Had I not gone to Didsbury last night, I'd have got to work before 9.20, but I would have missed Miriam Brown in the street outside the C_____, and I wouldn't have been invited to the pub with her after work. "It's someone's fortieth, you should come along."
The Peveril was rammed. "Hello Miriam!" I was introduced to people left right and centre, typically in the form, "This is _____," he works for the C_____," or "This is _____," he also works for the C_____." A trickle of fear snaked down my spine, as the wheels of my tiny mind turned.
"Miriam," I asked in a rare quiet moment, "does everybody here work for the C____?"
"Yes, yes it's a work function, so yes, they all do."
My heart stopped, and my mouth went dry.
"Is Liz going to be here?"
Liz, you see, works for the C____ too. Liz and Miriam used to work on the same desk island. I know Liz partly because of Miriam. Liz and I haven't spoken for months. It's like that with some break-ups - most, in my experience. Whilst it might be quite nice to be friends, things haven't taken that route. So it goes. And there I was, in the middle of a work function that she might be at. Yikes.
"No, she's away at her sister's wedding."
Phew! I have no beef with Liz, but it would have been awkward for both of us if we met by surprise, especially on "her turf."
The evening developed into one of the best nights I've had in ages. The company was wonderful. Like musical chairs, I found myself sitting next to a new face every ten or fifteen minutes. Stories of volunteering, of Lagos, of poo flying twelve feet, or dogs being put down as a smokescreen. A riot of conversation. As various names were attached to faces around the table, I started to remember some of the stories Liz had told me about her colleagues. In incompetent temp here, a married man having an affair there. Pulling up their file from my mind once I'd identified them made me feel like I was Robocop, or The Terminator.