My friend Gerry had just finished telling me about his Art A level exam. He’d had three hours to do it. For the first hour, he’d just stared at his canvas. Planning how the painting would be. Other candidates had brought in notes, sketches. Not Gerry. He was mentally mapping it out.
His invigilator came up to him, looking concerned. ‘Do you need help?’ he’d asked.
‘No, I’m fine,’ Gerry responded. And he was. Turned out his invigilator had wanted to buy his painting afterwards. ‘I’ve never seen anyone do that before,’ he’d said, ‘stare at a blank canvas for an hour and then produce this quality of work.’
You know,’ Gerry told me, ‘if there’s something about my life I regret, it‘s not pursuing my art.’
Huh. I stared at him, immediately remembering my only regret. It’s the same as his – not writing until now.
Meanwhile, Delphine has an interest in time – shorthand for saying she’s obsessed with it. She needs to know how long everything is going to take and at what point it’s going to end. No surprise then that she has a natural affinity for the mythological Greek Titan, Kronos. Kronos is in charge of time.
Say you’re in a meeting that lasts forever? Apparently you should thank Kronos for it. He’s slowing time down just to mess with you. Or when you’re having so much fun, it seems to whiz past before your eyes? Yep, Kronos again. That Titan’s a real joker.
So, with Delph’s time obsession, imagine her reaction when I tell her that instead of going straight to my mum’s house when we arrive in London, we’re meeting my old friend Gerry from university instead. Gerry lives in London now. He works in UCL hospital’s operating theatres during the week and in the West Hampstead butcher’s on a Sunday. Lives round the corner from the butcher’s.
She frowns. ‘How long are we meeting Gerry for? When are we going to meet him?’ Then the inevitable, ‘Do we have to meet him? Upon my answer, ‘Well, can you promise it’s not for very long then?’ Delphine can be as enthusiastic as a fire blanket.
Gerry’s got some tricks up his sleeve though. ‘Delphine,’ he says as we’re eating dinner in his favourite sushi restaurant, ‘what do you think time really is? Do you think we can go back and forwards in it?’
Delph shrugs. ‘I don’t know.’
Yeah, that wasn’t the basis of Gerry’s slick move. Gerry’s slick move was more knowing the lady who owned the sushi shop. His friend, Ami.
Ami is a determined looking Filipino lady. Don’t mess with Ami. Which came as a bit of a surprise after she’d asked us what were we doing in London.
‘Ah,’ she said, standing over a plate of delicious nigiri, ‘my son was at the Royal Ballet School. White Lodge.’
Our mouths hit the California rolls. Not expecting that. She told us all about it – her son’s love for ballet, his dedication to his craft, hard work, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Darcey Bussell and Carlos Acosta. Then his injury and resulting surgery. She told us how it ended his prospective ballet career. He’d been only 16.
Ohhhh. Oh no.
We listened as she told us about the disappointment. How he went from ballet prodigy to injured teenager to a student at Oxford University. Yep, Oxford Freaking University. Now he’s studying for a PhD in neuroscience. Ever since Delph and I got into Jane the Virgin, we keep running into peoples’ life stories which sound exactly like telenovelas. And afterwards, when we told her our story, I think ours sounded like one too.
Our telenovela – how we crossed the Atlantic and slightly ran away. Took our dog with us just to make it extra solid. Then the coming back part. Delphine cried in Ami’s sushi restaurant when we explained how her dance teachers said she wouldn’t be able to go on ballet pointe. Because of a right foot that doesn’t point. She didn’t cry for dramatic effect either.
Ami looked as stunned with our story as we were with hers. And I might be presumptuous, but I think she liked us. We liked her. And sitting there in the middle, was our friend Gerry.