And things were great for a few months. We didn’t change anything, we didn’t acknowledge that anything might have changed, we got on with being together and enjoying life. We had great times, some of it doing ordinary stuff like films and hikes together, some of it going away together, some of it staying in together, a lot of it involving being in bed together. And while we’re there together, me and Jules, in that happy place, before I fucked it all up, I think I’m going to make a few changes of my own here.
I promised a Matt Scott fun ride, a mixed up splurge of a life-story, I believe I called it. And so far I’ve done things in sequence, with the odd ramble off the beaten track when I’ve got distracted. I’d like to deviate from the sequence of events, and if I’m honest, it’s because the next bit is hard, the next few bits are hard, and I don’t want to face them, not just yet. So bear with me while I procrastinate. I’ll try and make it fun, I’ll try and fill it with pithy insights. I’ll try.
I want to tell you about Tottenham Hotspur. I have had a few loves in my life, but Spurs have been with me through thick and thin. I had never been to Tottenham (the London Borough) before I went to Tottenham (the London Football Club), so I can’t claim they are my home side or anything. But Andrew was born in Tottenham – oh, holy shitballs, I just remembered, more of Andrew later. It’s juicy. It’ll be worth the wait – but back to me.
I met Andrew in my first week of secondary school, and we bonded, in a juvenile male way, over science class, to start with. We recognised the inherent geek in each other, and decided that it was easier to face the bullying together. I hadn’t developed any clear loyalties for any sports teams, having no aptitude for or interest in sport per se, but had fostered a need to break out of Jay’s shadow in some small way, a miniature rebellion if you will. Jay’s contempt for football that wasn’t rugby football made me want to like it; I just hadn’t got round to doing anything about it.
Andrew had a Spurs bag, and so when he asked me what football team I supported, I said Spurs, just so it would be something else we’d have in common. There were a few awkward moments when he asked me who my favourite player was, and mentioned some recent results about which I had no idea, but I bluffed my way through, did my homework on them, and turned almost overnight into Tottenham Hotspur’s biggest fan. Not pretending, but really. Partly it was so that Andrew and I would have this thing, this commonality, and partly it was to piss Jay right off.
Ever since, I have loved Spurs with all my heart. My days are brighter when they win, and darker when they lose, and although I don’t get to see them at White Hart Lane very often, I will move heaven and earth to get to see them when they’re on TV. I told Lau once that I loved her more than Spurs. It is just about true, but it is a close thing. I don’t think I’m even joking.
Nowadays, of course, I have made my peace with rugby, have been to games with Cal, Tom and Josh, and been to watch Cal and Josh play for Raiders, and I’ve been so proud of them. But in that small part of my heart reserved for Spurs, I know that I would have burst if it had been White Hart Lane they had been running out at instead of Raiders Stadium. Jay will never understand, and we often have the same conversation. It goes something like this:
‘I see your team won/lost/drew again.’
‘The mighty Spurs roll on/bunch of tossers/meh, boring game.’
‘Why do you support them again?’
‘Because they’re the best team.’
‘Doesn’t their bloody woeful record tell you otherwise?’
‘Just because a team never wins anything doesn’t mean they’re not the best.’
‘How does that work, exactly?’
I shake my head at the ignoramus who thinks that results and trophies mean everything, just because he’s won just about everything there is to win in rugby terms. He’ll never get it.
So, Andrew then. I promised you juicy, and juicy you will get. Not long after I’d started seeing Jules, while she was up in Norfolk for her aunt’s funeral, actually, I got an email from Andrew. I’d had the odd few over the years, mostly extolling the virtues of Christianity in general and the African Technology Ministry in particular. He would respond to things I’d said in my emails – at least the things that weren’t disrespectful and sarcastic – but as it was usually months since I’d written to him, I’d forgotten what I’d told him. I’d never gone into great detail about my life; he felt so far away in distance and in the time it took to correspond, that I was reluctant to pour my heart out, especially as my emails could be splattered all over some African classroom as a lesson in how not to … I don’t know, do grammar or use abbreviations or live your fucking life or some such shit.
Anyway, I hadn’t heard from Andrew for a while, longer than usual, and then I got this email, from a different email address, not one attached to the ministry thing. Here’s what it said.
Sorry I’ve been out of touch, I’ve been off the grid for a while, trying to sort my life out. Things went a bit pear-shaped for me a few months ago, and I’ve been in a bit of a state.
The short story is Karen and I are getting divorced. It’s all a complete nightmare, and I’ve come back to England to recover. I’ve left ATM, left Karen and Rebecca over there, and come back to stay with my parents.
I would really like to get in touch, but I no longer have your phone number or address. If you’d be happy to, maybe you could email me back and we could have a chat? I’d like to catch up with what’s been going on with you over the last few years, as I expect you’ve got a lot to tell me too.
He’d PSed a mobile number and an address where I could contact him, and as Jules was away and I was at a loose end, I rang him almost straight away.
‘Hi Andrew, it’s Matt.’
‘Matt! Oh my God, that was quick.’
The blasphemy wasn’t lost on me, but I didn’t comment on it.
‘Yeah, well, it’s been a while since I heard your dulcet tones, I thought I’d better call before you disappear off the face of the civilised world again.’
‘How are you?’
‘Great. Really great. You know I live in Devon now, right?’
‘Yeah. What was all that about? Isn’t that where your brother lives?’
‘Yeah, same city. Same house for a while. Long story. Short version is: I was ill a few years back, moved down here so they could help me out.’
And that was the edited, summarised, précised, cut down version of the pared to the bone story of it all. It appeared Andrew still knew me pretty well, though.
‘And one day you’re going to tell me the long version, but I doubt I’ll drag it out of you right now. Ill how?’
Nope, not going into all that.
‘It was a long time ago. I’m better now.’
‘Ha ha, nothing ever bloody changes, does it, Matt.’
I noticed the bloody, too, but didn’t comment on that, either.
‘You’re as hard to get intel out of as ever. Well, fair enough I suppose, I haven’t really earned my confidante stripes recently, I’ll have to extract it out of you sometime using the beer and whisky chaser method.’
OK, now he was going on about getting me pissed, and I needed to ask.
‘So what exactly has been going on with you, Andrew?’
‘Apart from being the biggest dickhead known to man?’
‘Maybe we could start there. You mentioned, er, divorce?’
It turned out Andrew had strayed from the fold in spectacular fashion, by having a torrid affair with one of the directors of the mission thing. They had both lost their jobs, and Andrew’s marriage had imploded.
‘But I don’t get it, Andrew. Isn’t doing the nasty out of wedlock kind of a big no-no for you religious types?’
‘Yeah, well, I’m not sure that’s how you’d categorise me these days.’
‘Really? How should I categorise you?’
He laughed bitterly. ‘Backsliding heathen sinner.’
‘That sounds like someone else’s category. Have you renounced it all? I could never really see you singing ‘Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam’. And when I remember how much we used to take the piss out of the God Squad at Uni – fucking hell, Andrew, you were the God Squad.’
I was so hoping he’d given it all up, so I knew where I stood, and whether I could have a normal conversation with him, or still needed to rein in some of my more impetuous phraseology. I was really enjoying talking to him after all this time, and had a feeling he was more like the Andrew of old than the weird Andrew I’d been corresponding with like a pen-pal over the last few years.
‘I think that was part of the problem, really. If I’m honest, I realised fairly soon after moving out there that it was all a huge mistake. I mean all of it – going to Africa, the bloody ministry, all the God stuff; I got swept up in it. Karen and I went to this church one time in Aberystwyth, and it was all exciting, and they were so welcoming, and before I knew it I was in it all up to my hairline. I didn’t really stop to work it all out.’
‘That doesn’t sound like you.’
‘No, well, Karen was really enthusiastic, I guess we just got carried away. When the ATM thing came up, it seemed so exciting, but then when we got over there, I had time to think, and eventually I realised I’d made a huge mistake. I tried to talk to Karen about it, but she’s still really into it all, they all kept praying for me, just driving me further away. Shit, Matt, I feel so guilty about Rebecca. I feel like I’ve just abandoned her over there.’
‘Are you going to be able to go and see her?’
‘I hope so. I haven’t got any money. I’m trying to find a job, but I’ve been out of things for so long.’
‘What sort of thing are you looking for?’
‘I’ll do anything. I’d prefer something in computers, but I can’t really afford to be choosy.’
‘Where are you based?’
‘I’m at my parents’ at the moment. They’re still in Stafford.’
‘Well, maybe it’s a long shot, but remember I used to work for Eyeti in Stafford? Do you want me to see if they’ve got anything going? Last I heard they were expanding like wildfire, hiring left right and centre.’
‘Would you? Really? Oh mate, that would be bloody amazing.’
And that’s how I got my mate Andrew a job at the company I used to work for. A little bit of synchronicity, or a reward for coming to his senses. We stayed in touch, after that, and a part of my life that felt like it had been knocked off course clicked back into its intended orbit.
What else can I tell you about, while I’m on this sabbatical from the narrative? Oh yeah. Somewhere along the way, between then and now, I worked out what happened with Carrie. Obviously she is not here to confirm or deny this theory, but in the moments when I allowed myself to ponder the whole fucked up business rather than drowning in sorrow and regret, I got it, what happened.
Remember her mum, who she ditched for being inconveniently alcoholic when she was trying to sort her life out? Remember the flashes of fear when I was trying to tell her how I might end up with the help of the bastard MS? Remember how she was all over my arse for wanting to look after her, and then got all over my arse about not being able to afford shit when I reduced my hours? Most of all, remember how she told everyone we knew I got HIV from fucking around and didn’t tell her? Well good, I’m glad you’ve been paying attention.
How I figure it is this. She had some major issues. Yeah, big surprise Matt, well worked out, bet it took you all of ten seconds to come to that conclusion. But those issues weren’t about being controlled, as it would have been reasonable to assume, although, yeah, that was a theme. No, our lovely Carrie just didn’t want to look after people. She left her mum to the caring Martin and then to the clutches of statutory services; she tried her hardest to convince me there was nothing wrong with me when I was first struggling with my diagnosis; she ran off with her abusive ex-boyfriend when it all hit the fan with me; she told everyone it was my fault, so no one could suggest that maybe I deserved better than what she’d handed out, on the contrary would applaud her strength for acting as she did.
It all made sense. She hadn’t been as hung up on being controlled as she’d made out, and looking back, she had in a way had me almost as tied up as Martin had her. I hadn’t been able to move for worrying I was going to upset her by seeming like I was trying to own her in some way; she had us move into what was basically a shit-hole that we painted; she reduced our circle of friends by refusing to go out with them; she wouldn’t let me do anything nice for her without jumping through so many hoops it was hardly worth doing in the end.
She probably manipulated me from the beginning – maybe Martin wasn’t as bad as she made out, maybe he hadn’t done everything she said, maybe she knew what it would take to get me to fall for her (not much), and maybe it was just her way of escaping a situation she didn’t want to be in. Even at the start, she had threatened to make claims about me when she wanted me to leave her yoga class, so she knew how to do whatever it took to get her own way. Maybe it was the only way she knew how to be, maybe none of it was premeditated, maybe she believed it and it became her truth. Maybe.
Working it out didn’t make me feel any better about her and what she did to me, but it helped a little bit to have a reason for it. It still churned inside me, messing with every relationship I had, or didn’t have, for years. It went away for a while with Jules, but in the end it messed with that too, in a way. It wasn’t until Lau that I got rid of it; it finally seemed less important.
Lau, well, whoever I’d been with when I met Lau, I would have finished it to be with her. She knows that, she knows we were meant to be. She calls me a daft sod for saying it, and she knows I don’t believe in fate, or destiny, or all that bollocks, but with her … but I’m getting ahead of myself. There’s plenty of time for Lau. I’m going to be telling you a lot about Lau.
While we’re here, in this little hiatus between getting it right with Jules and getting it so fucking wrong, I’ll tell you about William. I met William when I went up to Norfolk with Jules, just the one time.
I was expecting to spend a lot of time with Jules that weekend, helping her to sort out her aunt’s house, providing moral support and maybe dispensing wise and objective advice about what to keep and what to throw away.
What happened was I got pissed with her next door neighbour, who needed more support than Jules in the grand scheme of things, and was a Newcastle United supporter into the bargain, so doubly needy.
It so happened that Toon were entertaining Spurs that weekend, and William had Sky Sports, so it would have been rude to turn down the offer to watch the game, and then the one after that, which neither of us had a vested interest in but, well, it’s what you do isn’t it.
By the time Jules came back, having loaded her car with bags of stuff for the tip, and filled William’s hallway with more bags of stuff that he was going to take to charity shops, we were both three sheets to the wind and barely coherent, let alone able to offer any sensible advice.
‘Oh, heeey Julesy baaby. Do you need any help there?’
‘No thank you, Matt, I think you’ve helped enough for today.’
‘But, noooo, I haven’t done anything yet, have I, I’ve gotta do something, I’ve come all this way to do something for my girl, that’s you Julesy, you’re my girl, you are, and I haven’t done anything yet.’
‘No, I did notice that, but to be frank, if you start helping now you’re going to cause more work. Just watch your football.’
‘Aw thanks Julesy, you’re fucking ace you are.’
‘I hope you haven’t been leading William astray.’
‘Nah, he supports Newcastle, he’s already as astray as he can get. Sorry, Willybilly.’
‘It’s alright, lad. You’re tipsy and you support Spurs, you don’t stand a chance.’
Jules rolled her eyes, sat down in an armchair and got her laptop out.
Later, curled up with her in the small bed she used to sleep in when she lived there, I tried to beerily apologise for abandoning her.
‘Honestly, Matt, it’s fine. I wouldn’t say when I asked if you wanted to come up here that I thought it would be so you could spend the afternoon drinking and shouting at the television, but I think it’s been good for William. He’s lonely without Nons.’
‘So are you, Julesy.’
‘Yeah, but I’ve got you. We should come up more often, maybe you could take him to Norwich.’
‘Norwich? Errr, what for?’
‘They’ve got a football team, haven’t they? I could go shopping.’
‘Ha ha, Jules, nobody goes to watch Norwich out of choice. C’mere, Julesy baby, you’re looking fucking gorgeous right now.’
‘Matt, that is the last time you call me Julesy, or Julesy baby, without serious consequences.’
‘Hokey dokey Juuuules. C’mere though.’
But we never did go back. I would have kept in touch with William, I really liked him, but, well, things went tits up with Jules and you tend not to keep in touch with the neighbours of your ex-girlfriend’s deceased aunt, do you? I just mentioned William, because he was important to Jules, and I liked him, and seeing her care about him made me feel a) better about her saying she’d take care of me and b) guilty that I’d thought she was a bit uncaring. I guess, as with everything else Jules did, she kept a lot inside her.
So what else can I regale you with? I so want to tell you about Lau, but it’s not time yet, and I want to tell you about my family, Lau, Josh and Ella, but again, all in good time dear readers. I know, how about playing a little True or False? I did it a bit with Jules, when I was trying to dispel some of the bullshit she would have heard about me, but it is quite funny, now I’m a respectable family man, to look back at the things I was supposed to have got up to. If I’d done even half of it, I would have keeled over with exhaustion, or my dick would have dropped off, but maybe this will divert you a little. Okay, here goes.
True or False: Matt Scott has slept with more than five hundred women, and never called any of them.
False. For fuck’s sake, I wouldn’t have had time to go to work, let alone energy to breathe. Do the maths, folks. My sexual career started when I was almost nineteen. Since I was thirty-four, I’ve only slept with Jules and Lau. That makes five hundred women in fifteen years. Which is approximately 0.63 different women per week. Every week! I know I’ve been a bastard, but I wasn’t SuperBastard, with pick-up powers beyond human understanding. And I was ill for quite a long time too, and I was with Carrie for eighteen months. So no, not five hundred. I haven’t ever totted it up, and am not going to, but fewer. Far, far fewer. No, even fewer than you’re thinking. Half the time, I’d pull and then change my mind before I got to the taxi, and I’d give her a snog and a grope, drop her off outside her house and call it a night. And it was rare for me to call any of them. Yeah, never said I wasn’t a bastard, just not SuperBastard. Next.
True or False: Don’t leave your girlfriend alone with Matt Scott, he’ll be in and out of her knickers before you’ve had the piss you’ve been dying for for hours.
Weell, there may be some truth to this. A couple of times, I have availed myself of facilities – a storeroom at a club here, a spare bedroom at a party there – to explore the clear signals I was getting from said other bloke’s girlfriend. It was always mutual, it’s not like I had some kind of ability, or even wish, to persuade women against their will, but I knew they were someone else’s girl, and it didn’t matter at the time. And I guess when you’re trying to explain yourself to your outraged boyfriend, you’re going to put most of the blame firmly on Matt Scott, who a) has the reputation and b) has conveniently buggered off with someone else. So, all things considered, true. Not that I’m proud of it, I’m not proud of any of this shit, this is purely a true or false game for your edification.
True or False: Matt Scott never uses a condom and has spread gonorrhoea, chlamydia and unwanted pregnancies far and wide.
Utter bullshit. I always, always, without fail used a condom, sometimes when begged not to, and got myself regularly and routinely tested. No one ever came to me claiming they were pregnant, and if they had I would have dealt with it sensitively. Not, as some stories claim, brandishing cash for an abortion, but firstly establishing the facts and then taking responsibility if it was mine, and working something out. That was how I liked to think of it theoretically, anyway, and thankfully it was never put to the test.
True or False: Matt Scott never sleeps with the same woman twice.
Obviously false, if you’ve been paying attention, but I suppose Jules and Lau don’t count, because that was after the time when all the rumours were spreading. OK, then, at that time, you could say that might have been true, because if I recognised someone I’d been with before, I’d avoid them. But I didn’t always, because often when I pulled I was off my tits, and even if I’d recognised them, I might not have remembered how far I got. And there were some ‘sure things’ as well, women who I knew I could count on if all else failed. I was a charming bloke. And, believe it or not, there were women who turned me down. I know that’s not what the legend says. The legend says that Matt Scott walked into a room, spotted the woman he wanted to take home, end of story. Oh, if only. I mean, yeah, often I’d get to a club or a party and know fairly early on who my target was, but it would take a whole evening of buying drinks, flirting, dancing, getting closer, fending off any other blokes who were interested as well, before I found out if she’d fallen for it or not. About fifty-fifty, I’d say. So that magical five hundred number is dwindling by the second, isn’t it.
True or False: There is absolutely nothing Matt Scott hasn’t done in bed, or out of it for that matter, and you’d better watch out if you say no.
False. I had my limits, although they are not open for discussion. And as for the last bit, well that used to seriously piss me off. I never forced anyone to do anything they didn’t want to, I never even asked anyone to do something I didn’t think they were totally up for, and sometimes I was asked to do seriously weird shit that I politely turned down. I mean, come on, I never even had a threesome, although I heard about several I was supposed to have had. Must have been some other lucky sod. Sorry Lau, didn’t mean it, not really.
True or False: Matt Scott can go all night and you’d better be able to keep up.
Oh for fuck’s sake. All this makes me sound like some be-Viagraed porn star. I mean, yeah, I’ve got a high sex drive, have had since I discovered it all those years ago at Uni, but all night? Maybe, yeah, I was sometimes, OK often, ready to go again pretty soon, but remember, by the time I got down here to the city, I was in my thirties. I was slowing down. And I certainly wouldn’t have lasted all night. It was one of the many reasons I left soon after it was all over. And as for porn star – have you seen those guys? There’s no way I’m divesting myself of that amount of body hair; the thought brings tears to my eyes. Plus, I’m a skinny bastard. Do not possess even the hint of an ab. Whatever it was that made my reputation, it wasn’t my physique. So, all night? Load of bollocks.
Anyhow, all this ruminating on my previous unstoppable shag monster life is making me a bit miserable, and I don’t really want you thinking about all that, Lau, not now, so here endeth the True or False. I hope I’ve given you a reasonable picture of how things were and how things weren’t.
OK then, I suppose that’s enough avoiding the issue. I’ll get on with it, with telling you how I screwed up one more person.
Where were we then? Oh, you left me and Jules in bed, for which I thank you. And things were great, for a few months. I suppose we got into a rhythm, a way of being, that felt right. We were both comfortable with it, we spent more time together, but we still had our own friends, our own interests, I did family stuff without her, and sometimes with her if it wasn’t too full on. I fended off bloody nosy questions from Beth and Rose, mostly along the lines of ‘how are things going with Julia’, and were fishing for more details, more get-togethers, always more more more, but Jules made it quite clear she didn’t feel part of the ever expanding Scott family, and didn’t want to feel part of it. Her own family was mostly absent, I never met her parents or her sisters, and they didn’t all seem to keep in touch much.
Jules really wasn’t one who did things she didn’t want to. She never made a big thing about it, she just said yes or no if I asked her along to something, and yes was great, she was an ally against all the baby-mongering that was going on around Dec and Amy at that time, and no was fine too, I didn’t have to worry about whether she was bored or irritated.
The kids thing was a weird one. I had no intentions of ‘settling down’ any time soon, and the big fuss that was being made about Dec and Amy’s baby struck us both as extremely over the top. Don’t get me wrong, I was dead chuffed for them, they seemed really happy, but it did get a bit tedious every time I went round to Jay’s, even if they weren’t there, with all the updates on the minutiae of scans, tests, wondering about names, speculating about dates, comparing, contrasting. Yeah, I know, when I had my own I did exactly the same, and I loved it, fucking loved it all, and I feel bad now about taking the piss with Jules, especially as it kind of compounded what happened later.
Although Jules was so adamant that she didn’t want kids, didn’t even like them, she was so great with Cal and Iz; she’d get on the floor and play with Iz’s dolls, she’d talk to Cal like a grown-up about all sorts of things, no one would have ever known. But I guess that was the thing about Jules. She was good at playing a part, being a particular person in a given situation. I’m pretty sure that when she was with me, she was herself, but I saw all these other bits of her – when she was at work, when she was with my family, when she was with her friends. She once told me I was the only person who had ever crossed over her work world and her personal world, and I suppose I should take that as the compliment it was.
So, things went well for a few months, there we were, enjoying life, taking things as they happened, deliberately not making plans of any sort about anything, even a holiday, or forcing anything, and then I changed it all. Not on purpose, it was out there before I’d even thought about it, but we were lying in bed having breakfast one weekend, when I suddenly realised she hadn’t been home for two weeks, and I gasped.
‘I just realised something.’
‘It’s difficult to eat croissants in bed without getting crumbs on the sheets?’
‘No. I already knew that. Thought I might lick any strays off your arse later.’
‘You’re very confident I’ll be face down.’
‘Yeah I am. You know it’s your favourite way.’
‘Alright, granted. What have you realised?’
‘You haven’t been home for nearly two weeks.’
I thought about it, counting back. Then looked up at him to try and work out if it disturbed him or not. His crinkly grin suggested not.
‘I hadn’t noticed. You’re right though. Maybe I should go back tonight, give you some space?’
I didn’t even think about it, just felt it, just said it.
‘Maybe … we should just make it permanent. Move in with me, Jules.’
She carried on looking at me, for a long time – trying, I think, to work out if I was serious or if this was another ‘I love you’ ‘no you don’t’ ‘no I don’t’ moment. I saw the moment she realised I meant it, and I saw the panic, and I immediately regretted doing anything so stupid. Did I not know Jules at all? She needed to know all the facts, to have had all the discussions, to have raised the subject herself in the first place, before she made a decision about such a monumental change to our status. She was frozen.
I studied his face to work out if he was joking, or meant it, or had said it impulsively and was now regretting it. When no arsing about was forthcoming and he continued to hold my gaze, I realised he was serious. Then I panicked, froze, unable to speak or even think. He realised almost immediately.
‘Fuck it, I’ve freaked you out haven’t I. Shit. OK, just to put things in perspective, you notice I’m not down on one knee, I’m not proposing like all the other Tom, Dick and bloody Alexanders you’ve dumped. I still don’t love you, if that helps. It just seems right.’
I didn’t speak, just sat, leaning against the headboard, staring at my half eaten croissant, trying to get my thoughts together.
I was frantically trying to think of other things that might add to the damage limitation, and was even prepared to take it back, to take that look off her face as she stared at her breakfast without speaking.
‘Shit. OK, let’s forget I said anything. Let’s just finish breakfast and go for our hike, as if bloody Matt Scott didn’t just bloody well say the most bloody idiotically stupid thing he could possibly have thought of saying.’
‘But you’ve said it now, I can’t just forget it.’
‘Jules, I’m an arse, I’m always saying bloody idiotic things, you manage to forget those quickly enough.’
‘I know. I think I’m going to go home.’
She started to get out of bed, and I caught her arm, trying to stop her. I knew Jules had finished at least three relationships in the past because they got too serious, too near to a proposal, and now it was me who was panicking, because once she’d decided, there was no changing her mind. If she decided to finish it with me, I was history.
‘No! Don’t go. Shit, I cant believe I’ve fucked this up.’
She just shrugged out of my grip and started to put her clothes on.
‘I’m just going to go home, get my head straight, have some time to myself.’
I sat behind her and tried to wrap her up in my arms, but she disentangled herself and finished dressing, then turned round to face me. I saw I had no hope of persuading her not to go; my only hope was not to put anymore pressure on her.
‘OK. Space it is then. You know where I am, if you want to talk, or yell, or have fucking hot sex.’
I tried a smile, which was not reciprocated.
‘I know. Sorry, Matt.’
He knew me well enough by now to realise it was pointless to try to dissuade me from doing something I had decided and announced I was going to do. We were also similar enough in our need for our own space that he wouldn’t push me to contact him. I drove home in a bit of a daze, trying not to think about what he had asked me, about how it might change things regardless of whether I said yes or no or ignored it, and about whether I’d got to that stage in yet another relationship where I needed to end it.
Once I got home, I made myself a coffee, belatedly realising I didn’t have any milk. In fact, I didn’t have anything in the fridge at all, and there was hardly any food in the cupboards. Looking around me, although the flat still had the basic objects that made it mine – furniture, pictures, décor – a lot of my things were missing, the things I used every day and needed nearby.
There were hardly any clothes in my wardrobe; there was only basic shower gel in the bathroom; most of my cooking utensils were missing; there was a stack of mail that had accumulated behind the door that needed sorting through; my bookshelf was half empty. It didn’t feel like I belonged here any more. I shied away from the thought. This was my place, my sanctuary, the space I closeted myself in, away from the rest of the world. How had this happened?
Jules left, and I spent the rest of the morning asking myself why. Why had I even said anything? It’s not like I spent my life waiting for someone I could move into my flat. I liked my flat, I liked my space, I liked things the way they were. We could have carried on, and then she would have noticed herself after a while, and it would have been her idea, and I wouldn’t be sitting here wondering if I was ever going to hear from her again.
I thought about calling her, telling her I’d made a mistake, taking it back, I didn’t mean it, temporary aberration or something, but the more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t honestly say it, and yet the more I convinced myself I’d completely ballsed it up. It was a miserable day.
We’d planned to go for a hike, and I nearly went on my own, but I didn’t want to be out of mobile range, so I paced around like a caged animal, wanting to call her and either apologise or find out what she was thinking, but neither of those options were going to go well for me, so I moved on from ‘why’ to the equally pointless ‘if only’s.
If only I’d stopped and thought before I’d said anything.
If only, once I’d said something, I hadn’t said ‘move in’.
If only I’d been able to think of a single thing to say that would have made it better, not such a big deal.
If only I didn’t think it was such a big deal, now I’d said it, that I really really wanted it, and even if she was still speaking to me, but said no, I’d be really sad.
Bloody ‘if only’s. They don’t get you anywhere but worse off, because they just swirl round and round your brain, getting you to imagine all the things you could have said and done differently, when the only thing you can’t do is change what has happened.
I put some music on and ran a bath, hoping that relaxing and thinking might help me to make sense of what was going on in my whirling brain. It was one of the things that helped when I was stressing about something; being on my own, I could sort through things in a logical order and try to put things in perspective. If I was living with Matt, I’d never be on my own … if I was living with Matt … and so my day went, all of it spinning round in my head as I weighed up and prioritised and wondered and tried to predict the future. I thought about our relationship and what I wanted from it; I thought about my independence and how important it was to me; I thought about where I saw me being in a few years; I thought about sickness and health and till death do us part; I thought a lot about Matt.
Eventually I thought myself into a stupor. The amount of times I reached for my phone, pressed Jules’ name to call or text, and then couldn’t think of a single thing to say that wouldn’t make it worse. The amount of times I picked up my car keys to drive over there. The amount of times I called myself a stupid, impetuous, thoughtless arse.
Eventually, I wore myself out with it all. I was hungry, so I ordered takeaway and went to fetch a bottle of wine from the Whistling Panhandler, and after I had finished my meal, and most of the bottle of wine, I found myself drifting off to sleep on the sofa.
I woke with a start, realising it was really late. It was dark, there was no traffic noise from outside, indicating that it was the early hours. I suddenly knew the answer to it all. It was obvious. I found my phone and asked Siri to FaceTime Matt.