Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A beer with an old (heterosexual) friend

One evening last week, I went out for beers with an old mate of mine called G. Originally we had met when we were teenagers, even though we didn't go to the same school. Some friends can gradually become more distant as the years pass, particular heterosexual ones who settle down and start a family. But even though G has a wife and teenage kids now, we can still click right back into the friendship that we established all those years ago, however long it's been since we last met up.

It's a man's world in the oil fields"So do you like working in Nigeria?" I ask him half way through the first pint of beer. G has spent his working life travelling the world with multinational oil companies, and originally they were semi-permanent postings with his wife and family. But these days, now that his kids are settled at a school in west London, he just takes a lot of long business trips on his own.

"My bosses told me that I was throwing away my career by going back to field work," G replies, "but the pay's better, and I get loads of time off between the field trips to compensate for the time away from my family. The Nigerian project is a tough one, but so much more interesting than the dull old desk job I had!"

"Is it dangerous working in some of these countries?"

"Well, it's true that in some places they send armed guards out in a car to drive along behind you if you go for a run outside the compounds where they put us up! But with all the precautions, I'm not sure it's really any more dangerous than living in a terrorist target city like London."

"Actually I still enjoy my work too," I tell him. "At one stage a few years ago I'd become too managerial, so I switched jobs. Like you I guess, I much prefer to get stuck into a few projects rather than try and manage them from a distance."

We carry on chatting as the beers gradually disappear.

"So what are your new neighbours like?" G asks me later.

"They're not that new mate, we've been in the 'new' house for ages now!" I reply. "But they're good, although the nice married couple next door are now an ex-couple, they're going through a long and messy divorce!"

"Uh huh?" laughs G, but the whole tone of his voice suddenly sounds nervous.

"Yeah, it turns out that ever since myself and boyfriend number 1 have known them, he'd regularly been seeing this other woman. But to us and all the other neighbours, they just seemed like the perfect couple, with two kids and everything."

"Really." says G, and I can tell that for some reason, he's not enjoying this subject at all.

Immediately I wonder what G's been up to. 'The crafty guy!' I find myself thinking, I bet he's been playing around with other women on his business trips! And perhaps his wife has somehow found out? With the beers inside me, and beers inside him too, I start to wonder whether I can get him to confess to an old friend like me.

"Yeah, and it also turns out ..." I try and continue, but before I can say any more he interrupts.

"Want another one?" he says trying to smile, and indicating that he's spotted that my glass is empty.

"Errr, yeah thanks mate!"

When he gets back from the bar, he starts talking about something else. Later in the evening, I try to suggest to G that while he's away on his long trips there's not much to do in the evening "... except drink beer and commit adultery?"

"There's no time for that!" laughs G, very emphatic and confident now.

It was a great evening and really good to see him again, but looking back, I reckon I misread the situation. Thinking about the emphatic nature of his response to my throw away question about adultery, together with his body language, I now reckon that his answer was probably genuine.

Poor guy. The raw terror that I felt from him when I first brought up the subject now leads me to think that he may have only recently discovered something about his wife, and perhaps he hasn't even discussed it with her or anyone else yet. He should have discussed it with me. It's what old friends are for. At any rate, the next time I see him, I think I'll treat the subject much more delicately.


JC said... are so observant!
Actually, I think i am just very oblivious to subtle changes like that...

Anonymous said...

hi gb. how do you manage to be discreet about your sexuality in the office? well for my experience i want to be discreet too but during a conversation today with a co-worker he asked if i ever had a gf? well i honestly i said no, and i whispered to myself...never and tried to change to topic. he was kinda amused, though im just 21. im sure you have experienced those kinds of situations when heterosexual coworkers talk about girls and they began to put you on the hot sit about your experiences with girl(just the thought makes me sick to my stomach). so how did you managed to handle those situations?

you rock gb. :-)

Monty said...

I must agree with JC - I'm useless at picking up on subtle indicators! And I also must agree with Adrian - you do rock!

GB said...

A very good question Adrian, so I've devoted an entire posting to give you an answer! Hope that helps,

GB xxx

Guy In London said...

GB, I guess you probably did pick up on something in the conversation with your friend and you did the right thing to back off. Being in a situation where I am agonising over whether to choose a close friend to share my situation with, I'd say call/e-mail him, invite him out, and give him one more chance to openup to you. It may be that he wants tell someone about something but bottled it.