In 1822, the two great liberators of South America sat down together to discuss the future of South America in a house in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Simon Bolivar (the conqueror of Venezuela and Columbia) and Jose de San Martin (the scourge of the Spanish in Argentina, Chile and Peru) exchanged pleasantries and commented on each other’s heroism, but it soon became apparent that their visions for the continent were utterly incompatible. San Martin promptly went back to Argentina and then France, never to return. It must rank as one of the most awkward meetings in history, but it still comes a clear second to the drink I had last night with my ex-girlfirend.
We both had a go at overcoming the stifling awkwardness of seeing each other again for the first time since our break-up six weeks ago, but I realised how much we had lost when she flashed me her non-smile smile. It is a look I remember from our worst moments together. It was always the harbinger of an unavoidable and usually petty row. The mouth would smile but the eyes would not. She would look away, but not so far as to hide the smile’s rapid disappearance. Sometimes it meant that I had been boorish and needed to apologise. Other times it meant she was feeling moody and was about to pick a fight.
As we parted there was a suggestion that we would meet again. I can’t remember if it was “it would be nice to see you again” or merely a statement of probability. I hope that, when we do, I will see the proper smile again.