Time to visit the hairdresser. The Italian had always said he would give me a good deal if I put my hair in his hands (so to speak) so I messaged him first thing one Saturday morning to see if he could squeeze me in. And I headed off into town, expecting a reply any minute.
My mobile rang.
I pulled over.
“Come and see me,” pleaded the Rastafarian with those deep, honeyed tones. I knew that Sister was staying with him. I also wanted my crucifix back.
“Sure. Be there soon.” I replied, possibly taking him entirely by surprise.
His trademark reggae music was pumping out of his flat, like a distant heartbeat, when I arrived. He was in good spirits and the place was surprisingly tidy and smoke-free.
“Sister – she no like smoke,” he explained, when I commented on the general freshness.
“Great!” I enthused, trying hard not to feel too put out that I, as a non-smoker, had not been afforded the same treatment during our relationship.
“Although it is a little cold,” I motioned towards the open windows through which an Arctic blast was entering and blowing its icy breath into my face. I was always mystified as to how someone who had grown up in intense heat, could be so hardy in the face of wintry weather. (Although he did wear several layers, which made him look way more buff than he actually was.)
“Tonight,” he was facing me directly and I knew how this sentence would end. It wouldn’t end with ‘I’d like to take you out and spoil you’ or ‘let’s watch a movie and have a takeaway – my treat’ but it would end with precisely what it did end with:
“Could you take me to work?”
“OK, OK – don’t worry.”
I had no intention of worrying, but this was his way of attempting to smooth things over. He knew that he’d probably wrecked all chances of ever having a lift from me again, but tested the water from time-to-time to check the exact temperature of my reaction. I intended keeping that reaction on ice for all eternity.
Sister came out of the bathroom, hair freshly washed and face smily and welcoming. We chatted about singing in church choirs and then she went off to the kitchen to make a snack for the three of us. I wanted her to know that the Rastafarian and I had been in a relationship. I waited for my chance and seized it. I still felt hurt that I had been treated like a secret and so this was not retribution; moreover it was an attempt at justice and openness. Casually, I made a reference to the Rastafarian having been my boyfriend for several months. Either it was not understood, or she chose not to react, or perhaps – just perhaps – I was mistaken, and she did know. Alternatively, he could have woven me into a lie, as he did with The Current. Maybe he told her that I was deluded, and that she should ignore any claims I made about our relationship having been more intimate than just a friendship. I didn’t much care though: I’ve done my best, I thought.
The crucifix was the next challenge. I knew exactly where he’d put it. He’d made a mini-altar for himself on a shelf (I should have learnt my lesson from my last experience with a man with his own altar!) so I just had to wait till I was alone in the room. I’d asked for it back, but he’d demanded his silver bracelet, which I was wearing, in return. Originally, the crucifix had been Joseph’s. I had spotted it in a transparent bag full of rubbish from his room and claimed it as my own. It was an inexpensive crucifix on a simple leather thong. The Rastafarian asked to have it, so I asked for something of his. He’d given me the bracelet and it felt like a romantic gesture; the swapping of jewellery. I was surprised that he was willing to trade his bracelet as it was clearly worth much more than my trinket. It didn’t take long for him to break the crucifix and I asked for it back, to fix it, but he became possessive and demanded his bracelet back. I declined, on the grounds that he’d broken my crucifix. When we parted company we had the same discussion. He asked for my address to send the crucifix (and therefore have his bracelet returned) but I was reluctant to tell him where I lived. I told him to leave it behind the bar in The Folky Pub and his reaction was horror at the bar staff possibly learning something of our lives. I don’t think he’d like this blog . . .
I also told him that I wanted the 2k he owed me and then he could have his bracelet back.
“You cannot compare your money with my bracelet!” he vented.
“No, you can’t,” I agreed.
“I need my bracelet!” he cried, like a child reacting to deprivation of a treat.
“And I need my money,” I sympathised.
He held my cross ransom, like I held his bracelet ransom, but he credited my cross with more value than it was worth, and didn’t realise that I was prepared to risk losing it.
So, for a minute, I was alone. I reached up to the shelf and felt around for my crucifix. I wasn’t tall enough to see, but it was easy to find. I slid it into my pocket, just as he returned.
We sat down on the sofa and he moved towards me, affectionately. This wasn’t the plan, but until I managed to squirm away, I was a little trapped. Only for seconds, but long enough for the crucifix to fall out of my pocket. We both stared at the tiny cross, its symbolism becoming more than that of belief in Christ. Now, it symbolised our broken relationship. A large amount of money being owed to me. The reason for my visit. I thought quickly.
“What’s that doing on the floor?” I questioned with mock ignorance, as I picked it up and reluctantly, placed it back with the other icons on the shelf.
Unbelievably, he didn’t react – just watched me walk over to the ‘altar’ and then went off to the bathroom. So I put it straight back into my pocket . . .
“Honey, you’re going into town?” he returned from the bathroom, looking ready to go out himself.
The Rastafarian and his sister had a brief conversation in Rwandan, to which, obviously, I was not party. She proceeded to get ready also and I sat on the sofa, watching this scene being played out, of which I was sure I was a part, yet no-one had informed me what part that was.
“Honey, I need to go into town – would you give me a lift please?”
I know I should have been grateful for small mercies, but his overbearing politeness in the presence of people whose opinions he clearly valued, was, well, overbearing.
“Of course,” I replied. Nothing was said about his sister.
I wanted to suggest I waited in the car, as I had removed his silver bracelet from my wrist and left it in the car, before going to his flat, as he would have forcibly removed it had he seen me wearing it. He had done so before, which is why I had started to wear it on my left wrist, which hadn’t been broken, as he was ridiculously strong and I didn’t trust him. So, I needed to hide the bracelet elsewhere in the car, but I was confused about the situation with his sister; if she was accompanying us to town, she might get straight into the car with me and see the bracelet. Argh! My pondering was interrupted by the Rastafarian saying that his sister needed to go to town, and was it ok for her to have a lift too?
“Yes – I’ll bring the car up!” I shot out while Sister was absent from the room and secreted the bracelet, which had become as symbolic as the crucifix, in the boot. Must remember to take it out of the boot, I promised myself.
We arrived in town and both were grateful for the lift. I sat down at a nail bar and congratulated myself on getting through a meeting with the Rastafarian without parting with any money or agreeing to a lift.
“Please – have you got a tenner – or a fiver?”
The nail technician paused so I could deal with the Rastafarian. I felt pressurised. I got five pounds out of my wallet and gave it to him, in much the same way a weary parent might give a difficult child some money to go to the cinema, just for some peace.