He texted me a few hours later from the car to say he’d done it. He’d left his wife. I couldn’t quite believe it. He’d been talking about wanting to do it for so long now, it felt slightly surreal. It was only then that I found out 2 of his step children still lived with them. I hadn’t known that, always assuming they had moved out. I felt even worse, knowing they had been a family in every sense and not for the first time, I wondered just how he’d managed to spend so much time talking to me without anyone noticing. He’d parked his car down the road from what had been his home and I urged him to go to his friend’s house where he’d be staying for now.
It was late by the time he called me that night and I went to make coffee so I could stay up. When he found out, he seemed oddly grateful, repeatedly telling me he couldn’t believe I’d go to the trouble for him. I hadn’t thought anything of it, but he seemed so surprised, I felt it was down to one of two things. Either he hadn’t had anyone do the little things for him that showed they cared, or he’d never done them for anyone himself. It felt bad even thinking it and I pushed the thought out of my mind, concentrating on asking him what had happened. It came as no surprise that it hadn’t gone well. His wife had taken it badly. She’d wanted to know why and he’d told her they’d both changed and he didn’t feel the same anymore. She’d gotten upset and angry and things had got heated with his stepson, who’d had to be held back to prevent them coming to blows. He’d left, having agreed to pick up his things at the weekend and sat in his car to compose himself before calling me. I knew how difficult he was finding it and tried to be there for him in any way I could. We spoke long into the night and he thanked me again for being there.
The next few days were tough for him, having to adjust to a new life, a new place and telling people at work what had happened. Now he didn’t have to sneak around, he started calling me every night, speaking long into the night and we’d be texting constantly from the minute we finished work. I’m not sure how we functioned at work during this time, averaging 5 hours sleep a night and relying on energy drinks and coffee to get us through. We got into a routine of sharing everything. I doubt people who lived together spent as much time talking as we did back then. His phone contract allowed him thousands of free minutes and I got a PAYG sim card from the same phone company I put into an old handset so we could talk for hours. I didn’t think to question why he had such a contract when he’d lived with his wife and his friend lived 5 minutes away. He’d often tell me he wanted me to know everything about him, no secrets, opening up about his family and past relationships. But mostly, he spoke about how worried he was about how the split would affect him financially. He couldn’t live in his friend’s spare room forever and I could tell he was struggling to come to terms with the reality of his situation.
It was during one of these late night conversations that I finally told him I loved him. He’d been half asleep at the time and it woke him up, but not before he’d started spouting gibberish and I got the giggles so hard, I couldn’t talk. The following day he told me our conversation the night before had been the best moment of his life which inevitably led to me reminding about his sleep talking and this time we both got the giggles. We were so happy, even little things like that felt momentous. Intimate.
One thing he didn’t ever have second thoughts about, was his decision to leave. Despite everything, he was happy with his decision. It worried me slightly that ever since the day he’d left, there didn’t seem to be any concern for his wife. It was all about him. I found this hard to understand. They’d been together for 8 years. Her children had grown up with him. They’d had pets, a home. He didn’t seem to miss any of that. That part of his life was over and it scared me how clinical he was about it.
At the weekend, he went to pick up his things and they closed their joint accounts. He sounded relived that it was over. Later, he got a text from his sister to check his Facebook. His wife had changed her relationship status and people had started to comment on it. Understandably, the comments about him were less than favourable and he got more and more upset throughout the day, reading what people he considered friends, were saying about him. It was understandable. Most of their friends had been hers to begin with and of course her family would be on her side, not to mention the fact that it wasn’t her decision, so would naturally get the sympathy. To her credit, she didn’t say a bad word about him. I’m not sure I could’ve been that dignified. Fed up of being talked about, he posted a status to say he’d done what he thought was right and hadn’t meant to hurt anyone. Her family didn’t respond kindly to this and he got quite angry, saying he’d expected better from them. I tried to explain that it was only natural, but I knew he wasn’t listening.
The next day, he’d cheered up considerably, telling me that people’s ‘unreasonable behaviour’ was helping him to move on and put that part of his life behind him. One of the things he found unreasonable was his wife’s decision to unfriend him and his best friend. He thought it was unfair on his friend. I wanted to tell him none of this was fair, least of all to her, but he’d been so worked up, I didn’t want to make things worse. Later, on the phone, he told me he’d had a Facebook clear out and could now even add me if he wanted to. I said that would be fine (his profile was set to invisible so nobody could send him a friend request) and the conversation moved onto other things. He’d started posting the odd vague romantic message on twitter, not to me, in general, but we knew they were aimed at me, and one day someone asked him if the unthinkable had happened and it was love? He replied “I don’t do feelings.” It hurt to see that. He must have known I would, but I genuinely don’t think he’d considered that. I told him to stop posting leading messages if he didn’t want to talk about his feelings and he apologised and said he had no problems admitting to them on twitter. I knew if that was really the case, he would have said something by now or at least not denied it when asked outright. This was the second time I’d felt he was being unnecessarily secretive. After all, nobody on twitter knew him personally or that he was married, so it couldn’t be that. I didn’t want to push him into saying anything for my sake. It had to be because he wanted to. Especially after what had happened when I had tweeted about his holiday. It wasn’t that I wanted him to announce our relationship online, but sometimes it felt as though he didn’t even want people to think we were friends. When he did his Follow Fridays, he always tagged me in last with a generic tweet, but would be complimentary about other girls. On a bad day, it would hurt a bit, but I didn’t think it was a big deal and aside from that one time, I didn’t bring it up again. He’d always told me he didn’t DM anyone else or talk to anyone else outside of twitter, never had before me, and I believed him. A few days after our conversation however, I still hadn’t gotten a friend request from him on Facebook. Assuming he’d been busy, I soon forgot about it. Then one day, sounding far more cheerful than of late, he told me he’d spoken to someone from his work call centre after a long time and she’d recognised his voice. Not thinking anything of it, the conversation moved along. His wife was still texting and calling him most days, wanting answers, not convinced he’d told her everything. I’d told him to be honest with her and he’d said he’d been as honest as he could. Then one day, he told me she was suspicious he was seeing someone, but was convinced it was the girl from the call centre at his work. I asked him how his wife knew about her and he told me he’d added her on Facebook. This struck me as a little odd, adding someone he barely knew, but not me. The next day, he called me and said “I’ve been doing some research, is this your work address?” He knew the area I worked in and the organisation I worked for and had narrowed it down to one address. I laughed and replied “You won’t add me on Facebook, but you will stalk me where I work?” He didn’t reply to the Facebook comment and carried on talking about my workplace. I couldn’t help it, I went a little quiet. Something felt wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I didn’t want to seem paranoid, so I didn’t say anything. After all, he’d changed his twitter persona completely since we’d gotten closer. He no longer flirted with anyone and that was entirely down to him. I’d never minded him doing it, because he’d not hidden it from me and had told him as much, but he’d insisted he didn’t want to anymore, that it wasn’t the real him and that if I was to do that, he’d hate it. It was agreed that our ways of flirting were very different. He was overtly sexual, I was more tongue in cheek, so he didn’t mind how I was on twitter. He knew who I spoke to, who my friends were and what kind of relationship we shared. I didn’t expect him to do the same, but he told me again and again that he had very few friends and he didn’t talk to anyone apart from me. I joked once that he probably did all the flirting on his secret twitter account. He told me if he thought even for a second that I was being serious, he’d reassure me, but I should know by now he never wanted to hide anything from me. I believed him completely.
The subject of us meeting up had come up again and I could tell he really wanted to do it before his operation, which was scheduled for the following Friday. We arranged to meet for a drink at a pub near Leicester Square on the Wednesday evening after work. I always get nervous when I meet new people and I’d only done it a couple of times with people from twitter and only ever with girls or gay friends, opting to stick to tweeting and nothing more with single straight men. I’d never even joined a dating site, finding the idea of meeting a stranger unromantic. But with him, it was a nervous excitement. We knew each other inside out, we’d been inseparable for months, constantly talking in one way or another. It just felt like a natural extension of that. I’d also made it clear that I didn’t want us to meet as a ‘couple’ but just to see how it goes, so there was no pressure to be a certain way or any expectations about what would happen. We both agreed that whatever else happened, we would always be the best of friends and that was enough for me. On the weekend before we were due to meet up, I decided I should prepare him for reality. I’d always told him not to expect me to look like I did in my pictures and had sent him pictures without filters and makeup, but to make sure, I sent him some really unflattering pictures and also ones from my childhood and past. I wanted to share everything with him and he did the same. As he was looking through my photos, he suddenly said he had to go for a walk. When I asked him why, he said “I don’t know what to do with myself. I feel like I’m going to pop. I didn’t know it was possible to ever feel like this. It’s amazing.” We carried on exchanging pictures and talking for the rest of the weekend. I felt better about meeting him. Things couldn’t change that drastically in the space of a few days.
His train was delayed and I decided to calm my nerves with some alcohol. Finally, he arrived at the bar and turned around to meet my gaze. I hopped off the bar stool (somewhat clumsily, it has to be said, but I’d already warned him about that) and we gave each other a big hug before he sat down next to me. Using a novel approach to breaking the ice, he handed me a giant bar of galaxy wrapped entirely in packing tape. He’d bought them for me a few days earlier, knowing I didn’t like posh chocolates and decided he’d make me work for them. Nothing comes between me and my chocolate, so I came up with the ingenious plan to hack away at the tape with my keys while people around us gave us funny looks. Having finally unwrapped it and finished our drinks, we decided to move on to somewhere else as it was noisy in the pub and our table was crowded. It was a cool but clear day outside and as we started walking, he linked his arm through mine. I looked up at him and we smiled at each other, completely content in each other’s company. We walked around the streets until he spotted another pub and we went in and sat down in a quiet booth. He jokingly asked why I’d taken my hand back and reached over to hold it, marvelling at how tiny it looked in his. He got his phone out to show me something and I saw he had my picture set as the wallpaper. We talked a little more about silly little things and at one point, he fished the lime out of his gin and bit into it for a dare. Not wanting the rest of his drink to go to waste, I downed it in one while he looked at me like I was mad because his fingers had been in there. I decided I’d probably had enough to drink and we went for a walk instead. It was a lovely evening and we walked hand in hand through Regent Street and Piccadilly, eventually sitting down on a bench in Trafalgar Square to watch the fountain.
It was there he shyly told me he wanted to kiss me, but didn’t want to scare me off, before whispering in my ear that he loved me. He’s many things, shy isn’t one of them. I found it incredibly endearing and we shared the first of many kisses. After sitting there for a little while, just taking it all in, I nagged him into getting something to eat before we went for a walk by the Thames.
It was a beautiful end to the perfect evening and as I walked him back to the station, he seemed reluctant to leave. With one last kiss, he left and I made my way back home. He texted to tell me he’d had a great time and he wouldn’t be home until 2am, so I should go to bed. I insisted on staying up until he got home. When he did, he asked if I’d mind if he called me for our nightly chat. I was surprised he wasn’t too tired, but agreed and he told me again how perfect it had been. How things were exactly the same in person as they had been before and I agreed. I told him he looked thinner in person, he told me I looked shorter and we laughed. The truth is, it was obvious he’d lost a lot of weight from the stress.
He then asked me what this made us and if he could finally call me his girlfriend. I was hesitant, telling him I knew exactly how I felt about him, but a few things were still bothering me. He said he wouldn’t put any pressure on me and I could take as long as I needed to make my mind up. I felt bad saying it, but I know what I’m like. I tend to over think things into bigger issues and I didn’t want to say everything was fine, only to realise those things bothered me more than I’d care to admit.
Since he’d left his wife, he’d been more and more intense. Talking about the future, constantly telling me he’d never felt like this before, how he would never allow anything to change, how he was willing to do anything to ensure we were always together. It was sweet and a little overwhelming, but I would always try not to get carried away. Always saying actions were more important, words were easy. That we should just see how it goes. Never taking anything for granted, never allowing myself to think that far ahead, trying to just live in the moment. But he kept on, always making promises, telling me he’d show me, never lie, never hurt me. It was hard not to believe him because I trusted him implicitly.
The next day, he told me again that he wanted us to be together. I reiterated what I’d said the day before. He asked if I wanted to talk about the things that were bothering me. I didn’t because of my fear that telling him would make him change his behaviour and act how I wanted him to act. So far, everything he had said and done had been of his own accord. That’s why it meant so much. I didn’t want that to change. On the other hand, I felt I owed him an explanation. Unwilling to pour my heart out, but also wanting to hear his reasons why, I told him I was curious why not only had he not added me on Facebook after bringing it up, and had also ignored me when I’d later brought it up, but had added a stranger from work. He went very quiet and a feeling of dread started creeping up inside me. To this day, I can’t say why that was, but at that moment, I knew something was very wrong. He asked if I wanted to talk on the phone and I said no, I found texting easier when talking about these things. He called me anyway and immediately said there was nothing going on between him and this girl. I hadn’t thought there was, but him saying that made me uneasy. I explained I just wanted to know why he’d changed his mind and he said he hadn’t, he’d just not added me. I asked a few more times, but he offered no explanation and kept talking about the girl at work I didn’t care about. I got frustrated and told him I’d text him instead, not wanting to argue about it.
Back on WhatsApp, he asked if he could ask me a question? I said yes, but he went quiet again. Eventually, he said he’d sent me a friend request on facebook. I deleted it. My first thought was he’d gone quiet because he was deleting posts. I didn’t need to check up on him. It hadn’t been about that and I felt insulted. I’d been curious why he’d brought it up, insisted he wanted no secrets between us, then not done it and I’d been given no explanation. Coupled with his secrecy on twitter, it had started to feel like he didn’t want to acknowledge me in front of anyone, even as a friend. That hurt after months of accepting I had to stay hidden because of his marriage. We weren’t getting anywhere, so I took a breather for a bit before our nightly chat. He asked me if I wanted to end things with him. He’d ask me that every time we had an argument and I’d always say no. Again I explained that though it bothered me, it wasn’t the end of the world but this was why I chose to keep my issues to myself. I didn’t want him to do things because of what I said. He apologised, explained he’d panicked when he’d sent the friend request and promised he wouldn’t do it again. Bringing up just one of my issues had gone so badly, that I decided not to talk about the rest. (I did later tell him about them, and it went just just as badly as this time. I can’t go into details here because they involve a third party.)
The next day, I woke up feeling really guilty. I felt I’d overreacted the night before, but the feeling of dread wouldn’t go away. During the course of the morning, I conceded that we were a couple in all but name and it was silly not to accept that. Minutes after I said that, we were having our usual back and forth on twitter, trading insults and jokes when he said something flirty and I replied “You should be so lucky.” He responded with “I am. So lucky. x” Something he would normally never say to me in public. I knew he was proving a point after what had happened last night and asked him privately, to stop. He conceded he had been, even though he meant it, and deleted the tweet. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but I knew something had changed the day before. I was starting to doubt him for the first time and he was doing things because he thought I wanted him to. I knew that if he now told people about us, I’d always think he was doing it under duress. I was watching my friends on Facebook, their boyfriends proudly tagging them in pictures and statuses. Not shouting about their love or rubbing it in our faces, but showing in their own subtle way that they were proud for everyone to know about them. I knew that couldn’t be us. I’d doubt his motives because he’d chosen to befriend a stranger first, gone out of his way to not give away even our friendship on twitter, where he claimed not to care about anyone personally, but enough to keep me hidden away. For the first time, I didn’t trust him 100% and not quite knowing why, I broke down in tears, having to rush to the work toilets to stop anyone from noticing. This is easier said than done when you share office space with one of your closest friends. I texted him to say “It’s not going to work, is it?” He asked if he could call me and I had to say no because by this point, I was sobbing uncontrollably and in no fit state to talk. My colleague had noticed something was wrong and was standing outside, knocking on the door, asking me to come out. I was embarrassed to have gotten myself into such a state, especially at work, over something seemingly trivial. But it wasn’t trivial to me because for the first time in years, I’d put my trust in someone, something I’d long given up on doing and despite all his assurances, there had been something in his demeanour the night before that had changed. I didn’t know what it was, I just knew how I felt.
I spent most of the afternoon locked away until my colleague finally walked in and took me back to the office, made me some tea and hugged me while I sobbed my heart out. From never having seen me showing any emotion in the year he’d been there, he’d now seen me crying twice in the space of a few weeks.
My pride was hurt almost as much as my heart, which wasn’t the most calming of thoughts. I’d got myself into such a state, I didn’t know how I was going to get home. In the end, my colleague Paul, found a quiet pub and took me there, probably to help me numb the pain with a drink or two. I was still getting texts the entire time and I told him truthfully that I could barely talk and I’d speak to him the next day. He insisted he wanted to come and see me, but I refused. I didn’t want him to see me like this. I was embarrassed enough as it was. He wouldn’t take no for an answer and in the end, I told him if he wanted, I’d see him the next day. Much later, he texted, telling me he’d gone out for a drink as well. He sounded drunk and we said good night, but not before he made me promise that we’d always be best friends. It was the first time in weeks that we hadn’t spoken on the phone before bed and I already missed him.
The next morning, he seemed to have cheered up a little, I still felt completely broken. He asked if maybe the weather had something to do with my being upset (I suffer from SAD and the days had started to get shorter) and I told him no. I tried to explain again that it was about trust, but he kept starting every sentence with, “I don’t want to go around in circles but..” or “Anyone else would’ve walked away by now but..” and I felt like I was being chastised for bringing it up again. What I wanted to say was no. Anyone else wouldn’t have walked away by now. Not someone who had promised to be there through thick and thin. Not someone who kept talking about the future. Not someone who claimed to have fallen in love for the first time. Not someone who had promised me, despite me begging him not to say it if he didn’t mean it, that he’d never walk away. This was a huge turnaround from the guy who used to always try to understand why I was upset, even over little things. Where once he’d almost seemed as upset at the idea of hurting me as I was, he didn’t seem to care anymore. The first time he’d upset me enough to make me cry, he’d been in bits. We were no longer on the same side. He’d gone from being the perfect boyfriend to a complete stranger to me.
I should explain that this relationship, whatever it was, was the only time I’ve ever felt completely understood by someone. I’ve had issues with family, I’ve broken ties with friends because they couldn’t understand that, and as a result, I don’t often get close to people. I expect to be let down so it can’t come as a surprise, but this was the only time I believed, REALLY believed that wouldn’t happen. That whatever happened, we’d always be close, even if we weren’t a couple, because and he said this too, we were completely on the same wavelength and had never felt that bond with anyone before. I trusted him with my life. I’d been in a relationship before where I had loved my partner beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. Almost to the point where I felt I couldn’t survive without him and I felt that way for years after we broke up. It was a stormy relationship almost from the start because I’d never trusted him, but I’d been too in love to walk away for a long time. So I’d been stuck in a cycle of not being able to live happily with him or without him. This relationship wasn’t like that. There hadn’t been that electricity every time we kissed or held hands, I didn’t feel like I couldn’t live without him. It had felt grown up. Mutual. Equal. We had had enormous respect for each other. Neither of us had tried to score points during arguments. We genuinely cared if the other was hurting and felt terrible if we had caused it. Above all, it had felt like we were completely on each other’s side. We’d be thinking the same thing at the same time, often not even needing to say anything to convey our thoughts. We wanted the same things in life. There were never any games. He’d told me he hated that, that people leaving things to fate and believing in destiny made him angry, because we were in charge of our own lives. Something I strongly believed in. We fit together so well, it never even occurred to me that it wouldn’t always be like that. It was different now. He sounded different. There were subtle changes and I noticed them all. It’s not possible to put into words quite how much that hurt.
He sent a few more texts saying he wouldn’t be fighting so hard if he didn’t want to sort things out, but it felt half hearted. He didn’t even try calling me, opting instead to go shopping to buy some clothes for work. I’d also noticed he’d started talking about us in the past tense. He’d been tweeting too. Saying how he’d gained and lost everything in one week, until a friend asked him if there was anything he could do to sort things out. He replied “No, I tried but it’s too late,” casually throwing in smiley faces and eventually, tweeting about mundane things and cracking jokes. I had no doubt this very public tweeting, something he’d refused to do while we’d been together, had probably yielded some DMs from concerned friends asking what was wrong. I tried not to think about that. In my fragile state, reading his messages, seeing how normal they were while I felt utterly devastated, I sent him a message telling him we needed a few days apart. For the first time, he agreed immediately. He carried on tweeting while I tortured myself reading them, not wanting to, but not being able to keep away. I kept checking if he’d been on WhatsApp as well, and he was on and off all day, but he didn’t message me. Paul called to see how I was. It was obvious I was struggling and he drove straight over, not taking no for an answer and we went to a nearby pub. I was terrible company and he was incredibly patient with me, not pushing me to talk about it. I got home and for the first time in months, I went to bed without having spoken to him all day.
I couldn’t sleep all night, replaying the events of the last few days over and over in my head, repeatedly checking WhatsApp and finally, in the early hours, I sent him a message saying I wasn’t coping with all the changes. It hurt that for the first time, he’d left me alone when I was upset, talking about fighting repeatedly, but not even calling me after our first big row and although I knew there was no going back, I hadn’t expected him to care so little. I said I was going to block him on WhatsApp and unfollow him on twitter for a few days, just to stop torturing myself constantly by checking his status and tweets. It was the longest weekend of my life. I’ve never felt so lonely. I cried so much, my eyes almost swelled shut and I couldn’t face anyone. Having spoken to him constantly for months, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I couldn’t talk to anyone because I knew they wouldn’t understand, except maybe Paul, but given our history, I felt it wouldn’t be appropriate. He’d guessed there was a man involved, it had been obvious from all the texting and my rushing out every lunchtime, but I wasn’t ready to talk about it yet. It sounded stupid, even to me. It still does. I don’t think anyone apart from us will ever quite understand what it was like.
Just as I was starting to accept that was it, he called me late on Sunday night. I was surprised and felt incredibly emotional at hearing his voice again. I used to tell him almost daily how much I loved his voice. He was one of only a handful of people who called me by my real name, even insisting on learning how to say it the proper Indian way and started every phone call by saying it. It had only been 2 days but it had felt like a part of me was missing. It took every bit of strength I had not to break down in tears the minute he said my name. We talked all night. Him asking if there was anything we could do to sort things out. Me caught between wanting him to stay and not being able to forgive him for leaving me. I explained how abandoned I’d felt, the single worst thing he could have done, and he insisted he hadn’t wanted to, but had felt it was what I wanted. He’d never listened when I’d said it before and I couldn’t look past that. He’d known it was the most important thing to me. I’d spent the whole weekend not knowing if I’d ever speak to him again. It had brought back memories of my other relationship and how I’d spent nearly 3 years with someone who would shut down and ignore me after every argument so I would spend days not knowing where I stood or what was going on. I’d told him this before and he insisted this was different, he’d done it for me. I could see sunlight behind my curtains and told him to get an hour or so of sleep before work.
I’m not quite sure how I got through work that day with no sleep and my mind working overtime. I finally got home and climbed straight into bed to wallow, when he texted to say he was coming over. I didn’t think it was a good idea. More than anything, I didn’t want to cry in front of him and show how weak I felt. I’m good at putting up a front of being tough and generally, I’m not someone who shows emotion. I’d had a bad few days, but that was the exception rather than the rule. I hurriedly put some makeup on, a mask more than for vanity purposes, and got changed. He was there within an hour and I lifted my chin up, pulled my shoulders back, took a deep breath and walked out.