidating."

He turns the glass in his hands, staring at it.

"There's been a complaint about me," he says. "To Patty. She won't tell me who made it, but Naomi told me in confidence it was him. I have to have a review."

A huge wave of something, a huge feeling, washes over me. Guilt? Shame? Fear? I'm not sure.

"I'm sorry," I say.

Martin looks cross.

"Why are you apologising, when he's chosen to behave like this?" he says.

The whiskey is a beautiful colour. It's nearly exactly the same deep amber as Rammstein's eyes.

"It feels like my fault. I went out with him. I dumped him. By text. I should have done it better. I should have been - "

"So you're responsible for the fact he is a cock?" Martin says, and I realise he is genuinely angry.

"I was a cock first," I say.

"Two cocks do not cancel each other out," says Martin. "Your behaviour is independent of his." He loosens his tie. His black hair is flopping over his collar.

"What are you going to do?" I say.

Martin shrugs. "I'll have to wait and see what he says first, what actual complaint he's come up with."
He looks up at me, flashes a smile, and just for a second I see him differently. Gin called him "beautiful" and I see it, I can see it. Just for a second. I see him as if I was meeting him for the first time. Why have I never seen it before?

And then he says: "The first hearing's next Tuesday," and just like that he is Martin again. Good old Martin. My friend Martin. Except he isn't.

A second can change all your perceptions. Once you see something like that, it takes a lot of effort to unsee it. I have seen it, and I know it's still there.

The implications of this - of the thought I just had - the implications for me and for Martin, and for our friendship, are so huge that I push it away. I pretend it hasn't happened. I'll deal with it later. I make the effort to unsee it, it's just Martin, I've known Martin for years, and right now he needs a friend.

I pour some more whiskey. 

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