64. Soundtrack to No-one’s Life

The ‘Baby Driver’ Spotify playlist lasts for one hour and thirty eight minutes. A happy coincidence (which I did not realise until afterwards) as this was the exact length of time it took me to walk to work. (I was getting in some walking practice for an upcoming city break to New York).

The combination of such a beautiful day and brilliant music made such an impression on me that I listened to the playlist in its entirety again the following day. Incredibly, it took me door to door a second time, but for a completely different journey. I took a bus, walked, then caught a train to a branch office in the next city to my hometown.

Serendipity indeed.

40. Vapour Trail

Trembling, weak-kneed, with sweaty palms, my limbs were lead. Increasing nausea with every breath forced me to inhale lightly and breathe out more quickly.
Fumbling with my phone, I willed it to pick up the house wifi. Auto-pilot, muscle memory in my fingers, I found the app, scrolled, and pressed play. The overgrown hedge obscured me from being seen from the house, but not wanting to linger a single second longer than I had to, I bolted around the corner. Forcing myself to carry on, I knew I could make it. Leaping onto the bus, I gratefully mouthed “thank you” as the driver gestured that he didn’t need to see my pass. There I stood, half-bent over, clutching the yellow dimpled pole, gasping, catching my breath, trying not to be sick.
Inside the house, the first few bars of ‘Lose Yourself’ by Eminem began playing on the wireless speaker.
I got off in town, went to the bank, the EE phone shop, then caught a taxi home. The adrenaline made everything so sharp and in focus. I asked the taxi driver to come back in an hour to take me to the train station.
Clothes, shoes, jewellery. Check.
Passport, cheque book, laptop. Check.
Toiletries, personal correspondence, chargers. Check.
One suitcase and one holdall.
I emptied the contents of my bedside table goodie drawer into a black bin bag. The rest of my underwear drawer went in there too, as did that photograph of us from last Christmas. These were all tainted now.
My cheeks were hot; I was buzzing, and felt a strange mixture of rage, indignation, humiliation and guilt. I paused, then took the little green address/internet password book from my flatmate’s desk, and stuffed it into the front pocket of my suitcase.
I should have been sipping a glass of red down the pub now and talking about work.
I scrawled a note “Gone to my mum’s for the weekend. Family emergency. Nx”, then washi-taped it to the TV.
Pressing a little square on my phone until it wobbled, I clicked the tiny x. Then did it again. In ‘contacts’  I tapped ‘block’ then swiped ‘delete’. Then did it again. Ripping the plastic off the SIM card, I told myself to get a grip, to try and steady my trembling hands as I swapped one SIM card for another. The old one went into the black sack with the other contaminated garbage.
Just three hours ago, I’d been listening to colleagues discussing a TV programme where people attempt to disappear for a month, and tracking experts try to find them.

Less than two hours ago, a burst water main forced the office to close early. The invitation for afternoon drinking was not as tempting as my spur of the moment decision to tell him the news about my new job in London. When I got to his house, however, my flatmate’s car was parked outside, and his bedroom curtains were closed.

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?