I’d been living with #117 for a year when I got a job I really wanted. To celebrate, I invited maybe fifteen or twenty friends to go out for dinner on a Saturday night. Simple plan, right? Book a restaurant, turn up, have fun. Easy. But things were never simple when #117 was involved. I always hoped that the special events I planned would be viewed as somehow sacred, that he’d manage to hold off on the drama just for a day or so, give me a little respite. Instead, drama kicked off like clockwork that day. I don’t even remember what it was about – all those memories blur together, only the most hurtful and devastating incidents stand out – but it debilitated me all day, struggling to cope with the rejection or the accusations or whatever the strategy du jour was. Also like clockwork, he granted me a reprieve at the last moment: suddenly he was sorry and he promised everything would improve from now on. He declined to come to the dinner, though. I was running late now and still feeling emotionally fragile. Only #81 had any idea what was going on; I felt I needed to put on a brave face. I couldn’t just show up and reveal to everyone that my relationship was a horrible mess.
From dinner, we moved on to a pub around the corner. I was talking to a friend of mine, we’ll call him Nathan. I’d had a few drinks, which was helping me to feel better about things, but I was also aware that I badly needed to open up to somebody, that I should share what was going on, hopefully get some support in place for myself. Nathan seemed like a good candidate. Mid-conversation, I ventured, “I’m having kind of a hard time right now.”
“Aw,” said Nathan. “I really want to worry about you, but I’m enjoying myself tonight. Can I worry about you later?”
“Um. Sure.” I didn’t really know what to make of that. When you are generally feeling isolated, moments like these take on far deeper significance. The fact that a bunch of people had come out to celebrate with me was lovely, but beyond this special occasion I rarely saw any of them. It wasn’t like the old days when I’d routinely go out and about with a diverse collection of friends, the more the merrier. Being with #117 had steadily eroded my social networks and when Nathan said he didn’t want to talk about it right now, I didn’t have the confidence to just move on and seek support from someone else. Although I hoped that we’d get a chance to discuss it later, it already felt like another door closing.
And then there was Nathan’s girlfriend. She was 19 and vivacious, and I’d already quietly deflected advances from her the last time we’d met. I didn’t know what to make of her. But she was sitting next to me singing my praises, and we were getting on well, and the inside of my head was a miserable mess, and then she exclaimed, “Oh Nine, let’s snog!”
“Won’t Nathan mind?” I asked. She said he wouldn’t, and I took her word for it. It wasn’t like I was in the mood, but my self-esteem appreciated all the help it could get right about then. I was at my wits’ end, and I figured this transgression couldn’t make things much worse seeing as my relationship was a disaster anyway. There was nothing positive in my motivation. I kissed her because everything was fucked.
It wasn’t a big deal. Just making out a little bit in a pub. The night continued after that, and once everyone had said their goodbyes I went home to face the music. #117 needed to process things with me. He wanted to patch things up, but this always involved a lengthy recitation of all our problems, in chronological order. He’d throw in too much analysis and tell me the same things again and again. I’d usually cry, try to present a different take sometimes and then give up, let the dope wash over me, wait for peace and sleep. We were almost at the end of this process when I started getting angry texts from Nathan on the night bus to Glasgow: “Just because she’s young and inexperienced, and just because you’ve had a bad day, doesn’t mean it’s all right for you to get off with my girlfriend.”
Look, I never really enjoy conflict, but I felt so weak back then, and I didn’t know where to turn. The accusations sent me into fresh floods of tears, and then I had to tell #117 what had happened. This was, predictably, not helpful. As for Nathan, I didn’t know how to respond to him. His girlfriend had entirely initiated it, but I didn’t know what she’d told him and I didn’t want to cause further problems for their relationship by saying so. And a “bad day”? He had no idea. Maybe he thought I had just been feeling a little mopey or something. Maybe he thought I’d had some woke-up-late, bus-driver-was-mean-to-me kind of bad day. I felt myself sinking deeper and deeper as I realised he had no concept of what my days were like. I sent him an apology; he called me a copout. I never saw him again.