This morning I woke up so unbelievably full. It was like the day after Thanksgiving.
Last night I took myself out for a nice dinner at an Italian restaurant in town. I was really craving spaghetti al’Arabiatta, and there’s this Italian restaurant in an old malthouse that I hadn’t been in but always wanted to try because of the cool-shaped chimney. It was a really lovely evening–my Arabiatta, a nice glass of wine, a house salad, and some semifreddo for dessert (a GIANT semifreddo for dessert…I couldn’t finish it!) The staff were all speaking in Italian and Italian pop music was playing on the stereo. Some friends of one of the owners came in at one point, leading to the usual enthusiastic Italian greetings before they all sat down to enjoy a meal together. I felt like I was back in my hometown–Gloucester has a huge Italian population, many recent immigrants, so many of my classmates spoke Italian at home. There was a special Italian grammar class for them in high school. I can’t really follow a conversation in Italian, but the sounds are familiar, so it made me smile to hear it spoken.
I was actually taking myself out for a nice evening to make up for what had happened the night before. I invited a guy round for dinner and we had a really nice time, talking about our travels and our families and politics and all kinds of things until long past the witching hour. It was a genuinely lovely evening. Unfortunately, we each had different designs for the night, and my companion finally said, “Look, I don’t want this to be awkward, because I can see you quite like me, but I just don’t think of you that way. I really hope we can still be friends.”
I think that’s possible–I enjoy his company and I definitely had a better time cooking and having him over than I would if I’d just cooked for myself and then sat in front of the TV all evening. (Like most people I always cook better when I’m doing it for others than if I’m just making something for myself–I try to have people over for dinner a lot to make sure I eat well.) But still–I was pretty upset. Much more than the situation warranted really, but as we all know I basically live in a fantasy world of my own devising: mainly it’s a pretty cool place but occasionally everything turns tail on me and it’s all full of thorns and sharp edges. Those evil little voices that make me feel bad about myself suddenly acquire megaphones (lord knows where; it’s crowded enough in my head as it is), and it can be really hard to tune them out.
I was mortally embarassed that I’d so badly mistaken my friend’s intentions–I’m an anthropologist, I’m supposed to be good at understanding people! I felt the worse for realizing how my attempts at being flirtatious must have appeared to him throughout the evening. This was compounded by the fact that I’ve been complaining so much lately about not having anyone special in my life and missing all the excitement that goes with newfound affection. Finally one of my (so-called) friends (not the one I had over for dinner, this was somebody else) responded, “Look, if you’re that desperate, go down to Arena (a local nightclub in Exeter known for being, not to put too fine a point on it, a meat market) and just pick someone up.”
So there I was, having been told I was desperate and then receiving what felt like evidence exactly to the purpose–“I don’t think of you that way” being code for “I don’t fancy you” (for my American readers: “fancy” is the British term for “to be attracted to” or “to want”, as in “Fancy a coffee?”) and I started to feel like my friend was somehow speaking on behalf of the rest of humanity, and that not only did he not fancy me, but nobody did, or would.
There was this horrible voice–you know the one, it comes on in movie trailers when something really bad is about to happen, with lots of reverb, you know–saying, “CAITLIN E MCDONALD! HARKEN WELL. You are completely unfanciable and nobody will ever want to go out with you again! So get used to it now!”
You can imagine the kind of state this left me in.
“No, big scary voice, please tell me it’s not that bad!”
“OH, BUT IT IS!”
Now, before you all get worried about my self-esteem, I know this isn’t true–I mean, I’m no Perfect Ten model or anything, but I’m still vain enough to think that it should be the boys who are chasing me around, rather than the reverse. I don’t want to dwell on this point, but I do have many fine qualities! And besides, I’ve been in the position of wanting to stay friends when the other person wanted more, and it’s not because I found them completely repulsive or anything, so it was a bit unfair to read such far-flung consequences into my friend’s declaration that he just wasn’t into me.
So the next day I decided I wasn’t going to submit to such dejections, especially when they were entirely of my own making. I decided to go out for a nice meal, because why should I wait around for somebody to make a fuss over me when I’m perfectly capable of doing it myself?
Fast-forward to post-Arabiatta contented somnolence. I was so full of good food and so happy that I contemplated going straight home but I knew some friends were playing music at the Phoenix, a local arts centre in Exeter, so I rolled on over there.
As I approached the Phoenix steps I saw that THE Phoenix–the metal sculpture of one that sits above the front door, was doing the thing I’d heard about but never seen, and was starting to think was a myth. Like a cuckoo clock, every hour it extends out from the building, flaps its wings and turns its head from left to right, except it’s set wrong so it does it ten minutes early! Until I saw it happening I’d completely forgotten about it, so seeing it was extra special.
I was thus quite jolly when I joined my friends who’d come to see the band, even more so after they played because the music was fun. I nearly went home then and went to sleep at a sensible hour, but instead stayed late, and when the Phoenix closed my friends suggested we go on to the Firehouse (where so many late nights end in Exeter) and get a pizza. They serve these giant square pizzas late at night.
I can’t imagine why, after my enormous Italian meal only a few hours earlier, I was tempted into participating in the pizza scheme, but it was just one of those nights. So there we were at 12:30 in the morning, snarfing down pizza like we’d never eaten anything so delicious in our lives. (It is pretty good–rosemary and goat’s cheese was our choice for the evening). I had two slices as big as paving tiles and was hit by a sudden wave of sleepiness so strong I thought I might just lay my head on the table and have a wee nap. But instead, I went home. And that is the tale of how I woke up this morning feeling like Humpty Dumpty. I may not need to eat for a week.