I split the blister pack, a small chalky pill falls onto my palm. “Do you really need to take that?” The purpose of this question is humiliation, I answer none the less. “Look, one or both of us is taking Valium tonight, if you’re going to leave me, at least this will soften the landing, sugar coating is not your forte,” I wash it down with a swig of forever half priced supermarket wine.
So intense is the stress in her shoulders that her folded arms act like a malfunctioning push-up bra.
She stares at me, pondering what to say next, I think the sugar coating line stung a little. “If you’re going to dump me Lucy, please get on with it, I really don’t need the judgement and disdain.” This sounds more self-pitying than I had intended. I wash its after-taste from my throat with another mouthful of “schaden -ay”. This also hides a lump that seems to be forming in my throat. Surprisingly, her manner softens a little.
“We both know things haven’t been going well James, we’ve gone over and over it on numerous occasions.” I visibly wince “Numerous occasions?” She sounds like a footballer giving a post-match interview, all over pronounced T’s and H’s.
“OK, but why now? Why not 3 days ago, next week, Good Friday, fucking Pancake Day? What is it about today which has you so determined to rid me from your life?” My role as victim seems to be building its own momentum. “Why not today? November 7th seems as good a day to face the truth as any, this relationship has run its course.” Jesus, “Run its course.” The sport clichés are coming thick and fast.
I sit back, my heel on the footrest of another kitchen chair, leaning slightly to the side. The idea is to give myself the look of someone in control, aloof and distant. In reality the chairs moulded plastic backrest is digging into my armpit and cutting off blood supply to my left hand. I can’t move though, it would make me look fidgety and anxious.
“So you’ve met someone then? I know you well enough to know the idea of an empty flat and singledom terrifies you far more than my presence bores you.” The conviction of my outrage trails off a little when its hypocrisy attempts to close my throat like a peanut allergy. It’s amazing how aggressive guilt is when cornered.
“I am alone James, this flat already feels empty. We take up space like furniture.” You know you’re defeated when you agree.
Why the hell am I fighting for a relationship that I’ve fantasised about escaping from for so long?
I met Carrie online a year ago. It started with flirting, little more than innuendo and humour. The heart flutters, the loins stir and you feel alive again – an interactive romance novel. The problem is, after so long without these sparks, it becomes addictive, you daydream about them, you tell them all about yourself, share your day-to-day life (if a little glitter coated) and then, of course, you fall in love.
“I’ve been seeing someone Lucy.” The words escape my lips before I’m aware I’ve said it. I contemplate saying, “Only joking” but I’m not sure she would find this any more acceptable.
“What? Who the fuck is she? It’s that cunt at your work isn’t it? I’ll break her fucking legs that skanky fucking bitch!” It dawns on me that telling her wasn’t virtuous or even guilt fuelled, it was to provoke this very reaction, and now I have it, I’m not sure I want it. “No, not her.” I pause a moment. At this point, her breasts are almost framing her chin. “I say I’ve been seeing someone, it’s nothing really” — “Nothing? It sounds like something to me, what the fuck is going on James?” I decide my response had best be considered, play it down; speak steadily, quietly and calmly. I go to take a swig of wine, forgetting my hand is utterly numb, leading me to jab at the bottle with what feels like a pork chop. The bottle shatters into a million screaming pieces and to Lucy it looks as if I’ve just leant across and very matter of factly, thrown the bottle to the kitchen floor. She looks nervously at me for a moment; violence is not something I am known for and it takes a few seconds for her to process what she has seen. I consider saying “So let that be a lesson to you” but have already started laughing; the Valium must be kicking in quickly.
“I want to know what’s going on James” — “What does it matter? You’re about to eject me from your life anyway.” All the while I’m playing the victim I’m wondering why the hell I’m not jumping for joy, why the hell am I trying to salvage this relationship? She looks at me coldly, my answer will not do; she wants details. I’m not sure at this point whether I don’t want to tell her for fear of hurting her or because it sounds so pathetic she will laugh at me.
“OK, I haven’t slept with anyone; it isn’t anything serious, I…. I have been cavorting online with someone is all, but it has become…. kind of serious” She considers this for a moment; I’m relieved she isn’t laughing, but even worse, I’m excited she is clearly jealous.
“I won’t speak to her again, I promise” What the fuck am I saying? “It was a mistake.” No it wasn’t! “I want you to delete the account.” I nod in emphatic agreement “I will.” She sits opposite me, looking tired and resigned. “So, is your mother still coming over tomorrow?” The question snaps her out of her melancholy “Yes, around four I think.” Stillness sets in and the realisation that we have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
Our words begin to settle, like dust, upon our sunken shoulders. Once again, we are furniture.
© Copyright Dean Stephenson 2013