Six months ago today I was at my fave farmers’ market in Buenos Aires, trying to remember the Spanish word for beetroot.
I couldn’t remember it for love nor money but fortunately I was spared embarrassment because my phone started ringing in my pocket. I waved it at the vegetable women to indicate that I was leaving not because I was a knob who turned up at farmers’ markets without the correct vocabulary but because I was very important and popular and had lots of people to talk to.
It goes without saying that she didn’t buy it. Red-faced, I shuffled off to stand by the egg n cheese stall to answer.
“Si, soy Lucy.”
“Bueno! Hola Lucy, soy The Man.”
“The Man, remember? Friend of the BBs?”
Oh f*ck, I thought. Yes. It’s that fit bloke who the BBs have asked me to look after while he’s in Buenos Aires.
After a five minute conversation with The Man I gave up trying to remember the name for beetroot because I had just agreed to meet him at my apartment in an hour. (The Man, that is, not The Beetroot.) I tried to resume my vegetable selection, minus the beetroot, but in the end was escorted away from the stall by my friend who couldn’t take any more of my pointing and gibbering.
She sat me down at a table, ordered me a hippy salad and demanded sternly that I pull myself together.
You see, I’d looked The Man up on facebook (oh come on. You would have done too) and discovered that he was rather attractive. And probably a bit clever and successful. In fact, on paper, he looked like my ideal man. And to make matters worse, the BBs, when they asked me to look after him (they were out of Buenos Aires on business for a few weeks), had written me a list of reasons why him and me were compatible and would get on brilliantly – but, they said, “we’re not trying to set you up or anything!”
Anyway, by the time I found myself on the phone to him at the veg market, a depressing drama had taken place in my head, whereby we had met, I had fancied the pants off him but he had rejected me. By the time I had mentally gotten over this imagined rejection, I’d sort of forgotten that he was coming and had resumed life.
But now, here he was, speeding towards my apartment in a taxi.
I got on the 39 bus and pulled myself together, reminding myself that there was a pretty good chance I wouldn’t actually fancy him.
I fancied him.
Although not overwhelmingly – I just thought he was hot and rather charming and funny for a while – I think I was too busy trying to play the efficient host. I gave him weird herbal tea and deposited him in my room so he could make the phonecalls that he needed to make (he’d arrived in town in a bit of a pickle with his work, which is why he’d asked if he could come and use my flat) and busied myself writing chapter 28 of my first novel.
“Er, he is WELL FIT?!” hissed my housemate in the kitchen.
“Nah,” I said casually. I was being Professional Hostess. A PH never fancies her guests.
We sat on my bed and chatted for a bit after he had solved his work dilemmas. I liked him. He was easy to talk to. And easy on the eye.
“I’m going out tonight but not until midnight,” I said. (This was, however implausible it sounds, the truth.) “Would you like to go out for a steak first?”
“YES.” he said.
I was surprised. Since when were these things that easy?
We went for dinner. I wore high heels and told him that they were for dancing later on. This was partially true. We sat in a fabulous restaurant and I felt fabulous. It was fabulously easy. He laughed at my jokes. He asked me loads about myself. How many dates have you been on when the man has asked you next to nothing about yourself? Always a bad sign.
He made me laugh. He knew about all sorts of interesting things. He was generous and also a bit silly.
“Amazing beef. Outstanding wine. And bloody excellent company,” he declared as we got up to leave.
I shrugged casually.
I took him to La Catedral, my favourite tango hall. It’s a beautiful, shabby, shambling place; dark, atmospheric, slightly batty. We watched the dancers over a beer and continued to chat. He did two unacceptable things that I will not repeat here because I suspect our relationship would end immediately if I did. But they made me like him all the more.
Have I mentioned that it JUST FELT EASY? That I forgot about The Rules because it was just all so obvious and – I’ll say it again – easy?
I think at about 4am we kissed on a sofa that had only one cushion.
It was a little bit lovely.
We had a completely insane five day romance and then he departed for the bleakest place on earth. I expected never to hear from him again.
But then he called me, using a satellite phone, from the bleakest place on earth. How he made that happen I will never know.
And it was at that point that I realised that something a bit special was happening to me.
I’m writing this blog with caution. I am aware that it sounds like I’m looking back on our early romance as if we are celebrating fifty years of marriage, which is not, clearly, the case. In truth I’m reflecting on the beginning of our romance because it struck me today that the way in which we met is rather special and yet, in many ways, completely uneventful. Because even though the circumstances were ridiculous and improbable, it felt like the easiest and most obvious thing ever.
I was not looking for romance during my midlife crisis gap year. In fact, when people said “ha, you’re SO going to meet someone in Argentina!” I sort of shuddered and said “urgh, I hope not.” But all that irritating bollocks about ‘when you least expect it’ turned out to be true for me.
We celebrated our first six months together in style today, 7000 miles apart. He had a hangover and was being taught useful words like ‘monkey’ by a Welshman with whom he is currently working. And I took a shabby old bus to a tiny village in the mountains and was treated to not just one but two burst tyres on the way. I sat on the edge of death-defying precipice (sorry, I mean perfectly safe mountain road, Mother) with the other passengers and chatted to a little old man who was off to the village to have a pollo picante with his daughter. “Are you married?” said the old man. I smiled and shook my head. “No, but I have a boyfriend in London,” I told him.
The old boy looked appalled. “Weird,” he mused.
I thought about The Man and marvelled at the unexpected turn my life took when I found him on my doorstep six months ago. Weird, yes, but no more so than anything else that’s happened to me since I boarded a plane heading for South America in May 2010.
Later, we tried to skype (it failed, of course – the fact that I even got online was an act of god) and then he went to bed and I went down to have some beef and play cards with a bunch of complete strangers. A local dog wandered in and nicked someone’s dinner and my new hostel friends taught me the spanish verb for farting.
It felt like a very suitable way to celebrate my first six months with The Man. Happy anniversary, dear, I thought, and raised a glass of slightly cloudy mountain water which will probably give me the sh*ts.