It would be prudent for me to point out, lest anyone should think that I have become a doormat, that I am selecting the awkward moments of my relationship with the Rastafarian. If doctorates in hindsight were a thing then everyone would achieve this accolade, so on reflection, I will admit that I was a little blinded by love but only because there were plenty of affirming facets to our relationship.
As the summer cobbled together some final days of sun, we regularly walked the dog on the beach, the Rastafarian concerning himself over how much the dog and I ran around with my wrist still not fully recovered. Quite rightly so, as I managed to fall in the sea twice, which I had never done before, therefore proving that one’s balance is definitely affected by a useless arm. But falling onto water/stones/sand is nothing compared with falling onto concrete, so all was well, apart from having to squelch home in squidgy shoes. We made the most of the free entertainment down on the boardwalk, sitting on the wall with cans of beer, listening to live music and joining in with the dancing amidst a generalised ‘joie de vivre’. He introduced me to many of his friends, which was welcome, for conversational purposes, given his refusal to chat about anything personal to him or us whilst out. If it wasn’t for the fact that he was very demonstrative and affectionate in public, I would have had my suspicions. There was still the problem of ending nights out. I lost count of the number of times that I agreed to give him a lift home after an Open Mic night (because that was a regular Sunday-Thursday occurrence), on the condition that we left at a reasonable time, only to finish up the evening having a disagreement because I was ready to go and he wasn’t. There had been some nights where I had stayed out till the small hours, before returning to work, but as the return to work loomed, I wanted to adjust my sleeping pattern so that it was conducive to a full-time job.
I had noticed that ‘work’ didn’t figure much in the Rastafarian’s life. I was on holiday, but what was his reason to be bumming around everyday? Zero hour contract, he said. And ‘I’m turning down work to spend time with you’, he said. There were times when he didn’t have any money in the pub, yet it had been his idea to go to the pub. I became wary of going out with him, lest he didn’t have any money, as I didn’t want to be buying all the drinks all evening. But at some point I returned to work and thank goodness, so did he, so he had some money. ‘Some’ being the operative word. He started to borrow £5, £10, £20 . . initially, he paid it back, but then it started to add up. He said he’d pay me back when he got paid, so I said that that was fine, but I wouldn’t be lending him any more. And to be fair, I got into the habit of calling in straight after work, when he would have a plate of typical African fare, cooked to perfection, waiting for my consumption. At times, he would message me to bring some beers, but as he had cooked, I didn’t mind as I would enjoy a cold beer with a meal laden with chilli, garlic and maybe even tabasco. Then he had toothache. I knew it was genuine, because I saw the antibiotics he had as a result of my lending him money to get it sorted. We met in town in the evening after his trip to the dentist, for an Open Mic night in a bar in the more cosmopolitan area of town and he asked if he could put his medication in my rucksack. He played and we listened to a few more acts, then we left. We started walking towards my car and then he suggested we had one more drink in another bar. I said I didn’t want to, but he could if he wanted to. He said nothing and we continued to my car. Then I felt something pulling on my rucksack. I spun round and he was unzipping it, foraging for his medication. Then he went to the other bar.
I arrived home, a little bemused by the strange end to the evening and my phone pinged.
‘Where are you?’
Baffled, I replied, ‘At home.’
‘I wait for you.’
This was the new ending to nights out. We’d moved on from having the disagreement at the pub, to having the disagreement via What’sApp once I had returned home. There were times, if I didn’t have work the next day, when I would buckle and return, either for some peace and quiet or because I was concerned about him. But eventually, common sense started to dominate and I made it clear that ‘I’m going home,’ meant just that.
Back to the medication. So, next day at work, he rang, clearly agitated.
‘Why did you take my medication?’
‘I didn’t.’ I replied, ‘You took it out of my rucksack. Don’t you remember?’
‘Why are you lying to me? I need it!’
‘Why would I take it?’ I protested.
The conversation went on for a few minutes until we agreed that he would contact the dentist and get more antibiotics. I took him there after work and we got there just before closing time. This scenario was not the only one of its kind. He was paranoid and found it difficult to trust anyone. I imagined that his traumatic experiences in his homeland back in the 90s, coupled with his penchant for recreational excesses and his sadness over the daughter he never saw, were responsible for the state of his mind, although I felt quite strongly that the onus was on him to get some help, rather than on me, to bear the brunt of his past experiences, although I was trying hard to get him back in contact with his little girl. He was a difficult boyfriend for sure; needy, financially and emotionally, but hot-tempered and paranoid to boot. He liked to know what I was doing when I wasn’t with him and seemed fixated with the notion that I might cheat on him, yet he was unreliable himself and I pointed out that I had far more reason to think that he might be cheating on me.
Of course, there had to be reasons why I was with him. The thing he did best was writing and playing reggae music. Even with the anger I currently feel towards him (sorry about the spoiler for anyone that wanted a happy ending but you probably realised that there wasn’t going to be one!) I cannot deny that I have rarely seen a more talented musician. I watched him write songs, music and lyrics together, and there is no doubt that this man contains a whole heap of talent. His songs are profound, beautiful and he plays them to perfection. Bob Marley is his hero but I would even say that his talent is comparable; maybe even greater. Anyone who has dated a musician will understand how easy it is to fall for someone a little more every time you watch them play. No matter how difficult the Rastafarian was, every time he played, there was no anger, paranoia, deceit . . . this was the essence of him. He could be affectionate, loving, caring, gentle, charismatic . . . I want to end with ‘and he needed me’ but I’d sound like Nancy from Oliver Twist. But the thing is, at the risk of bigging myself up, it was true.