So. I opened, with great trepidation, the email from the Liam Neeson lookalike. It began, ‘Darling Girl.’ Yikes!
‘That’s promising,’ I told my friend, trying to stay calm.
‘Promising? It’s bloody marvellous! C’mon!’
We read on. ‘Darling Girl, how lovely to hear from you. I do hope that you are well and happy. I often read your pieces [oh dear God, no] and greatly enjoy them. I would dearly love to meet you but I simply don’t think that I have the time available. As soon as NYE is done, I take my sons on holiday and then, on the 15th, I disappear to the Antarctic for two months, working on a documentary. Such a shame, as it would have been wonderful to spend some time with you again. Perhaps later in the year? Thank you so much for remembering me.
There was no mention of the divorce. But, as my friend said, every sentence was laced with something positive. ‘It would have been wonderful to spend time with you again.’ No man ever says things like that to me. Instead, it is always, ‘Unless you change your ways…’ or a £21 token ring.
On our assignment a few years back, I’d had the feeling he liked me. There was a moment when he was walking me back to my hotel room: I was wearing a black Dries slip dress over Maharishi combats. Nothing happened, but I felt the possibility crackling in the hot air, like crickets. Then, in an armoured car on one of those six-hour journeys on unmade roads you always seem to endure in the developing world, when the soldier from the UN asked me who my ideal man was, I had said, ‘Hmmm. Prince. Because he’s quite small. He will never get in the way, under your feet. You can Hoover round him.’
And the Liam Neeson lookalike, who is indeed big and burly, had said, ‘Well, that rules me out then.’ Later, talking about his life in South America (he’s British but married a Latina), ‘I’m trapped, aren’t I?’ I had ignored him. Having been cheated on by my husband, I wasn’t about to do the same thing to another woman. On our last day, he had texted me to say he was leaving for his flight and could we say goodbye by the pool. I either ignored him or made some excuse; I can’t remember.
I spent some time crafting my reply. I was urged by my friend to lay my cards on the table – ‘What have you got to lose?’ – but I am not quite ready for that. I don’t want to frighten him. Instead, I wrote:
‘LNL, I am well, but not happy; I’ve had a tough couple of years [understatement!]. I hope you are delirious. Whenever I see Love Actually, I think of you [will he get that?]. How fantastic you now work in film; newspapers are dead and buried [I’m bigging him up here; I don’t really believe this]. What a shame you are fully booked but I have always wanted to go to the Antarctic [is that polar bears or penguins?]!
That is about as forward as I am ever going to get. I sent all the correspondence to Nic. ‘Yes! Get in there! Now all we have to do is get you a press trip to the South Pole! [is it North?] I’m on it!’
I haven’t yet received a reply. I need some joy in my life. A frisson. A reason to wax my legs. I would love him to pursue me. We have so much in common: we have both travelled the world, covering disasters (more covering the Oscars on my part, but it’s sort of the same).
I am hoping he will ask me to get on a plane. I’m already making lists of the things I’d have to do before meeting him (Botox, filler, teeth steam clean, usual beauty stuff, find a way to afford a place in London). I remember, after our last assignment, I had gone to Harrods and bought a World Traveller suitcase and some new Hanro lingerie, just in case he asked me to join him. I’d have left everything behind to meet him again. I’ve wasted all these years. I should have stalked him more thoroughly. He must be with someone else by now, surely?