Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Greater Expectations by Alexander McCabe

Title: Greater Expectations
Author: Alexander McCabe
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Release Date: August 5, 2014
Length: 257 pages / approx. 90,000 words
Cover Artist: Kirsty C. Maclauchlan
It is said that the course of true love never runs smooth - even for us men. Yet it has never been easier to find love than in this modern digital era where the mighty computer has all but rendered Cupid redundant. Love is now to be found, quite literally, at your fingertips. Although love also seems to have changed with the times. This new love is deceitful and manipulative, cunning and untrustworthy. Love has gotten ugly. Thankfully, not all the answers to life’s mysteries are to be found in the computer and Cupid - battered and bruised as he may be - proves that he still has some game and a few tricks up his sleeve…

     When first I met my now estranged wife during our Master’s year at university, I was seeing someone else too. In the main, this defines me as a “bastard”, although I preferred to think of myself as a “player”. Indeed I would argue that it falls under the guise of “sowing wild oats”. That’s the phrase that makes the practice somehow acceptable, and mothers the world over tell their sons that this is what they need to do before they settle down. The rite of passage into manhood as it were. At least, it’s what my mother told me. Women may argue this point - sorry, women will argue this point - but then they become mothers.
     Naturally, they just don’t want those “wild oats” sown with their own daughters.
     However, it is a fallacy to think that we men are completely heartless. I realised that I actually liked the girl that I eventually married so quickly ended all contact with the third party. In actual fact, she was a girl that I had been seeing first but only by a matter of a few weeks. I got the usual tirade of “bastard” texts, emails, and drunken voicemails. “I thought you were different” being the obligatory phrase that she just had to use during every one of these “opportunities”. In one particular instance, during which she also branded me a “coward”, I foolishly responded. I explained to her that I was merely being cruel to be kind as it was blatantly obvious to me that there we had no future together. Furthermore, after everything that had been said and done – more on her part now than mine - she would surely realise and accept that there was no going back as any trust and respect that had been built was now completely shattered.
     I got the following reply:
“See, I knew you were different. That was lovely, you thinking of me and my feelings and us and our future. Why can’t we make this work? We can, you just have to trust yourself to trust me. Call me.”
     It took another six weeks of ignoring and blocking her before she finally gave up. We had only been dating, if it could ever have been called that, for three weeks.
     It takes true courage and bravery to finish any relationship. As my marital separation was only a week old, I understood that there may be some element of hope that we could fix it and move on. Yet I knew there was no way I could, or would, allow myself to stoop to such a level of indignity. My sense of pride has taken a pounding and is undoubtedly battered and bruised, but it is still there, standing tall and intact, however weakly. It is also getting stronger with every passing day.
     All thanks to “Hope”.
     “Hope” is a very strange feeling that displaces others such as “confidence”, “faith”, and “trust” and one that I have naturally gravitated towards my entire life. We are old friends, hope and I. Never have I dared to have “confidence” in my academic or sporting abilities, rather I always “hoped” that I would perform at my best as necessitated in any particular circumstance. When things had gone better than I had even dared “hope”, then I defaulted to the notion that is was merely my “good luck”, and vice versa. “Luck” has always provided me an excuse for all of life’s highs and lows and everything in between. Now I wanted to change all that. Now I wanted to control my existence.
     Now I wanted to stir the stagnant pool that is my life proactively to feel like I am living again.
     So that may well explain why I am now sat in only my boxer shorts in front of my computer, as the rain batters the window behind my curtains, and trying to focus on completing an online dating profile that includes a “personal statement” section. Apparently, its purpose is to allow me to describe myself in as broadly generic terms as possible in order to seem “normal” and “average” - and so maximising my appeal - whilst also trying to ensure that I am unique enough as to stand out. The logic of the concept is irrefutable and yet fantastically ridiculous.
     It is also proving so challenging to the point of being quite impossible.
     As a truck driver, I work most weekends and so this job commitment removes the more conventional ways of meeting women. Using a dating site makes far more sense in this new age of technology as it allows for an immediate connection without the need to wait for the weekend, or the demand of a decent chat up line. It cuts to the chase, so to speak. The site has posted a statistic that states over 28% of couples now “meet” online, so I am still happily in the minority. However, it is utterly galling to me that I should ever try to be “normal” or “average” to anyone as I have never considered myself as such.
     It seems to me to be morally fraudulent.
     Online dating. It really is quite an absurd concept yet totally in concert with the modern era where people are too busy with work and life to take the time and make the effort for actually dating. Yet where is the romance of it? You will never hear a love song that refers to such sites. Can you imagine Rod Stewart singing “The Algorithm of my Heart”, or some such like?
     No? Me neither.

     “So, from your understanding of the upper class stereotype, do you think we love in the same way that everyone else loves?” The laugh had gone and the fire was once again the object of her attention.      Stupidly, it made me somewhat envious. It was obvious that she wanted to look anywhere else but at me and she suddenly seemed quite nervous and vulnerable. That look. What was it? So rarely had I seen this look before. She looked…forlorn? Yes, that was it. She looked forlorn. 
     It didn’t suit her.
     “I’m afraid that I am the very last person to be able to speak of love with any kind of authority. I’m sorry.” Here was I taking to a stranger and yet, somehow, it felt instinctively right to be completely honest. She drew her eyes away from the fire and let them rest upon my chest. If I didn’t know better, I would have said she was looking for my heart. 
     “How so?” her voice nothing more than a whisper.
     My life with Gem, told as an anecdote, came tumbling out. As Penny sat in silence, I soon became oblivious to her presence and spoke more to myself than to her. As my sorry tale came to a close, I apologetically explained about reading the email “it was wrong and I know I shouldn’t have done it, but…” and then proceeded to explain the crux of its contents whilst omitting the gory details, she could garner them for herself “…and so here I am, mending my broken heart with Richie.” 
     Many a true word said in jest as they say.
     It was a few moments before she spoke. Not that I really noticed nor cared for, in my head, I was back staring at the computer monitor and reading that email for the first time - once again. 
     “So do you still believe in love?” Her question penetrated my thoughts although it took me a second to realise where I was. 
     “I was taught to believe in love, my mum is a bit of a romantic. My dad too, if truth be told although he would never readily admit to it. I thought I was in love but seeing now how easily I have walked away from it makes me realise that I truly wasn’t. It is all but impossible for me to determine whether it was the idea of love that I loved or if it was the person providing this possibility; that ‘someone to love’ as it were. It really is a rather complicated notion and one that generates more questions than answers for me.” The depth of my own answer had surprised me and I took a few seconds to consider what I had said. 
     “Actually, on reflection, forget all that. Yes, I believe in love but only in the way as described to me by my mother.” 
     “Which was?” Her sincerity was almost palpable as she shifted in her seat and crossed her legs underneath herself. Only now did I notice how big these chairs were, or maybe it is how small she is, it was certainly one or the other. Her glass had been abandoned on the table and she rested her head in her hands, supported by her elbows on her knees. It really was quite remarkable how completely at home she was in these stifling surroundings. She seduced me into believing that we were old friends simply discussing life; thus providing a comfort and confidence to speak my heart and mind without fear of judgment or ridicule. 
     It was a beautiful feeling.
     “Love is when you can look into the eyes of another person and only see the reflection of your own soul. I rather like that idea and believe that it will happen for me one day.” In saying this, one of the unruly crowd hanging behind her caught my attention.
     “It sounds like you believe in fate. I didn’t think that a man like you would.” She struck me as genuinely surprised. 
     “Another stereotype perhaps?” I said teasingly, my eyes too slow to catch hers as she looked back into the fire. The moment gone, I continued “I certainly do believe in fate, and why not? If I didn’t, why else would we be having this drink? I had never even heard of this estate until last week and now here I am enjoying myself with, quite literally, the Lady of the manor.” 
     “So you are enjoying yourself? Good. Me too.” As Penny said this, she settled back into her chair and placed her hands, one over the other, in her lap. She still sat on her legs. It amazes me how she manages to make even this pose seem so effortless yet graceful. I have no idea how she does that. 
     “So what is next for you, love-wise?”
     “Who knows?” Rather than feeling bitter and consumed with hurt and regret, I just feel relieved. Obviously she is intent on using her career to climb the social ladder and that doesn’t really interest me, being honest. I have always been more interested in being ‘content’ rather than ‘happy’. ‘Happiness’ seems to be such a fleeting emotion, whereas ‘contentment’ has a more enduring appeal.” Penny was nodding in agreement at my distinction between these two ideals. “It seems that I had five months to get used to being single but only now it’s official. To be totally honest, I am thinking to join a dating site and see what happens. I am not averse to the idea of giving fate a hand, you know? Although I have absolutely no idea why I am telling you that.” I really didn’t and laughed in embarrassment at the absurdity of my need to admit this to her - a complete stranger. 

Top 10 – Places to meet new people
1. public transport
2. work
3. shopping
4. weddings
5. funerals
6. through friends / family
7. shopping
8. internet - social media
9. internet - dating sites
10. at the gym

Author Bio:
After graduating with a couple of useless degrees in law, I left my Scottish homeland and wandered nomadically around the globe to experience the rich diversity of culture that the world has to offer.

On my travels, I met my Canadian wife in New Zealand, we were married in Scotland and now live in Canada with our newborn son. Although we currently call Toronto home, this is not yet a permanent arrangement and, rather alarmingly, we are perfectly happy about that…


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