Thursday, 28 May 2009

Love & Betrayal & Hold the Mayo

Yesterday I found out BN2 is going to a ball in June -- a ball we planned to go to but hadn't yet bought the tickets for -- with someone else.

So far, so what, right? Of course he's going to move on, and even if I'm the one who left, it's still going to smart, isn't it?

Well, he asked her at the very beginning of May -- less than 3 days (possibly less than 2 days) after I left, and in the thick of the dramatic emails/voicemails/texts that made me cry. He asked her before he sent me the roses, and the mushy birthday card.

And he's been dating her -- or at least trying to sleep with her -- since March, if not before.

She is a friend of a friend, someone he met at a party a couple of years ago that I took him to. She was (and is, because I saw her at a party a month ago) one of the most annoying people I've ever met, Then again, he's never been choosy.

My friend O is part of the gang BN2 organized to go to the ball, not that O told me that -- despite his asking me if I were OK with the two of them meeting up for a coffee. (I found out about the ball in a completely roundabout way -- isn't that always the case?) So I'm feeling hurt and resentful about that, too.

Meanwhile BN2 is still begging me to come to Venice. It must be because I am the only parent-approved girlfriend at the moment -- don't think his parents would think too much of their precious son if he paraded some other women through. Or maybe he just couldn't choose one, since I know there are many.

I'm so hurt and angry I can hardly concentrate. And yet I have to: Doing miserable BBC talent pool application that almost makes getting a job in the White House look like a cinch. (Actually it is not that bad or unreasonable -- just a lot of work I don't particularly feel like doing at the moment.) I'm so angry I tripped and fell while running this morning, blinded by rage. Why the hell does he keep contacting me when he's got all these other women lined up? Is it really because he needs me around for a Venice shag and then he'll just drop me?

And really, why the hell do I care? Must. Stop.

On the plus side, went to Hay on Wye literary festival this weekend and feeling quite worthy (and, dare I say, even slightly inspired) after listening to talks on the financial crisis, George Eliot, and Abe Lincoln (with a little too much Obama hagiography, but never mind about that). The only way I could have felt more worthy would have been if there were mandatory 5 am yoga or something.

Weight this morning was 143. Don't ask me how -- I consumed way too much cake and biscuits Monday -- but I'll take it.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Weekend Update

I spoke to him today. I saw his name flash up on my phone, I wavered, and then I figured: Why not?

Why not, indeed. Forty minutes of mostly idle chitchat and many tears later, I was a lot sadder and sorrier than I have been for several days. And I realize that before this conversation although lots of things reminded me of him, for the first time in months – probably since March of ’08, when he first set me straight that we weren’t exclusive (later, of course, we were supposed to be) -- I wasn’t spending lots of time wondering what he was doing and who he was dating and whether he’d take one of the other women (I know which one) to Venice in my place. Now I am. Ugh.

Let’s back up.

My birthday. I drank. I binged. I texted him. (I also nearly missed my flight to Istanbul.)

The texting was actually minor, especially when you consider (a) my penchant for drunken texting, (b) how drunk I was (appalling, possibly even by British standards), and (c) how hard I’d been fighting the urge to respond to him, especially his birthday card. Yes, I know I should have handed my phone over to someone else for the evening – I actually thought about it – but several friends had told me they’d be coming late and would text me to see where we were. (Frankly, I should have just decided privately to do without their presence – from much experience I know those people rarely turn up anyway.)

Via text, I thanked him for the card. He responded. I wrote something anodyne back (these were not gushy texts on my part). He called; I somehow had the presence of mind and strength not to pick up. (Being in a loud bar helped.) Nor did I listen to the message. He asked me to ring him, and I texted him that I was going abroad and had to get up stupidly early. He said I could ring whatever the hour. I didn’t agree to anything. Through the champagne haze I felt a flood of relief that no matter how stupid I wanted to be that evening (and I had a few moments of it), he could not come to see me because he had his daughter, and I could not go to see him because I had to leave for the airport at 7 am. Even if Istanbul was miserable (which it wasn’t, and I knew it wouldn’t be), for that reason alone the ticket was worth it.

And the binge? The binge was so bad and so public I am ashamed just thinking about it. It was bad enough that I’ve sworn off alcohol for the next 30 days – these days I only seem to binge when I drink, and I’m determined to reach 30 days without a binge, something I haven’t managed for a while.

For the record, knowing that I tend to overdo it on snacky foods, particularly when I’m drinking, I’d brought something to eat with me, and ate it. Then I drank more and I started eating things other people had ordered: hummus, pita, mini burgers. It wasn’t enough. I wanted more. When a few people suggested going for food, I was nearly desperate for some. First – before we sat down -- I sneaked off to the newsagent and bought Oreos and chocolate and was eating them, probably not nearly as discreetly as I hoped, at the table.

Yes, I know. It gets worse.

I proceeded to eat an entire bread basket’s worth of bread with butter. And a starter – probably meant to be shared – that involved a lot of cheese and bread. I sneaked off at one point and got a Cornish pasty. Then I returned to the table and ate a huge plate of pasta with seafood.

I got home at 1 am and lay awake all night, feeling wretchedly ill, worrying I’d be too ill to get my train to the airport, worrying about my behavior, and worrying I’d miss my flight.

I never, ever, ever want to feel that way again.

Also, for the record, when I weighed myself Wednesday after returning from Istanbul, I was up five pounds. Frankly, I don’t think that’s Turkey talking…

* * *

In spite of the binge, or maybe because of it, Istanbul was a revelation. I thought I’d be a complete basket case, since usually after a binge I need a bit of overcontrolling – eating familiar foods I know will fill me up. Often, I struggle with the desire to overexercise, or to try to cut back in penance (a vicious cycle that leads directly back to a binge).

But I couldn’t do any of that in Turkey.

Instead I gazed, almost awestruck, at the sweet shops – and there is one about every 20 feet – piled high with things that until a couple of years ago, I would certainly have binged on, but this past weekend had very little desire to. Sure, they looked good, and I’d happily have dived into Mount Baklava, but the thought was only ever there for a flicker; a second.

I can’t remember much about my first trip to Istanbul nearly five years ago – a weekend with a friend. Is that because I spent so much of the time plotting how I could sneak off and binge on all of these delights? Hmmm. Probably.

Sunday night my friend took me for a birthday dinner, some of the best food I’ve had in ages. The restaurant recreated old Ottoman recipes: sour cherry-stuffed vine leaves, hummus flavored with cinnamon and currants, so thick you could eat it with a fork. Lamb slowly cooked for hours with raisins, nuts, and dried and fresh fruits. For what might be the first time in my life I was kicking myself for having wasted stomach space (on bread with feta cheese served at the start). I reveled in the feeling that I was getting full – that I could actually get full, and without bingeing – and I tried not to get to the point that the feeling was uncomfortable. I succeeded, though not easily. At the moment, I still can identify very little on the satiety scale besides “starving” and “stuffed beyond belief.”

I struggled to stop eating more “just to check that I really was full.” I’d like to say you know how that goes, but frankly, I hope you don’t.

We’d had cocktails but skipped the wine with dinner so we went for a final drink at a bar with panoramic views. (The 30 days booze-free started Tuesday, for the record.) Maybe it was my charity shop Temperley dress, maybe it was either my or the friend’s stunning good looks (ha), but halfway through our drinks the barman presented us with special shots, gratis. My friend toasted the birthday; I silently chimed in one to not being stuffed. I’ll drink to that.

* * *

I realized at some point Monday that I hadn’t cried at all Sunday. Not once; not a tear. Nor did I cry Monday. (Tuesday I did. His birthday voicemail – which I’d never listened to -- was in among the messages I got when I turned my phone on while standing in line at customs.)

My friend and I talked about possible return trips to Turkey for me. We talked about a long overdue trip I both want and need to do to the US. As I caught sight of the Bosphorus on one of the cab rides, I felt that flash of joy that comes with great possibility – that feeling that anything could happen and just might. It was just a flash, but I know it was there.

* * *

Remember the children’s book Are You My Mother?, where the lost baby bird is asking kittens, dogs, and cows the question?

When I am single, I sometimes feel like the main character in the Are You My Boyfriend? book. I’ll look at men in shops, in bars, across the room in lectures, and I’ll wonder: Might you be the one?

In Istanbul, I saw the same guy four times. The first time I noticed him – standing behind me in the queue for the cash point -- it was because I could see he had a Katie Price novel in his carrier bag. I couldn’t resist teasing him about it. (For American readers, let me just say that this is about four steps below buying an Ethan Hawke novel, something I once teased a guy for in the line at Borders.)

As he ducked his head sheepishly, I noticed he looked like a shorter version of The Fig – a guy I still Google from time to time. I wondered if this guy was bringing the book for a girlfriend?

I saw this guy – and his two friends – again when I got off the bus at Taksim Square. And then again the next night at the panoramic bar. Then in the departures lounge at the airport (where he was reading an Orhan Pamuk novel). We chatted ever so briefly, he wished me a happy birthday and then I got on the bus to the plane. A flunky stopped him and his friends from following me. Damn Easyjet and their bizarre boarding schemes.

We passed each other again in the queue at customs, he on the natives side and me stuck in the “All Other Passports.” By this time I was a mess – teary from BN2’s message and shaking and shivering from a sudden flu-type thing that hit me midway through the flight and was to last until yesterday. He waved. I tried to smile. I realized he’d be long gone by the time I got through, and I felt too ill to care by that point.

Still, I wonder.

Friday, 15 May 2009

You Say It's Your Birthday

I spent part of my birthday reading bridal magazines.

No, I’m not delusional or sadistic. I’m just on a (self-imposed) regime of pitching one story every single day, and today’s was an idea that I thought might work for a bridal magazine. So I had to buy some to research. (They were all cellophane-wrapped, so I couldn’t just flip through them.) I feared the cashier might congratulate me when I bought them or something awful like that, but instead she looked irritated as I dithered about whether to buy a Divine dark chocolate bar (I bought it) and asked in a bored tone whether I’d like a bag.

It’s been a quiet day. I went to Pilates this morning with my favorite instructor. Yes, he’s probably my favorite because he always tells me how great I look. (I took my first-ever class at this studio – probably about 40 pounds ago – with him.) Today he told me he almost didn’t recognize me when he came back from several months away, and told me I should go have a red velvet cupcake from Hummingbird Bakery. Hmmm. I just might. (Update: I didn’t have time to go somewhere tried and tested, so I picked up a cupcake from Euphorium Bakery. Soooo disappointing, especially the frosting. I actually made myself throw some of the frosting out, lest I do my usual "oh, I'll keep tasting it to see if it still tastes bad." Very cross. What a waste of calories. Just chased it now with a few dark chocolate squares, if you can believe...)

When I first walked in the Pilates studio, he told me he hadn’t seen me in a while, and asked me where I’d been. I tried to think. Ummm, nowhere? Then I couldn’t help remembering that the last time I’d seen him was, I think, two Saturdays ago. Just after I kissed BN2 goodbye for what I didn’t know would be the last time.

Tonight it’s some champagne with friends, where hopefully I will not get too drunk and (a) call or text BN2, (b) cry, (c) binge, or (d) miss my flight to Istanbul tomorrow.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

This Is How You Remind Me

O’s number flashes up on my phone. O never calls me. He writes in the British Library and communicates exclusively via text.

He wants to know if I mind if he meets up with BN2 tonight. I am oddly touched that he asked, and yet I wish he hadn’t. (Because of a complex web of loyalties I feared my friendship with O would be one of the casualties of the split, even though he and BN2 hardly know each other.)

I think briefly and ungenerously that all of BN2’s other women must be booked – the ones I’m sure he was referring to “all I (willingly) gave up for you,” as he put it in his first text message after the split. I wonder if he wanted it to get back to me that he has spent at least one night not trying to shag other women. I decide that possibly it’s a combination of both – that he’s filling his time as I have been trying to fill my time.

My pause is just long enough for O to say awkwardly: “I mean, I don’t know if there’s daggers drawn between the two of you or whatever.”

“No, not on my side,” I say, and mean it. “I’m just sad, that’s all.”

“Yeah, it’s sad,” agrees O. I don’t tell him that tonight is the night BN2 wanted to celebrate my birthday, since he has his daughter tomorrow (my actual birthday).

When I get home two birthday cards have arrived in the post. One I think I recognize as Friend Bearing Chocolate’s mum, but quickly realize from the return address is BN2’s mum. (Do all mums in this country have the same handwriting?) I turn over the second card and see a row of x’s – kisses – on the back. BN2.

It’s a New Yorker card. I haven’t read the New Yorker in front of him in at least a year, if ever (how did I get so far from it?), but somehow he’s remembered. The card makes me cry. “I’m sorry for whatever I did or didn’t do that’s made you eschew all further contact with me,” I think it says, among other things (I don’t want to read it again, and therefore cry again, so please excuse the lack of fact-checking. He did, for the record, definitely use the word “eschew.”).

I want to call him immediately, to give him a verbal hug. I want to meet up with him and talk about how we’ll work it out; to collaborate in the invention of the new us.

But I know that I can’t, and so I don’t.

Can I at least text him and thank him for the card? I think.

No, I cannot.

Oh, what’s the harm in a simple text?


I sit in front of my computer and try to work, but I just want to text him, or to eat. I just ate lunch a half hour ago. I wonder grumpily why I have to have a breakup now, when I can’t even shop as a distraction (can’t afford it).

I pick up my computer, buy two diet cherry Cokes (gross, I know, but they are a habit) and sit in the Starbucks, trying not to think about the fact that he helped me pick out my computer in February.

Then I remember we fought about that, too. That helps for oh, about a second.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Pieces of Me

For a few seconds – a flash, as I was rushing down Bond Street en route to my second meeting of the day – I felt like my old self. Not myself of Before I Left BN2, but myself pre-November, when I was (mostly) happy and busy and employed. When my days were a blur of media and meetings and parties and interviews and writing, and I never had to worry about having an unproductive day because no matter what, I still was getting a paycheck.

None of today’s meetings is likely to result in a paycheck, but I had a brief glimpse of what my life could be like – possibly even a better version of the way it was pre-November (and not just because there’s no BN2, either.)

Then I was brought back down to earth.

Earlier today, I saw my counselor – actually for the first time since I left BN2 (counselor – who we’ll call A. -- was ill last week). I told a few parts of the story of my leaving. I cried, off and on, silent tears running down my face, squashing all of my tissues up in a ball the way – I remembered this briefly – I used to do with white bread in summer camp.

I cried because the story is painful. And because I think somehow I was able to get through until today because I thought today I would get to talk to BN2. I thought I’d discuss the note I wanted to send BN2 with A., and then I’d send it. Or even that I could just call him and say hello. (Hey, that’s why these are fantasies – because they are, um, fantasist.) And then I could stop thinking about making this OK for BN2 and focus on making it OK for myself.

I promised A. I would not contact BN2 without discussing it first – so no text message on a whim (or two glasses of wine).

“You have the rest of your life to say whatever you want to say to him,” A. – erm – counseled.

He also told me – “and I’m ready to be proven wrong” – that he fully expected me to have 12 grim weeks. “And if you’re not in another relationship” – the phrase caught my attention, because I wonder if I’d have stayed so long with BN2 if I ever thought I would meet anyone else – it could be another six or nine months on top of that.


Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Insert Sad Song Lyrics of Your Choice

I had a long conversation with my sister Sunday night about BN2, and she got choked up, telling me how hard I’d worked in so many areas of my life. My sister isn’t one for idle flattery – at least with me – so I got a little choked up myself when she told me how beautiful, smart and funny I was. (Those were her words, not mine.)

I appreciated it, although I hated how sad she was for me, the same way I hated it a week ago Sunday when my father told me my “little life had been blown to pieces” over the past few months.

I am ok and then suddenly not ok. I remember someone – my mother? – talking about the week after someone dies not being the worst part, because there are loads of people around you, and flurries of activity, and because normal service is suspended: You can do practically anything you want and it’s excusable. What is much worse is when everyone has gone home, thinking they’ve gotten you through the worst of it, and it is just you looking at the pair of the now-deceased’s shoes in the front hall and wondering how you got there and how on earth you’re going to come back.

I was sad today – sadder than I’ve been for several days. It’s sinking in that I may never speak to him again. And although everyone I know may want to turn cartwheels at the idea, I don’t. Not yet.

You have to mourn the relationship you dreamed you’d have, a friend of mine said, and I think that’s what I’m doing. I think about ways to salvage Venice – the family holiday I always wanted. I keep thinking: well, what if he did this? And what if he agreed to do that? But the bottom line is that he won’t, and can’t. And so I can’t. And yet still I resist booking something that will take me out of town when we would have gone. I will, I think, but not yet. One step at a time.

* * *

Suddenly all my reliable meals seem to sicken me. I am hungry, don’t get me wrong, and I’m eating every last calorie I’m allowed plus more (my father freaked out when I told him I was “down 90 pounds” – apparently he thought I’d said “down to 90 pounds.”). I just can’t always think what to eat.

In the past week I’ve become obsessed with Innocent veg pots – three servings of vegetables (plus other yummy but I’m-too-lazy-to-make stuff like brown rice or couscous) in a 300-calorie pot much tastier than anything I’d be able to rustle up myself. I add some chicken or prawns (and OK, I admit it, in one case a tiny snack-size Waitrose pork pie) and figure I have just about cancelled out all the other crap I’ve been eating lately. Just about.

Monday, 11 May 2009

The Sound of Silence

Like the whirring of a particularly loud air conditioner that suddenly you miss when it stops, all is eerily silent. I haven’t heard from BN2 since Saturday or his mother since yesterday.

Still, I think about him often. Things I’ll never do with him again, things we spoke about doing that now won’t, places that remind me of him (luckily, we spent very little time in my neighborhood, so in fact things could be worse). It’s like someone died. I interviewed the top barista in the world today – he operates from an unmarked cart in the East End – and wanted to tell him about it. Then I remembered he was never all that interested in what I did anyway. In 16 months of dating I don’t think he ever read anything I wrote, though he insisted I watch all the videos he edited and sulked if I didn’t jump up and down with enthusiasm at the prospect.

Every hour, it seems, my feelings change. Sometimes drastically – I can tear up at a moment’s notice – sometimes subtly.

But in the space of a day – today – I’ve gone from being fairly sure I’ll finish writing that note to BN2 explaining more fully why I left to thinking that maybe, just maybe, I won’t. Why subject myself to something – his reaction – that will no doubt cause further damage to me?

I feel a bit stronger, and yet still I want to make this OK for him, even though I know I can’t – and shouldn’t.

Today I randomly met a (slightly crazy) woman who escaped what sounds like a similar situation, except her man was an alcoholic. She said she’s become obsessed with diagnosing him – she thinks he has borderline personality disorder – and wonders why I don’t feel the same. I thought about it, and told her the truth: That I was more concerned with myself and why I allowed myself to be treated so poorly and for so long, and that maybe I’d worry about labeling him when I’d sorted myself out.

* * *

The £6.99 charity shop Temperley dress fits. I’d planned to wear it to BN2’s birthday. A friend says he may take me as his plus one to the Cartier Polo, so maybe all is not lost.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Tired and Hungry

Warning: I am exhausted and low.

The exhaustion is from lack of sleep, cumulative alcohol consumption (I’ve drunk every night this week except one – very rare for me), and general weariness of dealing. Today I received another email from BN2’s mother. And I had to write to BN2 himself, since I’d said I’d be in touch.

I ended up not sending him anything remotely like the note I started composing yesterday – only a brief email saying I’d asked him to give me space and time and that I’d like to give him an explanation beyond the one I already gave, but that I felt pushed and not ready. I said I’d be in touch when I could, and asked him – again – to respect my need for space and time.

I sent that about 2:30 pm, and since then have been uneasy, waiting for some kind of upsetting response. I know it’s going to make him angry. What I felt like writing to him was that if he’d respected my space and time than maybe I’d have given him a response sooner (which I think is true), but saying so wouldn’t have been productive. I’m just trying to keep my side of the street clean, frankly. I haven’t been all that proud of some of my behavior in recent months, and it doesn’t make it right for me to claim he pushed me to it.

It hasn’t helped my mood that I’ve been hungry almost all day, a combination of being tired and up very early, plus some unwise food choices (such as a lunch that used up my calorie allotment but I knew wouldn’t fill me up – I chose it because I was in a rush). I also did something today I never do, which is to have an extra snack: my Victoria sponge. Hmmm, M&S’s is not worth it. I’m glad I know so I can stop eyeing it longingly.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Read This First!

Already editing the note below to be less accusatory...

Give Me My Money Back, and Don't Forget My Black T-Shirt

At this time last week I was at BN2’s, hurt, angry – and probably spoiling for a fight. We’d had a fight the night before, and nearly had one the previous day, and certainly had one the day before that, and as I left his place for Pilates Saturday morning I knew we’d probably have one that night, depending on whether I chose to go out that evening (I had an out of town friend visiting) or accede to his request (demand?) that she come over for dinner instead. (It was a weekend where he was looking after his daughter.)

All day I’d been anxious, not having heard from him despite my specific request that he check his messages about midafternoon (he was out with someone – yes, a woman -- in whose presence he rarely, if ever, responded to my texts).

How is it possible this was only a week ago?

It’s not easy extracting someone from your life. Everything reminds me of him. The shop windows are full of cute summer dresses I no longer need for our trip to Venice. I make my morning porridge with my measuring cup and remember how I’d make it using a teacup to measure at his place. I read the papers and find information I might have emailed him because I thought it might help him with his business. I wear my flat black knee high boots – the first knee high boots I ever bought – which I bought two years ago in Venice, notice for the trillionth time how wrecked they are, and think about how I’d hoped to replace them in Venice. Even my lip gloss reminds me of him. I bought it while getting my makeup done at Benefit for a ball we attended in May, and he liked it. I’m not very good about wearing makeup, but whenever I wore it – even as recently as a couple of weeks ago – he’d comment that he liked it. I’d laugh, glad that he still liked it.

Yesterday he sent 18 pink roses, with a note saying he was sorry for driving me away. This morning he left me a four-minute voicemail, and then an email asking me to respond letting him know I’d received the voicemail and the “time-sensitive delivery” (the flowers).

He knew better than to berate me for not responding to the list of questions he’d emailed me about why I left, although he came close to it, saying I’d had time to send the odd email and text. I felt like telling him I’d have had a lot more time to respond to it if he and his mother hadn’t called me and texted me so much.

I’ve drafted a note to send him – I hope to send it tomorrow. Yes, I am sending it partially under duress. But I’m also sending it for myself, because I want him to know how I felt. I don’t want to be nasty, or to air every last grievance. I don't expect him to apologize. (Actually, I expect he'll be angry no matter what I write, and pick it apart. But I don't have to respond to any further emails after this one.) I just want to be able to move on.

This is what I’ve written so far:

Dear BN2:

I find this note enormously difficult to write.

All week I have been starting messages to you, and not finishing them. I asked for time and space to think, and to grieve, and you didn’t respect my wishes. If you had – and if you had in the past – things might be different.

I may never be able to give you an explanation that satisfies you, but: I left because I was very unhappy and had been for a long time. I tried to fix things in every way I could but instead we seemed to fight more, and your criticism came almost daily. Since September, whenever I tried to tell you how I felt, you told me it wasn’t my turn to be the aggrieved party, and more recently, you mocked me and belittled me. Every day I felt hurt, anxious, sad and alone. Feeling physically afraid of you last Saturday night made me unable to stay any longer.

I want to spend my life with someone who loves me the way I am – and is proud and happy to be with me. You were not honest and open with [female "friend," and yes, the quotation marks are deliberate] – and with other women – about our relationship, and that both angered me and hurt me deeply. Your choice not to tell the whole truth to others was also one of the things that made me question what future we could have, and whether the things we each wanted and needed could ever be reconciled.

I'm not sure I dare ask for thoughts, but...?

Friday, 8 May 2009

Two Can Be as Bad as One

Slowly, I’m getting angry.

I asked for time to grieve. What I have received is calls, emails and texts from him – and his mum, who texted me for the third day in a row this morning. (I’ve responded to her previous messages, but I’m just not sure what to say at this point.)

One of the emails from him refers to whether I can think through the haze of drugs I’m taking. Drugs? I don’t even taken Nurofen (Advil for you American readers!).

When I’m not angry I’m often incredibly sad. As a very wise friend (and luckily, I seem to have more than my fair share) said: “You have to mourn the relationship you’d hoped you’d have as well as the one you were in.” I wanted the nice Oxford-educated English boyfriend – the “darling” in that English accent. I wanted the cozy weekends in Devon and the family trip to Venice. I wanted to feel like there was a reason why I came all the way to London, and why I struggled so hard to make my life here.

I wanted not to be alone. But instead, he made me lonelier than I’ve ever felt in my life.

I remember fighting with him in Bucharest over New Year, which is – I think -- when the really awful fighting began. Bucharest is when I began to fear him, and fear upsetting him – when my stomach would begin to knot with almost every interaction. After he screamed at me that my feelings didn’t matter, he then suggested I leave the room. Which I did. I walked the streets numbly and aimlessly, mentally running through a list of people to call in my head and realizing I didn’t feel I could reach out to any of them. Friends had wanted me to leave him, but I hadn’t, and at times I’d been less than honest about what was going on with us. Or I just hadn’t seen the friends because I was at his place, an hour and a half from the center of town, or we’d just had a fight and he’d demand to know how I could be going out when we needed “to rebuild,” as he always put it. Often I didn’t even want to go out – if we actually went to a party (which was so very rare), I feared a row about my behaviour (BN2 always accused me of either flirting or leaving him for too long). And if I went out on my own and was coming back to his place, woe betide me for turning up late. (On Tuesday, I went to a friend’s birthday dinner and nearly cartwheeled down the street, suddenly realizing that – wheeeeee! – I could stay and chat to whoever I wanted for as long as I wanted without anxiously checking my phone to try to determine from his text messages whether he’d be in a forgiving mood when I got back.)

I must start listing all the things I already don’t miss to look at in weak moments. Because – despite the above – there are plenty of them.

For now I just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, I know, and put some distance between us. Frankly, I feel a bit like the premature baby doctors try to keep in the womb for as long as possible – every hour makes the baby a little bit stronger and able to survive on its own.

* * *

I have been so grateful and actually even humbled by the support I’ve gotten from my friends – especially because I’ve been a pretty crappy friend myself the past few months.

One of the things that kept me in the relationship was fear of being totally alone, because I really was that cut off. But everyone has been amazing.

Trust. As I know I've said before, I need to learn some.

I wrote to a friend – one of only a couple with any inkling that things were very grim – about how I felt like a little sapling trying to withstand gale force winds.

She wrote back: “You may be a little sapling tree, but they are stronger than the hurricane because they can bend without breaking. Besides, you’re not alone in this. All your friends are here for you.”

* * *

Speaking of trust: Last night I had dinner with a friend who has shared in the weight loss saga.

We met up at Selfridges and she suggested looking for Victoria sponge cake, which she knew I’ve been wanting. I was hungry for dinner and panicking slightly at having to contemplate cakes for fear I would want them all, and that very minute.

There wasn’t any Vicky sponge – but there were some cupcakes. She bought us each a small one.

The sugar hit me with a jolt. Yes, I could have eaten 10 of them, but in fact, I only had access to one.

I was okay. (Yes, I eat foods like chocolate almost every day, but chocolate is not actually a trigger for me. I love cakes, and one of my favorites is vanilla or yellow cake with buttercream frosting. Actually, scratch that -- I like any kind of cake except if it's got alcohol in it -- I prefer to keep my alcohol and my pudding separate, but then again I always was the kid who didn't like any of the parts of my TV dinner touching any of the other parts!) Working out how I could sneak back to the shop later for more – something I almost certainly would have done years ago – didn’t even occur to me as something I could have done until this morning.

I wrote to my friend this morning that I was glad we’d had the cupcakes – because on my own, I’d have talked myself out of it, and maybe even binged on it. Not last night and maybe not this week, but the climate of denial would be there for a binge to take root.

I need to trust that one unplanned cupcake – and I think that’s what’s key for me, is that I freak out slightly with the unplanned – does not mean I will lose control.

I need to live a little. I’m looking forward to it.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

I'm Still Standing

I have seen photos taken during hurricanes where there is one thing standing against incredible odds, when everything around it has been reduced to rubble. Often it’s a tree; in one instance it was a child clinging to a tree, her hair looking like it was about to be ripped off her head from the wind.

I’m still standing. Barely, it seems.

Over the past 48 hours I’ve endured beseeching and probably manipulative texts and emails and phone calls (actually voicemails, because I haven’t picked up). His best friend called me to "check that I was okay." BN2 bcc’d me on an email to his parents with photos of his daughter taken Sunday. He was in my neighborhood last night and this morning (his best friend lives down the road). He dropped off a package containing my watch and a note saying he still had a handful of my things, “a reminder of happy times.”

This morning I received a couple of emails, followed by a text and then an extremely difficult phone call, all from his mother. I took notes during the call, trying to be a detached journalist, but I burst into tears anyway.

I told her I would think about what she’d said, but that I didn’t think I’d do anything today. Mercifully, I haven’t heard from him since midafternoon.

I stopped by an exhibition opening that included three portraits painted by BN2’s best friend S. I knew BN2 himself wouldn’t be there – it’s his night to look after his daughter.

I was fine until my awkward goodbye to S, when I burst into tears. I cried the whole way home.

I am so very very tired and sad. Also very tired of being sad. Has it really only been four days since I left?

* * *

At this time last week I was happily getting pissed on champagne in the House of Commons.

First I was on the terrace – the most fabulous view in London. I chatted about Jimmy Choos with Kate Adie. I listened to Cabinet ministers gossip, and then gossip drunkenly and cattily and definitely unadvisedly. (Can you imagine Congressmen getting drunk and gossiping? I can’t.)

I ended up in the Strangers’ Bar, an MP’s-only bar in the House of Commons, singing Burt Bacharach songs at the top of my lungs with a couple of Cabinet ministers.

I felt alive and happy, something I hadn’t felt for a while. I was glad I’d lied to BN2, blaming the Tube for my late arrival at the (work-related) party, and saying given the hour I’d finish, it would be best for me to go back to my own flat.
I knew he wouldn’t be happy, and that we’d probably fight about it, but right then, I didn’t care.

Later, a male journalist friend and I went on to a private members club in Soho and drank more. I ran upstairs and had a mini-binge: a huge oatmeal cookie and a chocolate bar, I think. In the club, I crammed down handfuls of prawn crackers and popcorn so quickly I was ashamed.

It was my second binge of the week, my first being a massive one on the Monday, when a female friend and I plotted how I should overthrow BN2. I didn’t think I could do it (and the plan we hatched is not, in fact, what I did – Sunday was not premeditated) and so I ate instead. Feeling trapped has always been a binge trigger for me.

I feared I would instantly balloon from 2 binges – me, the girl who could go from a size 12 to a 16 in about two days flat. But I didn’t. Instead, the scale this morning read 10 stone 2 (142 lbs). Earlier this week, the counselor I’m seeing told me I shouldn’t lose any more weight without discussing it with him.

I’ve been fairly relaxed on the restaurant meals and the drinks over the past few days. Maybe I’ll even live a little and have the Victoria sponge I’ve been craving…

At That Particular Time

I spent Saturday night awake downstairs on the sofa at BN2’s, my mobile phone in hand, ready to dial the police at every creak of floorboard. It was after midnight, we’d been arguing and for once I’d refused to stay up half the night apologizing and groveling and making promises. He told me, among other things, that I was on dangerous ground. He flicked on the light and yelled at me so loudly I shivered. My legs shook when I got out bed. I debated lying down on the floor of his 2-year-old daughter’s bedroom, because I didn’t think he’d hurt me there. Instead I went downstairs.

The next morning – as his daughter was watching Cinderella (oh irony, sweet irony – will my prince come someday?) – I left.

I didn’t yell. I didn’t scream. I didn’t tell him every nasty thing I’d ever thought, every resentment, every hurt. Several times over the week I'd tried to tell him how I was feeling, and he'd mocked me – mimicking my voice and looking at me with contempt. How horribly familiar I am with that look! In the weeks and months before that whenever I dared to tell him anything negative about how I was feeling, he’d told me alternately that my feelings didn’t matter (I remember him thundering this at me in Bucharest: "Your feelings don't matter!"), that he was the aggrieved party, and that I was selfish and self-obsessed and inconsiderate for not being able to put my own feelings aside.

Someday I’ll write the whole story, but the important part is this: I packed as much of my stuff as I could while he was giving his daughter breakfast. I’d hoped to avoid leaving in front of her, but I couldn’t stay even one more hour, let alone the one more day it would take until she went back to her mother.

They lay on his bed watching Cinderella, she dressed in her little blue Cinderella costume. I stood looking out the window, my back to the bed, crying. Finally I turned around and took one more look around the room I'd spent so much time in; a room I'll probably never see again. The bedside clock read 9:14 am, and I steeled myself to just do it before I lost either my nerve or my opportunity.

“I lay awake all night thinking about an action plan,” I told him. That was what he always demanded of me: an action plan for how I was going to prevent whatever I’d done from happening in the future. And it was always what I had done – all my fault.

He barely looked at me. “That was a waste – we could have been talking,” he said. He was angry that I’d refused to stay up arguing. In the past whenever I’d tried to refuse he’d steamrollered me, but I’d stood my ground the night before, just repeating with a calm I didn't know I had: "I'm sorry, I can't answer that right now." He’d been furious, referring to it as my “assertive crap.”

His eyes were half closed and he flicked them open. “I presume this is your way of saying you’re ready to talk?” he said.

His daughter spied my backpack and chirped, the way she did when I left for work: “Beth is leaving.”

I took a deep breath. “No,” I said quietly. “There’s nothing to talk about. Goodbye.” I walked out the door and toward the stairs.

He got out of bed and followed me, saying something about how he deserved an explanation and what kind of sh*t was this.

“I was physically afraid of you last night,” I told him, heading down the stairs.

“That’s a convenient excuse,” he snapped. Which is exactly what he’d said Friday when I’d tried to tell him my resentment and anger at his constant criticism of me was making me not fancy him. (We fought constantly about sex and how often he wanted it and how high he prioritized it, and on one night he’d even catalogued my physical defects that he felt interfered. If I’m making it sound cold and clinical, it’s because it’s the only way I can write about it just now.)

“I tried to tell you how I felt earlier this week and you mocked me and belittled me,” I said.

“I’m not having a conversation with the back of your head,” he said loudly. Maybe he yelled – I’m not sure. I continued on down the stairs, not turning around.

“Can you tell me in one succinct sentence why it is that you’re leaving?” he said (yelled?)

Again I breathed deep. I didn’t turn around.

“I’m unhappy,” I said calmly. “In fact, I’m miserable. I’m leaving your keys here.” I hung them on the hook, picked up my backpack and handbag, and walked out the door.

To be continued