It is a sad state of affairs to be running around Hampstead Heath, holding a cash box, asking strangers if they’ve seen my ex-girlfriend.
But that’s what I found myself doing last weekend.
After they all said no, I trudged back to the market, and slowly packed away my macaroons.
Oh, by the way, I work on a macaroon stand .
The middle classes love enunciating the word macaroon. “Mac-a-rooooon”, “macK-a-ron”, “MAC-a-Ron.”
I like selling macaroons. I serve all types of customers. There are the in-shape-dads with their rugby loving kids, buying another box of fancy biscuits that they’ll probably devour and then burn off in a matter of seconds. Then there are the literal macaroon addicts – bourgeois versions of the cookie monster.
I like being part of their weekly routines and glimpsing their affluent, sugar-laced lives.
I hadn’t seen my ex for two months. Not since before the break-up. I was still putting macaroons out when she first said “hey.” I didn’t realise who it was until I looked up.
And so in between serving children, hip couples and dads with unholy metabolisms, I asked this person, let’s call her Anna, in 18 different ways why she decided to breakup with me.
“How can I help? Of course – what flavours would you like… Why did you break my heart? Chocolate is my fave too! Why are you here – have you no mercy? Would you like those in a bag? Have you met anyone else yet? The lavender ones are really popular !”
So it went on.
After the initial shock subsided … I could drop the Great British Bake-Off vernacular. We talked about what we’ll be doing for the summer. We talked about whether we could be friends. We argued about whether we were right for each other. We talked about the mistakes we had made in the relationship. We commented on the weather.
After spending the shift with me, Anna said her goodbyes, made a cute but cruel joke about the lack of breakup sex (selling macaroons doesn’t get me as much action as you might think) and walked away. I sighed.
I had told her that I couldn’t be her friend because I still had feelings for her. Wrongly or rightly, I felt like a grown up. For about 20 seconds.
Then the fear set in, the fear that I’d never see her again.
30 more seconds passed…
An idea hit me like a lightning bolt, if lightning bolts didn’t kill you but just made you have terrible ideas. I should have asked her to meet up on the anniversary of when we became friends two years ago? A lovely, but safely platonic gesture, that might give me a better narrative conclusion than “and then she walked away from the macaroon stand.”
So I ran into Hampstead Heath, chasing after my ex-girlfriend. I started shouting her name. I asked strangers passing by if they’d seen her. They all said no, and looked slightly wary. Turns out, without a Beach Boys song playing in the background, romantic gestures look completely ludicrous.
But this is Hampstead Heath after all, the stomping ground of Richard Curtis acolytes and would-be parliamentary assassins. If they found my grand gesture too dramatic, they’d come to the wrong place.
Anna had asked me where the nearest toilets were just before she left. So I lingered outside the loo, for way too long, looking like I was either a total pervert or a … nope, just a total pervert.
I didn’t find her. She was long gone.
I called my friend about it. They laughed and asked, “what if she was hiding in a bush … giggling at the entire scene?”
But the whole thing got me thinking, are romantic comedies based on true stories, or do we try to construct our lives like the stories we see on screen?
Perhaps I’m becoming the Carrie Bradshaw of North London: running around and blogging about my tumultuous love life. Except, instead of Manolos, I’ve got macaroons.
And I don’t think HBO will be commissioning Snacks in the Suburbs anytime soon.
Illustration by Georgia Turner