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.

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26. The Law of Diminishing Returns

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

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?