As appeared in The Lifted Brow – The Summer Magazine , January 2012.
Recently, I had the terrifying feeling that I’d run out of things to write about. In my panic, I found myself attempting to convince an ex-boyfriend to get back together with me, say only for three months—you know, just till he hit that bit where he could turn into a cheating wanker and I could become an irrational thespian, shredding his prized Pixies t-shirt by a freeway alongside an open flame.
There’d be no hard feelings and after three months, we could simply walk away with just enough damage done to fuel my work for perhaps the next six to twelve months.
So here he was, two years later, resting his lemon on the side of his earl grey tea. And here I was, in the same café, sipping my coffee as I awaited his reply.
I was pretty confident that I’d sold him on it; he too liked the drama. And I was pretty happy with the whole thing generally. Okay, perhaps it might’ve sounded a touch desperate—some might even have argued pathetic. But come on, I was young. I could earn my dignity back later on.
I watched him carefully. He took a brief sip of the tea and realising it was too hot, put it back down again and took a deep breath instead.
“Okay,” he said. “I’ll do it.”
“But some things are going to have to change.”
He leaned back in his chair, rubbing at the sole of his worn-out Dunlop runner. It had a tear in the side, a result of his trying to brake on a fixie.
I was concerned. This was not part of the plan. I was not here to negotiate.
“But I don’t want things to change,” I said. “I want us to get so caught up in the moment where we think this is a good idea, and then BAM—I call you one day and tell you that dinner is at seven, not eight. And then you tell me that you can’t make it because you’re inside someone else.” I placed my hand on his, encouragingly. “Just like the good old days.”
He ran his hand through his hair. “But it won’t work between us if we repeat the mistakes of the past.”
“It’s not meant to work out between us,” I said. “It’s just meant to be something that holds us over for a bit.”
He tried his tea again. It was still too hot, or perhaps with age he’d become less tolerant of heated beverages. “I’m not a rental property Lou, while you save up for a mortgage.”
“I thought I made it pretty clear that what I proposed was more of a research mission. You know—like going diving for an old wreck, finding some treasure but ultimately deciding to leave it at the bottom of the ocean, rotting.”
Annoyed, he pushed his tea away. I only just managed to save my coffee from falling off the table.
“So you’re okay with raping and pillaging my life for your little stories, but not staying around to raise the child that might result from your careless ways? Is that what you’re saying, Lou?”
“A child?” I said. “I don’t want a child with you, or anyone.”
“Why, Lou? Because the birth of a child might be the moment where you have to really confront the reality of your life?”
“Um, what are you on about?” I said. “This was just an idea. If you don’t want in, then I’ll find someone else.”
A disconcerting smile broke out across his face. “Oh really, Lou? You’ll find another one just like me, another one of your men? Well, I’ve got news for you, Lou. We talk, yes we do.”
“You speak to no one!” I spat back.
“You’d like to think that, wouldn’t you, that none of us know of each other, but we do.” He smiled a smile I wanted to punch.
Surely he was bluffing. “But how?”
“We all need our secrets, but if you must know? Facebook. I was reluctant at first to join; to be honest, I was more than happy with my MySpace setup. But public opinion and social convention swayed me and so I joined and at first I thought, and I’ll be honest Lou, I thought it was bullshit, but slowly it opened itself to me, its wondrous delights, its gardens of knowledge, and I came to realise I wasn’t alone, there were others like me, others who’d at some point had to endure you Lou, others who understood.”
It would seem I had been checkmated, and I had never been good at Scrabble.
This whole plan was not working at all as I’d hoped. It was almost beginning to feel like I had been set up, that sabotage was upon me. Or that I’d walked into a self-fulfilling trap.
“Why did you even agree to meet with me today?” I leaned back in my chair, attempted to fake some power.
“I was curious. I wanted to see after all these years what you were willing to lay on the table for me.”
“Lay on the table for you? There will be no laying.” I tried to banish my cleavage; it was no longer my fallback plan. But I was in too deep, and the boobs in this story were out for all to see.
“Perhaps that’s where we need to negotiate Lou.”
I got up to leave.
“Fine, Lou. Walk away. But I have what you want.”
“You asked to see me today because you know that I can offer an unfulfilling relationship like none other.”
He was right. He offered destruction and drama to an unprecedented degree and with only three months to work with he would be pushed to the hilt, perhaps outdoing himself in a way neither of us had thought possible.
He resumed sipping his tea.
“I think you should sit back down, Lou. You’ve created quite the little scene with your unprompted standing.”
He was right. I slumped back into my chair.
“So, Lou, like I said. Things will have to change for this to work. Firstly,” he began. “You will no longer address me as the ‘friend’ in those little blogs you write. You will refer to me by my birth-intended name—”
“No, I can’t do this,” I interrupted.
“It’s not worth it—your gloating, your bullshit. Not even my drive for a decent story is enough to make me do this.”
“But you need me, Lou. Without me you are nothing.”
“Maybe I am, and maybe without you I will never write again. But maybe it’s best to accept that fate instead of this, with you.”
“I made you, Lou. You know that.”
I stood up and he stood up. He matched my standing intensity. But he was not going to win.
“Perhaps you had something to do with who I am today. I’ll give you that,” I said. “Because there’s only so many times you can walk in on your boyfriend surrounded by candlelight and pulling himself off to Andre Rieu without this having some profound effect on you. But right now I’m better off taking my chances by walking into oncoming traffic. It has drama, pain, anguish. It has the will-she-or-won’t-she-survive moment. It has it all. And you, you have nothing.”
And with that I left him, walking swiftly, determined not to look back. And then I heard it, the quick pounding of feet, the calling of my name. I spun around, and I was confronted by an out-of-breath waiter. He was waving an unpaid bill at me, but I was not angry. Ahead of me was the busy street, and the traffic was waiting.
You can purchase the full publication here http://www.theliftedbrow.com/?p=160