‘So then, is this it?’ He asked and took me by surprise. I had been quite far away in my thoughts and as my mind raced back into the room he’d already began walking away.
‘Wait’ I called and he turned slowly with a look of sheer contempt etched over his lips.
‘For what, for hell to freeze over and you to make your mind up?’
‘Oh, drop the clichés Ryan. ‘I retorted.
He was pretty upset so maybe being a pedant wasn’t the best approach but I couldn’t let it drop. Ryan has this way of using the sort of language my grandparents would use as they joked between themselves in the kitchen on those placid Sunday afternoons when I was a child. I believe my granddad was the first person I heard to use that particular chestnut, concerning the slim chances of a fairytale dimension being extinguished under frost. He had a habit of using it in relation to public figures, ‘I’ll vote for Major when hell freezes over’ being a particularly overused one. The significance of the statement never really struck me. It wasn’t that I couldn’t envisage eternal flames being snuffed out by a torrent of ice, it was because hell was so fantastical in the first place that it’s distinctly improbable existence mattered more to me than its capacity to freeze. Grandma was religious herself and it was sitting in the kitchen, feeling the warmth of the oven and taking in the glorious stench of gravy that she would attempt to instil in me the disciplines that the vicar had stumbled and bumbled through in the earlier sermon. Anyway, back to the conversation. I really pissed him off by criticising his overly familiar phrasing and he just launched into a rant. When his speech had slowed enough to be distinct and his skin had flushed red he reiterated his earlier point.
‘Where do you get off? This is so hard for me and you’re just criticising my phrasing, what the hell is it with you?’
‘Ryan, look, I’m sorry. You know me. That’s how I am. I can’t talk seriously’ I admitted.
‘I do know you, you’re right. I know you better than you think. I know that you don’t mean this’ His voice was cracking and I could see his hazel eyes glint as half a tear glazed his iris.
I had been pacing a little bit and found myself at the window. The single glazing showed the signs of damp and rot, despite Greg’s best efforts to paint over it. It looked shit. White emulsion stained the edges of the pane. I mean, who has single glazing these days? The draft was refreshing at least. On the lawn I could see Kim playing with a football. Greg wasn’t around to discourage it, wasn’t around to force a Barbie into her hands and mutter something about gender roles. I kind of envied her, it would be a good few years yet before she had to break some wet guy’s heart. I was brought back into the room by that plaintive, wretched tremor of his voice.
‘You say that this isn’t working, well tell me how to make it work. I can’t change this if you won’t let me know how to.’
But, how do you tell someone that they can’t change how you feel, how do you tell them that the root of it all is that you don’t feel a thing for them anymore?