As It Happened

I came across this essay in my reading last week and liked the form and wanted to try it. Coincidentally, I ran into an old spark a week or so ago and wanted write about that encounter. This essay kills two birds with one stone.


As it happened, I can still smell him. I don’t know what his aftershave is, but it lingers on my skin from when we hugged. That was at 7.15. It’s now 9.15.

As it happened, I was walking with my friend, on the left hand side of the road, not the right, on my way to see a comedy show. It was crowded, and the sun was right in my eyes, and people were silhouetted in a fading orange-gold light.

As it happened, I’d won free Fringe tickets the weekend before, at a trivia Meetup. Getting the actual tickets was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing over email and I nearly gave up.

As it happened, my friend and I were near a cafe, and I walked past this man balancing on a long pole, anchored by four volunteers spaced out in a wide square, hanging onto ropes attached to the pole.

As it happened, out of the corner of my eye, the left one not the right, I saw this man, this big man, wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap.

As it happened, I stopped because I recognised him.

As it happened, I said: Hello, are you [name withheld]?

As it happened, he took his sunglasses off, I think to get a better look at me. Yes, he said.

As it happened, he was trying to work out where or how he knew me. I helped him out. I said: I’m Diane. We used to hang out in the eighties.

As it happened, we hugged hello. That was when his aftershave transferred itself to my skin.

As it happened, I said: Do you recognise me? Because I recognised you. I sent you a LinkedIn message last year… you popped up in my feed. This is true, but the conversation was minimal.

As it happened, he admitted that he didn’t, not straight away. And then said he did. I don’t know whether he said he did because he thought he ought.

As it happened, I wondered if he remembered being in my bed, all those years ago. He’d end up there after he finished his shift at the nightclub where we met. He moonlighted as a bouncer. I was a regular there, with my friends. He still looked like a bouncer.

As it happened, I had the feeling he was married, but I didn’t ask. Back then, I didn’t care.

As it happened, he shared my bed a number of times. Back then.

As it happened, I introduced him to my friend and he asked where I was off to. I said to a show at the pub nearby because I had free tickets.

As it happened, he said it was a good time of night to go home. I think he meant the crowds. He used the word ‘we’ but I can’t remember in relation to what exactly.

As it happened, he told me he’d just retired from – or was it left? – the police force. Thirty years. I told him I was studying law. Third year.

As it happened, I said: We should catch up. I’ll message you on LinkedIn and give you my number.

As it happened, he said: Yes. Message me on LinkedIn.

As it happened, we hugged again.

As it happened, I wonder if I’m lingering in his thoughts, like he is in mine. And as he always has, on and off, across 35 years.

As it happened, my friend asked who he was and if “hang out” meant what she thought it did.

As it happened, I wanted to say: He was an old flame but he wasn’t even that. Just a spark who occasionally lit up my night. A spark who made me feel desired and beautiful and wanted. A spark who was kind. A spark that died as quickly as it flared because I was easily distracted, back then.

As it happened, I’ll message him with my number, though. As agreed.

As it happened, he messaged me five days later.

As it happened, he told me it was a blast to run into me and that I looked well.

As it happened, he was married and had been waiting for his wife when we bumped into each other. That she was lovely.

As it happened, he wished me a happy life. And peace. Lots of peace.

As it happened, he did not leave his number.

As it happened, I didn’t respond because by not giving me his number, he had made himself clear.

As it happened, I was a bit annoyed. Not because he didn’t give me his number but because he made assumptions about my motivations.

As it happened, I wanted to message him: It’s just coffee, dude. Not a marriage proposal. I’m not going to seduce you in the middle of a coffee shop.

As it happened, I realised that sleeping with him a few times 35 years ago does not mean I know him at all, nor him me.

As it happened, I’ve let it go because there is no spark.

As it happened, my curiosity has been satisfied.

As it happened, I doubt I’ll think about him again.

About the #12Essays2024 Challenge

I haven’t given my blog much love or attention over the last couple of years. I wasn’t in the headspace to write, at least not the personal essays I’m known for. But in the words of George Costanza: I’m back, baby. I’ve made a commitment to write one essay a month in 2024 — a slimmed down version of the #26Essays2017 challenge I set for myself in the first year I was in Vietnam. I will be experimenting with structure and form, so you might see some weird stuff. Please stick with me. Some essays will be short, and others will be split into parts because they are long. Maybe I’ll end up publishing them into a collection. Who knows?

Image credit: Asinno from Pixabay

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