And it was in that bar where the barmaid didn’t even know what a fucking shandy was that I stumbled across the man I’ve always wanted t...

   And it was in that bar where the barmaid didn’t even know what a fucking shandy was that I stumbled across the man I’ve always wanted to be. Sitting there, alone at a two-person table, was the epitome of all I’ve ever wanted to amount to as a human being. In short, it was me, but good. After I recovered from the initial shock of seeing everything I ever wanted to be sitting at a table with a J2O and a smile that was as warm and unthreatening to men as it was charming and attractive to the girls that walked past him, I sat and began a conversation that would eventually reveal the extent of the renovation my personality would require before I could ever become even close to the way I’d like to be. Lowering myself slowly into the seat opposite Perfect Me, mouth still agape with the shocking impact of the light that emitted from the bulbs above us and bounced off his skin and hit my eyes, I took in his hair, perfectly gelled into a wave that swept across his face at just the length I’d like mine to be. I noticed how well he must be sleeping, as the whites of his eyes shone blindingly into my own and the blue of his irises washed over those globes in miniature circles that could enchant a blind man. As for his clothes, they were too cool to ignore; and too envy-inducing to describe.

   ‘H-Hi,’ I stuttered.

   ‘Hello,’ he grinned, his straight white teeth putting themselves right out there on display where they belonged.

   ‘You’re… you’re me.’

   ‘Of course,’ he grinned again, rolling his eyes in a way that was equally belittling and charismatic. Every one of his movements seemed designed for some purpose, to suit some end goal. I felt like he was judging me just as much as he was genuinely caring for me. ‘How are you?’

   ‘I’m fine, I guess. You?’

   ‘Literally,’ he paused to raise his eyebrows at a passing beauty and grin as she giggled and blushed before moving on, ‘never been better.’

   I grinned too. I felt like maybe this guy could teach me what it’s like to be me but good. Maybe he held the key to Normal Me becoming Perfect Me. So I made myself comfortable, and allowed my chin to wag.


   ‘Remember that time we told that girl we loved her and she kept following us around for weeks thinking we were made for each other but in the end we had to tell her that we only said it to get in her pants?’ I asked, still trying desperately to find a reference point that we shared. This was seven shandies later, so I was probably slurring my words by this point.

   ‘No, Aaron. I told you, we haven’t had the same experiences. I would never do the things you do, they hurt people and you live to regret them. Me, I have no regrets. I’ve never made a mistake in my life.’

   ‘You mean not even…?’

   ‘Not even that.’

   ‘What did you get in your A-levels?’

   ‘All As, obviously.’ The confidence he exuded cheekily trod the line between Modest and Arrogant so precariously that when it slipped into either side for a moment, you could do nothing but adore its character and charm. Without even realising, you could fall in love with this guy just by having a conversation with him. You’d know fully well that he wouldn’t be absorbing every word you say, but you let him off because he’s just so popular. After all, would you be able to listen intently if you had to keep interrupting the conversation to greet adoring passers-by?

   I bet he even got a first in our degree, the adorable bastard.

   ‘So… I guess you don’t have the messy love life I have?’ I asked, suddenly feeling depressed that I was sitting opposite such a behemoth of all-roundedness.

   ‘I’m single too,’ he replied calmly, ‘but only because I haven’t found the right girl yet. I’m seeing people, sure – that girl from the pub quiz, the one from work that we like, even a few dates with a gothy little number from the train station; but I won’t get sexual in any way with any of them until I know that it will feel special and… nice.’

   Nice is a meaningless catch-all word, isn’t it. It’s appropriate that he used the word nice, because it pinpointed for me exactly what I had had difficulty throughout our conversation putting my own finger on. Normal Me had been feeling uncomfortable throughout the conversation, because he had been under attack from a barrage of … niceness. Everything about Perfect Me was nice, and balanced, and considered, and… fucking… perfect. It was exhausting for everyone around him.

   ‘So let me get this straight,’ I began, as a final ditch attempt at building some common ground between us, ‘you never even got walked in on by…’

   But he held his hand up before I could even finish the sentence, shaking his head and closing his eyes in knowing denial. ‘I know the time you’re thinking of, Aaron,’ he said, ‘but it wasn’t me. I never did that. She and I ended just the way we would have liked, and we still talk regularly. She’ll always have a special place in my heart.’

   Of course he hadn’t done it. He hadn’t done anything. All those mistakes with the webcam, he didn’t do. All the times a little bit too much alcohol and all-too-easy access to a mobile phone had caused havoc in my life, he hadn't experienced. He hadn’t argued with any uppity moron at work over things that didn’t matter; he hadn't lived to regret spouting out his grandparent’s ignorant and outdated views as if they were his own long before he had even had any real political inclinations; and he hadn’t strung girls along like I had all for the sake of gaining their attention. He had never had to learn from these experiences like I had, because he knew it all already. The anecdotes he told were borrowed from other people who led more exciting lives, and they were suitable for family audiences, and they made everyone around him politely chuckle at the charm and wit of the raconteur that he was. This man sitting opposite me, everything I had ever wanted to be, would never have the depth that I have because he didn’t have the regrets and triumphs and tiny imperfections that make up my horribly flawed – but experience-enriched – personality. He would never build real relationships because he kept everyone at that perfect distance of being close enough to feel his charm and warmth, but being held far enough away that they could never hurt him. Sure, no one would ever really hate him, but no one would ever really love him either. He would never benefit from the darkness that looms within me because he was forever bathed in the synthetic halogen light of his success. On the surface, this man was living and breathing perfection; but underneath, I was beginning to notice, was nothing else.

   This man was fucking dull.

   I sighed, disappointed to have discovered what I had discovered. It had been a steep fall from the pedestal I had put him on to the hard ground below, but he hadn’t felt a thing; he was too wrapped up in his perfect, two-dimensional reality to bother reading my mind. ‘Well,’ I said, my voice a let-down mumble, ‘I’d best be off. I’ll see you around, eh?’

   ‘Sure thing, Aaron. You take care now,’ he replied, grinning his grin. He smiled that toothy smile so much that I was surprised his teeth weren’t sunburnt.

   As I walked away, questioning everything that I had aspired to be and every ambition I had ever held with regard to personal development, I was uplifted by a thought that struck me just as I was replaced by a new hanger-on that had noticed Perfect Me from across the room and was dying to join him. He might not miss me when I’m gone from his life forever, I thought, but there are a handful of people who would. There are people out there to whom I mean the world, and who mean the world to me; and that’s something he might never experience.

   And that, I decided, is enough for me.