Ex over the phone

Do you know the feeling of spending yet another evening in, waiting for the call that never comes? Mike Hanson does

Here I am, feeling like a size 22 big girl's blouse, doing something I swore I'd never do: sitting by the telephone waiting for a girl to call. What's gone wrong? As a healthy, well-adjusted male with all the right amounts of hormones, I used to make them wait.

What makes things worse is the fact that the girl I'm hoping will ring is my ex. We broke up months ago, but agreed to remain friends (being mature about it all was something else I swore I'd never do).

Since then she has called on a weekly basis, usually around midnight, and instead of my going out and finding someone new to ring up, I'm wasting time waiting for The Call. She usually rings on Sunday. If not Sunday, then Monday, or maybe Tuesday at the latest. If I don't hear from her by then, I knew for sure she'll call on Wednesday.

I sit, my pulse quickening as the clock tick, tick, ticks the night away. Will she call? Then the phone rings. Instantly I become calm, nonchalant, irritated even. The rational part of my mind constantly questions why I do this, and I have no good answer. It's not for the conversations, which are usually of the ``The cat was sick again'' - ``Oh, that's too bad'' variety.

The banality is quite mind-boggling. This is because there is so much we cannot talk about, namely our love lives. And this naturally cancels out virtually every other subject.

I can't discuss politics for fear of inadvertently mentioning the latest Tory sex scandal, which might bring back a memory of the time the police caught the pair of us naked in a parked car.

I can't tell her that last night I went to see When a Man Loves a Woman because she'll interpret it as further evidence of my pining for her. Or she might say that she also saw it, and I'll automatically think ``Who with?''

So why do I put myself through it? Because of one thing. The hint of a promise of a possibility that there just might be sex again which is - if I'm to be totally honest - what I miss the most.

When she called one night and asked if I wanted to get together for a drink, I naturally assumed she hadn't managed to extinguish her flame of desire for me either. So we went out, had a nice meal, then I dropped her off at home. As I was, I leaned over and gently kissed her soft check, just like I used to, and she said: ``No.''

She actually just wanted to be friends after all. No, I couldn't believe it either. My male ego never considered such blasphemy before. Then she rubbed my head like I was a puppy and said: ``Nice try.''

I acted as if I couldn't care less one way or the other, of course, making it seem as though I only made a move to make her feel I was being sensitive to her needs.

She said she would give me a call soon. That was ages ago, and I haven't heard a word from her since. Suddenly, the intrusive, bothersome late-night calls around which I scheduled my life have stopped.

Still, every night from Sunday to Wednesday I anticipate the call that never comes. I want to believe that she no longer calls because the contact is too painful for her, keeping her feelings for me alive. What is probably closer to the truth is she's talking to some other guy.

Right now it's pushing 12.30 on Wednesday. Time is running out. I feel like I'm waiting for the result of a plea for clemency, which in a way I am, strapped in that electric chair of love.

Wait. There's the telephone. It's her. It has to be. She's calling to say she's changed her mind, the last few months have been unbearably lonely, let's please, please, please get back together. I'll think about it, I say through a yawn, the electric chair suddenly the world's comfiest armchair.

``Mike,'' says my friend Dennis, choking back the tears. ``I gotta talk to you.''

Dennis just got off the telephone with Susan, who is studying in Spain for five months. She rang him from a noisy cantina to tell him that it's over. She won't be returning. She likes it too much there. ``Get on with your life,'' she told him.

What the hell's happened? What have the Nineties done to men? Somehow, while we were trying to fake sincerity, we actually became sensitive. Too sensitive.

It wasn't always like this. When I was a teenager the girls were always ringing, I was always out ``forgetting'' to ring them back.

Now, when I'm supposedly beyond all this melodramatic telecommunication, I counsel my dejected friend - over the telephone of course - about dealing with a break-up. Just like a couple of girls. ``Don't worry, man. There are plenty of them out there,'' I say, hoping that will console him so that I can get off the bloody telephone.

You never know. She may be calling and I haven't got the ``call waiting'' facility - yet. And I absolutely refuse to call her. No way. Never. Not in a million years. After all, I am a man. I've got my pride.

I'll send a letter instead.

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