Gail is embarrassed by Meg’s Tinder dating and Meg has a shock.
‘What’s Tinder man’s name?’ I asked, wishing I still smoked.
‘Trevor,’ said Meg, guiltily.
I poured more than my fair share from the bottle between us. Fair enough, I thought. I deserved it. Meg dived in too and it was then I felt someone look at me, well us, for our shameful boozing on a Monday night. It was a man, not bad looking, certainly with his own hair and teeth and an amused smile on his face that only too clearly said he’d heard our Tinder date conversation.
When the wine bar door opened he glanced up too. We focussed on it with laser-like precision. It was a loved-up young couple, laughing and holding hands. I sighed, so did Meg. We didn’t talk again and in a growing cloud of silence, the door opened and lo and behold, there was Tinder Trevor.
Yes, he had teeth but for how much longer I wasn’t sure, and hair, although the fawn thatch battened on to his shiny dome, was definitely not his own. There was a red rose in the lapel of his navy blazer and a blue silk handkerchief flopping out of the pocket. Scanned the room he spotting Meg, and directed his tan trousers and pointy black shoes towards us.
‘He looked nothing like that on Tinder,’ hissed Meg, in a panic. ‘He looks like the photograph’s dad.’
Hope springs eternal I thought as Meg gave me a big wink (her signal to get out as quickly as possible) and drained her glass. Meg’s face was now an alcoholic splotchy red and white battlefield. The man who’d been subtly taking it in nearby was all ears and I wanted the earth to open up and swallow me. I promised myself I’d never ever meet anyone and go to a local pub. It would have to be a city; miles away.
Tinder Trevor introduced himself with a lisp and licked his lips as he limply shook hands.
An hour of extremely awkward conversation followed in which he told us about his love of football, wood-turning, snooker and Sky Sport. Eventually, we managed to politely extricate ourselves and walk home. I made Meg swear she would never do that again.
‘I swear I’ll never do that to myself. I’m really sorry and I owe you.’ And then we laughed and said goodnight. I felt a bit sorry for Tinder Trevor. It must have been hell to approach the two of us who only had to glance at one another to hold an entire silent conversation.
I was glad to cuddle Fudge’s wagging body. I picked up What’s App messages from the kids: Sarah, still happily swanning around Australia and texting about a new man who happened to be British from a town ten miles away. And my Dan who was in love and planning a trip with Saskia to meet his sister in Sydney. I was happy for them and felt lonely.
I needed to do something about my lack of love life. Fudge whined to come upstairs but I patted his smelly head and he plodded for his own cushioned bed. I looked at my dating website: nobody had contacted me. I think I was too truthful with my photograph and what I did for a living. ‘Gail’, I said to myself, ‘you sound as exciting as cold rice pudding.’
The next day, I popped into the Mall. After a morning of filling in insurance forms and being smilingly polite to customers, I needed no excuse. Some indecent new underwear would be a start, albeit Marks and Spencer’s florals and not Agent Provocateur’s silk and lace. While I was wondering how on earth you’d wear a G-string for more than a minute, my mobile rang. It was Meg, sounding upset and it wasn’t about Tinder Trevor.
‘Gail, I’ve had a recall from the Breast Clinic. An urgent one. Suzy’s coming with me this afternoon.’
‘OK, I’ll be there if you need me, you know I will.’ I wasn’t sure what to say and my hands felt clammy.
‘You always are and I’m sorry about last night.’
‘Who cares, that’s what friends are for. Let me know.’
Putting the G-string back, my attention was caught by a rack of huge post-surgery bras. White, rib-supporting, with empty mesh pouches to fill where breasts had been.
I once had a recall for a lump I’d found. It was a stomach-clenching few hours when I felt the course of my life could change in a sentence. Dozens of us women following the same slow path. From chair to X-ray, to chair, to examination, to chair and then if it was all OK, off you went, utterly relieved.
How young some of the women were. Nothing can prepare any of us for this journey. One girl even had to breastfeed before being clamped into the mammogram machine that flattens you like a pancake.
A wonderful radiologist wielding a syringe and large needle swiftly dispatched my lump and the stomach-clenching stopped. But I can still see the two women who were called gently back by a serious nurse; their faces drained and bodies crumpled.
I was lucky and I hoped with every cell of my body that my best friend would be too.
For more help and support if you are worried go to www.breastcancercare.org.uk