The Gordon Knot MP3
Read by Louisa Gummer
Heart racing, I get up from the cluttered restaurant table and quickly yet calmly walk over to the till. I smile awkwardly at the head waiter and ask to pay half the bill for table twelve. Then I’m struck by the sudden thought that this isn’t my best strategy here, and I abruptly amend my request. The whole bill, I blurt out. Please can I pay for what we’ve both ordered.
Before you get carried away into thinking my motives here are charitable or selfless, I should probably confess that I’m not being entirely selfless in wanting to pay the entire bill. Office gossip. That’s what I’m worried about. How the all-entangling network of whisperers will react Monday when it learns of my actions. It would get around the place pretty fast that I had waited until the moment that Gordon from Accounts had disappeared to the loo before abandoning our date.
So I can see exactly how I am going to play this when describing events to the office. I will focus on the facts, that Gordon from Accounts arrived fifteen minutes late and made it obvious that he felt he owed me no apology or explanation for this. Indeed, he was too obvious. His silence felt too rehearsed. This was the performance of a man who’d be told by a book that the best strategy was to play confident, to make your date for the evening feel grateful that you’d arrived at all.
I could focus on the fact that Gordon from Accounts was the sort of guy who believed entirely in a certain type of book. One where all he had to do was follow its teachings and in doing so he could be transformed into Sexy Gordon the Alpha Male Player, who only just happens to be working in Accounts.
With a polite grin, I’ve just sat through ninety minutes of Sexy Gordon going through every single contrived conversational trick that the book evangelises. For the purposes of not being the villain on this failed date, I think that’s an acceptable amount of politeness on my part. And it’s the full Player’s gospel – the compliments with just enough backhandedness, the insincere attempts at funny self-deprecation, the hints that his approval might just be the confidence boost I’m looking for in life. Stick to accurately recounting what Gordon from Accounts has actually said tonight, I think most folk will sympathise with my actions and hold my office reputation in good esteem.
Of course there’ll be others in the office who will hear all this, and still think that I should not have just fled the restaurant unannounced. I probably can’t spin it so they’ll actually side with me on this. But I’m not going to give them too much ammunition to paint me as the worst sort of dating villain. But if I pay for the whole thing, I’m thinking it’s going to create a tiny counterweight of decency to all their snide remarks. I can hear the more vicious types already “That bitch just walked out leaving that dear little lamb Gordon from Accounts sobbing in the loo,” they’ll hiss at the first gathering round the water fountain. But then one of the more reasonable office bastards will feel compelled by decency to add “although she did pay for all of it, including his meal. And all the expensive wine. That was on her too.”
The adrenaline is racing now, and I know I need to get this bill paid quickly. With all the extra energy racing through my brain, I can’t stop thinking about all these possible conversations. And then like a mental bolt there’s another reason why I’m paying for the whole meal. Guilt. The nagging sensation that it was me who didn’t come out tonight for entirely respectable and honest reasons.
The thing is, I knew the moment I agreed to come out on this date that Gordon from Accounts was, well, the sort of guy convinced he’s a player. A person inclined to try out all the moves he’s learnt his precious book. There’s a select few of us in the office who already know all about it. And an elite cadre within that select few were able to tell me about his less well-known nickname. There’s a few hushed whispers where he’s not called Gordon from Accounts, but Tripod Gordon.
And upon hearing this moniker I decided that maybe ‘why the hell not?’ I could put up with an evening of a man’s tedious banter if it was true that he was endowed like a prodigious baboon. And if anyone were to challenge me on my reasoning here I would point out that I’ve been having a dreadful time recently, on pretty much every front. I could make a strong justification that I deserved a casual night of passion with a sexual Goliath.
That was the plan. My selfish reason for flirting with the guy in the office and then saying yes when he asked me out. But it was when I’d been standing awkwardly in the restaurant waiting for his late arrival that I had my first niggle of doubt. If I saw this through to the end, imagine what Gordon from Accounts would brag about to the whole of Accounts first thing Monday morning. How might the few genuinely cool folk in the office look at me if they were to hear that I’d jumped into bed with someone using the cheesiest of pick-up routines. When my reputation was being considered by all in the office, its status would be all entangled with talk of Gordon from Accounts. Yes, I know – they would say - that Gordon.
Over dinner, I did try and stay focused on the mission. I kept reminding myself why I was doing this. Exclusively thinking about the one aspect of Gordon from Accounts that had brought me there. Just think about getting through all this and arriving at the part of this evening that is going to be pure animal passion, where I for once got to experience the sort of thing I read about in tawdry yet effective erotica.
But as my date ploughed on through his cheap stratagems, all I could think about was the extent to which I really didn’t fancy this person at all. The cons on this deal began to outweigh the one single pro, and I resolved to abort the whole operation. Agreeing to this date had been my mistake. Paying for his meal would be a way for me to make up to Gordon from Accounts. Compensation for the fact that he’d had to come out tonight while I learned this lesson.
As I try and convince myself at just how right my behaviour is I could do without the judgemental looks from the Head Waiter as he makes a rather dramatic play of adding up the bill. He noticeably stares over my shoulder at our still rather full table. I try and smile apologetically, adding a nervous chuckle that I hope says “having to leave like this is just one of those things, you’ve probably seen this dozens of times before.” The furrow of his frown deepens. As if to reply “Mais oui madam, I do see women do zis all zee time. And with such behaviour most despicable I despise each and every one of you all.”
I hand him my card in a manner that I hope conveys the statement “If that’s your attitude, monsieur, I will be glad to be shot of this place as quickly as possible.” He mumbles something about the machine not working, and disappears to find another.
Ok, now I’m getting worried. I glance at the door to the Gents toilet for the umpteenth time. This is not a good time for him to emerge. If he returns to the table now, there is no way that I can credibly deny that I’m leaving. Maybe if I see the door move I should just leg it, bill unpaid. But how will that be seen by the office Monday morning?
Then a voice seems to break through the restaurant hubbub.
“I shouldn’t worry about him coming back anytime soon, luv.”
I pause, and look around me. There’s no-one that seems to be talking to me. Maybe I’d just heard a completely unrelated conversation.
“Thing is, he’s on his phone in there, see. Started playing some daft stupid game of his.”
I still can’t see anyone talking to me. “Hello?” I begin, fearing I must be looking like a mad woman to anyone watching.
“When he’s playing on that bloody phone, he’s dead to the world. How do you think I managed to give him the slip?”
I hesitate for a moment, unsure that this conversation still relates to me. “Who have you slipped away from?” I ask.
“Who do you think darling? Gordon. I got an inkling earlier that you might be about to scarper, first chance you get. Got me thinking, that did. Why don’t I try and do likewise. That guy’s a proper Charlie when you have to deal with him, one-to-one like.”
I laugh, “He is a bit of a dick.”
There’s an awkward pause, and then the voice responds.
“No need to get personal, luv.”
“I’m sorry..” I begin. “It’s just… who are you?”
There’s another pause. At this I can hear shuffling noises, then a slightly muffled voice continues, “Sorry, darling. Just putting into place the final piece of my dead clever escape plan. What did you just ask me?”
I have stopped caring how mad I look at this point, and repeat my question loudly this time. A few nearby diners look up at the strange woman at the bar asking nobody in particular who they are.
“Sssh! Cor Blimey, keep it down, luv.” The voice answers. “I thought you knew. I got a sense earlier that maybe we’d made a connection and I wasn’t going to let Gordon ruin this one. I’ve been carrying that guy for so flipping long.”
This isn’t making any sense.
“For Pete’s sake woman, I’ve just climbed into your bleeding handbag.”
Tentatively, I peer down. And there, trying to hide itself by snuggling between a small bag of tissues and a leather glove is what looks awfully like an impressively large penis. Sensing that it’s been seen, it coyly waves a testicle in acknowledgement.
“Figured you could smuggle me out in here, before Gordon twigs what he’s lost. In fact, before anyone has a chance to learn what you’re up to.”
With a sudden start, I realise the Head Waiter has returned, bringing with him a working card machine. Hurriedly I snap close my handbag, and pay for the entire meal. Then, calmly and carefully I put my purse away, taking care not to upset my new passenger. And with that I ... we ... make our escape.
(c) Alan Graham, 2017
Alan Graham studied "Creative Writing" and "Economics" at UEA and is still unsure which discipline relies on make-believe the most. More of his stores can be found at www.alangrahamwords.com
Louisa Gummer is a Liars' League regular. Her recent voiceover work includes the "Vine in 1914" strand on BBC Radio 2, seducing Harry Enfield on a radio ad, guiding visitors around Stockholm's Moderna Museet, and giving instructions inside an MRI scanner.