The thing about one night stands is you generally feel absolutely rotten in the morning. You lie there staring at the ceiling, usually hungover and desperately trying to piece together why it was such a good idea to bring this man home and who this snoring lump with their back to you even is. Or worse, their limbs are all wrapped around you and your arm is going numb, wondering how to untangle yourself without waking them. It’s even more soul destroying if you actually like the person too – this is usually the girl reaction, the boy just wants to go high five his mate and then delete your number. Sadly us girls find it hard to separate sex and emotions, plus even if you’re not interested in him, you don’t want to feel cheap, no one wants to be the rejected one. So I laid there, waiting for him to wake up, wondering how long it would take him to bolt from my bed, telling myself it was all ok because I had no feelings left inside me and I’d be leaving the country soon so it couldn’t have gone anywhere any way and regardless, it had all been on my terms, it was ok, I was ok.
And then he opened his big blue eyes and stared into mine. And right then, then I knew I was in trouble.
‘Damn it! Why was I not thinner, damn all those chocolate mini eggs and the stone of grief hanging off my bones! How far away are my clothes, can I reach them with my foot, nope, too far, how can I get him to look the other way whilst I slip out of bed, please don’t notice my morning breath, oh please don’t try and kiss me until I’ve brushed my teeth! Oh god, oh god why is he so sexy! Where is the water! I’m way to hungover for this! I kind of need to poop too, what if he hears! Did I just let out a little fart?! Ugghhh! Nooo is that the time, I’ve got places to be! Stop looking at me! Yes I always walk out of rooms backwards and no it’s nothing to do with trying to avoid you from seeing the size of my ass! Great, now he thinks I’m a freak!’
Only he doesn’t leap out of bed and bolt for the door. He sticks around and I don’t know what to do. He skives work, he offers to come visit the family and friends I’d taken the day off to go visit and say goodbye to. Reluctantly I decline his offer, unable to think of a way to explain this random man I’d brought along with me. I dropped him at the train station instead, him promising to text me, me presuming never to hear from him again.
He text me.
It’s that first rush of something, the decades between text messages. Will he reply? Why hasn’t he replied? What did he last say? What did I say back? Was I funny? Did I sound too weird? Does he think I’m odd? Play it cool Bec, play it cool! Screw him, that’s it, he’s getting deleted!
And then your phone makes that glorious little ding sound and suddenly all the butterflies you thought long dead suddenly wake up and flutter around your belly ‘hey what you up to?’ he asks. This stupid little puppy dog smile spreads uncontrollably across your face and your eyes light us as you read his words and you just turn to mush. This little ball of excited energy, bouncing down the road to Aretha Franklin in the sun, oh it’s always sunny. You’re buzzing and it’s uncontrollable and you’re just ‘yayy’ you’re ‘yay yay yay yay yayyyyyyyy!!!!!” There are no other words, well there are but they are reserved for people far more articulate than I. All I could do was dance about in my pants to songs from the 60’s feeling glad to be alive and thinking this the most wonderful feeling in the world; that first flirtation, the hint of something. All new and sparkly, before any angry words, difficult situations, untarnished by your history. A new face, an unknown body, fun. And all from a text message, it’s the sweetest feeling, full of raw excitement, passion, desire and wonder; just burning through your skin. Play it cool Bec, play it cool ‘hey, not much, you?’ you type back.
Two days later we met at the train station. I was late. I’m always late. I didn’t spot him at first, I stared at my phone to find his number, when I lifted my eyes there he was, right in front of me. Shit he was hot! Was he this hot the other day? What the hell was he doing hanging out with me?! He knew I was leaving the country, why was he bothering, couldn’t he see I was all damaged inside? Can’t he spot the rain cloud over my head? But then he was the first guy in such a long time, the first anyone to notice me since every thing fell apart, like the universe was saying ‘hey you’ve had a corker, here’s a little gift to perk you up and keep you going, have fun’ even if it was just sex he wanted, that was fine with me!
He was hot, I was awkward. I tripped over my own feet, bumped into him and narrowly missed walking into a pole. I didn’t know what to say, I felt intimidated. Was he regretting coming now he’d seen me in day light? We climbed the stairs to the roof top bar, I tried to control my breathing so he wouldn’t realise how out of breath I was.
With a sunset falling over the London sky line as our back drop we turned into each other and talked. I had nothing to talk about, all I’d known for months was depressing gloom, obviously that would be winning date conversation, who wouldn’t want to talk about dead mums and eating your way through depression? Shit what do people talk about on dates?! I’m not good at this!! Why is he so attractive!
He told me how he wasn’t just a bank manager, he was writing a book. He took regular trips to museums for research, he sat in St James park opposite the pelicans and wrote. Ah crap, I’m going to like this one! ‘Please just kiss me’ I thought!
He was suppose to be somewhere else but he spent the entire evening with me instead. We ended up in one of those cinemas that sell alcohol, I have no idea what we watched, it must have been a comedy because I laughed a lot. We found our way back to mine. I felt irrationally annoyed at the world ‘where were you six months ago? why couldn’t you have come along then? You could have saved me!’. We spent the next day together, he brought me food whilst I packed up my room.
That night my flatmates held a house party, he stayed. Somehow we started talking about musicals, he confessed his favourite was ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’ which isn’t exactly what you’d expect to hear from this muscled up, northern man. I’m such a sucker, it just made me like him more! Everyone else was peeling off to head to a club, we decided to stay in and watch ‘Seven Brides’. He knew the songs, he sang along, it was ridiculously cute, I melted inside a little. He turned to me, drunk ‘I’m falling in love with you’. It had been three days! I didn’t say it back. Please don’t fall in love with me, I’m dark inside, you’ll break my heart and I don’t think I can handle any more pain right now.
The next day I loaded all my belongings into my car about to drive across the country to my brothers, I’d only be gone a few days but he offered to come with me. We drove the three hours across England and then he got the train back to London and all so he could spend a few more hours with me. Yep, I was a goner by then! How could you not be! Those muscles, the arms, he writes, he likes musicals, and history, his accent, those eyes, uggh those eyes!! Actually that makes him sounds a little gay, umm did I mention the arms? The eyes? Never mind, I can’t save it, let’s just say, trust me, he wasn’t gay!
Any way, so there I was, suppose to be spending quality time with my nephew and family but all I can do is stare at my phone waiting for text messages and then desperately trying to play it cool in my replies like I’m not at all bothered about him at all. I’m fine, I’m chilled, all good here.
My brother and I continued to go through mum stuff, I found letters from the uncle I’d never met, who’d died before I existed. He too had gone to Australia around my age, he’d written home, his letters were so of their time –
From New Zealand ‘The rains not that English stuff, it comes down like the Thames’
From Australia ‘I won’t mention the weather as I know it’s minitive in England only to say that most people wear shorst a this time of year’
From Darwin in northern Australia ‘it’s a dirty place, red dust is everywhere, you could have ten showers a day and still not be clean’ and ‘I’m told you have been on holiday, I hope the weather was kind to you but who can rely on the English weather?’
Us Brits, we just love to talk about the weather!
I found random notes ‘August 15 1948, Clifford cuts first tooth, discovered by grandma at tea time’. It’s strange what people keep in boxes, snippets of stories. Are we destined to repeat family history? Does it come in waves per generation?
Well any way, no time to think of that now. It wasn’t that I wanted to say goodbye to my family, I didn’t want to miss out on all my nephews firsts, not to see him grow, for him not to know me or only ever see me inside a computer screen but I so desperately wanted to get back to London to see the bank manager. Now officially homeless, my room filled by someone else, my house-mates were very kindly letting me sleep on the couch. The bank manager and I arranged to meet up the next day. He said I could stay at his, that seemed like a much better offer than the couch.
We met after work, we went for dinner, we drank. Actually we drank quite a lot. Somehow, once again, we ended up having a lock in with the waiting staff who kept providing us with free cocktails. He paid for the meal and we got a taxi to north London, to his. It was gone 2am, I was more than a little tipsy, we both were. He made us get out at a cash machine to pay the taxi driver and insisted we walk the five minutes around the corner to his flat. After half an hour of walking up and down the streets, my heeled feet were screaming for mercy and I demanded to know where his house was and why we weren’t there yet!
Finally he explained ‘well I didn’t know how to tell you this but I live with my ex-girlfriend and we can”t go back to mine’.
WHAT! Ex? Sure she’s your ex? Why did you even invite me to stay over? Why did you let us get a taxi here? Where am I suppose to go now! I can’t go back to my flat, I don’t live there now and I can’t just show up in the middle of the night to sleep on the couch, plus that’s all the way in South London it would cost a fortune in a taxi. My phone was dead so I couldn’t call any friends. I contemplated sleeping in my office. What was I suppose to do?!
I slumped down on the wall, every thing rushed up, every thing that had happened that year, and now, finally something good had come along and it wasn’t good, it was just as crappy as every thing else, I felt cheated, like the universe was playing a cruel joke on me, like the stars were laughing down at me, I was so sad. He just stood there.
He stood there offering no solutions. ‘I don’t understand why we can’t go to yours if she’s your ex-girlfriend and in another room!’ he couldn’t really explain this other than her getting prickly about it. I didn’t care about her being prickly, I wanted somewhere to sleep. ‘I’ll get us a hotel’ he offered. What other choice was there. ‘I want a five star hotel! We’re going to the Renaissance’ I demanded! I was so angry at him. Drunk and hurt and angry. I was angry at the world. He made a comment, I forget what now but it riled me, I swung for him. I’d never punched anyone before, I aimed for his eye, I got his lip. I found it funny, surprised at my own reaction. Him less so. I think I might have freaked him out a bit.
We tried the Premier Inn, they were full. Everywhere was full. We walked the London streets. Finally we went to the Renaissance Hotel which is probably the poshest hotel in London. It’s actually where they filmed the Spice Girl Wannabe video back before millions had been invested and it was derelict, but now it was beautiful, ornate, historic and dripping with class. Well class and my angry, drunken self. They had a room, in fact they upgraded us at 3.30am to a suite. I made him pay. I was so mad. And yet I still liked him. I think I swung for him again in the hotel room – I probably shouldn’t be allowed so much alcohol and have sudden shifts of emotions, turns out it’s a bad combination.
I made him sleep on the couch. Well I tried to but you know, I didn’t want to waste the room and I still liked him! I was mean though, I called him an asshole, told him he was rubbish, I basically let all my pain come out as aggression. I felt tricked and cheated, I was so destroyed at the universe, I just wanted to be angry at someone, not just for bizarrely inviting me home and then not letting me get in the door but for all the struggles, the constant moving, the lost friendships, my dead mother, the burden of it all, I was so pissed off at every thing. I hated him.
We met after work the next day, he was despondent, I felt bad about hitting him. He didn’t like me so much any more, I could see it in his eyes, I wanted him to like me. We sat by the pelicans in the place he liked to write, I didn’t want to ever leave. I tried to make him like me again. I apologised for hitting, it wasn’t something I’d ever done before, sure I’d slapped a guy for groping me on a night out but I don’t think that really counts, this was different, I was embarrassed by myself.
The next day I flew to the Isle of Man for some more goodbyes.