For two months it lasted, maybe three. I’m not sure; we are delving into ancient history here. It was over the phone. Granted, not the most chivalrous way to do it, but hell, it beats a text.
With a phone call you can hear if there’s any regret in their voice. Of course if you do hear any, it’s usually worse, because then you start lying to yourself over and over, obsessing, thinking ‘they’ll regret it so much they’ll come back’, and you stop being a functioning human being and become this over-analysing monstrosity, unrecognisable, skulking in the curtain-drawn bedroom like some Lovecraftian demon. A beast that never lets it go, never stops and never gets the damn message that they aren’t going to call, because they don’t miss you and they’re never ever going to. Of course, while doing this, you think endlessly about what their motive for it could have been. It wasn’t because they hated you; you could tell that by their voice on the phone, but why? Why, why, why? Why would they do it? The first reaction, and the most chilling, is always the same one: Somebody else.
And then you want to know who, who is it? Have I met him? Jesus, have I met her? Oh God… What does he do? Is he bigger than me? Could I take him? Would beating him up help my chances or would it just get him some sympathy? I could get someone else to do it; no, that’s crazy. I wanna know who he is, why won’t you tell me? What harm can it do? It’s that guy you mentioned once ages ago, isn’t it? It’s your ex. It’s your mate’s mate. How long has it been going on? Was it under my nose the whole time? What have you done?
Why do you want to know?
I don’t know, I just need to know God damn it!
Then you’re tired, so you go to sleep. You don’t sleep very well, but its sleep none the less. Then when you wake up you’re too tired to carry on the tirade and keep fighting and you realise that you’ll never get the truth anyway, so what’s the point? You’re too tired to eat, too tired to go back to sleep. You don’t talk to anybody, because you’re too tired. You don’t go anywhere, because you’re too tired. Life is tiring and in it, you’re tired. The world becomes a haze of drab colours, drab events and drab words. The reason you don’t talk to people is because you know all the platitudes in the book: Plenty more fish, etcetera.
Everything just stops.
You wake up a month or so later and find that not only have you lost five pounds, you’ve grown a beard and you didn’t even realise it. You’ve never grown a beard before, but you’re glad you can. It’s always good to have the option. If it wasn’t for your gargantuan sweet-tooth, you’d probably be suffering from malnutrition by now, so you laugh at all those cautions you got from the dentist when you were a kid. You begin to eat and talk to people again. Life is sliding back into its frame. Thoughts of other people start popping into your mind and you realise that it might just be possible! With that in mind you wonder just what it was that you liked about her so much? After a lot of deliberation, you realise this: not a whole lot actually. It was one big strange circumstance.
Flashing back to the start of it, you were in a pub and some bloke called you over. You didn’t know him, but he was bigger than you, so you went. He pointed you to a girl and you thought ‘OK, this is getting odd’, but you played along, because he might have had a knife or something. You got talking to the girl and now with the hindsight you have, you realise you were just so grateful for the attention that you went along with it.
Sounds pathetic, I know. Looking back, oh boy do I know.
It wasn’t the only time the whole ordeal would happen, but it was the very first time. That girl when you was in eight didn’t count. Back then you were so convinced that girls had life-threatening germs, it didn’t make it worthwhile enough to count. Ah playtime romances.
Anyway, I digress.
No, this wouldn’t be the last time. Many years later, a girl decided she couldn’t stand my presence, because she thought I was too immature. My immediate reply was one I have dwelled on, regretted and laughed over ever since.
“I know you are, but what am I?”
I thought I was being witty. I thought I was making a clever parody of her comment. She apparently didn’t get the irony as she shrugged her shoulders, crooked her mouth in a way that could only have meant “See what I mean” and walked away. Oh sure, I could have tried to prove my maturity: walked straight, stopped mainlining sweets and stopped finding innuendo funny, but that just wouldn’t have been me. And nobody wants to live a lie, no matter how good she is. Sooner or later she’d find out anyway, she’d find my secret skeleton cupboard and the whole thing would blow wide open. By that time of course, I wouldn’t have had a leg to stand on, so it was for the better that she walked away, ranting and raving, probably. Yeah, it definitely was… I reckon.
Where were we? Ah yes, a month or so after the phone call and I was back on track. She was firmly out of my mind. Sure, she popped in from time to time, but no more than thinking about how much you want ice cream every time you hear Greensleeves.
One Saturday, about eleven in the morning I was just getting dressed after a shower and my phone rang. I went to answer it and stopped when I saw the number. I’d deleted the name, but I recognised those eleven digits as well as I knew the name of that yellow warm thing in the sky. I was shot back to two months ago and was instantly reduced back to that shadowy creature. My heart palpitated, my extremities trembled. What could she want? What could it be? Does her new bloke have the same name as me and she’s calling the wrong one? No, that’s not it. I looked him up, as sad as that is. As much as I don’t like social networking, it has its uses. I didn’t feel good about doing it, more like a modern day peeping Tom, but it was a crazy time and to survive crazy times, one must become his surroundings.
I didn’t answer. The call ended, and then rang again. I sat trembling on the edge of my bed. Again I didn’t answer, but I text the number, saying ‘who is this?’ A reply came almost instantly. Her name and two X’s. I asked ‘what do you want?’ Here was the money-shot. It seemed to take forever to open the reply. I held my breath. Everything rested on this. Everything. ‘I miss you xx’.
I had just successfully hit the mother lode.
I jumped for joy, I laughed, I CACKLED like a maniac, like the Wicked Witch would have done if she’d have just shot Dorothy. I was so happy I was furious. I felt like King Kong at the top of the Empire State building, like Goldfinger when he had Bond on the laser-table. What do I say? “OK, I miss you too, let’s start over” Na, that wasn’t even true. But why did I feel so afraid? I was reduced to a quaking mess by this girl, again, but now was my time. The shoe was on the foot now and other such weird phrases that mean the same thing.
My reply was simple: “Tough, you had your chance.” It was a carefully chosen sentence. ‘Tough’ to show I was over it and ‘you had your chance’ to show that baby, you screwed the pooch and I don’t give second chances. It might have sounded a little harsh, but I just felt too damn good to care.
I waited for a reply. Weird that she still made me a slave to the phone. An hour passed and there wasn’t any. I figured she got the message. I left the house and went out to shop. Walking down the street, I felt like Godzilla wading through Japan. The stones on the pavement were little cars that I trampled and kicked over. I got to the corner shop and I bought the biggest, thickest slab of milk chocolate I could find. The girl behind the counter looked at me and my big stupid grin and said: “You seem happy.”
I nodded and said: “You know what, I really am.”
Short anecdotal piece about a guy dealing with the end of his first relationship.
Published in the Lancashire Evening Post on 14/1/12