“Hi Alex, have you got a minute?”
If there’s a group of words that can make up both a conversation and huge anxiety in equal measure it’s these words. Short of “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed”, these words run around your mind like a wild animal – aggravated and confused – as the most worrying type of sentence ever to be uttered by a boyfriend, girlfriend, family member or just-friend. What could this mean? Well, let’s take a look:
1. Someone’s dead. When people need a minute, someone is always dead. Why is someone always dead? And why only a minute? Someone being dead is always going to take longer than a minute. Is that all they were worth, just a minute? Either that or the person requesting a minute is very poor at time-keeping. Someone dead is always going to take longer than a minute.
2. Someone’s done something extremely terrible. They may not be dead, but they might have killed someone. That’s usually the scale of “have you got a minute?” news. Again: not worthy of merely a minute. If you’ve killed someone, you need a minute, not me.
3. I’m leaving you. It’s an “I’m leaving you, really sorry!” classic move, the old “have you got a minute?” Leaving me, are you? Well I’m going to make sure this takes longer than a fucking minute. I’m taking 7 minutes max. 6 minutes of crying and 1 minute of “fine, get to fuck, I never liked you anyway”. Yeah, take that, you.
4. There isn’t a fourth point. There’s never a fourth, more positive point. Hold on to your hat.
“Hey, Sarah. Erm, yeah sure. Go ahead.”
SMOOTH MOVE ALEX, PLAY IT COOL. You’re supressing this anxiety exceptionally well. 10 points to Gryffindor.
“I’m not really sure how to say this. It’s a bit of a tough one.”
There’s an impressively small amount of time between the sentence above and the sentence below. We’re talking split seconds.
“I mean, you could always just blurt it out, I’m beginning to get worried.”
Alex, what happened?! You were playing it so cool 10 seconds ago, then you blew it.
“This is hard, Alex! I really like you, Al. But, you know.”
“No, I don’t know, why don’t you explain it, because this isn’t cool.”
Operation Smooth Dude has fully fallen through. Operation Smooth Dude is an old, rickety bridge that was due to fall any second, then a storm came along and blew it right down the river. Alex and his cool persona are washed up in the stormy river. Things have escalated.
“OK, well. Here goes: there’s someone else. I’m leaving you, Alex. I mean, we were never together, but I’m leaving whatever the hell this was. Sorry.”
There’s a silence for about 12 seconds. You know, the type of silence that really feels like someone has hung up the phone, whilst both callers really, genuinely think the other has hung up until someone has to say:
“Are you still there, Alex?”
“Yes, I’m still here. I’m not sure what you want me to say. Why? Why’s this happening?”
“There’s too much gone on. Too much going on! And we’re going nowhere. We’re sitting around, drinking gin and watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine reruns. We’re one more duvet day away from literally turning into Charlie’s family before him and Grandpa go to the chocolate factory.”
Sarah’s trying to be funny. There’s a time for pop culture, Sarah, but now isn’t that time. Put the pop culture down Sarah, and step away. Leave Charlie where he belongs.
“I thought. We were having fun. We…”
“Yeah, we were. But now I’m not and I’ve got someone else. It’s…different.”
“We can do more. I can do more, if that’s what you want. Let’s go out. Yeah! Let’s go out. Today. We’ll go, I dunno, to the zoo?”
The zoo, although an excellent place to go, is a terrible place to take a vegan on a date.
“Alex that’s my nightmare, I’m a vegan! What a terrible place to take a vegan on a date!”
“OK, well somewhere else, somewhere…”
“Listen, it’s over. I’m sorry but I really need to go now. We’re going around in circles. Keep yourself well, Alex. I’ll see you around.”
And then, without the chance to reply, Sarah was gone. Alex loved Sarah, but Sarah didn’t love Alex. She didn’t love the zoo and she didn’t love Alex. She put down the phone with a total knock out. Alex was dazed. He was out for the count. What a terrible phone call to add to a terrible few weeks. Surely nothing further could go wrong. Alex looked at his phone.
It did not ring.
Well, thank god for that.
The shit-storm in a shot glass that was Alex’s life had taken a drastic and horrific turn. The storm had finished but the wreckage was all over the village. Alex had washed up, alone and far from home. The phone call and the fire. What a week.