There was a time when the Rastafarian held dominion over the relationship. He ended it on a whim and usually that whim was his random, unfounded decision that I had done something wrong. He engineered arguments. For example, he wanted me to swing by his place one morning on my way to work, but I said I couldn’t, as his place wasn’t on my way and I didn’t have time for such a detour and if I did, it would be a flying visit, so what was the point? I didn’t say all those things all at once, of course; at first, I laughed off the suggestion, thinking he was being playfully needy in a slightly mocking, but ultimately loving way. I could not have been more wrong. He would not accept that his place was not en route to my work, which perplexed me, as he had visited my house many times. His temper was almost bursting out of my phone, so tangible was it. I even screen-shot maps to show him how long it would take me to get to work if I popped round to see him, but still he vented via What’sApp, accusing me of cheating (?) on him. This type of situation occurred repeatedly and so many times he ‘ended’ the relationship. This particular time, I abandoned his vitriol for work and hours later, he rang, cheerily, telling me all about a dream that he’d had that I’d cheated on him. Other times, the ending was more unpleasant and dramatically, he would end the relationship, his messages almost flouncing out of my phone (the endings were never face-to-face).
But as I grew fatigued with his stylised, almost Noel Coward-esque ‘exits’ from my life (which weren’t really exits – they were temporary breaks and he could always be found in the wings, loitering with intent to drop back in), I learnt to put my phone away and get on with my life until he contacted me.
‘Why haven’t you replied to me?’ was a typical message from the wings.
‘You ended our relationship,’ was a typical reply from centre stage.
‘Who said that?’
‘You did . . ? Check back through your messages.’
The power had shifted, but this was still only Phase I.
For a time, it was great. I didn’t worry about upsetting him. I didn’t leap on my phone to reply. (In his mess of a head, if I wasn’t with him, there was a good chance I was cheating on him. I had resorted to sending him selfies if out with friends, so he could see I was with other females.) I spoke my mind, risking an over-reaction because he knew I wasn’t going to challenge his words of finality anymore. I made arrangements outside of our relationship to which he was sometimes invited and he could come or not. One such arrangement was with an old friend. I always want to say that he was an old ‘school-friend’ even though we didn’t go to the same school; but suffice to say, we had been friends since schooldays and grew up a few roads from each other.
I’d arranged to meet the Rastafarian in a bar in the centre of town. The Friend was staying in a hotel on the edge of town and I’d arranged to meet him there in a short while. I passed it on the bus, thinking that it would have been better for us all to meet there instead; the rain was hurtling towards the ground as if giant hands were tipping giant buckets of water downwards and I was not enjoying the prospect of crossing town in my nice dress, nice shoes and nice hairstyle. However, I had not been able to contact the Rastafarian for some time and that had been our last arrangement, before The Friend confirmed his hotel. The Friend and I wanted to go to some specific bars near the hotel anyway, so I prayed for a change in the weather.
The Rastafarian was not in the bar. I looked around. I texted him. I went to the toilet. I rang him. Exasperated, I left. My prayers had not been answered. If anything, the giant hands were filling even more giant buckets of water and my cotton scarf was offering little protection to my face and hair now, as it had started to resemble a dishcloth. I traipsed across town, cursing the Rastafarian. My trek in this monsoon had been for nothing. I arrived at The Friend’s hotel and he didn’t recognise me.
‘Come up to my room,’ he offered, ‘I’ll get you a hairdryer.’
‘It’s fine!’ I smiled back, ‘I’m rubbish with hairdryers,’ I confided, trying to remain upbeat on the outside, even if, on the inside, my whole being was pulsating with pent-up rage, quashed a little by my cold, wet, state. The bouncer on the door was holding out a tea towel that he’d got from behind the bar, out of pity for me.
‘Lisa,’ reassured my friend, ‘We’ve been friends for most of our lives and I’m gay. You can trust me. And I’m not going out with you looking like that.’
I capitulated and after my hair was dry enough to not be plastered to my face any more, we left.
By this time the Rastafarian was messaging me, frantically and after a few angry interchanges he made an entrance at the bar where The Friend and I had begun our night out. I’d got chatting to a psychologist and when the Rastafarian walked in, he could tell by the look on my face that I was expecting him.
‘Is that your boyfriend?’ he enquired.
‘Well . . . ‘ I wasn’t prepared for the question but he continued anyway.
‘Dump him,’ he advised, ‘I can tell by the way he’s walking through the pub that he’s cheated on you. There’s no way he’s remained faithful to you. Trust me – I know these things – and I don’t have an agenda here because I’m gay anyway.’
I gazed at this handsome, smiling figure, greeting people he didn’t know as he picked his way over to us.
The Friend told the Rastafarian to go home, because, he felt, clearly he’d indulged a little too much already. But he didn’t, he hung around like a pigeon in Churchill Square, only he was scrounging drinks and tobacco instead of crusts from sandwiches. It was an unsatisfactory night out, the karaoke bar we favoured refusing to let us in and at some point the Rastafarian and I parted company from The Friend and after one last drink in a pub, I decided to head home. We had an umbrella, borrowed from The Friend’s hotel and he had asked if we wouldn’t mind ensuring it was returned there. It was on the way to the taxi rank, so after much manoeuvring (if you’ve ever tried to get a drunk person to do something against their will, you will sympathise) I congratulated myself at our arrival outside the hotel.
‘I’ll just take the umbrella in,’ I held my hand out for the umbrella as he’d been carrying it.
This went on for around 10 minutes until I was almost crying with frustration. His preoccupation with the brolly could have been for one of two reasons. Either, he saw a chance to steal an umbrella (I had realised by now that if he saw a chance to get away with a wrongdoing, he would – Piaget would have had enough material for an entire conference on this guy and his childlike scruples), or he was fixated on it as people can be when they are ‘under the influence’, without wishing to put too fine a point on it. He blathered on about ‘not being able to go into the bar’ which I knew, because he’d told me, although I didn’t know why. I’d witnessed him returning to drinking places from where he’d been barred, time and time again, until they allowed him in out of boredom with saying ‘no’, so I was curious as to why he took this prohibition seriously.
I deferred in the end and got in a taxi, alone, even though the Rastafarian had said he would see me home. I looked back at the wet, lanky figure swinging his new toy as he splashed along the pavement and wondered if he had ever cared about anything apart from his own well-being.
The next night I went to The Folky Pub, regardless of whether or not he would be there and he was. I felt indifferent to him and I doubted he remembered when he went home, whether or not I was there, as he seemed no different from the previous night. The following night I received a string of abusive messages, containing false accusations of me never turning up to the original pub where we’d arranged to meet, shouting at him in the street, deliberately embarrassing him by trying to make him go into a place he couldn’t and accusing him of stealing an umbrella. It was embellished with the usual insults and expletives but I was off out to the cinema with my mother, so I put the phone away to plan my retorts for another time.
That other time was the following day. I had written out cool-headed answers to his ridiculous abuse and saved them, so I could send them at a rate of my choosing. Still, it shocks me to say this, but I received an apology.
Phase II of the power shift began, whereupon I became the one who ended the relationship. I want to say that there was a clean break after the whole business with The Ex, whom I renamed The Current, but I will admit that I found it difficult. He insisted that he had remained faithful to me and that she was deluded and when I missed him, I chose to believe him. But I had plenty of other reasons to shove him out of my life and I did, from time-to-time. But he would message me the next day, after I was quite sure that it was over, as if nothing had happened which made it easy for me to shrug and run with it, because what else was I going to do night after night, on my own? I would agree that we would remain friends and then the line between friendship and more became blurred.
He rocked up on moving day, because eventually I got the house I wanted and the children and I moved in three (yes, three) days before Christmas. In my head, our relationship was definitely history and consigned to being cathartic writing material only. I hadn’t seen him for some time and the children, having arrived home for the break, were in full knowledge of the facts about this deceitful character. I’d bought pizza for my team of helpers: the children, Jamie and my nephew, but the Rastafarian put away a good proportion of it, even though my lovely team had been lifting, carrying, dragging, placing and generally doing a sterling job since early in the morning and he’d wafted along late in the day and in comparison did nothing. He wanted me to drop him back home, but I dropped him at the bus-stop instead and he complained that I was ungrateful. I thought about the huge amount of money that I’d loaned him, the money that I’d just given him out of pity, the lifts I’d given him, the beer I’d bought him, the tobacco, the papers, the food, milk, sugar, bread . . . the emotional support of which I now felt drained. And then I thought about the false accusations he’d levelled at me, the times he’d shouted at me, ended the relationship on a whim, blocked me from seeing him on social media, sworn at me, sent me messages poisoned with insults and abuse. And the things he said he’d do for me, like cut my grass, clean my patio and clean my car, when my wrist was broken and how he hadn’t done any of them. I just looked at him and he left the car.
It was over.