The Hard Problem

On way to see the new Stoppard play carrying my can’t-you-take-anything-out-of-that-is-there-a-body-in-there weekend bag. Or, more accurately, Mum’s bag. It’s covered in birds and filled with…don’t even know. Dresses, jeans, top, tights, sleepwear, phone charger, gym kit – in case there’s a gym at the hotel, trainers, wig, contact lenses. All the paraphernalia that one needs for a weekend away.
A weekend away that hangs in the balance.
“You have been on two dates. Everything so far seems positive,” the Facebook message from my brother arrives yesterday. “Keep a bit of distance, wait for him to come through with the arrangements, stay relaxed and self possessed: avoid sending a flurry of messages about train times. If you make it apparent to a guy that you’re anxious about whether he likes you or not, you lower your stock considerably. It hasn’t occurred to him for a nanosecond that he doesn’t want you to come. Be cool. You’re amazing. He’s the luckiest guy in the world to have you as his date to this party. He knows it. Your work is done.”
Call my brother in Abroad.
“If you invited a girl somewhere, and you weren’t sure whether or not the hotel room was booked, you’d just book another one, wouldn’t you?” I say.
“Of course. I’d book a room at the most expensive hotel in town and if she cancelled I’d just go on my own,” my brother says. “But some chaps are disorganised. When I read you saying to him ‘don’t you want me to come’ I was worried and…”
“I needed to know: the parentals were nagging me about train tickets and…”
“It comes across as nagging,” my brother says. “By all means vent your frustration on me, but don’t let him know that you’re stressed. At this stage it could sour things. Look: if the hotel booking had fallen through and so on, you don’t want him to think you’re cross with him or…”
“I’m not cross, I just…well it’s all a bit disorganised isn’t it?”
I say.
“Look: he knows he’s messed up here. But when he gets back, you don’t want him to feel he can’t ring up and ask you out again do you? He sounds like a nice chap,” my brother says.
“No,” I say.
“So pack a bag of stuff to take to the theatre and when you set off, send him a message – just one message – saying “am on the way to the theatre, let me know about the hotel,” and leave it at that,” my brother says.
“OK,” I say.
So that’s what I’ve done…


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