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Big Time

Dedicated to someone to whom it would probably never occur that this is all about her. Even if, by some odd chance, she would stumble across this story and read it. Which, all things considered, is probably better that way.

Thirty can be a difficult age. Especially if you've just left college, and, after years of mindless promiscuity, fall in love for the first time in more than a decade. Bigtime. Madly, deeply, probably unresolvably.

Allan had thought that he was cool, that he was in control, and that he had left such problems as falling in love behind im after the age of 16. And now he had to admit he had been wrong. He was not cool. Instead he was sometimes blushing and lost for words when he met her. He definitely was not in control, since he caught himself on several occasions to take a longer way home than was strictly necessary on the off chance that he might then accidentally meet her on the company's parking ground. As for having left any serious emotions behind him - well, for all that he could recall, this was worse than the very first time fourteen years ago.

It had happened within two weeks of him being into his first job after leaving college, and a mere four weeks after his graduation ceremony and the wild party that had followed it.
Her name was Roisin and they had met in the company's canteen, where they had shared a table that day. New employees are always a bit more interesting than the existing ones, so they had chatted for a while and she had seemed a very amicable and happy sort of person. They had met again later that day near the elevator, he had greeted her and had smiled, and she had smiled back.
And from that moment on he was in love. Mildly first, but in strength growing every day, until, two weeks later, after a small chat they had had near the water dispenser, for the first time in a lot of years he had difficulties going to sleep at night.

In the days that followed that rather sleepless night, he found out a bit more about here - in a little talk they had when they went to the canteen she mentioned a partner and a daughter. He didn't have any problems with a partner - relationships broke up all the time, so why not when it would suit him rather well (and if he could speed up things so much the better). The daughter was a different piece of cake. So far, kids had not played a major role in his lifeplan. Falling in love with a woman having one in pre-school age meant that he had to take this into consideration.
To his big surprise, he found out the he had no choice in that matter. The very moment he started to think about the fact that she had a daughter, he arrived at the answer: he would have to rise to the challenge and accept her. This came as quite a shock to him, and told him that the condition was more serious than he had so far thought. That was, however, only to be the start.

Some days later he met her in a local park sometime after work.
She had a dog. A dog! If there was one sort of animal Allan despised, it was dogs. Stupid, obedient, smelly things. If you owned a dog and wanted to sleep long, then have a nice relaxed breakfast in bed, you couldn't because the creature was not able to go to the loo alone. You wanted to meet someone after work for a nice meal in a restaurant and then some cultural event or other, you couldn't because first that someone would have to look after his or her dog. Having a dog used to be one of those attributes of a woman, that, for Allan, would instantly void any chance of her ever becoming his girlfriend. Until, as he noticed when he got home, now.

When he caught himself daydreaming about her during a not unimportant meeting some days later, he was finally ready to acknowledge that he had a problem.
For alcoholics this is an important step. It means they can then start to seek help and go to meetings. If you are in love, however, the realization that you've got a problem won't get you very far. For one thing, there's no such thing as Lovestrucks Anonymous.
He could, of course, pour out his heart to a close friend. Which, a quick mental check revealed, he didn't have. Mates he had, yes. But nothing even coming close to a friend on the male side. And as for the female side... he hadn't spoken much to any of the girls he might consider as his ex-girlfriends after the affair had ended.
Professional help? Going to a shrink for being in love seemed ridiculous. And what good could he do? A hypnotizer might be able to help, but Allan had a deep-rooted aversion against any profession that tried to change your mind.

That left the centuries-old remedy of seeking comfort elsewhere. He had lived in this city all his adult live; he knew the places where he could go to on a weekend and expect to pick somebody up.
It didn't help. On the few occasions that he tried and succeeded, his heart was not in it and the ensuing sex had all the quality of something you have to get over with as quickly as possibly because honour got you committed to a job you don't like. Worse still, when he met Roisin on the mondays following such weekends, he felt guilty and dirty.
Which was even more disturbing because sex didn't feature prominently in his daydreams about her. More to the point, it didn't feature at all. Worse still, it took a conscious effort for him to even think of her as having sex with somebody (say, her partner), let alone with him. His love was far more romantic than the mere affection one might feel for the person one was experiencing carnal pleasures with. Which, due to the fact that they had read "Brave New World" at school just when he had fallen in love for the very first time in his life, he knew to be a rather unhealthy disposition.
However, when, on a particularly rotten day, the paranoid idea that she might have something going with the head of her department was basically all that he could think about, he managed astoundingly well. Shrieks of joy and all.
Since that day had been a Friday, he had went out as usual. Only this time, instead of trying to pick someone up, he had drunken himself into blissful oblivion.

About that time he found out what car she owned, a V registered blue Vauxhall Astra. Allan was, on his weekends, usually driving around quite a lot - the mountains were not far away, neither was the sea, and he liked both. But from the day he knew the model of her car, whenever he saw a blue Astra on the road he started thinking of her.
And it got worse. Soon he thought of her when he saw any V registered car. Or a woman who only remotely looked like her - the same colour of the hair (chestnut) was all it took. Or the same style of clothes. Anything really. Like reading a newspaper article about stewardesses and thinking of her because her name was Roisin Stewart.

Then there was the jealousy. Getting worse by the day. He was jealous when he saw her chatting with other colleagues, when she sent an email to a group of engineers but not to him on account of him not being part of that team, when she joked with the technicians, when she spent half an hour cheering up a team-member that was suffering from some personal problems...
This was ridiculous. Allan was happy in his job. The company he worked for was the very company he always had wanted to work for (like more than two thousand others a year) and he had gotten his dream-job in it. And after only two months he caught himself thinking about quitting.
Not that he would. At least, not right now. This current mental disorder would right itself in due time. It would wear off. It always did. Sure, so far it had never, ever, taken so long. But hey, this couldn't just stay like this, could it? You didn't just wake up one morning and found out that your life had completely and irreversably changed overnight. One day in the not too far away future, he was sure, he would wake up and the pain would be gone...

In the meantime Allan took refuge in alcohol. When he had started hitting the bars looking for a one-night-stand to distract him, he usually had had a few pints, but that had been on weekends and it only had been two or three. Now two or three pints was what he was drinking every night; when he went out on a friday or saturday night, it was more. Closer to ten on fridays, depending on the week.
When you're in love, alcohol can affect you in two ways. It can help you bear it, because it gets you into a lighter mood, where you are then able to shrug off the burden of everyday life. Perhaps daydream a bit about telling her that you love her - which, this being a daydream, will move her to confess that things with her partner are not working out very well and that she would rather be with you...
Or the alcohol can enhance an already melancholy mood into a something close to despair. In that respect it is a bit like LSD, with which you usually don't know beforehand if the trip you take will be a good one or a bad one.
But unlike with LSD, with alcohol you can just keep on drinking until you end up in oblivion. Which is what he did.

The result was close to desastrous. Drinking copious quantities of beer on friday and saturday nights meant that he couldn't drive the next day - at least not before noon, or, sometimes, late afternoon. Driving had kept him from thinking - having to stay at home (if you are nursing a serious hangover using public transport to get you out into the countryside does not have any appeal at all) only triggered more thinking about her. Endless minutes looking at a grainy mobile phone picture he had managed to shoot of her one day without her noticing; endless hours to nurse paranoid suspicions about her head of department and her... the weekends started to be worse than the workdays.

Then came a day when, out of the blue, a general assembly of all employees was scheduled at short notice. And they were told that the company had decided to consolidate the ailing wing of the business that Allan's factory was a part of. Instead of having three european factories in three different countries, they had decided to concentrate on one. True, there was talk of job losses in the States as well, but that was of little consolation to them.
They were told that no decision as to which of the three factories would survive had yet been reached, but they were competing against Germany and Portugal. Nobody worried about Portugal, but Germany was serious. There, they operated on the basis of twelve-hour shifts, the factory had only been built a couple of years ago and even the productivity was higher.

Naturally, the announcement that the factory's future was under consideration brought a lot of unrest into the departments. Private talks usually had only one topic now - what if the factory would be closed. The company was the biggest employer in the region and the majority of the workforce owned their own homes, with quite a few who had bought only recently. And although the housing market was pretty robust at the moment, if close to 3,000 people were all of a sudden without a good-paying job in the area, it was certainly going to have an impact on house prices.
Then rumours started to circulate that some key employees had been sounded out regarding their willingness to move to Germany. And rumours or not, now even the people with a generally more optimistic nature started to worry. And started to update their cv's.

It was four weeks later that the Research & Development department was closed down - in the future R&D would be centralized at the company's headquarters in the United States.
Research & Development was the department where Roisin worked and Allan only just managed to get to her in time - the employees of that department had all received their two-weeks notice but with accrued vacation days and overtime it basically meant that people, after having been told, just went back to their place of work to collect their personal belongings.
She was in tears. She and her partner had only recently moved from a small terraced house to a larger semi-detached one but even with her partner earning quite well had the mortgage been a heavy burden. And although the job market for engineers was in no bad shape, finding a new job would quite certainly entail daily commuting. There were some engineering companies in the area, but for the most part those relied heavily on Allan's and Roisin's company for contracts and would therefore rather let off employees than hire new ones.
Allan did the best he could to console her, but with the facts being what they were, there was not much he could do. Still, he managed to do the one thing he had come for, which was to give her a card with his address, email and mobile phone number. Trying to say something about "staying in touch" like the professionals they were sometimes do in such situations for networking reasons.

That night, when he realized that he would probably never see Roisin again, he hit the bottle so hard, he had to call in sick the next morning. Which caused nothing more than an audible shrug from the head of his department, as if he wanted to say "So what? Does it matter anymore?"

During the following days things started to improve slightly for Allan. True, he still spent hours each day thinking about Roisin, but it was not as bad as before - since he didn't see her chatting with their co-workers, most of the jealousy was gone (he couldn't help thinking that she might be seeing her now former head of department during the days, though). It felt like a fever-free phase between bouts of malaria and he could only hope that it meant that he was getting over the whole thing.

Then came the day when everybody else got the sack as well. They closed down the whole factory. No plans to sell it to some competitor or even some third-party operator.
After being told during another general assembly, Allan went back to his desk, collected the few personal belongings he kept at the company, said good-bye to a few collegues and went home.
He left in a rather relaxed mood - subdued maybe, but not desperate. He didn't drink very much that night but instead went to bed early.

Six weeks later and he had a new job. True, he had to move south across the border, but the job was interesting and paid well, so he didn't mind too much.

A short while later Allan met Maggie, who was ten years younger, worked as a shop assistant and simply adored him. After some months she moved in with him, and, about a year later, Allan found himself to be the father of a son. And Roisin was just a distant memory, a shadow in the past.

The End