By Anna Scott. One of my favourite people but, perhaps more importantly, one of my favourite writers.
“Let me get this right, are you saying…sorry, what are you saying?”
Hindsight. The dictionary equivalent of that friend who isn’t really much of a friend saying ‘I told you so’ while tilting their head and raising their eyebrows and taking a sip of their tea. Hindsight is not a wonderful thing and at that moment in time I wanted it to do one and let me forget all about whatever it was taking great pleasure in trying to reminding me of.
That I should never try to be the bigger person. That I should have texted him like I was planning to.
“We…all of us,” He gestured around the tiny café with his ridiculously long arms and nearly whacked the harassed looking mother at the next table across the forehead. “We’re all changing, all the time. And there’s another future waiting out there for you to discover. And for me. It’s just those two futures,” he balled each of his fists up and slowly moved them apart, “They’re not going to be the same futures. You see what I mean?”
I swear, honest to God, I was planning on ending it days before, weeks even. It was when he’d started placing his hand on mine just before I was about to tip a second teaspoon of sugar into my coffee, looking at me as if to ‘now, are you completely sure you want to do that?’. If there was a contest between that look and hindsight rearing its annoying head, then it would be a down-to-the-line photo finish, and even then they’d both have to share the podium for ‘biggest cunt’ award.
Yes, he was good looking and yes I know that made me shallow but I didn’t care. It was good for the first couple months and I don’t just mean the sex. I was powerful, walking down the street with him, and that sort of thing can be quite addictive. I even loved the hand on the small of my back until it started to feel less like pride and protection and more like…something else. Guidance, moving me away from things. And then I didn’t love it quite so much. Yes, I would miss staring at that little bit of his stomach that became visible when his T-shirt started to ride up, but all good things must come to an end at some point.
“You’re dumping me? You. Are dumping. Me?”
His face dropped. “That’s an ugly word, don’t you think? We’re both moving onto better horizons. There are certain people you meet in life for a reason, you know? And they’re supposed to guide you, to bring something to your existence so you can move on to the next part of your journey. It’s a positive thing. An amazing thing.”
I’ll tell you what else is an amazing thing. That feeling, when any lingering doubts you might have had just dissolve into thin air, go ‘POP’, and it’s like they never even existed in the first place. But them comes to the wondering what-the-hell-you-were-thinking-in-the-first-place-feeling. I leant forward and stared at him, furrowing my brow, trying to work out whether he actually believed what he was saying or if it was the ultimate display of passive aggressiveness.
He was smiling, but not in a snide way. I could have coped with snide. Snide would have meant I was perfectly justified in tipping a piping hot Americano into his slightly grubby denim-clad lap (side note courtesy of good old hindsight: there’s nothing attractive about not doing your washing on a regular basis).
No, he was smiling like a dog who was very proud of himself for wiping his arse all over the carpet and wanted to tell his owner all about it, and maybe even receive a treat for all his hard work.
He leant back in his chair, just a small amount. “Is everything alright? You don’t look too happy.”
Whether his aim was to get a rise out of me or not, I’ll never know. Not that there’s anything wrong with rising. I didn’t give two hoots whether it would have given him an excuse to tell his friends I was a ‘crazy bitch’ or that it would cause a ‘scene’. Perhaps that’s the reason he brought me to the smallest café in the world in the first place, for added drama. Or maybe he wanted me to break down in tears and beg him to reconsider, or maybe he actually believed what he was saying. The point was I realised I didn’t actually care. Any anger I’d felt moments before was slowly starting to dissolve, like those lingering doubts not a few minutes before, and it had nothing to do with what he may or may not have been feeling or wanting or expecting.
I downed the last of my coffee. The lukewarm dregs coated my teeth and I wiped them away with my tongue before I leant forward and shook his hand.
“You know, you’re right. Absolutely. This is best for both of us. This experience has taught me many, many different things.” I wished him luck as he stared back at me, looking not quite as surefooted as he did before.
It was true though. It had taught me many things. No, I wasn’t going to swear off pretty faces from now on because I knew that would be a promise I couldn’t possibly keep. And why would I promise myself that anyway? No, the only thing I had learned from this particular experience was to perhaps scratch the pretty surface a bit more before I got sucked in.
As I stood up, I caught the eye of the women sitting next to us. She was now looking less like a typical harassed mum and more like an amused bystander, smirking, with her eyes darting from him back to me.
I wasn’t looking for anyone’s approval, but I’d take that.