“I'll be the judge of that,” says Martin.
The day after my night at Sally's, I asked Martin to meet me for a drink. I prepped myself carefully on what I would say, and then I said it. I wore a take-me-seriously pinstriped dress.
This was all fine in theory, but the actual conversation is not going at all how I expected. I have, apparently, prepared for every outcome except the one where he refuses to be dumped.
“I'm not good enough for you,” I say. “I have all these...issues. There's stuff that's happened to me I haven't told you about - “
“My mum and dad had a acrimonious breakup when I was four,” says Martin. “One of my earliest memories is of Mum hurling my older brother's Nintendo at Dad's head. My first girlfriend had depression and committed suicide when I was 16. Tina broke my heart into little tiny pieces and then put the pieces in the blender by cheating on me with the be-mulletted bass player from the world's worst amateur metal band. What's your excuse?”
His first girlfriend committed suicide? I didn't know that. God, that's awful. Tina slept with someone else?
Martin is making an obvious effort to be calm. He's clearly very angry and very upset but I can see he is working on talking to me reasonably. He looks down at his hands. His hands are shaking minutely. Then he looks back at me.
“Look,” he says. “I feel more comfortable with you than anyone I have ever met. I like you more than any other girl I've ever been with. We have so much fun together, I'm thinking – I was thinking – long term – I don't know how you feel about that - “
He stops, starts again.
“If you really want to split up with me – if you don't feel the same and this isn't working for you - I can't stop you and I wouldn't want to. If I have to force you to stay with me, then it's broken anyway. But what I want to know is – do you actually want to split up with me, or is this just some thing where you think I can do better than you, because of some self esteem stuff you have going on or whatever? Because I absolutely don't want to split up. I want to be with you, and I have the right to make that decision for myself and I think it is a bit disrespectful for you to just make it for me. I'm a grown-up and I have the balls to change my life. If I decide it's not working out, I'll do the break up with you myself.”
Oh dear. That's a good point. In fact, it is a remarkably good point. I may have miscalculated here. My cheeks are starting to burn with embarrassment.
“You could be with someone who isn't all weird and fucked up,” I say. “Someone who knows how to behave and looks normal and, I don't know, doesn't listen to industrial rave and wear latex dresses.”
“You mean someone boring?” says Martin, beginning to smile. “You mean a boring woman? Come on, there is no way you would be friends with a girl like that. You wouldn't even be interested in talking to her for very long. What did you call Fiona McGivern the other day? A basic bitch? So if you know that basic bitches are boring, why do I have to go out with one?”
He reaches over and takes my hand.
He says: “Why are you so fucking ashamed of who you are? And more to the point, if you hate who you are so much, why don't you go out and turn yourself into one of these mythical “normal” women? And why don't you ever tell me anything about yourself? I want to know who you are. I want to meet your friends properly, not just see them from afar at a gig. I want to be part of your life and sometimes you let me in and sometimes you work as hard as you can to keep me out. Look, if you genuinely are not feeling it with me, just say it, but if you think we have a chance can we work at getting to know each other? I'll take it as slow as you like - ”
He stops. I realise he is on the verge of tears.
I'm so tempted to lie to him. For his own good. Tell him I don't care about him, that it isn't working out. But he's right, that's patronising, and all this stuff I'm telling myself isn't even true anyway. We're good together, and I know it. I'm only doing this because I am terrified of him. He's going to make me change, he's doing it already, he's changing me just by existing and wanting to be in my life and know me. This is something I have never had before and I'm terrified of it because it will mean I have to be honest with him. About everything.
Then I look at him, I see how much I'm hurting him, and I think fuck it.
“I do want to be with you,” I say. “I know we're good. It's so good it's terrifying me and I think that's a large part of the problem,“ and as I say that I recognise how hard it must have been for him to say it because saying it feels like falling off a cliff.
He relaxes a tiny bit. But I need to do more, and I know I do, I need to share Matthew with him. I need to explain where I am coming from. He's shared his feelings with me, and now I need to share mine with him. That's how connecting works.
YOU CAN'T, says Matthew, into my mind's ear. ONCE HE HEARS ABOUT ME HE WON'T WANT TO KNOW ANY MORE. WANT TO SEE THE DISGUST ON HIS FACE? TELL HIM. WANT TO FEEL HIM DROP YOUR HAND? TELL HIM.
He's not like that.
THEY'RE ALL LIKE THAT. EVERYONE IS LIKE THAT.
“You see, the problem I have is,” I say, and as I start speaking I feel myself float upwards, disconnect from my body, and it is as if I am watching myself tell Martin about Matthew, “there was this guy. When I was little. And he abducted me - “