Chapter 1 : Love, Roger
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There are things you don’t hide from your girlfriend.
Like who really paid for last month’s rent (her dad).
Who said she looked fat (her sister).
Or who left the toilet seat open (the dog).
But there are things that you should hide. Important things. Things that would drive her into the schizophrenic frenzy that most girls get upon hearing one or all of the following things:
1. You do look fat in that dress. In fact, it makes you look like your mother.
2. Let’s Get It On is the greatest song of all time so why not take the advice and give a little back.
3. I hate that you make more money than I do. And;
4. Even though I’m happy with you, it doesn’t stop me from fantasizing about other women.
Should you be so stupid as to say any of these things in various combinations, my advise to you is to run. Run like hell.
But the sad thing is that no matter how fast you run…the shit you leave behind will always catch up to you in the end. And when it does, it smells worse and clings longer.
Henrietta, or Hen as I liked to call her, was the third girl to walk out of my flat in the last five years. Before her had been a certain Gloria Locke and the subsequent Sylvia Moss. But of all the girls that had slammed the door on me, Hen’s exit was by far the most painful. By far. And it’s not just because she threw a book at me – Crime and Punishment to be exact – but it was because I actually did like her around. In fact, I’d even go as far to say that I loved her. All of her. I loved her tampons in the bathroom. I loved the potpourri she put in my office. I loved the gag-me cologne she made me wear. I loved her crumpled grocery lists stuck in between the couch pillows.
Hen was the first girl I’d ever lived with that I actually, truly, unexpectedly, whole-heartedly did love.
You think I’m a sleaze don’t you? A tosser. The scum underneath rocks by the dirty old duck ponds in Kensington Garden. Well you’d be right. I wasn’t the easiest guy to live with. Not counting my many disgusting habits - piling up the dishes, throwing sweet wrappers in the bathroom bin so the ants would come in, using her toothbrush when I was too lazy to look for mine and eating ice-cream by hand then putting it back in the fridge - I was a pretty horrible boyfriend.
I forget anniversaries. I never flatter. I never compliment. I make fun of everyone. I hate family events and especially hate bringing my girlfriend to them. I never ask before I steal food from people’s plates. I chose horrible concerts to force people into. I love gory camp movies with corn syrup blood that feature Elton John in the soundtrack.
What about it?
None of that bothered her in the beginning. Even in the end. None of it bothered her! She accepted me for who I was, tried to make up for my flaws and gave up trying to change a man that was clearly set in his ways. She loved me despite it and I think that’s why Hen managed to do what Gloria and Sylvia failed to.
After Hen left, my heart felt broken. Actually broken.
I felt like one of those insufferably placid heroines in romantic comedies that burst into tears when their lover leaves them. They cling to the bloke’s feet, beg him not to go, but in the end they are left on the floor, crying like an idiot because who really cries on the floor in reality.
That’s who I was after Hen. I was the idiot on the floor.
I didn’t leave my flat for five days after that. I kept to my room, lived under the covers of my bed and played Lorraine Ellison’s Stay With Me Baby on loop until the record broke. I was a mess.
My mates tried to get me to leave. The called from outside my door.
“GET UP YOU LAZY FUCKER! Hen left and you deserved it! Now move on and take a shower! We can smell you from over here!”
That particular ray of sunshine was Kim, my explicitly R-rated friend whose language I have now diluted for the sake that it is too fucked up even for a fucked up audience. Kim threatened to break down the door, and I dared him to. But in the end, he just went in through the fire escape and shoved me in the shower with his builder-honed strength.
“I feel like a bad song writer, mate,” I moaned to him as I faced my half empty closet trying to pick what sad arse shirt to wear. All the good ones were gone. Hen took back the shirts she bought for me. Bitch. “I feel like writing the ultimate break-up song and tell the whole world what a fucking bitch she is. Do you know she took the fish? She took the fucking fish man! What the fuck would she want to do with my goldfish! They were my pets! My personal fucking property! Mine!”
Given that she was the one who fed the fucking things, they were still mine. I won then for her at a carnival and she thinks that makes them hers? Fat fucking chance. They were mine and she knew it.
“I just don’t see what the matter is? I mean weren’t you two good? I saw you two last week at the pub and everything seemed fine!”
“That’s what I thought! But then she went mental on me. Next thing I know, she has her things in a bag and she slams the door on my face, but not before she throws a fucking Russian epic at me!”
Kim winced. “Well maybe you said something. I mean, admit it mate. You’re a prize idiot. I’m sure it’s all you’re fault.”
Why was it that people always assume that it’s the bloke’s fault! What? Was there a rule that birds couldn’t be wrong? That they’re such angels that pixie dust comes spurting out of their arses and everyone has to faun all over them because they’re perfect? What’s so perfect about them anyway? The way they look? The way they talk? The way they dress? The way they make you laugh without even saying anything at all? The way they know where to kiss you when you want to be kissed? The way that they dissolve all myths that cuddling after a good shag is bad…because it’s actually one of the things you should look forward to!
Why was Hen so fucking perfect!
I tried to bury myself in work. Kim and I owned in broom shop in Diagon Alley. Those who can’t fly, sell. Galleons are galleons. Even if you do have to suck up to fucking Quidditch idiots to get it.
The world seemed all but too happy to keep me swimming in the shit of my own misery. Keep piling it on, don’t it? No customers came all that week because Bargain Fly decided to have a sale on all of their last season equipment. Seventy percent off! How the fuck were we suppose to compete with that?
Kim went over there a few times and picked a fight with the store’s pimple faced manager. A snot nosed half-literate slob the size of a baby hippo wearing an orange t-shirt that was two sizes too small for him. All that bastard needed to do was sit on Kim and he’d be at Saint Mungo’s three minutes later with a broken back and some bruised organs. But Kim is a tough cookie. Born and bread on kimchi and bludgers. Stubborn git even went back for seconds, thirds, fourths and you know the drift. Picking the same old fights with more creative ways to get himself injured.
Despite the amusement, all I could still think of was Hen. How she was Bargain Fly’s manager and how she did to me what that whale did to Kim. Metaphorically, but not physically. Then again, what was the difference these days?
Even the pubs couldn’t take my mind off of Hen. The drunker I got, the more the women (and men) around me morphed into her. Every door slam reminded me of her and sent me into shell shock.
It’s not supposed to be like this. At least, it wasn’t like this before.
When Gloria Locke left me, I threw a party at over at the pub. I bought everyone drinks and watched while Kim danced naked in the street with an equally drunk goblin. I went out every night after she left and celebrated my freedom.
What was wrong with her you ask?
Gloria was an uptight, backed up, school-teacher-terror-flashback inducing dominatrix. But when the door was closed and the lights were dimmed, she became this wild vixen. Thick, black-rimmed glasses, her hair in a bun and a tight, black pencil skirts that left nothing to the imagination. That was Gloria. She was the perfect deviant fantasy, I guess. But the problem was that that deviant fantasy wanted very conventional things. Children. She wanted marriage, she wanted children and she wanted them immediately. Even proposed to me herself because she knew she’d likely be eighty before I got the hints she’d been catapulting my way.
You can guess what happened next. As if I was ever going to chain myself to a woman too bonkers for my tastes! I told her flat out. Hell no! I was twenty-six, idealistic and cynical at the same time, and very terrified of the idea of something being made out of my sperm and her eggs.
She was angry when she left and made no secret out it either. But I was also very forthcoming about my succeeding celebrations.
The only reason why I regretted the way things ended was that I should have been the one to dump her sorry bum to the curb. Not the other way around.
Then came Sylvia.
Oh Sylvia. I honestly don’t know how to describe her. She was an alien! She was a robot! She was something you didn’t expect to exist in nature! That was how great she was. It was as if God plucked the ideal woman out of my head and pieced her together from left over licorice and barbed wire.
Sylvia was a poet, like most people nearing their thirties were. She wanted to change the world. She joined protests. She burned her bras for various causes. She rescued antiques from the streets. She fed the homeless. She played chess with garden gnomes. In one word, Sylvia was a revolutionary, and at that time, she was everything I wanted to be. She had a soul, or what I thought a soul was. I thought by being with her, we could share that soul. A two for one sale.
But in the end, I believe I couldn’t handle her soul. I couldn’t handle her passion. Sylvia was too much of everything and I discovered I didn’t want to be any of it. I didn’t want too much. I was comfortable being the underachieving, under-reaching, complacent and comfortable person that I was, and still am. Syliva wanted to push me to greater things. I didn’t want to become an artist in some form of expression she shoved down my throat when I didn’t even want to speak in the first place.
By the end, my romanticized version of Sylvia had disappeared and all that was left was sex. God the shag was good. Very good. And perhaps it was the only reason why we lasted so long.
I found out that Sylvia was having an affair. Well, not in the classical sense, because she was far from classical. She was having an intellectual, spiritual, emotional affair with someone who had just as much passion as she did.
I was jealous. Fuck was a jealous. Here was a woman I thought I loved (emphasis on the word thought) and there she was drinking firewhiskey, discussing Hogwarts, A History and practically having brainsex with some tosser who looked like he’d come down from the Himalayas with a Sherpa and a goat.
Sylvia left me for Pancho about one year before I met Hen.
I thought I loved Sylvia, and I mourned that fake love far longer than I really should have.
And then, of course, we have Hen. Henrietta Carr. Our current bitch.
I met Hen through Kim. And at the time, she was Kim’s girlfriend.
I know what you’re thinking. Yes. I am an asshole. I haven’t been lying about that now, have I. No exaggeration. No grand scheme to make myself look the like suffering martyr. I am an asshole and I know it. I am an asshole. I am the guy who dates his best friend’s ex. But guess what? Kim’s an asshole too so he really didn’t mind.
I don’t quite remember why they broke up. It may be because of the fact that Kim is an asshole, as previously stated, or that Hen had grown tired of him.
The thing you have to know about Hen is that she’s never really been keen to the idea of settling down. She never liked the messy part of relationships. Back then, all she wanted was someone beside her, someone to make her feel less alone in the world, but as soon as that person starts committing to her, she bolts. Runs like a chicken without a head and finds some other fucking idiot she can have madly fall in love with her.
I was the idiot. And I didn’t paint a rosy picture of her either. I didn’t need to.
I liked her because of it. I liked her because she didn’t want anything long term. Sort of friends with benefits without actually being friends.
But we actually did become friends. We hung out together all the time. We always had to be touching each other. We always had to smell like the other. We always had to have the taste of the other still lingering in our lips.
I won’t lie. It was amazing. It was more than amazing. It was Hen.
We didn’t like the same things. We didn’t like the same food. We abhorred the other’s musical choices. And we constantly forced each other to read books we knew wouldn’t be read in the first place. But that was what we liked about it. We talked about things and argued about things. We made fun of each other and humored each other at the same time.
After we made love, I couldn’t wait to hold her just a little longer before I turned to my side of the bed and fell asleep. Sometimes, I didn’t even mind not letting go.
But you can only be with an inconsiderate bastard for so long before finally getting tired of the act.
I loved Hen. But I was still me.
Soon enough, she caught up with it and left.
And she took everything with her.
Even the fucking gold fish.
There is no maybe in that statement. I know it’s me. All the things I said before…those things I warned you never to tell a woman. Well I said those and more.
When she asked me if I even loved her, I was stupid enough to say no.
When she asked me if I could even see a reason why we were still together, I said no.
I was angry because I’d felt it. That pull. She was pulling away from me and I was scared that it was because she as getting tired of me. It was just like what had happened with Kim and she just wanted nothing more than to run away to the next idiot. Leaving just one more broken hearted bastard behind her.
Hen broke my heart. I didn’t even know a guy could get broken hearted. I thought it was some myth, like the Boogie Man, meant to scare us into submission.
Kim said that this is nothing. That I’m overreacting again. Just like with Sylvia.
But it doesn’t feel like Sylvia.
It feels like Hen.
And the more I thought about it, the more I started thinking.
I think I want the conventional things with Hen. I want the marriage and the kids. I want the stable job and the bills. The car and the grass stains on the car mats. I want the love and the lovemaking. I want to hold her after and not want to turn to my side of the bed. I want her to want to stay, no matter how much of an arse I am because she’ll know that I’m trying to be better. For her.
You may think this is all bullshit. Some sort of spin to make me look like a saint.
I wrote this down for you so you’d know.
There are things you don’t hide from your girlfriend.
Your dad paid for last month’s rent.
Your sister said you looked like a cow.
And the dog didn’t leave the toilet seat up. It was me.
I don’t want to hide anymore Hen.
Here it is. Ink, quill and all.
I’m not going to lie about anything. I was angry. Still sort of am. I was scared. And most importantly, I was an idiot.
But I love you. You and your fucked up, mental self.
There have only been three women to walk out on me in the last five years.
You’re the only one I sent this letter to.
I love you.
You hear that? I love you. And it’s the fucking truth.