A marriage rocked

Yesterday evening I was reminded that my routine failure with females may not be THAT worth the constant whingeing.

Marriage is terrifying both as a concept and in practise: the bond you’ve made, the contract you’ve signed, supposedly for your whole life with all the people you love watching you.

The average age of newlyweds is getting older with generations and there’s less of a stigma attached to singletons and divorcees in their thirties, forties and fifties.  It happens.  You might argue that it happens because we communicate better, or we communicate more, or because we’re less willing to simply keep up appearances.

Yet there still exists an implicit pressure on twenty-somethings who have been together a while to do just this; those who look – to all extents and purposes – like they’re ‘made’ for each other.  If they’ve been together long enough, their families want to see some semblance of security,  maybe children; they’re nudged in that direction and if they’re happy and solid, then why not?

But if they are childhood or university sweethearts who haven’t known many, if any other relationships, does there always exist a tiny glint of attraction towards the unknown, towards the other?  Is it an innate undercurrent fear which those sort of couples learn to deal with?  It might lie blissfully dormant or never be realised (safety first).  But it might equally just need an unknown figure to appear and prise the edges apart, so that glint becomes dazzling, hot, scalding.

My former colleague was an amusing, bumbling and self- effacing guy who often exercised pleasing amounts of self-doubt.  (I always warm more easily to those who exercise self-doubt). You might have thought him slightly quirky if you only saw him loping caveman-like around the office in his baggy striped jumpers, or at his desk hiding behind a giant box of cornflakes and coffee pot, but.  In conversation though – one-to-one or in a group – he engaged indiscriminately with everyone, he was funny and candid.

After living with his long-term girlfriend for four years, they married and bought a house.

Our roughly four-monthly pub conversation kicked off as usual: work, the office, colleagues and former colleagues, my move.  Then I asked about married life and he gave hints which I entirely failed to pick up on, only later realising that he was trying to use it as a segway.  What do you think keeps couples going until they’re old?  How do you keep making a relationship work?  What is it?  Don’t all couples get bored of each other after a certain time?

I gave bland answers: separate and shared interests, doing new things, travelling, planning, shared experience, family.  Our chat progressed to a point when I mentioned my curious evening on the night of the USA-Ghana World Cup match.

“Yeah, I had a..  a strange evening then too.”

“Really, what happened?  You go first.  You’re not being..?”

He breathed in, looked down and away.  He was being..

“You ok mate?”

He wiped his increasingly glassy eye.  Did he just wipe his eye?  Fuck.

“Hey really, don’t tell me if you don’t want to tell me.  Shall I go first and..?”

“Yeah, you go on.  Just need more to drink then I’ll..”

I went on with my commentary of that evening, aware that he wasn’t really paying attention, glazed over, trapped in his own world and whatever was going on in there.

“And that was that,” I concluded.  “Now you?  If you..?”

“Mate, I’m totally fucked.”

He did the breathing, looking down, eye-wipe thing again.  His eyes looked full.

“You told anyone about this?”

“One.  Best mate.  This girl in the office: over the past month we’ve started sort of going out, I’ve taken her to places and we’ve stayed out together until three four or five in the morning.  She’s exciting and different and likes me.”

“Single?”

“Married too.  But it’s shit; she hates it, and him.  They’re getting divorced, selling their house and she’s moving back to America soon.”

“How old?”

“25, so only a few years younger.  Got married when they were stupidly young.  But mate, she’s so different and like nobody I’ve ever met: hobbies and interests and.. drugs.  I’ve always been liberal about that stuff but never tried much.  We’ve done lines of coke at lunchtimes.”

I looked at him quizzically, laughed.

“Yeah, scored them off some drunk on the train back from Brighton.  It’s overrated to tell you the truth.  But she’s just..  You know those shit montages in films which show couples getting together, doing stuff and falling in love?  It feels like I’m in the middle of one of those.  Thing is, I don’t know if this is what it’s like meeting someone new, if this was what it was like when I first met.. and everything about her was new and interesting.  I can’t remember what it was like.”

It sounded amazing, the bastard.  I shovelled back the encroaching jealousy.

“And your wife?”

“She suspects.  I slept on the sofa last night.  Probably tonight too.  Doubt she’ll believe I’m here with you, with good reason.  Before it all got to the stage it has now I’d talked about not knowing what I was doing with my life, and our marriage.  We’ve barely spoken for weeks.”

“But this girl is moving back to America?”

“I’ve said I’ll go with her but I don’t think she took me seriously.  She’s impulsive and spontaneous. She likes me, we’ve done – although we haven’t slept together.  Mate.  I’m totally obsessed with her.”

We sipped our drinks.

“You’re sure you’re not a convenience for her?” I asked.  “Attention from a decent bloke and something to do while she sits out the dregs of a crappy first marriage, and before she ups and leaves for home?”

“No.  No, I’m not sure at all.”

He held his head in his hands but was no longer on the brink of tears, at least.

We continued to bat it back and forth, speaking of little else for the remaining two hours until closing time: life’s too short, you don’t want to live life regretting.  But I also voiced my suspicions that he was being played by some sort of whimsical Zooey Deschanel in 500 Days Of Summer character (although subsequent Facebook snooping revealed a crazier looking girl), and also that he could have ruined his marriage.

This seemed to be less of an issue: he was tired of his marriage, or so obsessed with the new, exciting girl that he couldn’t be bothered to resuscitate it.  He was scared but prepared for whatever will happen in the next few weeks.  Weakness and that glint of unknown attraction, boredom with his wife; it could easily contrive to make him a single man again in a short period of time.

Fuck David Cameron’s family policies. Marriage shouldn’t be legal until you’re 30.

Viewed through this lens, failing to persuade females to see me more than once might not merit constant whingeing.  Relationships and marriage bring levels of stress that single, one-off meetings can’t really match.

Perhaps I should be relieved.

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Brixton

Noticing on a mobile maps application that the connecting A-road between Clapham Common and Brixton didn’t look all that long, I dismissed my fear of traffic in these parts, picked up my cycle (with its increasingly ineffective brakes), and aimed myself in the direction of where the A23.. no, the A32..  that big green road should be.  I wish my brain stored A-road numbers more effectively.  Middle-aged men pride themselves on such skills, but it’s not developing for me.  Yet.

Brixton was a place I’d meant to check out for a long time, thinking a gig would summon me there at some point, but with two weeks remaining of my London stay, it still hadn’t.  I popped in my earphones and began to weave between people sprawled out on the common and those loping through the sunshine towards the Ben & Jerry’s festival gate.

Then watchfully, I pedalled out into the snarling, give-no-inch traffic.

The connecting A-road was simple and not long; little more than a five or ten minutes spin between residential streets which slowly opened up and out.  I freewheeled down an incline into what I figured must be the centre, a heavily made up bottle blonde with hoisted short skirt to my right: either seriously craving male attention or a prostitute.  She stood out, not least because this didn’t appear like a place for such dress or try-hard glamorous style.

I dismounted at the base of the hill, looking over a surprisingly cultured looking, arty plaza; well- polished buildings neighboured less well polished buildings.  Two bike locks felt appropriate all the same.  The new sense of place was vivid, despite the proximity to the white middle-classness of Clapham and its own urbane pretentions.  Brixton had fewer, didn’t need them.

The concentration of ethnic minorities was immediately striking but the place had a vibrancy and creativity about it which other strongly black places like the downtrodden feeling Seven Sisters Road in Tottenham didn’t.  Here there were artistic hubs, even iconic places like the Academy, places of obvious congregation, wide open spaces next to narrow market streets which could quite easily fool you into thinking you weren’t in London, or even England.

I walked up the street with my earphones in.  A young black man walking at a similar pace said something.  Hello?

I unpopped my earphones: “Hello mate.”

What did he want?

“How’s it going?” he said.

“Um, good.  You ok?”

“Yeah I’m good.”

“Good.”

Perturbed by the exchange, I stopped to look at my phone and he kept walking.

Young people were, by and large, pretty.  Most looked like they were, or should be in a band.  This was a south of the river Camden, possibly with an even richer mix of people and less contrivance.  Most of these people weren’t essentially rebellious angsty middle class kids who studied other people slightly too hard.

In a narrow market street dense with butchers and meats and rivalling scents, a woman wheeled a trolley in front of her and out across the road.  A second glance revealed her to be wheeling a sack, out of which poked the rear end of what appeared to be a serious looking snake.  I couldn’t imagine this happening in Richmond.

It can be easy to feel like you stand out in your ethnicity when displaced from a native white middle class domain, especially if you’re naturally self-conscious, self-aware.  But the truth is that there are many places where nobody cares.  Places like Brixton.  I could totally understand for young and zesty folk, for those who seek and embrace life in all its forms, Brixton could be a place to live unjudged and unhampered, and to feel a rugged texture of experience.

flung forwards

Wednesday lunchtime I was running through Richmond Park, vaguely mulling over quite how pathetic, whiny and self-absorbed my last blog post here had sounded, and also wondering about the move: a move I’m now fairly sure I don’t want to make, but quite sure I will.

It makes sense, I have no real need to be in London, it’s more affordable and there are many more pretty places within easy reach.  But still, I’ve grown to like London more over these past few months, its opportunity and scale has been better illuminated under the summer months and I will be sad to leave it.

It feels like a personal retreat of sorts, a defeat, having moved here originally for a job I was made redundant from, then failing to secure another one so going it alone and sitting at a desk in a small room on my own for over a year, although remaining solvent, doing ok; but also roundly failing to find a female who would believe I was worth expelling any effort for.  The almost three years since arriving haven’t exactly flung me forwards so I return west, tail between legs, shrugging, mumbling fuck em like a bitter old drunk.

I have little to be grateful to London for, but still she’s just as much a cruel temptress as ever she was.  I have flirted with the idea of cancelling the move and retracting my notice and staying put, trying to find somewhere else in London.  Not allowing her to beat me.

Although I still want change, the whole reason moving was implanted as an idea was because I want change, difference, space which is properly my own.  I want to close this chapter and open a new one, “start afresh” – although starting afresh loses its freshness when you start afresh roughly once every eighteen months, which I seem to.

So I wondered if I could stay in London, when the allure fell away of moving all that way back to a smaller city riven with ghosts – an antipathy aided through being conned by a private landlord at the first attempt at moving.  There MUST be something within budget in London, maybe a bit further out from the centre.

But there isn’t, not really, not of the standard I want.  My property-seeking motivation has wilted; I should just do this and cease my infernal, overly dramatic whingeing.  It’s beginning to bore me.

Running through the park, I approached one of the main bisecting roads where all traffic is restricted to a 20mph crawl.  A red car was coming from the left while a clutch of serious looking spindly cycles attacked the incline to my right.  I easily had enough time to cut between the two and make it to the other side.

Injecting a degree more pace, I pressed down hard with my left foot, then my right fell further than anticipated, deep into a soft crevice a yard before the road’s edge.  I buckled over and the road loomed up to meet me, smashing gravel into my right knee.  My momentum carried and I bowled out into the middle of the concrete strip, rolling once or twice (momentarily wondering if this might even look cool – not the falling over bit, the rolling bit – like I’m an accomplished stuntman who does this thing all the time) before finally halting myself with my head, grit pricking the right corner of my brow.

Did it look cool?  Doubt it.  Definitely hurt.  Hurt quite a lot, in fact.  Ouch.

There I stayed for a brief second, sucking it up, feeling stupid and hurt, yet realising I still had a firm grip of my iPod in my left hand, both earphones were in place and music was still playing (there’s a result at least, well done!)  The red car must have slowed to a stop because it hadn’t hit me.  I rolled back onto my heels and stood up.  “You all right, mate?” a passing cyclist kindly enquired.  (No, everything really hurts).  I waved an embarrassed hand in acknowledgement and gingerly hobbled across the road, conscious not to look down at my legs, struggling to breathe with the pain management.  I waved an arm of gratitude towards the red car too: Thanks for not running me over.  Also meant to infer ‘I’m fine, Go.’  It went.   I ripped a piece of dangling skin from the palm of my right hand, inspected grazes to upper arms and hip, felt blood trickle down my right shin and began to run again.  It was the sort of pain which could be run off and ignored if you just kept going, stretched it out.

There might be some kind of glib metaphor here: when it comes to moving, crossing, making decisions, just keeping going when you’ve tried to move quickly and taken a clumsy fall in front of an audience, emerging cut and bruised, uncertain and wary of fully inspecting all the damage.  That’s what you do: clumsily fall, injure yourself but ignore where, get up again.  Run it off and it’ll get better, Forrest. Keep fumbling forwards.

second date jinx

It goes on.  Those two shards from ten days ago appear to have now fizzled, though it took a little longer than expected, and the one enjoyed a brief crackle of sorts.

However, the one higher in my affections and more subjected to careful hope qualified her brush off yesterday evening by text message.  Her indifference had grown obvious.  She initially gave hope and we loosely arranged a second meeting, then she cancelled – really busy, promising to get in touch the week after, then didn’t.

Part due to my own circumstance and lifestyle, but I have little respect for an excuse of ‘busyness.’  It’s tantamount to not being arsed.  Unless you’re a Prime Minister or a President, or James Corden, there clearly ARE enough hours in a day or week.

Added to this sketchiness and inability to fix a date was a frustrating email manner of one-liners, text messages no more developed, minimal words.  Yet within them: still responses and questions.  If complete indifference, why bother responding at all?

I kept it casual, never mentioning my probable and increasingly imminent departure from London.  Yet mindful of ever dwindling time I decided to push the issue, and wondered by text if it was worth my while attempting to ‘challenge her indifference.’

‘Challenge my indifference?’ the three words were returned several hours later.

Perhaps I should have just called her.  Verbal conversations about such matters seem to be getting rarer, or maybe our generation is just bad at them, particularly at early stages like this.  Also.. well, I was in a cinema at the time and the film was really good.

I explained that I didn’t know if she was that bothered; she apologised for being flaky but was very busy at the moment so it was probably better if we just left it, sorry.

No reply rushed to my fingertips.  That was that then.

Perhaps on that evening, when there was that small frisson: if I’d been more direct, more of a slag – who knows if she was actually interested then, and then only..   But then came the discovery of the theft.

Everything was simpler with the brush off, but it raised the ugly narcissistic head of my relentless inability to secure second dates.

What the hell is wrong with you?  Ok, at times it’s your own doing and you don’t fancy them and there aren’t many who have moved you enough to try and persuade them they’re wrong (none in fact because you don’t Do persuasion).  But the brutal truth is that the ratio is around 50/50.  Do you scare them somehow?  Are you just not attractive enough?  Are you too needy?  (You tempered that one quite well last time too, you thought, extremely casual).  You wish you could conceal yourself slightly better, not say quite so much, lie about small things – although you’re essentially unashamed that you don’t and can’t.  Why should you apologise for yourself?  How much of your personal integrity is it necessary to compromise?  How much should you lie or fake or bluster?

But when it rolls on like this, the first dates which are only ever first dates, followed by more first dates and no second dates, you can’t help but reflect and look inward.  You can do presentable, fairly charming, moderately amusing, even upbeat at a push; you don’t swear, probe insensitively on delicate subjects, talk endlessly about work or football, burp or fart in their faces.

There are often small things I regret saying or not saying, and I know if I possessed more direction, greater ambition and knew how to confidently operate chopsticks, this would be beneficial.   On the whole though, I don’t walk away thinking I’ve given an unfair or disappointing representation.

I’m usually excellent at navelgazy self-criticism, but here all I see is fog and murk and confusion.  It concerns me.

rides

“Horsey!” infants shrieked, riding on my back as I crawled on all fours around our relatives’ large back garden.  The previous two hours had been spent playing football with a five year old.  Blissfully little of my time at the extended family had been spent speaking with adults.  When I finally collapsed into an armchair it was with small alarm that I noted the time.  I had little over two and a half hours to make it back to London.  How did it get to be that late?  It was doable, just, if I put my foot down on the A-Roads.  I thanked people for their hospitality, apologised for not going to the park with them, ruffled infants’ hair and hugged and kissed the older generations.

What would this one be like?  I pondered while speeding down a pretty A-road bisecting dense forest.  Does a date at 8.30pm on a Saturday evening basically mean you’re on a promise?

I still knew next to nothing about her, suspected she wasn’t the sharpest tool, just that she was probably willing.  Seemed willing back then, text messages suggested she may still be now.  That was ok, just go with it, get drunk, see what happens, don’t think too much.

I was back, showered, out and on a bus in perfect time.  She called asking where I was, fifteen minutes before we were due to meet.  She’d misremembered the time she’d given and sounded confused.  I’ll be there in five.

Painfully thin, a strained, pinched face which suggested nerves, troubles and fragility – please don’t be a bit mental; a whispy, flighty manner, washed-out elsewhere eyes and a strangled, almost puppet-like voice.  Ridiculously high heels.  She made you want to protect her in a not particularly attractive way.  Yet for all that, she wasn’t unattractive.

Her ‘issues’ were confirmed during our early chatter, but never in detail and I never probed.  My suspicions that she wasn’t all too bright were also given substantial evidence.  Did I care?  Should I care?  Her grammar appalled me and I couldn’t help but mention it, although I dumbed down my own language.  She smoked a lot, had struggled with it for a long time, a clearly necessary crutch which made it more acceptable somehow.  Just go with it, get drunk, don’t think too much about it.  Live in the moment for once: not before it or after it.  Take a stupid decision.

Given a lack of common ground and interests – aside from mutual loneliness and unspoken needs – I expected conversation to flag but, propelled by alcohol, it didn’t.  We passed through several bars, eventually ending at a loud, dark, busy venue with a late licence.  We had gone there via the station to check her last train times, but I didn’t know if this was merely for show.  If she would ‘forget,’ leaving the only option to return to mine.  We stayed in the late bar, discussing the music and the venue’s youthful clientele.  The time of her last train came and went, unmentioned.

It had been a long day; I’d driven a fair distance across the country and back.  I didn’t like this sort of place anyway and wanted to go, she wanted to stay.

We stayed and drank more, too much, but didn’t dance.  There was barely any obvious warmth or explicit flirtation between us, no signals being sent or received; simply an implicitly shared assumption.  I admired younger, prettier females in the bar: those with height and flesh, confidence and grace.

When she was eventually persuaded that we should leave, we tumbled out and onto the street and she became aware that the short distance to my flat was the only option outside of an extortionate taxi ride.  It was likely what we both had in mind all along.  A date at 8.30 on a Saturday night?

Just do it, you’re drunk, everything is as it was vaguely forecast.  So, she might be a bit mental but you always take that risk.

*

In the morning, following a more concerted Round Two being ridden in an entirely different way from the previous afternoon, she laboured with her hangover.  She claimed she wasn’t usually this bad and said “Oh God my head” a lot.  I made tea, returned to bed and watched the golf on mute, waiting for her to move, silently impatient although I had no plans for the day at all.

After several aborted attempts she did move, spurning all offers of paracetomol, tea, or anything at all.  I pulled on a pair of shorts and a T-shirt while dressed in her only clothes from the night before, complete with precariously high-heeled shoes which took her an age to walk any distance in.  She might as well have been wearing stilts.

I drove her back to the station and here conversation struggled as we shared the hungover silence.  Token attempts at the weather, this part of town.   Despite a relaxed affection and playfulness which had developed in the slumbering bedroom, neither of us spoke about repeating this thing we’d done, doing it again sometime or meeting up somewhere.  Was the mismatch starkly obvious?  That it was a meeting to satisfy mutual needs and nothing more?

A final snatched lips kiss while the car engine idled outside the station: “thanks, bye then.”  She made sure she had everything and left, and stepped out, teetering on her ridiculous heels.  The passenger door clunked shut.  My eyes didn’t linger on her gallingly skeletal frame.  I checked my blind spot, pulled out, looked forward and drove on.

I would prefer never to see or hear from her again.

struggling with direction

With a move-in date a few weeks away and notice given on my current flat, now I’m unsure about the move.

I’ve been quite enjoying London in the summer – it feels bigger and more full of chance than in the winter months.  Things like this can happen (I never saw or heard from any of them again).  Added to which – and it could easily be nothing at all, something I’ll feel silly about in a month – but there are two thin shards of recently developed female hope.

One of these was a young lady with whom I reasserted my status as King Fuckwit.  Her bossy friend led us up the road to impatiently wait on the station steps, wanting them to hurry down onto the platform for the last train.   We walked slowly, pausing deliberately, in no stress about potentially missing her last train, talking nonsense about seasoning biscuits.  She clearly didn’t want to go, and was aware that I didn’t live far away.  It only needed a suggestion on my part that we could go… to mine, we could have childishly run away, around a block, out of sight of her friend.  She was drunk, but perhaps not THAT drunk, and totally persuadable.  That is, persuadable for any regular man with a grain of self-belief in matters of being direct.

She had at least served to quell the over-replayed memory of another female from twenty four hours earlier.  It may have even been memories from the previous evening which hamstrung me into fuckwittage.  They did flicker through my brain as we walked up towards the station.

But she was really nice last night … but then, she’s nice here too, but then..

Don’t be an idiot! You have no obligation towards the girl from last night AT ALL.  Just as she doesn’t to you, and probably instantly forgot you.  You’re simply using it as an excuse to be a gutless little twerp here and now, aren’t you?!

Fnerr!  Why is everything so HARD?! I whined in my head.

Because you make it hard, fool.

I sensed the inevitable: that I was about to screw this up and let her make her train without proposing that we run away.  I gave her a card and messages have since been exchanged, but still, the immediate opportunity is difficult not to rue.

The night before had been a blind(ish) date.  I didn’t figure myself to be her usual type (she seemed to be the kind of girl to have ‘types,’ often narrowing her eyes as if comparing me to an imagined other), and although I certainly warmed to her, I suspected she was out of my league.  The evening had ended with the discovery that my laptop and camera had been stolen from my case, irrecoverably denting an amiable, maybe faintly flirtatious atmosphere that had developed.  (She had briefly played with my hair.  Girls don’t usually do that if they’re repulsed by you, right?)   As well as the sickening violation and huge inconvenience of the theft, neither loss was without sentimental attachment: both devices had done some miles with me and contained a considerable amount of personal data.  It was as if somebody had suddenly punched me in the guts and pulled off my penis.

*

Even slender shards of female hope don’t appear too often.  And notwithstanding females, I’ve been newly unsure of the move: wondering if it’s a cowardly retreat to a smaller scale and a place of proportionately reduced opportunity, albeit an improvement in living space.  It’s possible I’ve had too much time to mull it over, what with the previous aborted move.

I could cancel or postpone the move, lose a hundred quid deposit, surprise and annoy a few people, retract my notice here.

A friend asked: if something were to be engineered on the female front, would a brief thing, or a six week to six month dalliance be worth it?  I replied yes.  I’m essentially a sad lonely fool and moving won’t change this.  But it’s most likely immaterial.  It would come as no surprise if both shards fizzled by Friday.

malestream

You tell yourself what to say and how to behave as you sit there waiting, your heartbeat feeling steadily more pronounced and your stomach faintly complaining.  You’re cool though, it’s all fine.  Casual.  Remember to lie and be nothing like you are most of the time.  You must not ‘just be yourself.’  There disaster lies, or at least the usual route of ambivalence.  Nobody wants to date that sort of person: a miserable bastard.  Exude charm, appear effervescent, affect some level of charisma and contentedness with your lot: you know you can do it.  Although it feels fraudulent, like lying or pretending you’re rich.  Try not to be too honest; you’ve fallen foul of that one much too often.  Don’t allow your brain to buckle under the pressure of attempted fabrication.  Make something up.  People do it all the time.  There’s no need to lazily concede and automatically speak the truth, especially if it isn’t favourable or doesn’t reflect brilliantly upon you.  Pretend you don’t mind your job or lifestyle.  Accentuate the positive and attempt to believe it for a short while.  You don’t want to have a boss or regular hours.  You like your own freedom.  It’s all cool; maybe not forever, but for now it’s fine.  Don’t fear conversation pauses, or go about nervously machine-gunning questions into them.  You’ve done that before and they don’t like that.  Listen.  You rock at that anyway; your larger than average ears help.  Remember to specifically lie by saying ‘we’ instead of ‘I’.  (Because it’s only ever ‘I’).  Invent company if you have to.  Just do NOT sound like a weirdo loner.  Don’t look at any other girls either.  This one will be the centre of your world.  A very occasional glance perhaps, but no studied lingering looks, even if they’re insanely hot; especially if they’re insanely hot.  You can however share a bitchy comment about another person’s dress or shoes.  Don’t over-share or say too much or stay too long.  Leave something else, don’t play all your cards.

And above all… there should be an ‘above all,’ a mantra to remember at all times.  Is there one?  Perhaps: try not to think too much about it?  Don’t painfully overanalyse everything, even afterwards.  Casual, nothing really matters.  Remember that.  Now put the book down now, she’s coming.  Is that really her?  Christ, she’s quite attractive.  What would she see in y-?  Be quiet, brain.  Make your mouth smile.

*

“Who with?” she asks because you’ve avoided saying we or I, again.
Make it up!
LIE!
Invent a friend.
Don’t be a lazy brain!

Your face is transparent, crumbling under the effort.
“Just me,” you squeak.
“Are you a bit of a loner?”
She’s even used the fucking word.  Jesus.  WHY are you so useless at concealing this?!  It’s not that hard.  Lie.

Oh.. bollocks.

Once the truth bubble has been pricked it’s far easier to let it all tumble out, rather than to attempt repair. “Hey look.  I’ve done plenty of fun travelly things I would have never done if I’d waited around for my mates.  It means I’ve done lots of them alone, yes, which I wouldn’t necessarily have chosen to, but you meet people you wouldn’t have otherwise met who I’m still in touch with.  And it means you don’t do nothing, you don’t just sit at home moping.”  Although you DO very cleverly omit to tell her that you’ve done loads of that too.  Well done, you: that’s really sensational.   “And I live alone and work alone so, you know: draw your own conclusions.”  You sound heavy and serious and have completely over-shared, but strangely you don’t regret it.  You take a perverse pride in what you perceive to be your difference, even if it gets you nowhere, which it usually does.  She hasn’t walked out the door yet.  You don’t even want to begin trying to decipher the meaning behind her smile.

Say something stupid now.  Diffuse.

You share two bottles of wine and stay there for far too long.

itchy memories

I went back last Friday and found somewhere new to live.  It certainly doesn’t have the wow factor of the ill-fated first attempt, but it should do fine for a while: clean, spacey, reasonable location, a probably civilised yet fairly anonymous local community.

Pending form-filling and references, the flat is mine.  Another deposit holding payment has been made, telephone discussions have been conducted and emails exchanged.  A prospective move date has been agreed.

I’m suddenly nervous, jittery and slightly afraid.  Of what, I’m not precisely sure, although I have suspicions.  I haven’t minded London as much this last month or so, but the good financial arguments still hold, as do the social ones – despite their vague hopefulness.

Added to this is that continued nagging doubt about moving backwards, also expressed before, and the irritation of old memories which that unavoidably brings.

Current reading, Obstacles To Young Love, by David Nobbs, has helpfully (or unhelpfully) illuminated this.  Its key characters have a brief teenage fling, their first, at the book’s opening, and it seems they periodically come back together – not unlike One Day, the most recent book by the similarly styled David Nicholls.  In these books, and probably in real life, people might take a year or two to get over their other, but they ostensibly do (even if they ‘deeply’ do not).  People move on.

The horrid truth is that I haven’t, not really.  And it’s been significantly longer than a year or two.  There’s been nothing anywhere near as serious.  She still invades my dreams every month or so, accusing, teasing, sighing at how utterly pathetic I must be.

But I don’t seek reconciliation.  A few months ago I unfriended her on Facebook (she had originally found me and, after a short dither, I had accepted the friend request).  I didn’t want to see photos of her and her boyfriend but couldn’t resist my temptation to click when they did appear on my feed, the handsome bastard.  I WANT to move on, put clear water between me and those memories.  I simply can’t; they keep resurfacing like stubbornly floating shit.

Returning to the scene of the crime, the place where all that was set, it’s natural for that to breed nervousness, to fear how healthy or unhealthy it could be, the scabs you’re picking anew.  It’s this which is a large cause of my discomfort about moving back, as well as knowing she could be around the next corner.

Move dates refresh this nervousness.  They make it pungent, fresh and frightening.

wavering

The idea of moving suddenly seems a bigger deal.  I’ve grown to like betweenyness.  Limbo is good; it suits me.  That added spice of injustice too, being embattled: it fits my angst like an England World Cup exit.

There’s even more possibility and opportunity when you’re in between, neither coming or going knowing or being massively certain, and only sporadically caring.

ANYTHING could happen.  Not that it does.  The idea that it could is almost enough.

Almost.  Because it’s equally tiring.  At times you want to give yourself a good shake and tell yourself to grow up, get direction, be all assertive and adult-like.  Plant two feet firmly on the ground and.. and.. 

And what?

I don’t know: keep on doing whatever it is that you’ve been doing anyway.

So, just remind me: what’s the point in moving again?

Well, there was old mates and stuff too.

Don’t look at me like that, subconscious.  How can you look at me like anything?

FUCK OFF!  Leave me alone, I made my mind up!

Change it if you want, nothing’s set in stone.  It’s only you.

No, really.  Fuck off now, subconscious, I’m doing it.

Going back, hitting the M4 once more and flathunting again: it feels scarier.  The idea of signing a contract, albeit only a short-term tenancy agreement, it’s more of a commitment than the first time: a distance that’s been stretched by a longer time thinking about it – my removal; and stretched by liking London in the summer, by feeling its richness, scale and people even more.  It’s ok here actually.  Upheaval makes me newly nervous, unsure.  My living circumstances aren’t ideal, but they’re not terrible.  If I could just find a little better around here then..

A little better doesn’t come cheaply though.  A little better than this costs lots more.  That’s a key reason why you decided to move, doofus, remember?

Oh yes.   And ANYTHING could happen anywhere else too, remember?

But this is less easy to accept.  Opportunities and possibilities must surely be proportional with scale, size and number.  Mustn’t they?  Does a smaller place with fewer people offer quite as much?

It’s not with massive conviction that I’ll return and potentially sign up to rent a new property, notwithstanding being conned by an unscrupulous landlord again.  Yet it’s seldom with massive conviction that I do anything: I guess and hope and leap.