I imagined the house Tom had moved into: long bungalow, white, green shrubbery, water feature. I imagined the kind of woman who would lend Tom her home to help him write. There were always women encouraging Tom. She was bright, I assumed, thigh gap, smart shoes, minimal jewelry—and before sleep I wondered, Did he fuck her or just pretend to want to.
Tom’s sister, Sarah, had kept in touch with me after he and I parted. She rang me up in the summer to tell me he was coming west, and something about writing a book about a guy, the leader of an extreme hiking group. It felt a trespass—him coming here—because he’d always refused to visit my parents with me; even after Mother died, he’d refused to come. The very last time, I begged. It was Christmas. He shook his head. No time, he said. Both my parents were dead now and there was no one left for him to meet. Sarah said it was most likely that Tom’s move from London to the west of Ireland had nothing to do with me. She mentioned self-protection and I was glad of the warning—just seeing him about the place would have come as a terrific shock.
Soon after he arrived, he texted. I left him on read for days and then I started the thing I do—imagining scenarios: walking to the shops and bumping into him, cycling past him on the road. I’d be in a stripey Breton T-shirt, maybe some culottes, or jeans and a waxed jacket. We had a controlled text chat over the course of a few days and then nothing for weeks, until suddenly a postcode, a day, a time, a suggested activity, and, finally, a melting-face emoji.