There are few things more nebulous or slippery in this world than the truth. Two people might experience the exact same thing, yet somehow one can see a pond and the other an ocean. Whether the truth is a pond or an ocean doesn’t matter. When there’s no one to vouch for you, every truth is just a story you hope others will believe. Sometimes we misuse truth. We abuse it. We rip it to sheds and sew it up differently, then hide the needle and thread so no one knows what we’ve done: Look what you did we cry, pointing at this new thing whilst the other person stumbles and stalls and tries to remember.
Two days after our third date I text the Francophile asking when she’s free. I’m planning to take her to the darkest, booziest, filthiest bar I know, where the seats are so tiny she’ll practically have to sit in my lap. It’s always rammed full of couples with hard liquor and hard ons. If we don’t kiss there we’re not kissing anywhere.
When do you know it’s time to go? When do you decide that this job or this partner or this home or this country or this version of life isn’t for you anymore? When do you say – enough? I have a low threshold for misery. I will walk away from a job or a relationship or a friendship that’s making me unhappy. No. Scrap that. I will run away. I won’t just throw in the towel, I’ll throw in the kettle and the 3-piece bathroom suite and the keys to the Ford Escort and the pension and I’ll leg it screaming blue bloody murder. But I’m not like most people. Most people are patient. Most people are triers. Most people work at things. They don’t give up or give in. They give it time. They give a shit. They cut their life some slack. Is that better? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe sometimes.
After our night of passion, the genius and I part ways. No one’s hurt or angry. There are no bad feelings. But we both recognise that this isn’t and probably never will be love. There’s no point flogging a horse that, if not quite dead, is very unwell. She does leave me a parting gift though when she messages later to say: “I had fun last time so feel free to call me in an emergency 😉 x” I smile and slide the gift under the bed. Just in case. The truth is, there’s another reason this won’t work: Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Thai. At the time, I was so hung up on the Friend I never gave us a proper chance. Every time we kissed or laughed or got close I’d feel guilty and back off. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see it was the Thai who made me feel good, who treated me kindly, who left me in no doubt that I was the one she wanted.
I had a friend once who had feelings for me. Actually, let me not mince my words, Englishify them like a cup of weak tea. He said he was in love with me. We were friends for years, first at work and then at play and I think, deep down, I always knew how he felt. A love like that finds ways to escape, in looks or gestures or the occasional drunken slur: “so, do you fancy going for dinner and then I love you let’s get married checking out thingy’s party?” Did I try and temper his feelings? Encourage him to meet other women? Give him space? No. I liked it.
Recently I was chatting to an old colleague, who’s in a long-term relationship but has started having feelings for women: “I don’t know whether to talk to my boyfriend or just, you know…go have fun,” she said, flushing. Maybe…try not to cheat?” I said gently.
Regrets are terrible things. They’re like pieces of glass littering a beach. As you roam back over your memories it’s all warm and soft until you feel the sharp slice of them through your feet. They hold so much power. What could my life have been if only I had followed my heart, held my nerve, chased my dreams? The path you took will never be as exciting or fulfilling as the one that passed you by.