Something died

I was sitting alone at home on a rainy Sunday night, staring blankly at my television, my thoughts racing in circles trying to understand what had happened with Krazy Girl and all the other women I had met in the previous 10 months. I was trying to make sense of it all when an unusual chill came over me, unlike any other I had felt before. It was coming from behind me.

A giant invisible hand gripped me, picked me up with ease and dropped me into the Arctic Ocean that had appeared out of nowhere. Everything became cold and dark. Natural buoyancy and the vice-like grip of the icy water propelled me to the surface. Thunder and lightning raged overhead in the pitch-black night sky as a vicious wind swept up the waves. Pieces of jagged ice sped past me, carried by a strong current as bigger, dangerous icebergs were threatening to crash into me. I started swimming towards a flatter sheet of floating ice; I knew I only had a few minutes to survive the freezing water. My clothes were becoming heavy and were betraying me, trying to take me under, into the dark, lonely depths below where nothing and nobody mattered.

Between the booms of thunder I could hear voices, chattering voices, women’s voices. I couldn’t see where they were, but their high-pitched sounds were becoming louder.

“Help me!” I shouted out, in a pathetic attempt to be heard above the roar of the storm.

“Hahaha. Hahahaha,” the women’s voices answered, laughing at me, in a cacophony of mockery and scorn.

I tried clambering up the sharp sides of the sheet of ice, pulling myself up as forcefully as I could, but I was struggling. Hypothermia was setting in, my muscles weren’t working as they should; my clothes felt like a dead weight pulling me back into the black waters that yearned to be my grave. With the last of my strength I pulled myself up over the edge, as I did so there was a strange snapping sound. It felt like a piece of me had broken free from inside my chest, morphed out of my ribs and slipped into the eager waters so quickly that I couldn’t see what it was. It was gone forever, whatever it was.

I woke up realizing that my single glass of wine had put me to sleep. Or had it?

Something inside me had indeed snapped and then died.

Months of unrewarding, demanding dating had taken its toll and I was now angry. I was angry at women, all women. I was angry at women because of their seemingly endless messing me around. I was angry at their insatiable need for silly fucking games.

I was angry about all those many pointless nights I spent swapping messages with dozens of women on dating sites that never led to a date because they just couldn’t bring themselves to meet in person. They preferred hiding behind a screen, basking themselves in male attention without having to give or do anything in return. How women had jerked my chain and wasted my time. I was sick of it.

Why couldn’t they just be happy to be with me? Why couldn’t they just accept that I’m a good guy with a lot to offer? Why must they dwell on their past to the extent that they sabotage their present and future and embroil me in that? Why do they treat me with suspicion when there is no reason for it?

Why couldn’t they just want to hold hands as we walked? Why couldn’t they be happy to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon telling each other stories that made us laugh? Why couldn’t it be simple instead of all so complicated? Why couldn’t they be happy and just be looking to add to their happiness?! Why did they have to be so messed up? Why couldn’t they just be normal?! Why couldn’t they be more like me?

Tech Titan was unbearably clingy. Baltic Babe wanted a glorified sperm-donor. Demolition Debbie was still married. The Model was deranged. Miss Indecisive was a serial dater, a female player I suspect. Potty Mouth disgusted me. The Hirsute Russian made me cringe. The German Shrink bored me. Quiet Katie nearly left me in a coma. Sweet Thing wanted me as a slave and dog-sitter in her home. Irish Eyes had her bloody games. NutSlut was an attention-seeking, approval-craving unpaid whore. Krazy Gal, well who the hell knew what she wanted?

It was that last one who really hurt me, the one who did the most damage, because I had got my hopes up.

I had always adored women. I still think that the most amazing creature on our planet is the female human. She is designed for and capable of a multitude of roles, yet still so delicate and sensitive, despite the versatility. I had always thought that women have a far harder time in life than men do. Most men embarrass me because of their weakness. Mother Nature has even decreed a cruel irony in that women tend to spend their last years alone and struggling. Was it because they could cope with it? After my father died when I was thirteen my mother was a single mother, so I know the hardship and even today my heart (what’s left of it) still goes out to the single mothers of the world. I read somewhere that, if a man treats a woman like a queen, it shows that he was raised by one. My mother had raised me to treat every woman like a queen. I revered women, so much so that I had put every single woman up on a high pedestal. They could do no wrong in my world.

I had always thought that the sweetest thing in the world was little girls between the ages of two and four. I couldn’t agree more with Charles Aznavour: ‘Thank heaven for little girls’. To me they are all just so cute, with their big eyes, abundant enthusiasm, their sense of adventure, even their wilful ways. It always made me smile to see a little girl dressed in a chequered skirt, cream cardigan and pig-tails running along, laughing, with an ice-cream in her hand.

Sadly, somewhere along in their development these little girls all seem to fall into the clutches of a Miss Haversham; they become spiteful and mean to boys, determined to play games with them. They develop the mindset and skills that reduce men into mere playthings for them. Men are there to be toyed with, to be accommodated while it suited her, to be played off against another guy (publicly or secretly, it didn’t really matter) and then to be belittled and rejected when the time was right. Little girls grow into young women devoid of respect for men, even before they have life experience of men. Women seemed to think that men don’t have feelings.

The so-called fairer sex were anything but fair to me. The more respect I gave them, the less they appreciated me. My manners and consideration were being mistaken for weakness. Is it possible that I was “too nice”? All those nights of dates where I was the consummate gentleman, pulling back restaurant chairs, opening doors, offering my jacket, making polite conversation, paying for everything. Where did it get me? Fucking nowhere.

A sense of outrage had been accumulating and it finally came out in me. My ex-wife and ex-girlfriend had both deceived me. You don’t deceive somebody you love. Therefore they didn’t really love me; I felt like a fool because of it. Nobody likes feeling like a fool and especially not me. Years of harbouring memories of their deceit seeped to the surface. That mixed with my feelings about my previous dates and an overwhelming sense of frustration bubbled over in my psyche.

I concluded that the nice guy that I am had gotten me nowhere with women. They didn’t seem to value me. Instead, they seemed to want to take advantage of me, to use me. They didn’t want to give me anything, they only wanted to take.

The thing in me that had died was respect for women.

I decided that it was time that I changed my ways and started playing women at their own game.

I harboured out-dated, unrealistic notions about the true nature of women and these ideas were hurting me. You see, I had lived life in reverse order compared to most people. I got into a serious, committed relationship at the age of twenty that lasted until my mid-thirties. I didn’t have that crazy exploration phase that most people have in their twenties. I didn’t go bed-hopping and heart-breaking when I was young. I had skipped all that and consequently I lacked experience and skills when it came to women.

I resolved to improve my skills with women to such an extent that people who knew me would start accusing me of being a player. Yes, that much-maligned male aberration would become a velvety cape that I would slip on when it suited me and I wouldn’t give a damn. No woman would ever again outsmart me, abuse me or hurt me; I was going to make sure of that.

There’s a great line from Californication (for the aficionado it’s season 1, episode 3, minute 5:55) in which Hank says, “A girl knows within seconds whether she wants to fuck, marry or kill a guy” and I think it’s true. I had to stop assuming that the woman in front of me wanted the same things as me. Some of them, perhaps most of them, just wanted to get laid. I hadn’t bothered to find out. All along I had been leaning towards the “marry” angle, a long-term relationship, not just a quick forgettable fumble in the dark to stave off loneliness. The latter was never appealing to me, but perhaps it was time to explore that side of life. Instead of trying to direct the currents of the dating ocean, going with the flow was much easier and who knows what it might lead to?

My father’s advice about there being only two types of women, “Good Girls and Good-Time Girls”, became more poignant. If my date was the latter, I would give her what she wanted and a lot more than she bargained for.

I made a conscious decision that, if I didn’t deem the woman in front of me to be a Good Girl, to be relationship material (I call that Plan A), I would revert to Plan B – to see if she just wanted to get laid, and if she did, to see how much fun I could have with her. It would become a game to see how long it took before I could have my way with her; consequences be damned.

The night of the iceberg dream was the night the idea of all women being a ‘nice girl’ died in my mind, along with the ‘nice guy’ my parents had raised me to be. My White Knight mindset had not served me well and had in fact got me into trouble in the past and it was causing me trouble now by way of unfulfilled expectations – that of finding my queen, The One, and living happily ever after. They were proving to be unrealistic expectations given the environment I found myself in, this crazy online dating scene.

It was now time for me, a whole new me: a leaner, meaner, more selfish me. No more White Knight in shining armour only offering the best of intentions, but instead a Grey Knight, much less shiny and white. A knight still capable of being a White Knight if the reason was there, but now more intent on indulging himself in the sins of the flesh.

Yes, I was going to dive headlong into a sea of pointless pussy. Would I learn to swim or would I drown? I didn’t care.

Either way, no more Mr Fucking Nice Guy…more like Mr Nice Guy Fucking…

Sinnerman by Nina Simone

The ex-girlfriend – Final part

The night times were the worst.

At night, when it became too much for me, I would say to her I was going to shower. I would stand in the shower and silently cry my eyes out, sobbing so heavily that I could feel my shoulders heaving. My throat hurt from suppressing my sounds, the sounds that my body begged to release. Sometimes I would curl up in the shower and lie there as the water washed my tears away. When I came out she would sometimes comment on how red my eyes were and I would blame it on a new shampoo. I never wanted her to see me cry; she didn’t deserve that luxury.

I remember many nights lying in the same bed, our backs to each other when once we would spoon blissfully. I didn’t want to touch her. Once I knew for sure that she was asleep, I couldn’t help but cry myself to sleep. I lost 20% of my weight in three months; it’s not a diet I can recommend.

We tried to make love a few times, but it just wasn’t the same. I developed problems in maintaining an erection; obviously psychosomatic. I couldn’t help but think of all the things I had read and now knew about her. My head would become filled with images of what she had done to other guys and what she had let other guys do to her and it filled me with revulsion. My previous desire for her had been replaced by disgust. Our sex life, previously fantastic, slowly died and withered, like a forgotten grape on the vine.

How much time do you give to trying to resurrect a relationship? Well, you don’t; you start a new one. We tried our damnedest at doing normal couple things: playing tennis, bike rides, walks, parties, visiting friends, weekends away, etc. However, the new relationship just wasn’t working and neither of us were happy. The shock of it all had left me numb inside, unwilling and unable to trust her again. Suspicion between us simmered, but never boiled over.

This was a terrible time for her too; I was aware of that. She was outraged and horrified that I had read her diaries. What bothered her the most was that her charade had come to an abrupt end and now she felt vulnerable. She was having to live with the thing that she seemed to fear the most, the thing she had least control over: the truth.

Not a day went by in which I didn’t think of ending it for good. One of the reasons that I didn’t was that we were both unemployed, but I had savings from better days that we were living off. My father had left my mother and I in the lurch when he died; all he left us was alone. I swore to myself that I would never do that to anybody, that I would be a better man than him. I decided to delay a final decision about us until she had a job, which she eventually found. Until then I just kept giving “us” time, in the hope that things would get better.

I went to visit my best friend one day and left my phone at home. While I was at my friend’s, his phone rang while I was sitting next to him. He looked at it and said, “Curious. You’re phoning me.” I went ice-cold, thought quickly and said, “Do me a favour and answer it,” which he did, mentioning his name. The person on the other side ended the call. Only one person had access to my phone. I went home in a rage and confronted her.

“What the hell do you think you’re playing at? You obviously guessed the password on my phone and were phoning people on my call log. Why?”

“His number didn’t have a name next to it. I was suspicious because I’m afraid you’re going to leave me,” is all she said. She was anxiously picking at the skin on a thumb, her sign of stress. I was so weary of all this. The pleading and terror in her eyes made me leave it there. Was I misguided?

I decided to play her at her own game, to see if my faith was misplaced – I put spyware on her computer. Doing so was out of character for me, but nobody else was looking out for my interests. I very quickly learned that she had siphoned a big amount of money out of a business that her and I had run along with two other friends who were our full partners. We were living off my savings while she sat on a nice fat bank balance, never touching it. I also read her emails – yes, I did – and over the course of our relationship she had maintained contact with a small group of ex-boyfriends and she had been swapping naughty, flirtatious messages with them and discussed me, not always in glowing terms. I also found out that one of her male friends (an ex-fuckbuddy) and her used to get together a couple of times a year for a restaurant meal, with each of them telling their significant other that they were on a “work outing”. He had a child with his long-term partner, while she had…me…hook, line and sinker.

So when she got her new job and then had to spend a night away on a training course, a “work outing”, I became suspicious. I made a point of calling her at 9pm that night she was away and we had a brief chat; I could hear restaurant noise which in itself indicated nothing. When she came home the next night she told me that she had been asleep by 10pm. When she went to shower I saw that she had left her phone out and it hadn’t auto-locked yet, so I grabbed it. I looked at the phone log and saw that there was one number that had she had been swapping calls with over the course of the previous night, with her last phoning that number just after 11pm. I stood there with her phone in my hand, tempted to call that number to hear who answered. Would it be a man? I decided not to. Doing so would have been like pouring oil on a raging inferno, while at the time I was pissing on it in an attempt to extinguish it. I know that I should have called, but I couldn’t take any more deceit.

My soul was becoming as poisoned as hers and I didn’t like it. Sharing my life with her was coming at the price of my morals and ethics becoming compromised. Being with her was resulting in my being dragged into a world that I didn’t belong in, a world of darkness that surely must have been a highway to hell and I was in the fast lane. I said nothing to her of my discoveries and inside knowledge.

The coup de grace came just a few days afterwards, five months after Xmas, when she shot off her loose, acidic mouth in a pub (totally sober, we hadn’t even ordered drinks yet) and we got thrown out. In that fracas it dawned on me that the right person for me would never behave the way that she did. I’m all for backing up your other half, but there are limits.; she was totally in the wrong. After all the stress and drama of the preceding months, this was how she repaid my loyalty? My stupid, blind, unthinking loyalty. That final public humiliation was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I decided to cut my losses and do one of the hardest things I had ever done in my life – to walk away from the person that I thought I would spend the rest of my life with. I made a conscious decision to harden my heart; it wasn’t easy. I packed up as much as my little car could carry and made a few trips to my best friend’s place. On my final trip, as I was leaving, I turned to her as she stood there like a little rag-doll, her arms lifeless by her side, her eyes unblinking, her face sullen.

I said, “Goodbye my friend, goodbye my lover, goodbye my everything.”

She didn’t say a word. She couldn’t. Her bottom lip started to tremble and tiny tears collected in her dark eyes. Her English reserve dictated that she control her emotions. The silence between us filled the doorway as we took one last look at each other…I turned and walked away.

There is a rich irony in the fact that her undoing was invading my privacy, because it led to me invading hers and discovering the truth about her. I am not proud of having done so, but I am glad that I did. It made me wise up and set me free. I realised that she did not deserve my forgiveness, but I did deserve peace.

The passing of time allowed contemplation and reflection that made me realize that she never trusted me totally, even though I had done nothing to warrant any distrust. If she didn’t totally trust me, then she didn’t totally love me.

When my love for someone dies – as has happened twice in my life so far – a little piece of me dies too. That invisible part of me doesn’t leave my body. No, instead it meets and becomes one with the memories of that person, like a small piece of charcoal that once was a great flame, now reduced to a grey, lifeless husk of little value. I think of these cinders as being in the rough shape of a heart that only I can feel. I know that I am destined to carry them with me until my last breath, but until that fateful day, when I am most lonely, I can feel those pieces of charcoal rubbing up against each other, inside me, next to my heart.

I wrote my ex-girlfriend a poem, a goodbye poem, that I never ever found the reason or opportunity to give to her.

The goodbye poem

Our memories forever etched in my heart
Are not just of the final days that tore us apart.

They are of those nights of endless fun
Those days of us frolicking in the sun.

For us life was never a question of if we could
We’re both strong, so it was when we would.

I thought – finally – we’d be together forever
But now all the good has left our endeavour.

The time had come to bid you farewell
There was going to be no end to our hell.

It feels like everything I experienced with you was a lie
You understand that I have no choice but to say goodbye.

Six weeks later I met Baltic Babe. She was like a breath of fresh air.

Yes, I was on the rebound.

Of course I didn’t think that at the time, but hindsight is a wonderful thing that so easily reveals our foolishness.

This song captures in word-perfect fashion what I went through in those last six months with my ex-girlfriend…feel free to take the time to read the lyrics.

James Morrison ft Nelly Furtado – Broken strings

The ex-girlfriend

I think it’s time I told you about what happened with my ex-girlfriend…

We had been together for over four and a half years, living together for all except the first year. We met via an online dating site almost a year after my wife and I had agreed to divorce.

It was a cold Saturday morning, a few weeks before Xmas, when my girlfriend went off to the shops for the day to do Xmas shopping. My computer had been badly acting up, so I decided to stay home to fix it. I ran a variety of anti-virus and anti-malware programs. One them found a nasty piece of spying software.

I know a thing or two about software and my analysis of it revealed when it was installed and what exactly it had been doing. It was sending weekly reports to somebody of everything that I had been doing on my computer. It was sending account names and passwords of all my email and banking accounts…everything.

The reports were being sent to my girlfriend.

She was a Luddite, so I knew her brother must have helped her do this. I got her brother to confess to me that, a few days after I had given my girlfriend the keys to my apartment 4 years previously, that she roped him in to going with her in to my home and installing the software on my pc.

For 4 years she had been reading reports of what I had been doing online. She must have been so bored.

This wasn’t the first time that I had caught her invading my privacy. I came home early one day and found her sitting at my computer with my book of passwords open. She had been sitting there going through websites that I hadn’t logged on to for some time to see what they were about.

If I had known about the spyware then I would have a greater understanding of exactly was going on. But in that incident I just freaked out and told her that if she ever did anything like that again that I would leave her.

So, back to that cold Saturday morning before Xmas years after that incident…

I needed some stationery and in the stationery cabinet I noticed a piece of paper sticking out with my handwriting on it. I pulled it out and it was a photocopied page from my book of accounts and passwords. It was the latest page of passwords that I had changed a week earlier.

Imagine what I felt and thought now!

In quite an emotional state I was trying to decide what to do. One of my tasks that my girlfriend had left for me to do while she was out was to get in the attic and bring the Xmas tree and decorations down. While I was up there, stumbling around in the near dark, I knocked a box over and its contents spilled out. I picked some of the books up and saw that they were diaries. Her diaries.

What would you do? Really think about it. You’ve just found out that your other half has been spying on you for years. What was the right thing to do here?

I was angry, very angry. I decided to read them.

I took them downstairs and began reading them. I can read very fast.

It was no ordinary set of diaries. These were her sex diaries. They started at the age of fourteen and stopped when she met me when she was 36.

After 6 hours of reading I realized that everything that my girlfriend had told me about her past was pretty much a lie and that she had a much bigger, sordid history. I read of awful depraved things that she had experienced and done. Having sex with a boyfriend at lunchtime then having sex with another guy in the evening. I read of hotel beds being broken, meeting a stranger on plane then going to his home straight from the airport. I read of one-night stands and of fucking a guy because she liked his car. I read of sexual deeds and dalliances that made my stomach turn. I read of her being cheated on several times and of her cheating as many times. I learned that many of her male friends were ex-lovers. Two close male friends, guys who had often socialised with us in our home, had been fuckbuddies with her. I read of the one sexual thing that I cannot accept – it made me nauseous. Her “number” was a big multiple of what she had told me of.

With every page that I flipped through my love, trust and respect for her dwindled. A picture of a very different person was emerging; a picture of a promiscuous, vengeful, dis-trusting, amoral person. My love for her had been based on a carefully thought-out version of her that she had deliberately and skilfully delivered and adhered to.

It had all been a lie…I had fallen in love with a lie.

Months later, after the passing of time and the cooling of emotion, I was able to realize that it was the cheating and being cheated upon that made her so insecure. It was that insecurity that led to her planting spyware on my computer and invading my privacy in other ways. I was being punished for other men’s sins.

On the day of reading her diaries it was the hurt of seeing that I had been played and badly misled that I focussed on. I had been a naïve fool who trusted blindly. In the same way that trust is a necessary ingredient of love, so is respect. I no longer respected her. It was the loss of respect and trust for her that ultimately killed my feelings for her.

I know that apologists for her would say that all I had read was in the past. That she was young and stupid and had made mistakes, that people go looking for love in the wrong places, that she was trying to be a new, better person. Bullshit! I’ll show that all to be a false outlook, when you read future posts about her.

The reality was that her past was very much a big part of her present. Her past had twisted her soul badly when it came to trusting people. Her past is what made her continually spy on me over the course of our relationship. I had given her no cause to do so, none whatsoever. Who constantly spies on their other half for over 4 years before they find out? How long was she going to keep doing this – forever?

I wondered what must have gone through the minds of her friends who knew her truth when they socialised with me in her presence. Did they have to watch their words for fear of letting something slip out? What were those male “friends” thinking? Were they laughing at me for my naivety? Was there a deliberate, co-ordinated conspiracy of silence? How could I face these people again? I felt like a cuckold. How did she constantly live a lie?

She came home and we rowed. Late on that Saturday I packed what belongings I could fit in to my car and drove to my best friend’s place. I needed time and space away from her; room to breathe, to take in the shock of her past and hidden character. Even then, as inexperienced in relationships as I was, I knew that someone who was a cheat always had it in them to cheat if the circumstances were right. Once a cheat, always a cheat – I shall not be convinced otherwise. Anyone who deludes themselves that a cheat can be reformed, well, I wish them and their delusion the best of luck.

I stayed with my friend for a week and at its end I decided to see if I could forgive her, to listen to her side of the story, to discern if there was any hope for us. You see, I had loved her dearly and was grateful for her every day. It had felt like she was made for me. I had contemplated asking her to marry me after having sworn to myself to never marry again. A few days before Xmas I returned to what was our home intent on giving it another go. Forgiveness is not something that comes naturally to me, so it was going to be a challenge.

For months I tried to get my head around all the revelations. She tried her best to answer my endless questions which started to irritate her. Of course, it’s not nice to have someone pick your sexual history apart, but I was looking for answers. Unfortunately the more I knew, the more I wanted to know. I was looking for signs of hope that all these things could never happen again.

I was kidding myself; reassurance is built on trust and there was none between us. Once trust and respect is gone, so is the love – plain and simple. No trust + no respect = no love.

To be continued…

ELO – Evil Woman

My ex-wife and lessons for me…and you?

It wasn’t love at first sight, it wasn’t a romance for the ages, nor was it a Cinderella meeting her Prince Charming. It was a boy and a girl meeting and slowly falling in love with each other.

I met the woman who was to become my ex-wife when she was nineteen and I was twenty. A mutual friend introduced us and we hit it off from the moment we met at a New Year’s Eve party. She was at university with my friend, studying to become a charted accountant. I had finished National Service in South Africa and, being devoid of skills in the civilian world, I was struggling to get a regular job. I did the usual young person thing of waiting tables and other cash-in-hand jobs, but it wasn’t what I wanted from life. More than anything I wanted to travel; I wanted to see the world for myself, to arrive at my own opinions and to see just how much travel broadens the mind.

It was the early 1990s and at the time, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the stalemate of the Cold War over, small localised wars were breaking out all over the globe as the tectonic plates of global power realigned themselves. Old scores needed settling and opportunities needed grabbing. South Africa was caught up in this too, what with Apartheid ending and majority rule on its way. The future for me as a young white man in South Africa was very uncertain. I knew that I was going to be made to pay for the sins of my fathers.

Mercenary outfits, bands of adventurous brothers in arms, were forming out of the dis-integrating South African military, once the largest and most powerful in the southern hemisphere. The money was fantastic, the opportunities plentiful and travel was part of the job description. Yes, there were risks, but when you’re that age you think you’re going to live forever. Getting shot up is what happens to someone else. All I had to do was sign the papers and wait for my orders. Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola and the Solomon Islands beckoned.

Then I met her, the woman who made me reconsider it all. I think it’s amazing the effect that love has on a man, irrespective of age. Just like money and ideas, love makes him do things that he ordinarily wouldn’t do. I couldn’t imagine myself being with anybody better than her. I absolutely adored her. She was the personification of sweetness.

I turned my back on a life of adventure and took a soul-destroying office job, resplendent with a desk and computer, all so that I could get to see her. Four years flew by in which time she moved in with me, much to the annoyance of her Bible-bashing parents. Our wanderlust was burning strong and it was the foundation of our relationship, our mutual wish for the future.

We moved to London, England the first chance we got, much to the annoyance of her Bible-bashing parents. We had discussed marriage a few times over the years, usually at my initiation because I wanted children, but she always said that the time wasn’t right. A day in Spring came when I decided to force the issue by proposing to her. We went on an outing to Greenwich Observatory in London to see where time is measured from. In front of a coach-load of applauding French tourists, we stood on the prime meridian line and I surprised her by getting down on bended knee and asked her to marry me.

She said “yes”, burst into tears and from then on time speeded up. We got married in Cape Town a year later in a lavish ceremony at the most expensive hotel in the city, once again much to the annoyance of her Bible-bashing parents. We started a new chapter in the story of us called “blissful married life” back in London with us both focussing on building our careers, her as an accountant and me as a fake IT geek. We travelled as much as we could, whenever we could. We went to places people only dream of and we did it in style. Life was good.

We worked very well together, each aware of the other’s strengths and we played to them. We could both quickly prioritize, organize and stick to our decisions. We were awesome together, the model power-couple; there was nothing we couldn’t do together. I loved her dearly and was willing to die protecting her. We hardly ever argued; it was all so easy for both of us. Everything I did was for her and for us.

But, with time, we grew up and we grew apart. By the time we hit our mid-thirties we wanted very different things from the future. I no longer wanted children but it turned out that by then she did. There was no way to compromise on that one. I’ll never forget how the end came about.

To celebrate her birthday we hired a car and travelled around California for a month. We were falling asleep in a hotel in Lake Tahoe, having spent the day living it up on her 34th birthday, when she started sobbing in my arms.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, totally puzzled by her sudden emotion.

“I want a baby,” is all she said. We both knew that that was the one thing I could not agree to.

Instantly a dark clouded shrouded my peripheral vision and my brain went into over-drive. The next day I drove us to Monterey, but I don’t remember anything about how we got there. I knew that the world I felt safe in had come to an abrupt end. For the rest of the trip we didn’t speak much as my brain explored all the scenarios for us, which was futile.

Once back home we agreed to divorce after eight years of marriage. There was no shouting or raised voices. It was all done as coldly and quietly as possible. Apparently it’s called ‘amicable’. It was all such a terrible shock to me, her keeping from me what she really thought and felt, her not being honest with me.

We have not spoken since that day in 2006, our last day. The final divorce papers were signed by the court on the day that would have been our ninth wedding anniversary and fifteen years since we had agreed to be exclusive. I’m sure it was all to the jubilation of her Bible-bashing parents.

What hurt me the most, like a searing hot knife in my soul, was one of the parting things she said to me: that she didn’t love me for the last five years of our marriage. We used to have a little ritual that meant the world to me. Every night we would fall asleep with me wrapping my arms around her and every night we would tell each other that we loved one another. I meant it every time I said “I love you”. For five years she had been lying to me and I missed it. She was quite a little actress.

I fell into a bout of depression and to escape my shattered world I went on holiday by myself, the first time ever I had done so. I went to the Algarve in southern Portugal for a week as I was thinking of buying a property on a cliff overlooking the sea, living alone and spending my days writing. I was done with love.

During a perfect sunset I was sitting on the beach, battling my feelings, when I noticed that I was surrounded by honeymooning couples, all touchy-feely and kissy-kissy. I observed their behaviour, pondering their future and remembering my own salad days. I realized that I still believed in love, so I shelved my Algarve plan and returned to the UK, hoping to find love, real love. This time it would be different, it would be better.

Sitting on that beach I learned that from the moment we slipped on the wedding rings that symbolized our hearts, we had drifted apart. I’d heard that the worst thing for a woman’s libido is wedding cake, but jokes aside, the truth is that the wedding day is the high watermark of a relationship. The wedding day vows, the rings, the cake, the clothes, the ceremonies, all of that comes with an unseen danger called security.

I was first aware of this cancerous security when one day my boss called me over to show me what he had bought at lunchtime. I was shocked to learn that for his twentieth wedding anniversary he had got his wife a packet of seeds. “She can grow her own fucking flowers,” he said caustically. How did they get from their wedding day to where they were now, twenty years later?

From your wedding day you take each other for granted because you feel safe in the relationship. There’s no need to try hard any more. Before you know it, Valentine’s Day becomes a chore and anniversaries become annimiseries. I never felt the need to take her out to a restaurant, just the two of us, for no real reason. I didn’t always come to bed when she wanted me to. I didn’t always dress or smell as well as I could have. I never bought her flowers when I should have. She was always going to be there, no matter what, right?

She didn’t always make the effort to look her best when we did go out. After we wed I don’t remember getting breakfast in bed any more. If I had a bad cold she didn’t offer to make me chicken soup any more. Anniversary presents became smaller and cheaper every year. At some point we stopped getting birthday cards for each other. I was always going to be there, no matter what, right?

I believe that a little bit of insecurity in a relationship, on both sides, keeps each other on their toes, keeps you paying attention. Marriage is a fine institution, but I have no desire to be in an institution. The sense of security inherent to married life spawns complacency and that leads to a sure, steady negative spiral downwards. It’s so easy to sleep-walk into oblivion.

After all these years I occasionally catch myself playing with an invisible wedding ring on my finger, scratching at a callus that isn’t there any more. Whenever I do this, I can’t help but think of her. I don’t think of the good times we had or what might have been. No, the bitterness of my ex-wife’s deceit is the lasting feeling I have of our relationship, of our failed marriage, of all those years together.

Hall and Oates – She’s Gone


I couldn’t help it

My emotions and feelings conspired against me on a rainy Sunday night and they made me phone Baltic Babe. She answered her land-line and “Hello Trouble” is all I said and she instantly knew it was me. Her tone of voice indicated that she was pleased to hear from me, which surprised me as I was expecting a cold, indifferent response initially.

We made the polite small-talk necessary to re-establish communication, but it was merely minutes before it felt like we had never stopped talking to each other. That warm, fuzzy feeling that I only felt with her returned.

“Are you seeing anybody?” She asked suddenly. An innocent question that came with so many potential agendas behind it; she’ll never change. Was she sounding me out because she was still interested in me? That was my strongest reaction. The question made me momentarily take stock of why I was speaking to her; what did I want to achieve with this call. In the split second that it took me to come up with my answer, I realised that what I wanted from the call was to see if she was as great as I remembered.

“Not at the moment, no. How about you?” Two could play this game.

“Yes, actually,” she said, deliberately leaving it at that to create a sense of intrigue and drama, her perpetual dark companions. I wasn’t too surprised or disappointed to hear this; Project Baby had a strict deadline.

“Do you want to tell me about him?” I countered in a sarcastic tone, knowing that she wanted to, but teasing her about it. I could hear her smile on the other end of the line. She loved this kind of banter, the cut and thrust of witty repartee. I wondered if it turned her on, made her nipples harden or pussy moist; I wouldn’t be surprised if it did. It’s foreplay to her.

“He’s French and an investment banker,” she said proudly. How that must have satisfied her Russian cultural craving for status that I could never have lived up to.

“Does he make you laugh like I can?” I went for the jugular.

“No. He’s a bit boring actually.” Her brutal honesty surprised me.

“Well hopefully he’s good in bed?”

“It’s okay. Nothing fantastic.”

I was stunned. She’s with a guy who doesn’t make her laugh, she finds boring and is mediocre in bed? This cannot be. Had I dialled the right number? Who was this person? One of the key words in her dating profile that stood out for me was her describing herself as “passionate”. We established on our trip to Bulgaria that I was more passionate than her, but nevertheless, she was with a guy who didn’t meet the three things I knew to be very important to her.

Than it hit me. Money. Baltic Babe was with him because he had filthy, smelly money. That was more important than anything else. The realization saddened me. How did she bring herself to lie back and spread her legs for him? Was she really so like her stereotypical Eastern European counterparts? Obviously.

A scene from “Frasier” sprang to mind in which Frasier says to Daphne, “How can we (men) use sex to get what we want. Sex is what we want!” I think there’s a lot of truth to that. Baltic Babe, like so many women before her, was using sex to get what she wanted.

It occurred to me that if Baltic Babe, the worst lay of my life, considered him an average lover, then he must be a really bad lay; boring when erect and horizontal. I wondered if the Frenchman’s cock reeked of garlic. If so, did her pussy now smell and taste of garlic? It’s amazing how quickly the brain can process information and come up with new stuff, isn’t it? My little brain was buzzing.

“Can you see yourself having a kid with this guy?” I asked. Fuck it, I had nothing to lose.

“You never know. We’ll see,” was her non-committal answer.

I had heard enough to have lost a lot of respect for her. I decided that it would be best to turn the conversation negative before ending it. I asked her about her work situation and that triggered off a single-vagina monologue involving swear words about her bosses that went on for far too long for my liking. After enough of her prattling and whining I told her that I had to go. I could hear the disappointment in her “oh” response to my saying goodbye.

I held the phone in my hand as the whirlpool that was my feelings and memories of her spun around, the various shades of colour melting into a bland grey. A grey that congealed and told me that she all along was out to use men and I had nearly become ensnared in her trap.

Some unwitting French fool was day by day having a cunning little spider weaving an invisible web around him, tying him to her so that one day he cannot move and the eventual weight of his bonds will become too heavy and he will fall, unable to defend himself as the little spider eats him alive. She will feast on everything that he has to offer, even after his blood has run dry – by even living off of his pension fund.

It was evident that the strange concept of ‘love’ was never mentioned in our conversation. It obviously had no value or place in her world. The French Fool might have an opinion about it, but it would be irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. The perception of ‘love’ was a narcotic occasionally administered so as to ensure his compliance, his unthinking obedience, his perpetual slavery.

As to my objective with the phonecall: was Baltic Babe as great as I remembered? No, Baltic Babe was no longer my paragon of feminine virtue; that illusion had evaporated over the course of our brief chat. It was a disappointing feeling. She was fearsome though; a combatant not to be taken lightly. In that call I got to see her true motivations, her truest colours and I didn’t like what I saw. It left a bitter taste in my mouth, not because of her machinations, but because I was naïve enough not to realize this about her earlier. I felt foolish, but nowhere near as foolish as the Frenchman would once the drug of love had worn off, but by then it would be too late for him.

The poor bastard.

It could have been me…

I guess Billy Joel is right.

Billy Joel – Honesty

The Oprah Winfrey show

The studio audience roars into life as Oprah takes to the stage. She effuses false modesty, secretly loving the adulation. I’m waiting in the wings of the set, as she goes about her umpteenth intro to her guest as the noise from the crowd subsides on cue from a fat man working as the prompter. He’s dressed in black trousers and is wearing a shirt with vertical black and white stripes, just like a NFL referee.

“Today we have a very special guest. Most of you here today and probably you watching at home have read his record setting novel ‘From Bags to Bitches’,” she says and the crowd spontaneously goes berserk. The fat man in stripes spins around to face the audience with an angry scowl on his face which does the trick within seconds.

“Yes, we have a world scoop today. We get to see and meet the man whose story of finding love through internet dating has sold a hundred million copies. In an exclusive, once-only ever interview…yes, you heard right, once only and ever, he talks to us here today,” Oprah says with a wide-eyed look.

It’s as if she doesn’t believe it herself. All the while her people have been hounding my poor old agent, Harry, for months to get me to do this. I’ve held off from doing it because something extraordinary has been happening in the meanwhile that I thought would be fantastic to reveal once sales of the book had peaked.

“But before I ask him to join us, earlier I asked some of you to draw a picture of what you think he looks like. Let’s see what you’ve come up with,” Oprah states imperiously and starts pointing to the audience. Dozens of smiling women hold up large white placards with a drawing of a man on each. Two cameramen turn around and point at each half of the studio audience.

“Let’s see now. Ah, a lot of you have decided that he’s tall. I think he gives that away in the book…hmm, most of you think that he has dark hair, but a couple think he is blonde or bald…okay, I see that a couple of you think that he is large. Nothing wrong with that. Yawl know my battles with weight gain.” Oprah laughs as her fat rolls jiggle under her Armani blouse.

I’m now shaking like a leaf. Millions of people are watching live and hundreds of millions all over the world will see what happens next within the next few weeks. I think I should have taken another sedative. This awful sticky make-up feels like it’s sucking all the moisture out of my face. I’m incredibly thirsty on top of it all. Can people see my trousers shaking? The person standing next to me gives me a smile and it reassures me.

“Folks, please give a warm welcome to Phil Stone,” Oprah booms.

I take a deep breath and my first steps forward. The audience greets me with rapturous applause, lights shine in my face and I can’t see the audience at all. I hear the occasional wolf whistle. I stop at a spot on the floor that has a piece of plastic tape on it, my mark, and wave at the studio audience. I give off the biggest smile since Tony Blair was in Downing Street.

I walk over to Oprah and she takes both my hands and I give her a quick peck on her cheek, fearful of ruining her make-up. She motions to me to sit down which I gratefully do. That was the longest walk of my life. How many people were watching me? I hate being the centre of attention. They can keep fame, just give me the money.

“So, audience, does he look anything like what you expected?” she asks.

The audience responds positively and one woman shouts out, “Please marry me!” to which everyone laughs. I hadn’t said a word yet. What will they think when they hear me speak? Americans love my accent.

“Phil, your book, your story in fact, has enjoyed meteoric sales and all without anybody knowing what you look like. How did that happen?”

“Well Oprah, I think my story tells and sells itself. I think it speaks to every man and woman’s heart. Somehow my words have connected with anybody who has read them. Also, in this day and age of rapid social media, my story went viral. I didn’t need to be at book signings encouraging people to read my work, other people did that for me,” I reply verbosely. I might have lost half the audience there.

“So what do you think it is in your story that resonates with people? Is there one thing in particular?”

“Quite honestly Oprah, it surprised me how people reacted to one of the characters in my book,” I begin, but the world-famous interviewer interrupts me with, “Baltic Babe.”

“Correct. You see, even you know,” I respond disingenuously. Of course she’s read my book or had a flunkie give her summarised notes.

“I just loved ‘From Bags to Bitches’. There are so many interesting, unusual characters in it, but Baltic Babe is such a stand-out character,” she contributes.

“Indeed. That character set the standard that more than a hundred other dates failed to match.”

“Wow! You’ve been on more than a hundred dates?” There, she hadn’t read my book.

“Yes, for anybody who doesn’t know what my book is about, I went on over a hundred dates over a two year period. The book is the story of what happened in that two year adventure” I shamelessly plug my work. That’ll be good for a few more million in sales at least.

“So have you stopped dating? Have you finally met someone that has put an end to Phil Stone’s dating days?”

“I am actually seeing someone,” I say quietly and Oprah feigns surprise. The audience is hushed.

“Well, is it someone from the book?” Oprah asks.

“Yes, it’s someone from the book,” I say with a smile. The audience stirs and Oprah tells them to shush. Everybody whispering is trying to guess who it is. It is the development I had hoped would coincide with this broadcast and I’ve managed to pull it off. I have to keep it together. Breathe.

“C’mon, tell me who it is. You know I can keep a secret,” Oprah implores, playfully tapping me on the knee.

I give it a few seconds, look at the audience with a hint of a smile, then let the suspense build like I had rehearsed in the hotel room for days. This is the moment.

“It’s Baltic Babe,” I say and the audience erupts. Gasps of surprise mingle with applause and inaudible shouts.

Oprah’s mouth hangs open and she sits back in her seat. The fat man turns around and glares at the audience. After a few seconds they fall silent, but there is still a buzz in the air. I spot even a cameraman smiling. Has he read my book too?

“So what’s the story?” Oprah asks.

“Well, she read my book and realized it was her. She looked deep in her soul and realized that, although I wasn’t perfect, my words proved that I was perfect for her. She got in touch, having kept my email address all these years and, as the cliché goes, the rest is history,” I say with one of my boyish smiles that I save for when I’m trying to get out of trouble. The studio audience swoons.

“Wow! That’s just too sweet. So what’s going to happen between you guys?” Oprah asks, knowing the answer.

Once again I give it a few seconds for the anticipation to build. I notice a few women with their mouths hanging open.

“Well, Oprah, we’re engaged to be married,” I say with a deep sense of pride.

Oh my god! The audience goes absolutely mental. Screams and shouts fill the studio. Most people are jumping up and down, which makes a thunderous noise on the stands. Some women are hugging each other. It appears that one woman has fainted, while another one goes running around the studio floor waving her hands in the air while being chased by the stripy fat man.

This is even better than I had hoped. This will play well across the world. Book sales will lift off again and that movie deal will get signed. We won’t have to worry about money ever again.

Normality is restored to the studio, but many women are sitting on the edge of their seats. Oprah is beaming, probably thinking of the ratings figures for this show.

“Now ain’t that something,” Oprah finally says in her folksy way and then she stands up.

I just smile. I know what’s coming.

“Folks, I know that it’s been quite a show for yawl, but I’ve got an extra special surprise for yawl,” Oprah works her audience, “would you please give a warm welcome to… Baltic Babe!”

The studio audience goes ballistic as my Baltic Babe comes into sight for all the world to see. She stops halfway over to me as agreed, at the mark, feet together, smiles beautifully and waves to the audience who roar their approval. She looks angelic in her silver Dior outfit. Oprah and I stand applauding while she glides elegantly towards us.

I break with the script and can’t help but walk over to her to embrace her. I envelope her like the very first time I hugged her that time on the platform at Tottenham Court Road station.

“We’ve done it. They love us,” I whisper in her ear.

“Mind my make-up, dammit,” she murmurs. How typically her and I laugh to myself.

I hold the tip of her hand and stand aside, smiling and gesturing to her with my free hand. Rapturous applause comes our way. Baltic Babe gives a little curtsey which was unrehearsed but that I instantly realized she had learned to do in her ice-skating days.

I lead her over to our seats and Oprah gives her a hug. We all sit simultaneously as the ruckus from the studio audience abates.

“You two make such a cute couple,” Oprah gushes.

The audience makes their agreement known. We both just smile.

“So you two have kissed and made up?” Oprah prods.

We look at each other, smile, laugh and nod in unison.

Baltic Babe is sitting on the edge of her seat, her feet and knees together, her hands folded in her lap. She looks stunning. I can’t take my eyes off her.

“Now, Baltic Babe,” Oprah begins, “it was touch and go as to whether or not you were going to be here with us today.”

“Yes, Oprah, that’s right,” Baltic Babe answers confidently without a hint of stage-fright. She’s a natural at this.

“Would you like to tell the folks why that is?” our hostess coerces.

I take one of Baltic Babe’s hands in one of my own. Hers is not clammy at all; mine is.

“Well, Oprah,” she starts, then pauses for dramatic effect, looks at me, smiles and says, “We’re expecting our first child in six month’s time.”

The noise from the studio audience is greater than ever before. It goes on and on, even Oprah seems surprised by the strength of people’s reaction to what they just heard. Almost all of them must have read my book and understand the significance of recent developments, given their behaviour.

“Well folks, that’s all we’ve got time for today. Gosh, isn’t it just great that romance and true love still exists? Yawl take care,” Oprah says forcefully over the din.

The credits start to roll and Ellie Goulding’s ‘How long will I love you’ starts to play.

No, that didn’t really happen. But wouldn’t it just be something if all that actually happened?

What a fool believes…

How long will I love you
As long as stars are above you
And longer if I can
How long will I need you
As long as the seasons need to
Follow their plan

How long will I be with you
As long as the sea is bound to
Wash up on the sand

How long will I want you
As long as you want me to
And longer by far
How long will I hold you
As long as your father told you
As long as you can

How long will I give to you
As long as I live through you
However long you say

How long will I love you
As long as stars are above you
And longer if I may

How long will I love you
As long as stars are above you

Coulda, woulda…shoulda?

I have a confession to make to you: in my quietest, loneliest moments, when another woman has been found lacking, Baltic Babe is the one I think of, the one my brittle heart reaches out to. Not a day had gone by in which I didn’t think of her. I would wonder where she is, who she’s with, what she’s feeling. I’d wonder if she’s happy. I’d wonder about what could have been between us; perhaps even what should have been.

In a moment of remorse after my harsh farewell to her, just as I started seeing Sweet Thing, I emailed Baltic Babe the following on 7th January 2013:

ME: “Trouble, Merry Russian Xmas! I have a present for you…I want you to know that in an emergency you can still call me. If you’re drunk and you see lights that scare you, you can call me. If your back gives in and you’re bedridden, you can call me. I hope you enjoy your day.”

She replied within an hour.

Baltic Babe: “Thanks for your kind words. I hope you had nice celebrations and holidays during the festive season.”

I know that one day I’ll see Baltic Babe on a train in London, probably as she’s waiting to get off. She will have a little blonde girl by her side and they’ll be holding hands, the little girl clutching a teddy-bear to her chest with her free hand. Baltic Babe will feel my gaze, like only she could, our eyes will meet like they used to. I’ll give her a polite, faint smile as her yellowy-green eyes widen. I’ll look at the little girl and give those equally yellowy-green eyes an approving look. Words would be futile because we both understood that we were irretrievably lost to each other. They’ll get off the train and she won’t look back as I watch her every step; that would be typically her, that hard-arse streak of hers.

I’ll always remember an exchange between us at the end of our first proper date. Baltic Babe said to me, “I still don’t know which is better; to be with a weaker man or a stronger man.” I thought about it for a second and answered, “Neither. In the long run with a weaker man you will end up despising him for his weakness. With a stronger man, you will resent him for what seems like his selfishness. The correct man is one who is as strong as you, because him you will trust and respect.” She seemed to like that answer. Such was our topics of conversation that I found irresistibly mesmerising.

On my drive to work, a couple of morning’s each week I would see a woman who looked like Baltic Babe from behind. She would usually be pushing a pram with a wriggling kid in it who it seemed was having some kind of epileptic fit. I couldn’t help but wonder what Baltic Babe would look like pushing a pram. I could just see her saying “fuck you!” to the kid and stomp off with her nose in the air, leaving the little blighter in the pram as it started to roll backwards down a hill.

Far too often I find myself remembering an incident from our holiday to Bulgaria. We came back to the beach after having been somewhere for lunch. Sitting down on our sun-loungers, we still had most of what we were carrying on us as we became engrossed in conversation. Our exchanges rolled relentlessly and effortlessly on, punctuated by laughter. Suddenly we looked around and realised that we were the only people left on the beach. The sun was getting ready to hide away and beach attendants had packed up almost all the sun-loungers, except ours. We had sat facing each other, barely moving for five hours, just talking. I still had my towel draped over one shoulder. One side of each of us had got badly sunburnt because we didn’t even stop talking to put suntan lotion on. We laughed about it. Such a meeting of minds is rare. I’ll cherish that afternoon for the rest of my days.

Every one of our days together felt similar, like we could have talked and laughed for the rest of our lives. If that was the best that I could experience in life, the very best I could expect, then that would have been good enough for me, because what we had was a once-in-a-lifetime connection.

I’m not the first man to feel this way about a woman, nor will I be the last. These guys get it and they put it to music:

Thin Lizzy – Still in Love With You

I think I’ll fall to pieces
If I don’t find something else to do
This sadness it never ceases
I’m still in love with you

And my head, it keeps on reeling
It’s got me in a crazy spin
Oh darling, darling, darling
Is this the end?

I’m still in love with you

You know, some people out there are saying
Time has its way of healing
It can dry all the tears from your eyes
Oh but darling they don’t tell you about this empty feeling
You know I can’t disguise it

After all that we’ve been through
I try my best but it’s no use
Ooh, I’m gonna keep on loving you
Is this the end?

I’m still in love with you

And now that it’s all over,
Woman that’s something I think you should know
Hey maybe cause my baby, she had a baby by me
She might think it over one more time before she go

Call on me baby
If there’s anything I can do for you
Call on me baby
Help me see it through

I’m still in love with…
You know…