It's after dinner and we sit, side by side, on the sofa. The TV is on in the far corner of the room; its black surround holding in the twenty-two men who are chasing a ball round a bright green pitch.
We sit side by side, each with a laptop carefully placed on our laps; neither of us really watching the football, both of us glancing up every now and then, one of us sighing regularly at the idiotic commentary. I'm trying to write, tapping away at the keyboard, cursing the tiredness that makes me press the wrong keys. I press and delete, type on, backspace, type, delete some more. It's not til the end of a paragraph that I realise there's something wrong.
I want to move up the page, to change an early sentence, but I can't. The small square pad that moves the cursor, is not responding to my touch. I try again, press harder, move my finger faster. Still nothing.
"My mouse has died" I wail. The cat gives me a glare and I'm not really sure if its my wailing he disapproves of, or my usurption of his mouse-killing responsibilities.
"Turn it off and turn it on again" suggests Philip and there's something in his manner that reminds me of a tired IT technician, sick to the gills of his incompetent workmates.
I press the power key and hold it down until all the lights go out, then I press it again to bring the computer back to life. "Turn it off and turn it on again" I mutter, and suddenly I see myself fifteen years ago, sitting in a small office not far from Waterloo station.
The computers were notoriously unreliable back then, it was a common occurrence for them to go down for hours at a time. My office-mate still kept a pile of Memo sheets on the desk, her faith in the power of writing-in-triplicate undiminished by the promise of e-mail.
But I had a better plan; callously and deliberately I befriended the quiet Canadian who worked in the IT suite next door. I made a point of always popping my head round the door to say hello, always finding time to have a chat. I knew, whatever problems the rest of the building was having, my computer would be the first to be fixed.
I never really wondered whether it was fair. He always seemed happy to talk to me, quite content to drop whatever else he was supposed to be doing to follow me back to my desk and make sure all was right with my technology. For a while, I didn't even notice that he was finding reasons to stop by even when the IT was fine. I smiled when he started turning up with a bag of doughnuts every Friday morning. I teased him about his sense of dress, made fun of his boring shirt; it seemed a clever and witty thing to do.
One day I picked up a small pink peg from my desk and clipped it to the end of his hideous tie, laughingly suggesting that was all he needed to look his best.
Later that week, I came back from lunch to find him in my office, crawling under the desk, running his hand over the carpet. Seeing me, he jumped up quickly and backed towards the door, his face turning a glowing red. "I've lost it" he mumbled "I can't find the pink peg."
I'm not sure I've ever felt so ashamed. I knew what I'd done with the chatting and the teasing; I knew why I'd done it. And I know that when he looked at me, just before he left, he knew it too. A few weeks later I heard he'd got a new job.
I never saw him after that and I haven't thought of him in years. But tonight, I'm reluctant to ask Philip to help me fix the laptop. So I press the power key once more, turning it off and turning it on again. All these years later, there's a small part of me hoping that I might yet cancel out my thoughtlessness, fix more than just a faulty mouse.