‘I suppose you’re just going to go now,’
The lodger, with whom I had never conversed, turned on me as if I had been an accomplice in this situation. I didn’t reply. I was going to go, but his statement implied that that would be a poor move, which I found baffling, yet I had no reason to stay.
‘Are you the one from Portsmouth?’ he enquired.
‘No,’ I found my voice – I could answer these questions, ‘I’m the one from Brighton.’
I was wrong-footed by his question, but he had set the tone of our relationship by being accusatory in our first interchange and I was not about to reveal any weakness to him, so I treated his question with as much dismissiveness as I could muster, making a mental note to enquire about ‘the one from Portsmouth’ at the next opportunity.
As I arrived home, my phone rang. It was a WPC who asked if I was the Rastafarian’s partner. I wanted to say ‘no’ but it would have been a lie, so I affirmed her question and she told me that he was with them and that he was fine.
It occurred to me, that if I wanted to say ‘no’ when quizzed about my relationship with the Rastafarian, that I should ensure that I was able to say ‘no’ sometime soon. Meanwhile, I replayed the unpleasant situation I had witnessed in my head. He didn’t seem surprised about the violent knocking at the door. Indeed, he was ignoring it when his lodger let the police in. Silently, he had put his forefinger to his lips, in a hushing gesture, when I had looked at him inquiringly, before they were invited in. After greeting him and telling him that they were going to take him in for questioning, they had said, gently, ‘you know what this is about,’ which reinforced the notion that this was expected. He had replied ‘I was going to come to see you today,’ which indicated to me that it concerned The Ex, as he had told me that he needed to go to talk to the police. However, his questionable relationship with the truth had rendered me lukewarm about most things that fell out of his mouth.
I continued with my day, surprising myself at how little I cared about the Rastafarian’s fate. In my imagination, he had been charged, tried and sentenced and I wasn’t going to be the type of girlfriend who ‘stood by her man’ despite overwhelming evidence that he did not deserve anyone to even sit by him, let alone stand by him. But then, around mid-afternoon, he rang to ask me to collect him. I’d rehearsed for the ‘will you bail me out’ conversation and my stance was going to be a resolute, resounding and righteous ‘NO’. But they were releasing him without charge; I hadn’t rehearsed for this. I agreed to collect him, despite having an appointment to view a house (I was keeping my options open) and I was going to be on a tight schedule, but as long as there were no hitches, I could do this. On reflection, I cannot fathom why I inconvenienced myself to this degree for someone so undeserving; his unexpected innocence had caused me to pity him, I guess.
My assumption that there would be no hitches, was misplaced – this was the Rastafarian, after all. There were always hitches. He constantly reneged on arrangements, changing times and places last-minute and sometimes denying all knowledge of an arrangement in the first place. For a long time, I attributed this unreliability to forgetfulness, but the more it happened, and the less he apologised, and acknowledging other unpleasant facets to his personality, I was starting to suspect that it was a deliberate act to control. So when I had almost arrived at the designated collection point and he contacted me to say that he was at home but please, please, please, could I still come, surprise eluded me but sheer, red-mist fury didn’t. I was overwhelmed with self-pity – the events of the morning splashed over my mind like a wave of reason, seeming to shout that this was not acceptable, that this was not my life, I had fallen into someone else’s life . . .
The Rastafarian was sitting on a chair, tying his shoelaces, looking as meek as he had looked when he received the eviction notice. The lodger was standing over him, seeming concerned. I ignored him, as I hadn’t forgotten his strange rudeness earlier.
‘We need to go,’ I stated, looking squarely at the Rastafarian.
‘We’re discussing something,’ replied the lodger, weirdly speaking for him.
‘I have an appointment,’ I argued.
‘Can’t you wait a minute?’ he argued back.
In the car, I felt an obligation to show compassion. They’d questioned him about The Ex’s claims and evidently, it was all fine. Apparently, she had discovered, via Charlie of hair-clippers fame, that he was seeing me and so her report was borne out of jealousy. I attempted some empathy over the fact that he’d been detained all day, but he was dismissive, claiming that he was sufficiently equipped, emotionally, to deal with such a situation. So, when I missed my house viewing, I had no qualms about berating him for changing the arrangement about collecting him. Then, it would seem, his ability to deal with his arrest vanished. He didn’t break down or beg to be comforted, but he presented this façade of trauma, shouting that I could not know what he had been through. I fought back, pointing out that he could not expect both admiration for being blasé about his day whilst trying to grab handfuls of compassion for the trauma he’d suffered. And I told him that I’d like him to leave my car. His final performance, surprisingly, was one of contrition. He accepted my viewpoint and apologised. I wasn’t expecting that.
It was clear that this ailing relationship needed to be allowed to die, with as much dignity as I could bring about. But I knew that my chances of being repaid would spiral down to almost zero (it wasn’t a big spiral – my chances were not high, I had begun to realise) when that happened. For the moment, I would keep him at a distance from me and plan both the ending and a strategy to get my money back.