I moped like whoa for a couple of months after #78 dumped me. This was somewhat ameliorated by going out drinking with friends a lot. I discovered that I wasn’t really a maudlin drunk. When I got wasted I didn’t get sad and cry, instead I had fun and enjoyed the distraction. Eventually, things happened with #81 and with #83, and I don’t remember which was first, I think it was all around the same time.
#83 had moved to Edinburgh in the autumn, I think, and I had been interested in her, and I took her to Divine Divas one night and then we got off and she spent the night at my place. She was in a relationship with #96, and had been for at least a couple of years already. They were non-monogamous and it was something that they were very good at: they’re still together, and I’ve always thought of them as a model of good practice.
Because she was clearly committed already, there was nothing to negotiate as such: getting involved with her was a take-it-or-leave-it thing. I was still hurting anyway, and not sure exactly what kind of relationship I wanted. It turned out that this set-up suited me just fine, and that’s how come my relationship with #81 was by default non-monogamous as well. In fact, I’m not sure if they ever even met: I remember that summer, when #83 was out of town, I was asked if there was anyone else in the picture. “Well, there’s #83,” I said, and #81 and #85 both turned to me in unison and asked “Who’s #83?”
After #81 finished with me, I felt like I kind of needed to clear my head a bit, and I suggested to #83 that we head down the platonic route. Of course, it was me who backtracked on that in the toilets at a punk gig at the backpackers’ hostel, but other than that, we stuck to it. She has remained a good friend, although we haven’t seen each other much since she and #96 left Edinburgh, and now she is busy with a small child as well.
In 2003, she and #96 took a trip up here again, and stayed at my place. Well, #117’s place, where I lived, but which didn’t feel much like my place at all. Whenever friends came to stay with me, it was guaranteed there’d be drama with him. I mean, there was drama all the time anyway. He bailed on coming out to dinner with us, and over dinner I confessed to #83 and #96 about quite how fucked up everything was. The next morning, he left the flat and threatened to harm himself and eventually #83 and #96 found me in bed, a wreck, unable to stop crying. These people are so fucking wonderful; it sure as hell wasn’t the holiday they’d planned, but they gave me the support I needed. That night, I went out to dinner with them and their friends, and managed to forget my problems for a while.
After they’d returned to Manchester, #83 e-mailed me. She was hesitant about sending it; she didn’t want to say the wrong thing. But she told me that she was worried about me, because she was seeing similarities between my relationship with #117 and an abusive relationship that she had once been in. And she saw that I had gone from being one of the most socially connected people she knew to one of the least. She saw that I was living in a place that didn’t even look like I lived there. I know it was really hard for her to voice her concerns, and she was taking a risk in case I might have been offended and angry.
By letting me know how she felt about it, she did something really, really important for me. Most of my support was coming from friends on-line, because I didn’t really go out any more. And they were really patient while my relationship dramas went round and round in circles, and they gave me balanced opinions on how to make things better, without ever saying GET A GRIP, DUMP HIM, MOVE OUT AND GET YOUR LIFE BACK. Now that I know the signs, I’m amazed they were so patient: I see people in similar situations and I want to shake them. I’m grateful that they persevered, because without them there would have been nothing worthwhile in my life. I’m not exaggerating.
But, #83 did something extra by sending the message that this situation was simply not okay. I needed to hear that my suspicions were right. Knowing how she saw it from the outside gave me a lot to think about. Change didn’t come immediately, but it came, and she was still there when I got out the other side. I’ll always be grateful.