Words I Didn't Know


“I’ll pray for you.”

The words tumbled from my mouth before I could think about what they meant.

He said: “You pray?”

It was as much of a shock to me as it was to him.

“Sure,” I said, out loud. Wait. You do? I said, in my mind.

He sighed, worry etched into his brow, which was understandable, given his circumstance. Circumstance that isn’t mine to talk about, but understandable all the same.

“I don’t know if I could do that,” he said. “It feels wrong. I can’t go to him now, because I need something. I can’t introduce myself for a favour.” 


superlatively rude

“You see, I’m simply not a big enough person to introduce you,” I said. “Sorry.”

My days are seldom over before I have scribed a missive to a woman in New York whom I have never met. It’s been going on for neigh-on eighteen months, now, this thousand-words-daily routine. I’ll fight with somebody and resolve not to confront the issue until I’ve sounded it out with her. I’ll be walking through Indian markets or Russian snow or Derbyshire hills and reflect, I must tell her that. She’d understand. Good things aren’t as real until I’ve shared them; bad things not as manageable until explained.

This stranger, this woman whom I have never met, is one of my closet, most valued, friends. And yet, I do not know the sound of her laugh or the way she greets the barman. I don’t know if she stands for pregnant women on the tube (I presume, of course, that she does), nor how quickly her mood can change if she gets caught in the rain, or the deli has run out of her favourite snack. I don’t even know what her favourite snack is.

What I do know is what she dreams of; of what sticks with her and how she rises to the challenge of her intuition. I know about her job and her co-workers and her brother and parents and reliability and forthrightness. We share quotes and links, sometimes, but mostly simply address what it takes for us to get through our days. The better ones. The troublesome ones. The ones that we might otherwise forget.



What I liked was that her name was Vero, which means real or true in Italian. I took it as a good sign – and I was desperate for one of those, because I was prepared to meet with the commissioning editor, of course, but not the director, as well as sales, as well as publicity. It was the PR who was “truth”. Well, that’s unheard of, I thought, cynically.

I sat in the glass-walled meeting room of the publishing house with views of the Thames, swallowing hard as I sought courage enough to meet the eye of the woman with my future, my dream, in her hands. She’d said in her email, I honestly believe every woman will find themselves in this book, and my agent had told me so as reply to my email that said: Urm, OHMYGOD THE WHOLE TEAM ARE FOLLOWING ME ON TWITTER. That’s a good sign, right? They wouldn’t follow me if they weren’t interested?

When those names appeared in my notifications, I almost threw up.


Loose Ends

superlatively rude

I love you, he’d written to me, a few days before. And I will see you soon. I promise you.

I wondered if she was lay in his lap as he typed to me, or if maybe she was in the bathroom. Perhaps she had a class to go to, or had already passed through town.

I hadn’t been surprised to hear via a friend from yoga school that she’d seen him around, with a blonde girl who clung to his arm through the café he’d taken me to. “I don’t think they’re just friends,” she said. “Well no, I’d imagine not,” I replied.

You see: I’m no different. I was distracting myself too. We weren’t together. We were not together.

I’d stopped leaping every time my phone beeped or email pinged or screen lit up. I knew it wasn’t him. It wasn’t my first rodeo – I’ve played this league before. Long distance love never interested me. Promises did not interest me. Words, as delicious as they are when they tumbled freely in his lilted accent, did not interest me.

And yet, like I said, I needed a distraction as well.




superlatively rude

I was hot, with sweat pooling in the cups of my padded bra. I was also grateful to be entering the shade of the underpass to get to the other side of the road. We’d just gotten lost – not majorly, but enough to feel tired and a little cranky and like the boat ride across to the other side of town better be fucking worth it. It was inconvenient, the way the hairs on my arms suddenly prickled as I saw him. But something told me: pay attention.

“Yo’, stand here with me for a second,” I said to my friend, in amongst a throng of people in rush hour pedestrian traffic. From beside a stall selling leather sandals I watched his broad shoulders and the strap of his navy blue satchel disappear into the crowd. “It’s probably nothing, but that guy who was beside you – I think he was following us.” She craned to get a better look. “I’ll bet it’s just coincidence, but…” I trailed off, suddenly feeling really stupid. Like I was overreacting. Don’t we always presume it can’t possibly be as bad as we think it is? That it is us, not them?

“Hey,” she said, rubbing my forearm. “You’re right, it probably is nothing. But better safe than sorry, right?”


I knew what I felt, though. 

Adriano and Sarah

superlatively rude

Don’t fall over, I willed myself as I walked down the aisle to where they stood. Don’t you dare fucking fall over.

I balanced on Italian leather pincers purchased in a panic the day before the wedding. Tuscan sun set over hills that stretched further than my eye could see, and she looked as stunning up close, all hair and eyelashes and white, flowing chiffon, as she had done as she held onto her father’s arm and first turned the corner of the Italian estate. He looked… well. Like the cat that had gotten the cream, the lucky bastard.

Bridesmaids to the right, groomsmen on the left, and the officiator (their mate Dave) on my shoulder, I gripped onto a microphone heavier than lead and took a breath to say, voice shaking and eyes damp, because saying things you mean is scary, let alone saying things you mean to people you love, in front of seventy-five mostly strangers: 
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