Continuing on from Being Friends, there was actually one piece of information that I forgot to include near the end of that story. I mentioned that I’d eaten quorn sausages the night before. What I forgot to add was that, the next morning, my stomach was roaring inside! I wasn’t in any great pain (a little discomfort) and I’ve definitely felt worse in the past but, I decided to try and hold it in for those final hours as I feared it was one of those that was ‘going to make a mess’ and, probably leave a bad smell in her bathroom… It felt like a large cloud of wind, if I’m honest! Generally speaking though, I have concerns over using anyone’s toilet that wasn’t my own.
Bear with me because, there is relevance to this…
When I first met ‘Jan’, I was still very nervous around her. Even in times where I felt comfortable with her, there were awkward silences. In order to try to fill these (without knowing what to say), I would try to make light of the situation or discussion and some kind of joke (as my dad has always done – he seems to have a ‘way’ with women although, thinking about it now, he’s equally as good at p***ing people off…). Jan’s stomach often made noises in the time that I’d known her. Whether she was hungry or full; she cited her medication as the cause and I would gently humour it to try and ease her embarrassment; kindly asking her to be quiet, to keep the noise down or just to go ‘ssshhhhh‘ while the TV was on. She would genuinely laugh with me each time so, I saw no reason to stop. I thought she liked it. Valentine’s Day rolled around and I’d agreed to drive up to Gloucester and spend the evening up there with her. I finished work without leaving over time, took a warm shower without the heating being (it was February, remember!) and soon got myself ready, aiming to arrive in time for 19.30. In fact, I got there just after 19.00 and was pleased to find a rare parking space right outside. I struggled up the steps with my arms full – one bag for work, another containing my laptop and a third bag with my work clothes for the morning. My plan was to stay with her overnight, get up at 5am, have breakfast and drive back down the M5 for one hour just in time to start work at 7am.
Mentioning the M5 there reminds me that, as I was heading north from Bristol that night, my small van began to make strange noises as I neared junction 12 and my exit from the motorway. These sounds continued as I navigated my way through Gloucester, at their worst when I was making a hard turn. I suspect this is a wheel bearing issue but, it’s something that I still haven’t sorted to this day and it came up again only recently (heading south down the M5), for the first time in over seven-months.
So, I climbed the steps, dropped my bags and knocked on the door. I noticed the lights were off so, fearing she might be asleep and unable to hear me, I created the kind of sound that probably disturbed the neighbours across the road! She greeted me with a “That was loud!“, rather than a ‘hello’. It even made me jump a bit, I must admit; I didn’t meant to swing the knocker quite so hard! Jan was telling me how tired she was (often complaining of being able to sleep consistently) and that she had some doubts about whether or not I should’ve come all the way to see her on the night, as much as she was pleased to see me. We exchanged cards and I gave her a gift, which happened to be a Nintendo Wii remote – I know, spending £20 (even on eBay) was probably a bit much but, I knew how much she missed playing the Wii with her daughter, as they only had the one remote and, I knew this would make her happy. She did give me a mug, after much worrying and stressing over what to get me. I appreciated it at the time but, right now, I can’t even remember what it looked like. She was very concerned about having had little food in the flat for the last week or so. Her anxiety and fears had prevented her from going out and keeping the fridge stocked up so, earlier that day, she texted me and I agreed to go shopping with her. Not your typical idea of a ‘romantic evening’ on Valentine’s Day but, we headed for the enormous Sainsbury’s store at about 20.00. It’s so big and so recent that, if you look for it on Google Street View then, it’s not even been built yet! 🙂
As we left the flat, she was questioning whether we should get a taxi. I found this very strange, knowing that it was only a twenty-minute walk away and that we wouldn’t be carrying more than two bags each at most (she lives alone). I offered to drive but, she refused the invitation. We made it there on foot, in the cold and black of night, after passing a few restaurants filled with loving couples. She had to stop once along the way to light a cigarette and, while we were holding hands, she asked me why I kept trying to lift her arm up (she’s 8in shorter than me so, I’d assume that was it).
Not long after entering Sainsbury’s we realised we weren’t the only couple spending this romantic evening walking the chilled aisles, would you believe! Jan headed for the kids’ clothes section first, insisting that her daughter needed a new wardrobe. “Look for ages six to eight“, she said, without glancing even once at the price tags. This was the my first experience of a form of ‘compulsive spending’ that is attributed to bipolar sufferers. I was already concerned by the value of the items in her trolley and, even more surprised when we only picked up a pack of bacon and some kind of mud slide pie (which was nice) from the food aisles… On reaching the checkout, I felt much like a bodyguard or something, stood to one side as she got on with things. As it turned out, she spent more than £100 on clothes alone that night! “F***ing hell, ‘Jan’, that’s bad!“, she said outloud to herself, before paying up and we both headed for the exit.
She was already a little stressed at this point and, as we passed through the doors, the alarm went off and the friendly security guard calmly walked over to investigate. You can imagine how embarrassed and anxious she felt at this point. She’d done nothing wrong though; there was a problem with the tags on some of the clothes and the security officer could see from the receipt that she’d genuinely payed for the goods. As we headed off, she wouldn’t let it go and became quite adamant that we should’ve booked a taxi.
We made our way back on to the main Bristol Road and, by this time, I could tell her mood was different, even without words. She would only question why we couldn’t have booked a taxi and, as we passed one building, she stopped and almost broke down in tears. I think this building had some significance to the court case she’d twice lost in fighting for the rights to care for her own daughter. I didn’t realise at first but, I now believe that she was suffering from a panic attack. She was shaking, I didn’t know what to do. I tried to put my arm around her; to comfort her and tell her everything was alright but, she rejected it, “Get off!“. After a few minutes, we got moving again but, the next ten-minutes were in silence, until we came within sight of her flat and she hooked her left arm around my right.
It was then time to sit down, watch a DVD and enjoy some of the mud pie she’d bought. I think we watched Crash first of all, which is one of my favourites from a small selection I took with me that night. I was hoping to be able to watch The Green Mile with her but, it’s a three-hour film and it was already beyond 21.00 at this point. She was tired and considering heading off to bed. At one point, she offered to change in to a dress in hope of gaining my opinion but then, just as suddenly, she changed her mind again. She seemed more relaxed than she had been while we were out but still, I could sense that something was bothering her. Instead staying up on my own to watch the rest of the film, I was far behind in following her to bed, in case she wanted to talk about anything.
We started off well, agreeing on how nice it was to be together on this occasion. But soon, the conversation turned in to an inquisition. She bought up comments I had made earlier, during the film, regarding her daughter. She couldn’t see how I could be ‘afraid’ of meeting her daughter. We’d talked about going down to Dawlish in Devon for a long weekend and I even suggested that her daughter was also welcome to join. I may have the series of events in a confused order here but, some time after, she started crying and ran out of the room. After some time alone in the bathroom, she was sat in her living room smoking. She’d never previously smoked indoors in my company and always made an effort to step outside.
Eventually, she came back to bed, sobbing that about how she wasn’t over her ex. At one point, she accused me of dismissing her daughter and told me how she needed someone who could accept her that they come as a package. God, we were even talking about me moving up to Gloucester one day and how I’d start by looking for a one-bedroom flat nearby… A simple mistake to make but, she hung on to it. She’d insisted we should just be friends and, at the moment, well, I can’t describe how awkward I felt lying next to her. It was as if the room had expanded, the duvet was gone and I was exposed. I did consider trying to make a polite getaway (it was past 23.00). Something felt odd but, I had never anticipated what was going to happen next…
After another cry and cigarette, she came back to bed, telling me how little she thought of herself and how she expected she would spend the rest of her life alone. At that point, her stomach let out a roar and, feeling as uncomfortable as I was, I tried to make light of it… “You’ll always have your stomach.” but, the words came out so wrong! I don’t know why; that wasn’t what I wanted to say! “You can get out now!“, came the reply. Suddenly, she had found strength within her voice and, she was angry. I questioned her seriousness, only to here “Yeah! Get the f**k out of my flat!“, and she ran for the bathroom again, “You’re a nasty b*****d!!“.
I sat up in the bed, feeling half-asleep, trying to take in everything that had happened in that short burst, before she returned, “It isn’t funny! You know, some of those things you said really hurt!!“. She continued, telling me to get out, as I staggered in the darkness trying to find my clothes; feeling dazed and as though I was experiencing some vivid hallucination or dream. Except, I couldn’t wake up. It was real. She hounded my every move (literally, giving me no more than six inches), without saying a word, as I gathered my DVDs and all three of my bags, put my shoes on, found my glasses and made my way to the door. As I turned around, she was looking down at the floor. Something was going through her mind but, she couldn’t say it; she couldn’t even look at me. I told her I was sorry but, I don’t think she even heard me.
That was the last time I saw January.
At 23.30, I was back in my van, leaving Gloucester and heading back down the M5 towards Bristol. I still can’t describe how I felt the moment I left her flat. My head was flooded with thoughts; everything I’d just experienced was running continuously in a vivid loop of despair. I cried for most of the drive home and seriously considered running my van in to the central reservation. Nothing could stop these memories from playing, even after I arrived home at 12.30am. I sent my mum a text, “Well, I’m home early…“, not knowing what else to do. She did reply, to my surprise but, it wasn’t what I needed. I stayed up to around 2am, just sat in my living room. I did write some things but, I think I’ve since destroyed them. I was adamant I wasn’t going to bother with work that day but still, I dragged myself out of bed four hours later and made it in. For the next few days though, I was angry, tired, frustrated; throwing things around, showing little appreciation for the work I had to do (thankfully though, my job is practical).
We did speak on the phone the next day, even though she was adamant (through texting) that there was not much to talk about. She did apologise for her behaviour and also, told me that she never should’ve kicked me out. When I tried to explain that her sudden change and reaction scared me, she became very defensive, saying, “Don’t you dare blame this on my bipolar!” “When I’m upset, I express my emotions.” and it was hard for me to convince her otherwise. It seemed as though we could try and remain friends as the call ended. I burst in to tears and cried harder and louder than I had done for a long time and I’ve not cried quite like it since. Then, my phone rang and it was her. Barely able to speak, I listened; she still had more to say. I forget what we talked about in that second call as my head was a mess but I remember her making this mumbled noise like an “Mmmbbmm-yeeah…” in reaction to something I said.
Texting continued for a few days as I still left both of my ears open to her and, of course, she duly made use of that. It was about ten-days after our last meeting that it all finally came to an end…
It started off with a text early in the morning, not long after I’d started work. She was anxious about having to go to the dentist that day but, I don’t think I really wanted to hear it. I tried to be supportive though and made suggestions that she could make a day of it by visiting the library to type up her CV and then handing that in to several local companies, on the off chance that they might be hiring soon. She snapped back, “I don’t take advice, I do my own thing!“. Many texts were exchanged throughout that day and I could see the inevitable coming. Maybe, deep down, I just wanted it all to end? With the end in sight, I thought, ‘If she won’t help herself then, maybe I can encourage her to seek help‘ so, I began making suggestions about whether she would consider talking to a therapist. She obviously didn’t take it well and just kept telling me that she didn’t need my advice on a subject I knew nothing about. At one point before lunch, she told me to “F**k off, you weird f**k!!!” so, I left her alone, laughing to myself. I’m not proud to admit that last part but, it’s true.
In the mid afternoon, she returned to apologise (I assume this was after her dental appointment, once she’d returned home). But, she didn’t see how we could even be friends now. A few more texts were exchanged and, again, we were in disagreement. Then, I said something that ended my part in this conversation…
It honestly wasn’t meant to sound as spiteful as it does but, I can see how she read it. To be honest, I knew she wouldn’t take it well, though; I was merely hoping that it might shake her up in to considering some form of counselling (she had aspirations to be a counsellor herself but, found the emotional side of the college course to be too tough). “I hope you can at least see why your can’t live with you after the way you reacted on Tuesday night.” It’s not pleasant and I probably couldn’t taken more time to consider my words even further. She retorted with three simultaneous texts in less than one minute:
“You nasty, nasty man!!!!!“
“Don’t you ever text me again!!!!“
“You know nothing! Nothing about me and <daughter>!! Don’t talk to me!! Don’t talk to me!!!!“
I’m doing all of this from memory as I did eventually delete the texts, even though I held on to them for a couple of months. I sent an apology the next day but, nothing. I waited another week or so to apologise again, when she replied that she couldn’t forgive me and was going to block my number. That seemed strangely out of character. I did find it quite funny though, how someone so upset and filled with rage could still find time to add so many exclamation marks to each text…
If you, reading this, think any less of me now then, you’re not going to think much more of me based on what you read below. One month passed after that fatal day and I realised that she still had one of my DVDs (The Green Mile, a treasured favourite). I deliberately left it with her as she’s a fan of Stephen King’s books and I wanted her to watch it but, I felt that enough time had passed and I wanted the security of having it back in my possession. So, I e-mailed her… Nothing. At this point I was concerned that she may have ‘done something’, knowing that she tried to take her own life by overdosing in November, after her previous relationship broke down. Now, she’d already given me access and permission to her account on the dating website and, on the off chance that the password might be the same, I tried it out on her e-mail account… It worked.
All I wanted was to see whether or not my message had been read. As it turned out, it was in the trash folder, marked as unread. Beyond that though, I discovered a never-ending conversation between her and her ex, dating back to the time of when I first met her online. I felt ‘used’, reading back through it all; as if I was a puppet to make him feel jealous for whatever he’d done wrong. I discovered that they’d been seeing each other and meeting up the whole time. Even as recently as two-days before I last saw her (when we were officially together), he had spent the night with her. No wonder she was upset! She went on from then, telling him what a “bad man” I am, a “b*****d“, even. Comparing me, also, to an “American stick-insect“, which I still don’t quite understand, to this day…
Most bizarrely of all, she claimed as though I had referred to her daughter (who I’ve never met) as being “ugly” on two occasions – once on the night, when she claims to have ‘picked me up on‘ my plan to separate her from her daughter; the other was apparently during that disastrous text when I ran out of patience with her.
I don’t claim complete innocence in all of this. I did provoke her on a couple of occasions at the end (through texting) and I know there isn’t much that’s morally right about secretly reading someone’s e-mails. I’ll be honest though; it’s a bad habit that I held on to for another couple of months until I managed to meet someone else. I leant a bit more about ‘Jan’, her habits and her behaviour in that time.
Whatever you may think of me now, I’ve learnt a lot from this whole experience, through both the good and the very bad experiences. It took a while for me to accept that it wasn’t all my fault and that I wasn’t a younger clone of my own father and, I aim to talk about my reflections and everything I’ve gained for this six-week period in an additional post.
I can assure you that the e-mail reading has stopped, even though, as I write this, the temptation to take a sneaky-peak is growing. Since I met ‘May’, I haven’t felt inclined to do anything like that again. I’m running out of words now so, I’ll end it here for today.