98. Thousand Yard Stare

“The way we act like strangers
After all that we had
We act like we had never met”

‘Sunset’ by The XX

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Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

I was hoping that you wouldn’t realise I’d gone, and that you would forget you ever knew me. People lose touch all of the time when they move house, change jobs, have a baby, get a new partner or phone, make the big announcement that they’re going travelling or coming off social media or simply just drop off the radar. This was none of the above. There was no drama, no shouting, no words to regret. But this situation was far from ok. I couldn’t take any more. Your contempt was exhausting. I was frustrated by being punished for something I didn’t do, for being adored, rejected or avoided on a whim, according to your moods.

After all the effort of hoping, looking for signs, wishing, trying, mourning for a future life lost, I realised it was pointless. You were never going to love or even comfort me again, so I gave in. You didn’t want me. I know that now.

I felt nothing. There was a hollow, new emptiness. It was as if all the hunger suddenly disappeared. My shoulders dropped. I slept again and had energy to think about other things. I was distraction-free, calm, serene.

I had quietly closed the door, locked it and walked away. I genuinely no longer cared about you or your life. Even knowing that I’d never look you in the eyes ever again, didn’t give me that twinge in my belly. You didn’t exist.

After a couple of months of absolute zero contact or any recognition from me, you began to make an effort to connect. If this is what the PUA’s are teaching, then they are way off, believe me. The one who is least invested holds the power.  Except that this is my life, not a game. I’m grateful to have got through this, and relieved to have dodged a bullet back there. I like who I am now, but unfortunately, so do you.

I’ve kept the good memories of how we were, in a little box, neatly on the shelf, because I might want to have a look in it from time to time, but not yet.

gift

 

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95. On The Cusp

photo of marshmallows

Photo by Tembela Bohle on Pexels.com

The best times in life are just before something is going to happen. The longer you leave it, the more you want it. Nothing can compare to that anticipation. Melancholic imaginings of what might take place. How life will change. Little butterfly treats of adrenaline whenever you think about that secret, delicious longing.

Seeing ‘Snow Patrol’ play ‘Run’ live, in a tiny pub in Leicester, the week the album that changed everything came out. I just knew. I could sense it.

Going to Ikea for the University shopping trip.

Between that lingering gaze and the first kiss. Sometimes there never is a kiss. Only a memory of what could be.

Landing in Las Vegas at night or arriving at a festival.

Walking arm in arm around Copenhagen lanes on cool October evenings. Bicycles everywhere. Twinkling shop windows. Basement restaurants with flickering tea light lanterns made from hole punched tins on every step. Cupped hands round kaffe mugs. Fika cake. Hygge indeed.

September is the most natural time for a new year. Pure mornings. Clean, crisp. Cosy cashmere. Reflecting. Nesting. Kicking up crunchy leaves. Pockets full of shiny conkers. Wearing new boots around the house to break them in. Freshly sharpened pencils and uncreased notebooks. That back to school feeling and the start of the football/TV season. Woodsmoke. Pumpkins. Soup. Hot chocolate. Canada geese flying in a v formation. Autumn harvest to see you through. Putting the garden to bed. Every artist you adore seems to be going on tour with the release of their new album. That Thursday in the year when every book worthy of gifting is published.

The end has a beginning. A fresh start.

89. Sunset

I’ve had chance to think about it and it wasn’t the infidelity that upset me more. I am from an bohemian family after all. It was the secrecy and deceit. The lying. No one can ever know. There was absolutely no need for it. I think I handled it quite well really.

“That’s a nice mug.” Alison had said, as I carefully washed my cup in the sink. “I saw one of those in that craft shop in The Lanes. Don’t you work there on weekends?” The way she had said it sounded weird, like this was her best shot from 100 Instagram rehearsals. We both knew where she’d seen a mug like this one before because there was only one other of them in existence.

I instantly felt as if I’d been injected with some drug that made my body speed up but my mind slow down at the same time, like something in ‘The Matrix.’ My soupy fog brain felt completely separate and was lagging behind the electric energy racing through my body. I was upside-down. Not wanting to unravel in front of this person who had so calmly attempted to manipulate a reaction, I carefully unpicked what I knew to be true.

Monday night was Michael’s gig. A few people went from the office, including Alison. I could only stay for a quick drink, to say hello, show support. He never needed me when he was surrounded by his people.

Was this her way of letting me know that she didn’t actually “miss the last bus home so stayed on a friend’s sofa?”

Just how do adults navigate relationships in the real world? I barely knew. My experiences with men had been so unsatisfactory. I have no idea how I managed to get through the rest of the afternoon. I suppose, once you’ve decided, or rather, the decision has been made for you, the hard work is done.

When I said I needed to see him after work, he didn’t make an excuse. My patience had worn thin. I had already decided that if he was going to try to continue to ignore and avoid me, then I would just let him. I too would pretend he no longer existed. But, there would never be a good time for “the talk” so we might as well do the decent thing and get it over and done with. Although he refused to come clean and admit it, he knew that I knew what he’d done. Yeah he might very well have had “a hangover from hell” but that shouldn’t stop someone from sending a text to their girlfriend for almost a day after their gig, so was this behaviour sulky revenge? I had believed him when he said he was watching the Tour de France, the World Cup, Wimbledon, having a band practice or whatever it was, every night this week.

No. I knew I was being gently and politely pushed away in favour of the shiny new toy, but of course, he was far too cowardly to do it himself. I had to be the one who officially ended it, although he actually finished us on Monday night. He just never told me. Even someone else had to do that for him.

There wasn’t enough time to do the things I wanted to do, let alone waste it on stuff I didn’t. I’d barely sipped my coke and was playing with one of the few plastic bendy straws still in existence, when the conversation was over.

I had no idea how to break up with someone, because I’d never done it before, so I just said “This isn’t fun for me any more and it’s not really working out, so I think we should call it quits.” It was the second time in a week that I’d left him with a full pint but I didn’t care. He might play guitar hero in a local band but he was nothing to me. The pub was slowly filling up with the Friday night after-work crowd, so it would appear like he was just waiting for someone and they were running late. He looked genuinely shocked when I stood up, shook his hand, and said “There we are then. Good luck mate” then left.

My parents consoled and spoiled me all weekend. My father reminded me that “as an emerging artist” I should “use this experience as an opportunity to not resist what I’m feeling and to channel those emotions into my work”, and “that if we just stayed in our studios, where would we get our inspiration from?” He was right though. I had 72 bowls and mugs to glaze and fire this weekend, and I was already bursting with new ideas for the next batch.

A massive binge of ‘The XX’, ‘The Twilight Sad’ and ‘Arab Strap’ got me through the night, along with a whole family bag of Doritos, a jar of hot salsa, almost a whole sharing pack of Maltesers, and a bottle of Pinot Noir all to myself. I wallowed and grieved for what could have been until I realised I felt relief for getting out at the beginning of something before it got messy. My new sketches slowly got sloppier that night. By 2am Saturday morning , I was jumping up and down, swinging my arms, hair flailing, punching the air, cheerfully singing “I don’t want to be around you any more. I can’t stand to be around you any more.” Music therapy indeed. I still felt humiliated, but without shame.

On Monday, I went out for coffee with June, the receptionist from the office, purely, so by the end of the week, everyone would pretty much know I was single again, and why. It was a good deal. June got a juicy story straight from the horse’s mouth, and, with my blessing, everyone got to know some true office gossip. I got sympathy. Alison got, well, whatever.

I just kept my head down, and stayed busy, planning the window display and imagining how I’d feel if/when someone bought something I’d made. After my craft stall I was taking the rest of the stock to the shop on Sunday. Things I’d made! In an actual shop! Not my online etsy shop. A proper shop with a bell on the door. A till and real people browsing. If they sold well, then who knew what would happen?

I brought half a dozen pieces into work the next day and left them on the reception desk with a few flyers, business cards and a bowl of Werther’s Originals to encourage people to get closer. June, told me later that they’d caused quite a talking point, and that Alison had taken a special interest, probably to try to talk to her, the resident sage. June then told me that she’d said to Alison, that yes they were “beautifully made, so quite expensive, but that I would probably have some seconds on my stall if she was interested.” I nearly spat out my coffee with glee when she told me that she’d said, “Seconds are cheaper because they are imperfect.” The icing on the cake was that she advised Alison to get tested for an STD because I was going to.  “These things happen” when you get together drunk with a cheater who thinks he’s a rock star.

That disgusting, greasy kitchen in his shared house. Bicycles and amps in the hallway. Piles of post for previous residents. Pizza boxes and PS4. Record covers used as skinning-up boards. Torn rizla packets and magazines about guitars. Tacit agreements to never mention the (less often than they’d like) sight of a strange girl wandering round the kitchen at 4am in her knickers and a sweaty band t-shirt. Mismatched charity shop hand-me-down plates, chipped mugs with their fading logos. Those cloned vessels reminding the user of one-off, unmemorable events. Temporary items of no value with the expectation of being discarded after use. I only brought one of my own porcelain mugs round so I’d have something decent to drink out of. Well, he can keep it. I don’t want it back.