A Name On A Coffee Cup

She spies the cup on the table. Lid off. Its sleeve has fallen to the table, no longer needed by its owner to prevent burnt fingers that are already suffering from frostbite.
The cup, which is about a quarter empty, or is it a quarter full, she wonders, of brown liquid, has been abandoned by its owner.  
Mark.
That is the name emblazoned on the side of the cup, next to the familiar green logo. Surely it cannot be spelt right? It is probably Marek, or Marco. Or just perhaps they got it right for once. 
She thinks about Mark. Wonder what kind of job takes him from the Broadway into town. If he buys Starbucks every day he must be well paid, she thinks, before it occurs to her that she buys Caffé Nero soya lattes, one shot please, every day. It’s like a ritual, or is she obsessed.  
She skips her coffee today, in favour of catching the 9:08 Windsor & Eton Riverside. She has been late to work too many times recently. Already, stood on platform 6, she feels she is missing her fix. Maybe she shall take a leaf out of Mark’s book, and go to the Starbucks kiosk at Gunnersbury. Leaf. Tea leaf? No, Mark is definitely a coffee drinker. 
Could he already be drinking a second? No. His cup was still on the table outside the cafe, not joined by cups from Helen or Sanjay. He hasn’t been gone long. Long enough to hop on the Northern Line, north, not South. Not to Mordor. He’s probably passed Clapham by now, about to get off the tube at Stockwell and walk across the corridor to join the Victoria Line, also going North. Not packed today though. He takes a seat next to a man in his 50s reading about the death of David Bowie, and a woman in her 20s who opens her mouth as she applies her mascara. He opens his book. Hemingway.  
He’s a reader, as well as a coffee drinker. Yes, he read as he supped his morning coffee, and smoked his cigarette. Tried to quit last year, but the evil weed keeps him hooked. He can’t quit now, anyway, not with Amanda being the way she is. He is not ready to get married. She has been ready since she was 13. He always checks the condom after sex, and her pills in the evening, to make sure she’s still taking them. Sometimes she ‘forgets’. He remembers the last near miss.  
He is content in his life, but he knows that is because he glosses over the issues. Paints over the cracks. Layer, after layer, after layer. Layer Cake. I might watch that later on Netflix, he thinks.  
Later he arrives at work, for some reason craving another caffeine hit. Normally his morning Starbucks keeps him going until after 10am. But this morning he left some of it after receiving a call about an urgent matter requiring his attention in the office. He makes himself a coffee, his assistant Lula looking at him in surprise as he normally barks beverage orders at her.  Lula wonders if there are problems with Amanda again, not that Mark has told her this, only what she has gathered from carefully reading between the lines. As she watches him carry the cup out of the kitchen and stops to chat to one of the other partners, she wonders, and a smile plays on her lips as the fantasy plays in her head, the one where Mark proclaims his love for her and then makes love to her right there and then on the desk. Yes, Lula wonders.
She is so busy daydreaming that she does not hear her phone ring, the trill tone of an internal incoming call. 
Mark glares through the glass partitions of his office at Lula. Stupid cow, he thinks, slamming the phone down. Daydreaming again. Shakes his head. He is very fond of the girl, but sometimes her head is just not in the game. And in this business you need people who are totally committed to the game.
He thinks about Amanda again, and how he is not totally committed to that game. Far from it. He looks again over at Lula, and remembers how her hair fell over her face while she was dancing to The Final Countdown at the Christmas party. He thinks about Lula, and he wonders. 
As she gets on the Overground at Richmond, she wonders. And she thinks you can learn a lot about a person from their coffee cup. 

You Bet Your Life

While I have spent the last month without the company of my male friend, the last week has seen me enjoy some very good times courtesy of other male friends. Now before you get all excited, both were on a strictly platonic basis. But both gave me the opportunity to enjoy life outside my usual haunts without any expectations.

On Thursday, I headed into Central London with one of my male colleagues to another colleague’s leaving do. As we debated the closest tube stop to our destination in the West End, he suggested that we stop by The Savoy hotel for a cheeky cocktail. One of London’s five-star hotels, it is not the type of place I frequent, but I was excited by the prospect of a spontaneous visit. So we headed in, and found a table in their American Bar (the American Studies student in me loved that). I have to admit I was in awe of my surroundings. We stayed for two cocktails each, and made two requests to the piano man, the first being Billy Joel’s Just the Way You Are, and the second being, erm, Billy Joel’s Piano Man. In my defence I had used up all my originality in just being in my new location. I considered asking for something by heavy metal rockers, Megadeath, but I managed to show at least some restraint for the high-society venue I found myself in.

My housemate often tells me I want to switch off from my problems, and I have to say that hour in The Savoy sure did allow me to disappear into another world for a while. But I loved every minute and would do it again given the chance.

Now onto my second jaunt. Yesterday I met another male friend in Central London. After we stopped by Starbucks for a Pumpkin Spice Latte, we discussed what our plan for the rest of the evening would be. He suggested a casino. I countered with the cinema, hoping that we could see Gone Girl before it disappears from the big screen. I had my concerns about a casino, and my purse screamed no. But he said there was no entry fee, and that he would gamble with his money, so I figured why not.

I haven’t been into a casino since an overnight trip to Las Vegas in 2011 with some friends and not spent any real time in one since a four-day trip with my ex-husband in 2008, but the one in Leicester Square immediately took me back there. We found an electronic roulette table (although I don’t remember seeing those six years ago) and he placed his bet. I chipped in with the odd number, usually my birthday or a random pick. While none of my numbers came up, we left the casino £60 up, so I guess he must have done something right.

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“What I win, I keep. What you win, I keep. Got that?”

We left the casino to be faced with the huge billboard of Gone Girl on the front of the big Odeon in Leicester Square, the one where they screen all the big premiers. The expensive one. With a screening of Gone Girl starting in twenty minutes, our perfectly-timed winnings paid for our tickets, two portions of sweet and salty popcorn, a bag of chocolate sweets and two bottles of water.

After the movie, our winnings also paid for most of two portions of ribs at Garfunkel’s, which we devoured before getting our respective night buses home.

My unhappiness in my home life has led me to home-avoid a lot lately. But the silver lining in that has allowed me to discover a new social life. As well, I am finally feeling financially free to socialise regularly, a far cry from my days as a temp after I first moved to London, when I had to walk 40 minutes to work because I just didn’t have the tube fare. I have a lot of work to do on my home life, and feeling comfortable in my own home, which at the moment is causing me great problems, but like my other problems in life, I may be the root cause of all those issues.

Spontaneity was key in both of my fun trips out this week. Letting go of inhibitions and enjoying the moment. Not concerning myself with the cost, which in both cases turned out to be minimal anyway.

A lot is said about the work/life balance, but what I really need right now is a home/social life balance. That desire to go out and socialise without the need to feel like I am escaping from my own home. I’m not a betting person but if I was, I’d say I need to strike a balance between the two if I want to hit the jackpot.

It would be rude of me to go and leave you without any Billy Joel, so enjoy this song. So many I could choose, but I’m sticking with Just the Way You Are. For once, the lyrics aren’t directed at anybody other than myself.

Just the Way You Are – Billy Joel (1977)

The Twelve-Week Challenge: Day 10

With all endings, comes goodbyes.  Or rather, till we meet again.  I had one of those moments today with one of my oldest friends (as in how long we’ve known each other!).  Over a Starbucks, we reminisced how next year would be our 20th anniversary of being friends, having met at the first place I ever worked at, Stapleton & Co Estate Agents in Lincoln.  I was 15, and my friend, Sarah, was 20.  We’ve been through so much together, and I will miss our regular chats over posh coffee.  Tomorrow I will meet another friend, someone else I’ve known for a long time, and that will be another step towards leaving town, and leaving the friends I’ve known for years, through the good times and the bad.

It took me a long time to appreciate good friends.  After I left school, I had a great distrust for so-called friends, and for many years, while I had no problems trusting men (unlike a lot of women I knew), I did struggle to trust female friends (I didn’t have any male friends, which is probably why I have such issues with men).  I think those who have been my friends the longest are those who were the exception.

In my mid-twenties, I began to realise that I didn’t need to keep people in my life, if they were bringing me down, or using me in some way.  I had, to be blunt, a “clear out” and those people are no longer in my life.  Since then, you pretty much only get one chance with me; blow it, and you’re out.  Life’s too short to have bad friends.  That doesn’t mean you can’t be forgiven, but you’ve got to work damn hard to make sure I’m not going to regret letting you back in.  Saying that, I love meeting new people, and I’m always happy to make new friends.

I am a firm believer that people do come into your life for varying times and reasons.  Not everyone will stay forever.  Some people will be there only while you need them, likewise you may appear in their life for a specific reason.  There are people I’ve lost contact with over the years, and I do regret that, but with social media, there’s always a chance that we may be reunited.

What I want to say though, I guess, is that despite the fact I’m moving hundreds of miles away, I know my true friends will always be there for me, and they know that I’ll be there for them.  Distance will never wreck a good friendship, be it over land or sea.  Through the tough times, the fun times, the very, very shitty times, I’d like to thank all my friends for being there for me, and to remind them, you’ve got a friend in me.

 

The Twelve-Week Blog: Day 26

After the excitement of last night’s concert with my favourite singer, Eric Martin, which you can read about in Day 25, https://33andlostinlife.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/the-twelve-week-challenge-day-25/, today kind of took a bit of a nose dive.  Originally I had intended to visit a friend, although due to illness this got postponed, and so I was left with the knowledge that I had a full day to do everything I needed to do to prepare for my trip to visit my cousin in Bristol this weekend, as well as get some work done.  So what did I do?  Absolutely nothing.

I realise that I have a problem with endings, and finishing things, hence why I have struggled with the final year of my degree.  For some reason, there are things that I just can’t seem to get finished, and I’m not sure why.  It’s like when you watch a box-set of a DVD, and you’ve watched everything but the final episode, because you don’t want to it to end, and you don’t want to go those months until the new season starts with nothing new to watch.  I usually have endless glasses of drink around the house with a tiny bit left in the bottom.  I can never seem to tidy my room; I start it but I can never finish it, and usually it ends up looking worse than I started.

As well as my problem with finishing things, I think I get thrown off-balance when plans change.  Like today, I just couldn’t seem to settle; and rather than using the now free time to my advantage, I wasted it.

My Life Coach, Jon Richelieu-Booth, called me out on this during our coaching call this afternoon.  Due to the change of plans, I wasn’t on my way home like I would have been had I met my friend.  Instead, another friend had got in contact and I’d gone for a coffee in Starbucks.  When Jon rang me, I had completely forgotten our coaching call, and had to ask him to call me back a short while later.  He has been keeping me accountable for these blogs, and I’m surprised not to have heard from him by now (1:45am), although maybe he’s leaving me be after our call this afternoon, where he nicely, but firmly, told me that I had to stop procrastinating and get my uni work finished, or else I was in danger of risking everything I had worked so hard for.

By the end of the call I was quite upset, compared to the start when I was still on a high from speaking to Eric after the gig.  But all this happy event had done was mask the truth; that I am dangerously close to crashing and burning right now.  I have deadlines fast approaching, and I haven’t spent the time I should have doing the work.  This is guaranteed to result in panic setting in at the overwhelming  thought of having to get the work finished in a short space of time, with a risk factor of possibly impacting hugely by my missing the deadline completely.

I don’t know why I can’t get work done.  Maybe I am scared that if I finish my degree, I have to face the big wide world.  I mean, many young students face this all the time.  The end of university means living in the real world; having a job, paying bills, the other shit that life brings.  But I have lived in this world for many years.  I worked full-time for 16 years of my life.  I have lived independently pretty much since I was 19.  And I have worked so hard to give myself the opportunity of a brand new start.  It’s almost time for me to grasp it.  So why am I holding back?

As Marty, and his dad, George McFly, both said in Back to the Future, “What if they don’t like me?  What if they tell me I’m no good?  I don’t think I could take that kind of a rejection.”  I am scared shitless about not being successful in my second chance at life.  I walked away from my marriage, spent four years at university and that same four years on an up-and-down rollercoaster ride of emotions that have taken me to hell and back.  I need something steady in my life now.  There has been too much uncertainty for too long.  But what happens if I don’t get that?

When I left my husband, many people (women) told me how “brave” I was.  It was hard, walking away from a ten-year relationship with the person who, for the most part, had been my best friend.  “Brave” is not a word you usually associate with women, more like knights of the round table.  But as months went by, and those same friends ended their relationships, I realised that what I had done was to inspire other people to break away from that life in which they were no longer happy, in a bid to find freedom and happiness elsewhere.

Right now I have a Decree Nisi, and in just under six weeks I can apply for the Decree Absolute, which means my divorce will be final.  After three years, the decision that took me years to come to in the first place, will finally be officially supported.  It will signal the end of this chapter, alongside the degree that I started, at a time when the dream I chased of a better life was not just mine.  The last chapter is ready to be told, and I have to face up to the fact that there is a brand new volume waiting to be written.  The pages are crisp and new, unlike this book, which is slightly dog-eared and crumpled, covered in fingerprints and dirt, but in which all the blood, sweat and tears (and trust me, there’s been a lot) are contained, those which have come out of the journey of the past few years.  I see myself closing the book, and rubbing my hand across the leather front cover to remove the traces of dust.  I carry it across to the bookcase, and place it on the shelf, the spine facing me, which reads “The Story of Me. Volume One.”

As I sit myself on the sofa and tuck my legs underneath me, I pick my coffee cup up from the table, and hug the warm vessel with both hands.  I gaze out of the window, at the sun shining into the huge, sunlit room, at the waves crashing on the shore, and I sigh with relief.  Time to start again.