Annie phones me in a froth, broken and emotional. “Annie!? Tell me what’s happened. Now listen to me, take some slo-w breathes in and out, and try to calm down.”
“I just can’t believe it. Just, can’t, believe it.” I hear the sound of rushing air mixed with telephonic white noise, while she fills and then empties her lungs. “I just, can’t believe it.” She repeats. I imagine her, head hung low, veiled in despondency, searching and unable to find new words to describe the same feelings.
“It’s okay, that’s better, take it e-asy,” I say, like I’m settling a twitchy horse spooked by a snake in the grass, “just calm right, on, down. It’s okay Annie.” It’s working, I hear the sound of a nose being blown hard into a paper tissue.
“He never noticed,” I just about make out, as Annie finishes dabbing at her nose, “in four and a half years, he never noticed.” Okay, this is about Jake, I conclude. Annie and Jake have not long broken up and Annie is finding it hard to come to terms with. Over the last eight and a half weeks I’ve received four or five calls from Annie in a similar vein.
“He never noticed what, Annie?”
“If I’d laid him on a sheet of paper and drawn around his whole body, twice – ”
“Twice? Why twice?” I’m asking, trying to fathom out where this is going.
“To represent both sides of his body, the outlines laid down next to each other.” Her tone tightens a little, “Beebie, could you just hear me out on this one?”
“Sure Annie, I just needed to get the image in my head right – you know?.”
“Okay, so I’ve got these two outlines, well you know what happens next?” I’m thinking this is a rhetorical question and remain silent. “Beebie! Are you listening to what I am saying?”
“Yes Annie, of course I am, please continue.”
“Well, it occurred to me recently, I could draw in each mole, every dark pigment, birth mark, blemish, contour and crease found in his skin. I could map out Jake’s body like the night sky and with the same degree of accuracy.” Although thinking it a weird idea, the words I chose said otherwise.
“Aww… that’s real sweet Annie.”
“Don’t ‘aww that’s real sweet Annie’ me, Beebie!” You see? This is a clear demonstration of why I’m no good with women and long term, remain single: I just don’t have the skills to read them. “Do you know what he said to me shortly before we split up?” I plump for this as a question requiring a response, but keep it simple.
“What did he say, Annie?”
“We were cuddling in bed together on a bright, sunny morning and Jake’s holding my hand. Moving his fingers through mine, he suddenly says ‘I’ve never noticed this scar on your hand before‘. He sounded genuinely surprised, peered at it up close, turning around my hand in the sunlight to get a better look.”
“Okay, that sounds sweet Annie, so what’s up?” Instead of a prize of yellow cheese filled with holes, I get the unforgiving cold steel snap across my back as the high tensile spring of the mouse-trap is released.
“What’s up with that?! What’s up?!” To ease the strain, Annie pushes up into fifth gear finding cruise-control, her voice takes on a calm-but-serious tone. “The scar is on the stop of my hand, it is white, two inches long and the original incision was held together by eight stitches, each having left their own, distinct perpendicular marks. And in four and a half years, he’d never noticed!”
“I’m sorry Annie, I don’t know what to say.” I genuinely didn’t.