thoughtwisps One commit at a time

nicholas (nick)

Fiction. A part of the “a god in glass” series.

Other pieces in the series: troublemakers prologue

Perhaps it is peculiar to start the chronicle of my period at Big Bank with a man who rarely gave me more than two seconds of his attention and even when he did, surely thought of me as nothing more than an idiotic IT person. But infatuation is a powerful force and, for better or worse, tends to sear into the memory an imprint of the object of affection. It was thus that in the weeks after my resignation the spectre of Nick and what he represented in my fantasies came to haunt me.

The last time I saw Nick was on the rush hour Tube at Canary Wharf several months after I had left the Bank. He was wearing a grey Superdry JPN coat over his dress shirt and speaking, in that overly refined British accent that guarantees an Academy Award to any actor who uses it, to a woman, who I presumed (upon hearing snippets of their conversation) was his colleague. She had a pronounced American accent. They were talking about work. About the New York office where I assumed she was from and about the finance training programme for graduate analysts. She asked about Nick’s junior colleagues. One of these – a Catherine de Blanc I knew very well, the other I had never met. Nick said some things about Catherine which almost made him sound kind, though I knew the reality of their relationship much better and complained about the performance of the other (‘he doesn’t really know the difference between bid and ask, which is quite necessary for performing the job’). I followed them to the platform, eager to catch news of the people that I thought I had left behind in August.

On purpose, I took a place right behind them in the line to board the train so that, luck permitting, we might end up in the same carriage and I could continue being a fly on the wall in their conversation. Although the fire ( a very one sided fire at that) had died a long time ago, the embers remained and I wished I could trade places with the American woman. When we entered the train, the distribution of the rush hour commuters meant that I ended up nearly face to face with Nick, but he was too engrossed in his conversation with this woman to notice me. I carefully studied his body language, his eyes as they looked into her face, the angle at which he leaned on the carriage wall and I tried to infer what he felt about her. They had moved on to a more interesting topic – that of company expensed dinners. I watched his face and tried to guess what he was thinking.

As I was traversing his mental landscape, I suddenly became embarassed of my own appearance. In a rare moment of folly, I had let my hair loose, cascading to my shoulders. I imagined that the static and the winter dryness had rendered it frizzy and unkept. To match my red woollen scarf, I had chosen a deep oxblood lipstick that left the lips brilliantly stained but parched. It had looked good in the faint lights of my bathroom, but now, as I looked at myself through his eyes and in the bright lights of the Jubilee Line carriage, I surely must have looked clownish.

While I was mulling over my ugly appearance, I head a ‘Hello’ from his direction. He had recognized me. We looked each other in the eyes and for a brief moment I remembered the uglier parts of our relationship at the Bank. And without being able to help myself ( the sudden reaction was too visceral to reign in), I mustered as much of hateful passive aggressive politeness as I could and coldly replied ‘Hello.’

I wanted this to continue. I wanted to ask him. I wanted him to ask me. My brain ran tens of simulations of how this conversation could go. How I’d say some funny quip about the trading software I’d worked on, how he’d laugh, how we’d get off at the Tube station together (I was going to London Bridge) and how he’d ask me for a drink, how we’d end up talking and laughing late into the night, walking around the Wharf and perhaps holding hands and then going to my apartment. But he was already back in the conversation with the American woman and I, strictly chucked back in the drawer labelled as ‘To be ignored’, pretended not to notice them, but secretly continued to hand on to the threads of their conversation.

She was talking about cost cutting and how ‘Andy’ (by which I assumed she referred to [redacted] – the head of the [redacted] trading division at the European branch of the Bank) or perhaps DS ( global head of the aforementioned division) had declared in a weekly staff meeting that dinners with brokers could no longer be expensed to the company account. ‘Nick is going to be pissed’, I thought’, she recalled the meeting to him and smiled, carefully studying his face for a reaction.

There were only two stops between Canary Wharf and London Bridge and too soon, the train came to a halt and I got off. I remembered wishing Nick would get off too, perhaps without his colleague so I could exchange a few friendly jabs with him, but he didn’t. The doors closed on his leaning, smiling figure, still deeply engaged in a coversation and the train disappeared into the dark tunnel. I turned and walked up the stairs to take the Northern Line. That was the last time I saw Nicholas Smith.