31. Stuck in a Loop

I told everyone the truth from day one yet still left an hour after my last exam without anyone realising, because I felt I had no choice. I was desperate to get out. Get away. You convinced them all to believe you. You were the golden boy, someone they had known longer. I was the party girl. If this was how I was treated amongst those I loved and trusted, how would I fare in court? I would be shredded. I know it’s a hard thing to believe. Think about it. Knowing it would cause such a rift, why would I lie?

I became invisible. I wasn’t making it up. I don’t. I never have. I knew something was wrong. I couldn’t find out what it was I was supposed to have done. When people thought I was leaving the room, they visibly relaxed. What complete and utter bastards; as if I’d make a doorstep disclosure. That last fortnight, I think I only went outside of the house to go to my exams.

I’m the one who was erased and never invited on holiday or for New Year or to weddings, not you. A post-University future that was robbed from me. It’s a one-time deal. Friends that last a lifetime. I can’t get it back. I missed out. My future was denied to me due to a spiteful rumour. I regret not having the chance to be with friends, but I was kept busy. No-one ever tried to get back in touch with me though.

People pretending to be something they’re not at the beginning, to try and be the best version of themselves impress you, but then you don’t like them once they drop their guard. Well, I saw past that façade and you hated me for it. So I had to be punished. Severely. For something I had not done, so the attention would be deflected from you. Of course you were the one who had to teach me a lesson that I didn’t deserve. You’d have made a great ‘knocker-upper’ in the olden days. You’re a natural gaslighter.

I thought about sending everyone a copy but they can buy their own. They’ll find out soon enough if they don’t already know. Do people still watch the news? I’ll still get the royalties whether they like what they read in my book or not.

I often wonder what kind of person I’d be if I hadn’t been broken and so bitter. What good does it do to dwell? I’m sure I’ll change after the film, and I’ve already started getting into shape for the TV interviews. I never really lost the baby weight. I didn’t care to.

If you had told the truth from the start, you might have been able to have more of a relationship with your daughter than those two hours in the car, before you crashed it. There’s no chance either of us will get to know her now.

I hear the original medical and police reports went missing. You are named in those. Two hours after you did what you did. It’s a shame that your family friend on the force is no longer around to answer why he didn’t pursue any charges, though. Daddy can’t help you now. You’re on your own, in a corner. Just like I was.

 

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30. The Powder Room

“And I woke up and he was weeing on me! So I started shouting, “you’re weeing on me!”, and he managed to stop. Apparently he was half asleep and he needed to go for a pee and he said he saw something ‘big, white and round’ which he thought was the toilet. But it was my arse sticking out of the bed!”

I try to suppress a laugh, but it turns into a snort. I quickly flush, turn, and unlock the cubicle.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to listen” I say to the unfortunate storyteller.

“It’s alright.” she replies, pouffing her hair in the mirror.

Just then, I hear another flush and a cubicle door clicks open.

“Oh, hi Norm! Can you believe it? I’d kill him if he did that to me.” It was Liz. “Were just here for a drink. He’s babysitting as compo for peeing on her.”

“I’m here with the boyfriend. We’ve been to see Star Wars.” I reply. “Fancied a beer. They do nice burgers in here.”

“Norm, this is my mate Becky. Becky, Sex towel Norma.” We both raise out hand in a ‘hi’ gesture.

“I know you. Liz has mentioned you. So you’re the one with the sex towel?”

I chuckle. I seem to be famous for this. “It’s a good one though. Cath Kidston. And you don’t get a wet patch.” I reply

“Norm, tell Becky the coconut water story.”

“Well, I recommended coconut water to a woman we know at work. For the electrolytes for her spinning class. So she bought a big carton of it and said she didn’t like it. Said it tasted like sperm. So, I said, “well I suppose it’s ballpark,” and then this other woman in the office whose been married three times said, “I wouldn’t know”. Maybe that’s why she has been married three times, and they didn’t work out, because she doesn’t do, well, you  know, everything? But then I thought that maybe she doesn’t, know what it tastes like because she doesn’t want to get it in her mouth, so I said, “have you got a sex towel?” But neither of them had ever heard of one.”

Becky laughed. “I’m getting one now.” She squirts a bit of hand cream onto her hands, and Liz and I say in unison, “It rubs the lotion on its skin.”

We leave the ladies room together and they wave to the boyfriend as they pass. “You weren’t talking about shopping, were you?” He asks. He knows me too well.

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29. Northern Boys Love Gravy

abstract-barbecue-barbeque-bbq-161533.jpegOne of Fat Pigeon’s extraordinarily gifted and talented grandchildren just so happened to go and win yet another medal for something last week, so naturally, everyone in the office needs to know about it. It could be a ten metres swimming ribbon as far as I care. She made a roast dinner for her family to celebrate. No doubt a photograph of said grandchild shaking hands with some minor sleb, will take pride of place on her notice board this week. She just loves having her family round her.

Mr Pigeon made a jug of Bisto just how he likes it. Pigeon Jr came into the kitchen, stirred the gravy, thought it was a bit thin so added more granules. Mr Pigeon returned from setting the table to take in the gravy. He stirred it, thought it was a bit thick, so added some more boiling water to thin it down a bit.

I’ve heard this story four times already and it’s not even 11 o’clock. It wasn’t “hilarious” then and that joke certainly isn’t funny any more.

However, I very much doubt that this three bears routine was as funny as she makes it out to be, let alone even true. Firstly, how big is that fucking gravy boat? Secondly, if she’s such an expert in cooking a roast for loads of people, she should know that you need at least two jugs of gravy.  There, sorted that for you. One thick and one thin. One for Dumb and one for Dumber.

This is the North of England. We don’t do a dribble of reduced meat juices and red wine ‘jus’ here. We do big square, puffy Yorkshire puddings first with gravy, and then have the roast with all of the trimmings.

Did I tell you everything she does makes my blood boil? This can’t be good for me. She hasn’t set a date for her retirement yet, but as soon as she does, I’m making a countdown calendar. Every day is closer to when I will never have to see her again.

28. Baby Barista

Every few months, someone ‘gets parole’ and gets out of this shithole. This time, it’s Lorna. She had an unlucky start in life, was a teenage single parent, who got glassed in the face accidentally, by someone who thought she was someone else. She said she found the whole criminal justice experience fascinating, so did a law degree at night school over six years, and is now leaving to do her pupillage at some Employment Law firm. She wants to be a criminal barrister, and I have no doubt she’ll be brilliant at it.

The scar runs around her eyebrows right down her left cheek, and over the bridge of her nose is a tiny ridge of lighter coloured, hard skin. It doesn’t bother her usually, only when she wears sunglasses. She says it makes people take her seriously. Every so often, some well-meaning person will tell her about the benefits of some oil that reduces scarring or gently enquires why she never had plastic surgery. She’s so stoic, and will say things like, “it could have been worse, and made me appreciate what I’ve got now, and not what I had.”

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I’ve never met a more hard-working woman in my life. Full-time job, mother of a tweenie, studying for a degree, learning karate, and has a part-time job as a barista. “Men can wait” she says, “I haven’t got time to look after anyone else right now.” She was only a kid herself, when she had her son, and his dad is a “bit of an arsehole” but she doesn’t stop him seeing the boy (when he can be bothered to) because she doesn’t “want to be the bad guy in all this.” Her son has already been let down by him loads of times and he is coming to the realisation on his own that his dad is a dick. There was a brief few years, when the boy was out of nappies but not yet bored of going to Maccy D’s every week, when her ex tried to make an effort, but teaching a boy to play pool is not really being a proper father.

Sid thought he was being clever by writing the same thing in every leaving card, including Lornas.

There we are then, perhaps I should say, old friend, farewell! See you next time!

His acronyms might have been funny the first time round, but they’re wearing thin now, Still, they’re better than the crappy “best wishes” and “good luck” or the even slightly witty, “see you in court!” She’s up for it and taking it all in good spirits, and is even wearing the ‘trainee barista’ t shirt someone gave her.

Lorna’ ex is ironically, up in court next week for some offences called “outraging public decency” and “voiding urine.” Apparently he was caught shagging some woman in a car in the multi story. In broad daylight. After leaving the police station, he then went out on the lash to celebrate and the very same copper caught him taking a piss in the street. He said he had some weed on him, but they confiscated it and let him off for that.

Sid said, “he likes getting his cock out in public, doesn’t he?”

Lorna laughs and says, “you’ll never guess what he does for a living? Not really a living though. Go on, guess? What kind of no-effort job could a lazy, vain man get?”

Sid shakes his head.

“Fucking life model. Twenny quid an hour to stand stark bollock naked in front of a load of bored housewives and then he gets to shag one of them afterwards in her car!”

A few months later, I see her in the street and we have a quick chat to catch up. She tells me that her first prosecution was a bail application in Crown Court, and she couldn’t even do that one because she was ‘professionally embarrassed’. Turned out, the defendant was one of her ex’s friends.

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27. This is No County for Old Men

*Another love story for Valentine’s Day.*

His latest girlfriend is about twenty-three. They are always around twenty three. He’s got vinyl older than his last girlfriend. He’s lived around here for so long that he does worry that he might have dated one of their mums once.

Still blinking from the harsh light, straight out of University, or disillusioned with trying to make it at whichever field they’re in, he’s the saviour they all claim not to be looking for. They love his experience and maturity. The financial security. His tastes are more refined and he is calmer, more serious than most men their age. Their inexperience means he can teach them about relationships. Their energy for life keeps him feeling young and he doesn’t  feel threatened by ambitious women like younger, more insecure men do.

Whenever one of his friends finds out how old young his latest girlfriend is, there is the usual back slapping and shouts of, “you lucky bastard! How do you do it?” Followed by his reply of “that’s how I roll!”

 But the party always ends. 

alarm-clock-clock-time-minute-39900.jpegHe doesn’t even bother arguing anymore about “the next level.” What good would it do? Someone compared him to Don Draper, who only likes the beginnings of things, which was probably true. Brutal but true. If everyone could just be honest about things, life would be so much easier. For him.

They never seem to worry about it ending badly. It never usually does. They do the talking. He believes he may as well say kind words because he doesn’t want the whole relationship to be judged on how it ended. Some of the words said to him though, were like a knife in the belly.

His favourite time is always the minutes, hours or days between the first kiss and the first time you have sex.  He certainly couldn’t be blamed for wasting someone’s ‘best years’. He told them from day one, he wasn’t the babies and marrying type. It lasted as long as it did and that was that. He was often her first relationship and she was his last one. He was never surprised at how many of his ex-girlfriends married or had babies with the next man they went out with. He didn’t think there was any difference between ‘settling down’ and ‘settling’. As long as there were women out there who wanted to go out with him, he would continue to date them. Simple.

Most people only ever need one person in their life for all of their life. But when there is so much choice out there, how on earth was he to know when he’d found a woman who  was the closest to ever being ‘the one’, when she wasn’t even perfect? There was someone once who he could have seen himself growing old with, or rather, see her grow older. He was almost twice her age. The decision to leave was too difficult for either of them to make and he decided it on a coin toss. He knew he was always going to regret whichever choice he made. She doesn’t know that though.

He still haunted her on social media, under a pseudonym, in case he accidentally liked a post of hers from three years ago. It ended because she wanted children, and yet, eight years later, she still hadn’t had any. So how was that fair on him? They could have had that time together.

Six months after his brother died, he began to feel restless. Something in his life just didn’t feel right. He was dealing with his grief, but his girlfriend, although rock solid in her support, had started to question their future and the “life’s too short; we should just go for it” conversations were becoming more frequent.

It was true. You only got one life and he knew what he had to do. He liked several posts from the ghost and followed her account. When she followed him back, he sent her a direct message asking if she would like to meet him for coffee.

26. The Law of Diminishing Returns

*Special Valentine’s Day post for everyone who has ever been in love.*

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We didn’t talk about it at the time and I don’t want to talk about it now. It’s much too late but also far too soon. Little steps. We’ve only just begun to make eye contact and greet each other. It will be a long time, if ever, before I trust you. I don’t actually want to trust you again. I still cry sometimes. This is the relationship you wanted, remember? Not me. If all we ever say to each other every day forever is “hi” and “bye”, then that’s still two more words than I’d want. And now you want a different future.

For a long time, I couldn’t think of a single thing I ever wanted to say to you that wouldn’t set us back even further. To get to a state of apathy and indifference with dignity and grace; to lose the hate and jealousy. To grieve and heal. To know nothing about you after us, ever again. Yet here you are, like a bad penny; unlikely to leave any time soon. So, we are stuck with each other.

Don’t think you know me, because you don’t. You did know me back then but we are not the same people anymore. That doesn’t mean I have forgotten or that I care. It means that what happened doesn’t define me, and that part of my life is in a bubble of a memory. I don’t want to stain it but I’m not going to do the same things as I did last time and expect a different ending. If the result of giving everything to one person is how I feel now, then I can’t go through that again.

Yes, it is awkward. No, I don’t hate you. I don’t even know who you are and I don’t want to. Why waste the energy? And yes, everything in my life now is “none of your business”. No, I’m not ignoring you “on purpose” and it’s not “all water under the bridge”. You burned that bridge. No, I’m not interested in what you’re doing this weekend, what you watched on TV last night, or what you are having for your tea. I just want to say, “why are you telling me this?” but I don’t want to even say that. It’s your choice to be here, but no you don’t have to “walk on eggshells” around me, and yes, you could “easily fuck it all up again.” Yes, I wish you weren’t here. and yes, I never want to see you again. So yes, I will always be “too busy” to “catch up”. Your opinions are irrelevant to me and I don’t find your jokes funny. I don’t want anything to do with you any more than I have to. The space you once took up in my life has been replaced with other things. I have no room for you, and do not wish to make any. I’ve already written a letter to HR and my Union Rep in case you decide to do anything stupid.

There’s no need to do that puffed-out chest, bravado thing for my benefit because it didn’t work last time. I don’t really care what people say they are going to do, I notice what they actually do. Other people around us won’t even realise that we used to know each other and they don’t need to know our history. They certainly won’t hear it from me. But I will set rumours straight, so don’t go around making up stuff. You knew exactly what you were doing when you did it, and you knew the effect it would have on me. Pretending things happened differently means you still are a liar. The least you could do now is own your own shit. If it bothers you being around me that much, why don’t you just fuck off? Go and work somewhere else. I don’t know how much clearer I can make this. I’m going nowhere. I’ve already moved once to get away from you.

I’m actually a little bit frightened of you and what you might do. I mean, I’m not leaving in case you follow me again. Maybe I should leave softly. A secondment or travelling. Sometimes I can’t sleep. Is this going to end badly? Am I going to be a photograph on the news?

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25. Bus Stop Story

pexels-photo-303327.jpegMan wearing a strange outfit of combat trousers, cheap steel toecapped boots, not-in-fashion t shirt, carrying a black bin bag, at my town bus stop “Do you know if there’s a bus due to xxxxx aka some suburb of some town in the north of England? I’ve been waiting here ages. ”

Me “It’s due in about two minutes.”

Man. “Everything’s changed round here. I’ve just come out of the big house. They don’t even sell baccy in twelve-and-a-half-gramme packs any more.”

Me. “I know. I sometimes used to buy some for that homeless guy outside Tescos. You didn’t have any fivers and tenners stashed away did you before you went in? And pound coins? They’ve all changed.”

He chuckles.

“Did you do much reading in there then?” I enquire.

Man. “I did actually. And cos I don’t smoke weed my tests came back negative so I could get on a cooking course. I’ve got an NVQ.”

Me. “That’s good. Got any work lined up?”

Man. “Nah. I’m kind of unemployable. I’m just gonna spend time with my kids.”

Someone sticks their hand out for the bus.

“Well. Good luck to you mate.” I say.

“Thanks.” He replies and I put my earbuds back in and sit next to an old lady on the bus.