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Besotted With a Brit

I was pulled around by an accent

By Rebecca MortonPublished 4 months ago Updated 4 months ago 6 min read
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Besotted With a Brit
Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

“Oh, I saw the decade in, when it seemed the world could change at the blink of an eye."

These lyrics of “Right Here, Right Now”, by Jesus Jones, describe my outlook as 1989 became 1990.

Having just graduated college a few months before, I had moved into my own apartment. Actually, it was a room I rented in a house with two other people I’d never met before. The main attraction of the place was that I could walk to my preschool teaching job from there.

Actually, I was a preschool teacher’s assistant. I made minimum wage cleaning up after children and carrying their meals to their classroom from the kitchen. I didn’t really do much teaching, but I did get to play with the kids and sing songs with them, which was fun. After a year, I got to actually teach students there.

But, with the exception of the children, mine was a lonely life. The people I lived with worked hours even longer than mine, and either went on trips or slept through the weekends.

All I really wanted was a boyfriend.

I was raised with the literature, theater, and film of romance. I don’t mean trashy romance novels, or TV “rom-coms” (which I don’t think they were called back then), but actual literature by Shakespeare, Dickens, and the Brontes, and the films produced by Merchant Ivory or directed by Kenneth Branagh.

And I was madly in love with every young man in the new movie, Dead Poet Society . Those cute, witty guys only lacked one thing to be perfect in my eyes, or rather, my ears:

A BRITISH ACCENT.

English (spoken by kings or cockney), Irish, Scottish, Welsh, and even Australian accents seemed to catapult any man about fifty rungs higher on the attractiveness ladder to me — and to a lot of my girlfriends.

This brings us to a cold January 1990, when one of my housemates moved out and was quickly replaced by a man two years older than I whom I will refer to as “British Fred”. Fred is not his real name.

British Fred was nice to talk to at first. He and I had fun late-night conversations on the staircase of our townhouse sometimes, or in the dining room, which we never used for meals.

As for his appearance, he looked a bit like this guy:

By Piotrek Luszczak on Unsplash

Cute enough, right?

But then there was HIS VOICE. He spoke with what Brits might call a “posh” accent, and it had the power to make Fred look more like this to my eyes:

By Gregory Hayes on Unsplash

To use a word from Victorian novels, I was besotted. Or, as the kids say nowadays, I was crushing on him, hard. I was done for.

And I knew he would never feel the same about me.

I was an average-looking young woman, shorter than most, and I looked too young to be my age, something older women told me to “appreciate”. But at the time, when I still remembered people in college asking me if I was old enough to be there, it was discouraging.

British Fred would not be besotted with me.

And yet, I had hope.

He often invited me to his room to watch TV with him. Nothing inappropriate happened, and his door remained open.

He held my hand in his once.

It happened when we were sitting on the floor listening to his Peter Gabriel album entitled, So. That’s the one with the song John Cusack boom box serenades Ione Skye with in Say Anything. I don’t think Fred had seen the movie, so it seemed like a magical coincidence.

It never happened again. We never spoke of it again.

And yet, I had hope.

I insisted on taking him out to dinner on his birthday. Our dinner for two was awkwardly quiet until he suggested we go have a drink at the bar.

I told him I knew the bartender. She was a substitute teacher at the school where I worked. When we got to the bar, he brightened up and made lively conversation with her. He virtually ignored me.

WHEN I WAS PAYING FOR HIS BIRTHDAY DINNER.

And yet, I had hope.

Maybe it was my fault. Maybe I wasn’t interesting enough, smiling enough, asking him about how his day went.

Except I was pretty sure I was already doing those things.

That summer, I moved to a different rental room in another house in the same town. I couldn’t shake Fred from my mind. I called him, and sometimes left a message, and he would actually call me back.

I had hope.

One time, he sounded sad, and I asked him if he’d ever been to New York City on the train, which is what my New Jersey friends and I did when we were bored. He said he hadn’t, so we made a date. We could walk up Madison and down Fifth, go to a cheap French restaurant I knew, and hang out in Central Park. He agreed this would cheer him up, so we made a date.

Or, I thought it was a date.

I wore a skirt. I never wore skirts unless I was working as an usher at the college theater. And also, apparently, for a summer day in Manhattan with my soon-to-be new boyfriend.

By Harry Gillen on Unsplash

He barely spoke to me the entire time.

Because I was such an idiot back then, I still called him on the phone occasionally, despite Fred never once calling me. I even wrote him a letter once. I brought up the hand-holding.

It was not an angry letter, just a request for clarification. I said that I remembered our times together fondly (really?) and that I would like to know what it all meant — if anything.

He never wrote me back.

I remembered I left some audio tapes (remember them?) in his room and called to see if I could visit him and get them. He met me on his porch with the tapes. I asked him if he got my letter. He said yes.

That’s it. He didn’t look at me when he said it.

OK, MISTER! YOU DON’T HAVE TO TELL ME FOURTEEN TIMES!

I did not contact Fred again after that porch meeting. I had to grow up and move on. I went to graduate school and moved to Philadelphia, which I never told Fred or anyone else in that town.

HERE IS THE WEIRDEST PART OF MY STORY, WHICH YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE, BUT IT’S TRUE:

Nearly three years after I had my last one-sided conversation with British Fred, I was walking to my friend’s apartment in West Philadelphia. She was attending graduate school there, and I was taking care of her cats and houseplants while she was away.

As I walked, I saw a tall, red-haired man walking toward me on the same side of the street.

NO.

No, that’s dumb. In what world outside of lame TV shows would that happen?

In my world, I guess, because it was none other than BRITISH FRED.

Come on, Universe!

He had a male friend with him. I don’t know if that made it better or worse.

We both said “Hi” and “How’ve you been?” and stuff. We told each other what we’d been up to for the past three years, and Fred told his pal who I was, and what our connection was, which, in his words was, “We were housemates”.

Then, Fred told me he was about to be married, and that his bride-to-be was living in another town where he would be living soon with her. He actually wrote the woman’s phone number, which he said would soon be his too, on a piece of paper for me.

I congratulated him and told his friend it was nice meeting him. Then we both continued walking in opposite directions.

So, when I had just about forgotten him, here he came again, like that Dolly Parton song.

I was actually thankful for this moment of closure, but, me being me, I couldn’t leave it alone. I bought the happy couple a spice rack, and I phoned his bride-to-be the next day.

She answered, and said she would tell Fred that I wanted to talk to him about where we could meet so I could give him the present.

Fred never called me. I threw the number away.

I kept the spice rack until very recently, when it finally broke, nearly thirty years, a husband, and two children later.

A word to the wise from one who was not so wise:

Don’t fall in love with a voice unless it can speak the words, “I love you, too."

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The above story was originally published on Medium.com.

Bad habitsEmbarrassmentDating
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About the Creator

Rebecca Morton

My childhood was surrounded by theatre people. My adulthood has been surrounded by children! You can also find me on Medium here: https://medium.com/@becklesjm, and now I have a Substack newsletter at https://rebeccamorton.substack.com/

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  • Daphsam4 months ago

    Well done!

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