Wayside #1: Chris

It’s early 2005. Winter. I am sitting in a blue Corsa with a few dents in it. It is my boyfriend’s car. He has come to pick me up from work. I didn’t expect him to. I didn’t ask him to. The idea was never brought up at all. He has never done this before. Just moments ago, I was getting into my gay boss’s car for a lift home with a built-in friendly ear to my troubles. I don’t even need a lift home really, I live ten minutes’ walk away.

Once, I remember dropping a cheap bottle of rosé and it completely smashing on the floor in the aisle, glass and wine all over me and the walkway. I had been upset, having read one of those ambiguous, wholly unreassuring text messages that left me wondering whether my relationship would be safe for the remainder of my shift; whether I could potter about for however many hours or minutes it was I had to go before being released back into my real life, and it would still have a chance of survival. I can’t remember if that was this night or not.

Chris showed up. Damien and I shared a puzzled but hopeful moment. At least, I think there was hope. Probably in the way of last-minute comfort vibes from him, but I think it was there. I got out of his jeep and walked across the Lidl car park to the Corsa. And now I am sitting in it. Chris is next to me in the driver’s seat, being very oddly quiet. He doesn’t do quiet; he is a lad, the class clown, a charmer. Gets on with everyone’s grandma. He is looking down a lot.

There’s another thing I remember, but can’t place chronologically. I got a phonecall. My friend Hannah. A fairly new friend – we’d known each other about a year, properly, we spent a lot of time together but I still hadn’t sussed her out. I still haven’t. She warned me. Someone had seen Chris get into his car with Kim, and someone else knew he had taken her home, and stayed with her for a while. Someone else had gone round to her place, and walked in on them kissing. What was later confessed only to be ‘a kiss’. It all seemed very twee.

I am sitting in the Corsa, perhaps knowing, perhaps not already knowing, and he tells me. He is quiet, a bit shaky, but resolved. I am gentle, cautious, immediately forgiving and desperately trying to salvage what has come to be my norm, my comfort, what I know. My regular, my knowns, are being taken away from me, with no warning. I am being stolen from. The quickness of it is the worst part. He isn’t giving me any chance. He is using this story as an excuse for something else that he won’t tell me – there is another reason that he doesn’t love me, doesn’t want to be around me, serve me, protect me anymore, and somehow that is even less acceptable to explain to me than what he is telling me now. The clinical ‘There’s someone else.’ It is just too unreal to believe as the whole truth. We were a couple yesterday, what happened?

I go through several stages of grief in record speed while we sit in the car park. I beg, I cry, I love, I forgive, I accept, I unaccept, I resent, I collapse. Chris voices that he is still here, he loves me too, he’s sorry, he hasn’t gone anywhere, he will still drive me to rehearsals for the musical we are acting in together, we will be friends.

And that’s the worst part. You learn these little white lies off by heart in grown-up life; these things are lovely to think, and to hear, but they will never happen. You will not be friends. The listener knows this, deep down. You both do. This is probably the last mutual thought that you will ever share. The last thing you will connect on. Savour it.

Not the first, and probably not the most painful, but definitely up there.

I slept in my mum’s bed for a week, and then, out of nowhere, felt fine and got on with things. Chris and I are not friends in the same way as we were before we got together, of course, but we do speak occasionally, and with compassion in our hearts. I believe he cares about me and I still care about him, but we are not strung together like we were, not hung up on each other’s hopes or falls or straying. Seven years later, I know that I do not understand him fully, could not catch and keep him now; we are completely separate and disparate people. But I know him well. And I revel in every part of how we turned out apart together.

Like where I’m going with this one? Introduction and other posts in this series at the wayside.

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