The Man-Mountain

I met a very tall, robust Physiotherapist through my work some years ago. His strides almost rumbled the floor as he walked and he dominated the corridors like an African Prince in his white polo neck and Nike TNs. Upon sight I was struck by how he looked like he had been sculpted directly from pure heat like a God strolling straight out of my dreams. Rugby player build and darkest chocolate skin, he was a vision in sportswear. Slyly, I did my research and found he was much too young for me at a tender 23 years old – I was, of course, willing to overlook this. His name: Nicholas.
I kept my debauched gaze on Nicholas a total secret – I find at work you get your fingers burnt when you open up about a crush and this often leads to embarrassment and humiliation on both parts. Better to keep the infatuation with this healing-handed Adonis to myself and perv like a silent freak from afar – as usual.
Unfortunately, historically I have a type…big boys, often (though not restricted to) Caribbean or African descent. It was quite clear to those I worked with that he would, indeed, be just the type of beau to catch my eye and the tell-tale flush that erupted in my cheeks and filtered outward to my scalp, ears, neck and chest was a dead giveaway. Unfortunately, this particular jig was up in the presence not only of my boss – a close friend, but also the Regional Director (Mark) who was visiting for the day and saw my faux-apathy as Nicholas sauntered powerfully by. I had moonlighted as the Regional Director’s partner-in-crime in a previous role so knew him well enough to know that when he detected an opportunity to laugh at my expense he was never going to let it go.
After our walk around, we returned to the office whereby I went on with my workload and my boss and Mark cloistered themselves in her office. Intermittently I heard raucous laughter but thought nothing of this – Mark was a funny guy.
Midway through online shopping while pretending to be working diligently, the adjoining door swung open violently and I was asked to enter the Lion’s Den – the office of my boss. Usually a place of comfort and unprofessional chat, it now felt ominous and like I was about to insert myself within the jaws of doom. The air crackled with anxiety and trepidation. I immediately needed a nervous poo; what could I possibly have done to warrant a double ended meeting with my boss and her boss?
I entered the room and tried not to touch the leather arms of the chairs lest condensation marks from my sweating palms resided where my hands had once been. I lowered myself into the chair, feigning calm but feeling mildly like I was about to require legal representation. My ASOS basket lay open on my desktop.
‘How have you been?’ Mark asked smugly. A bit of a random question given I had been chasing after him with printed items for the majority of the day and we had definitely already covered the trivialities of life.
‘Yep…can’t complain…you?’ I did the thin-lipped smile where you press your lips together too tight and get hamster cheeks.
‘Very well. Very well. So – got yourself a boyfriend yet?’ He nodded his head with the final words as if the enthusiasm to find out about my non-existent love life was popping out into his neck. I shrank into the seat, half elated that I would retain my job and live to online-shop another day and half mortified that my lack of love-life was such an entertaining conversation point.
‘No, Mark. I’ve told you 1000 times now I don’t want a man – ‘ I was about to launch into my well-rehearsed ‘I don’t need a man, I’m happy by myself, I have my cats’ sad, old spinster speech when a deafening knock sounded at the door. It reeked of confidence – whoever knocked the boss’s door that loud was cock-sure of themselves.
My boss and Mark looked at one another, suppressing grins.
‘Well, what are you waiting for? Get the door!’ Mark ordered.
The feelings of anxiety and trepidation re-emerged as I wondered what awful trickery these fools had played on me. They sniggered audibly as I reluctantly wrenched myself past where they sat to open the door. Who on earth could be on the other side?
I pulled open the pine entrance with all the confidence I could muster and looked directly into a muscular abdominal wall of white. My eyes travelled upward to a freshly pressed white collar and upward still to rest on the masculine, sculpted, bearded and beautiful face of Nicholas. His arms bulged from the poly-blend uniform as he looked every bit as shocked and confused as I.
The awful realisation of the tom-foolery sank in as I comprehended exactly the trick that had been played on me and I recognised a need to escape imminently. The blush was probably already creeping into the apples of my cheeks and flushing across my neck.
‘Come in, young man!’ called Mark eagerly from behind me, waving his huge paw at the equally huge Physiotherapist. As he moved into my personal space and wedged his form into the door frame I saw my opportunity to make a break for it. I pushed past him with stealth and agility, emerging into the cool corridor outside and moved to jump like a grasshopper away from this danger zone.
Thwarted, my heart sank as I heard Mark shout after me, ‘Don’t run away!’ I turned, now fiercely hot in the face and followed Nicholas into the room of humiliation. Poor Nicholas looked at a total loss as to what was going on around him and why he had been called to the office of the boss, his three captors seemingly complicit in some form of information he was, as yet, on the exterior of. Cool as ever, his dark eyes shuffled from one of us to the next as he waited to be enlightened.
Mark took the floor.
‘Have you met XX?’ He nodded his head toward me as I mentally camouflaged myself against the duck egg wall behind.
‘No, I’ve seen her around the hospital but I don’t think we’ve ever spoken, have we?’ He asked, jolly friendliness lacing his deep voice.
‘No –‘ Oh god…my awkwardness was coming out. In front of this gruesome audience I could feel my body heat exuding from my face. I knew with certain dread that my face would be purple, the colour of a pulsing erection, arising from my folded collars. My mind had gone completely blank – I was a rabbit in headlights, shamefaced and mute as I fell victim to the plot against my love-life. The awkwardness hung in the air like B.O. – another affliction my body had most likely betrayed me with as I felt sudden dampness under my arms. Sensing my discomfort, Mark devilishly and delightedly pressed on.
‘Ah, well I’m Mark. We actually called you up here because we need your expertise for poor XX…’
I was mortified. I stood there as though I were Mark’s voiceless child, taciturn and dumb as he did the speaking for me. Nicholas shifted his gaze from Mark to me as he appraised my discomfort. I think he took the chagrined expression on my blotched and flushed face for pain.
‘She has hurt her knee – it’s really causing her some agony. Do you think you could take a look?’
As it happened, I genuinely had hurt my knee in a chance accident involving a fitness test, a 30 second pedalathon and a gym membership that never was. Mark’s terrible yet brilliant plan fell into my brain with the subtlety of an axe. He was using an ailment to his own advantage and Nicholas and I were both fatalities in his marvellous dupe.
The normal thing to have done in such a situation would be to breathe it out, play along and get talking to aforementioned Physiotherapist. So, given you’ve read many of my awkward blogs now, I’m sure you already know this is not what I chose to do in the situation. Oh no.
I chose instead, to reach downward toward my marginally injured knee and cover it with both hands, frozen in a one-sided ‘aga-doo-doo-doo, push pineapples shake the tree’ dance.
‘Oh no, no. I’m fine. Honestly, I’m totally fine – it doesn’t even hurt.’ My protestations coincided with my boss and Mark advising they were going to leave the room for Nicholas and I to have some privacy. As they swept out, leaving me alone with Nicholas the sculpted prince, I started to make for the adjoining office door that led to the sanctuary of my own desk. If I could make it there, I would feel like a Queen restored to her throne and I could handle the situation more professionally (I am completely aware I had been thrown into a totally unprofessional scenario in the midst of all this). Hobbling and stooped to cover the knee Mark had utilised so adeptly, I shuffled past Nicholas looking less like the Sex-Goddess I wanted to be seen as and more like Quasimodo, hunched and blushing with a crimson glow.
Still none-the-wiser about the real nature of the meeting, Nicholas remained professional and once again mistook my hobbling and hunching for a knee related ailment. He followed, crouching himself down as if he were spotting me, walking closely behind to catch me should I fall.
‘Well, wait – let me take a look, I might be able to help.’
‘No, no. Honestly – I’m all good. Totally fine. You can go, it’s fine. I’m fine. My knee is fine. We’re good. All good. You can go.’ The words cascaded from my mouth in panic as I finally made it to the safety of my desk. I threw myself into the awaiting chair and wheeled it into the desk, pulling my trusty keyboard closer.
I refused to look at Nicholas. He stood, hands on hips as he mulled over the situation. Slowly, I felt rather than saw, the penny drop. He smirked, gave me the side eye and tilted his chin upward in mock-arrogance.
‘What’s going on here?’ He giggled slightly as he widened his smile, revealing a row of perfect pearly whites which seemed to reflect back at me the scarlet hue of my face.
‘Oh, nothing. Mark thinks he’s being funny is all. You’re fine – my knee is absolutely fine.’ I reassuringly smiled at him though my eyes watered with the humiliation.
‘OK…well, if your knee plays you up again you give me a call.’ He grinned and swaggered from the office, leaving me a sweating and bright red mess cringing at my own lack of game. No wonder I was single…I was legitimately the shittest, most awkward person when it came to penis-bearers. Why had I been cursed with a vagina when I failed to be able to engage the natural charms that should come with it?
Some days later though, imagine my surprise when Nicholas called me to ‘follow up’ on my knee. It became clear early on that the knee was being used as a smoke-screen to ascertain whether my feelings of embarrassment had abated and fallen more fittingly into the confidence I had before the Knee Scenario. One thing led to another, we chatted and exchanged numbers and Nicholas asked me on a date.
I had relatively high hopes for the date. Nicholas was young and virile and I thought he might have his finger on the pulse of something fresh and new to do. I knew that in my own clothes and under the guise of evening lighting my blush would be undetectable so I felt my inner confidence would once again exude. Nicholas suggested a golfing extravaganza followed by cocktails in London which I agreed to. Golf was a disappointing choice – let’s face it, it’s been done. Plus what do the vertically challenged wear on a date when flat shoes are a pre-requisite? I needn’t have worried.
Upon arrival on said date, it became clear Nicholas had not made reservations. On a Saturday night. In London. At THE place to play Crazy Golf. I cringed as we were turned away from the queue – more for Nicholas’ general lack of planning than for the fact we were being turned away. Unabashed, Nicholas suggested we go to the bar area to enjoy some drinks in the general golfing environment. I didn’t see what else we could do as an alternative so we made our way to the bar area. As I followed him up the curved stairs I mentally noted he had chosen to wear a purple puffa jacket on with scarlet Nike trainers. I felt this was a fashion faux-pas. Was he too young for me?
As we approached the bar, the bar man was an attractive hipster. He caught my eye and I felt, as the adult in this situation, that I would need to pull rank and assert myself by ordering our drinks. Mortifyingly, the bartender thought I, as a 5ft petite brunette, was alone and Nicholas, the brightly clothed man-mountain to my right, was absolutely nothing to do with me. He did not even try to hide his shock as he asked ‘Oh…are you two together?’ with emphasis on the ‘together.’ I think he probably had mental images of Nicholas and I fornicating and the logistical issues this might entail.
‘Yes!’ Nicholas laughed as he perused the drinks menu. ‘We’ll have a bottle of red wine please.’
I stole a cursory glance at Nicholas as he surprised me with this mature order. I saw little beads of sweat on his forehead and then heard a strange metallic clicking sound. I looked at the bar where his big, manly hands were resting and saw, to my horror, a row of skull rings adorning each finger. Clearly influenced by Sons of Anarchy I realised in that moment with a sad certainty that there was no hope for Nicholas and I. Our floundering, fledgling love died there like a baby bird flying the nest all too soon. As my attraction to him perished on the craggy rocks, the final nail hammered into the coffin.
‘Sure, what wine?’ the bar tender enquired.
Without pause, without shame, without further consideration, Nicholas shrugged his muscular shoulders and answered ‘whatever’s cheapest.’ This made me giggle. I found it oddly endearing that he gave zero fucks about the taste preferences of the woman at his side. Alas, it spoke out to me in deafening tones of our incompatability.
I must say, I had a lovely evening with Nicholas and we retained a nice, polite friendship in the time that passed after. I fervently and heartily believe lovely Nicholas will make a girl very, very happy – but he is not the man for me I’m afraid.
So the moral of the story is this: Sometimes even upon the most horrendous of foundations a truly positive opportunity can make itself known. I would never have uttered a word to Nicholas had it not been for the meddlesome duo butting in. We laughed heartily about it in the weeks, months and now years since it happened and though we have all moved on and dispersed occupationally, we will always be bonded by that dreadful happening in the office that day. Though things did not work out romantically for Nicholas and I, I went on a date and had a lovely evening despite the vinegar flavoured Merlot consumed – every cloud, and all that. Finally – and this one goes out to my small group of male readers, if you want to get laid after a date then hear me now, loud and clear: skull rings are never ever acceptable. Ever.

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