While my best friend was getting married in antique lace and peach blusher many thousands of miles away, in a place I called home for all my life, I was working in a dead end job kept conscious, only merely, by the eccentricity of my colleagues. People who not only had dead end jobs but dead end lives too.
So while my friend’s husband crushed the glass and she tearfully waltzed her first dance, with all the promise and hope in the world, I coveted her life, her love, her stability. And I felt sad for myself, and my string of failed love affairs.
My intuitive colleague, Natasha, noticing my unusual gloominess, dragged me off unwillingly to a pub down the road for a drink after work. I have never soothed with alcohol. I have always turned to a warm kitchen with a fat recipe book and armloads of fresh ingredients, or to a good book, or to melancholy music to indulge and eventually cry out my disappointment, my sadness, my discontentment. But after moving to the UK I thought I’d surrender to the pub and discover why exactly they are the alluring little spots they are, and so I trundled my messy self over.
Natasha’s friend was going to meet up with us there and I didn’t think much about it. I just wanted to have the drink and get home to a bubble bath. But the drink turned into eight drinks and a rushed and urgent farewell to Natasha, and a curry with her friend, Adam, and a few drunken dances in his apartment to Frank Sinatra and Nina Simone.
I was enamored with this tall and beautiful man, with his elusive smile, and his big black rimmed preppy glasses. His embrace swallowed my little frame and I felt safe tucked into his body, warmed by his hairy chest, eased by his attention.
For the first time since I left home I felt affection and I was floored by it.
I gave myself over to him entirely. I was never home. I never cooked a meal, I never returned my friend’s calls, I never made my bed for three weeks because I was never in it. I shipped my clothes from my place to his at the end of everyday, and I slept holding onto him every night.
But then months later, the masterful sex became rough and sordid. I was getting spanked and having my hair pulled so hard my neck felt as though it might just submit to the tension, and snap. I was getting called ‘dirty’ and I was having restaurant doors slammed in my face. When we went to Brighton and my stilettos (spot the foreigner!) were falling through the wooden slats on the pier he wouldn’t hold my hand to help me balance and when he got hungry he marched off ahead of me without any discussion and ordered us both fish and chips which he then slammed into my hands and said “Eat”. It hurt me … like a child again, I was thrown food at and told what to do with it. I wasn’t even hungry.
I felt soiled by his treatment of me and by his feigning interest. And I felt ever more intent to make him fall in love with me; to make him understand my humor, my idiosyncrasies, my profoundly gentle soul. But he wasn’t interested and he seemed bored by me. It broke my heart. I began to pine for the fantasy that I had created in my mind, for the life I had planned for us, for the sweet and romantic person that I believed him to be. I cried everyday for weeks on end out of humiliation and indignation. And I blamed his coldness on every stupid thing I said and every gushy gesture I made.
But then I tired of my languishing glum ways and I consciously began to indulge in small pleasures. I cuddled up with a hot water bottle and a book and sipped on chai tea and I stood under the showerhead a little longer than necessary, just to feel the heavy, constant stream of warm water, the moist steamy room, the clean smell all around me. And I bought myself a chocolate bar, and I took a walk and looked at the tulips in the park, and I touched other people’s dogs … and I found my spirit again.
I began listening to other people’s conversations on the tube and I found them funny, witty, or strange, and I felt affiliated in a universal human way. I found myself feeling satisfied with the subtle and cheerful happenings around me and I accepted the end of the blistering passion and my adrenalin-inspiring visions of courtship.
Just these little moments of tenderness between others made me feel that I could have it for myself too. And the reassurance that I could create my own joy liberated me from my pain. I slowly started to feel released. And I began to hope again that someday soon I too would waltz my first dance and I would wear antique lace and peach blusher, and I would feel loved. And I felt certain that I was not tainted by this painful memory of love, that I was resourceful enough to experience it and let it go, so that it would never restrain me from loving generously again.