Friday, 13 January 2006

Chapter 2 | Payback time

Three years passed. The Boy He finally realised he wasn't responsible for keeping his family together, so left town to go to university.

One summer I came home and he was no longer a boy, more of a Man.

Although he had always had those very old eyes, so it wasn't relly a shock; more like his body trying to catch up with his mind.

He apologised for breaking my heart. I said it was OK. I thought I was over him.

I moved to a different country for my studies, and met a man there that I didn't love. Not at all. When I opened my eyes in the morning, I would see The Man's face on the next pillow, between me and my boyfriend.

But it was tempting to have sex on tap, and the knowledge that I would be leaving the country was enough to keep me in the relationship for the sake of convenience. And my boyfriend loved me. Having always been the one who loved more, I relished it.

I was slowly being eroded away by keeping my true feelings secret, never telling my friends I didn't love my boyfriend or why.

But I broke up with him before I left, and felt so light. As the cold summer was turning to fall, I returned home, and after nine months I knew that it was time, that I had to tell him again, that maybe things had changed.

And they had. I came home, went out to meet my friends, and he wasn't there. When I asked, they told me he had met a girl, another casual partner. The day before my arrival, she had told him she was pregnant.

Being a devout Christian as well as nearing in on 30, she refused to have an abortion. So he did the honorable thing and moved in with her.

Everyone kept telling me how adorable they were, how much in love, and indeed they did have a beautiful son.

But he was still looking at me. I knew he didn't love her. But he had spent most of his life keeping his family together, and felt the same obligation towards this perfectly nice girl.

And for a while it looked like it was working.

Dazed and heartbroken, I yielded to my foreign ex's pleas to take him back, to allow him to move to where I lived and be with me.

When I came home next time and he was there, I told him, "I still think of you".

"I think of you too," he said. "Often."

To my boyfriend he said to take good care of me.

And there were moments of happiness, moments where I didn't remember, I expanded them to days, weeks. I closed my heart.

Two years later, I brought foreign ex with me home in the summer, and was told that The Man and the mother of his son had amicably parted, to the best of both of them.

A friend told me hushedly and in amazement that apparently he'd never really loved her.

As if I didn't know.

We met at a party. He was drunk, I was slightly more sober.

We talked; I'd forgotten what it was like to talk to someone who just instinctively understands you, living at the time with a man who was forever asking "what do you mean by that".

"When will I ever get to do what I want?" he asked.

He held my hand and looked me straight in the eye, and was that 16 year old boy I had first met, but at the same time looking older than ever.

"Do you ever think we'll end up together?"

"Yes," I said. "I do. But it won't be until later. Hopefully not too late."

"I still think of you," he said.

"It was always you."

"I think of you too," I said. "But you don't just have yourself to think about. And neither do I."

And I realised that really was it, it was too late, and maybe I had been lying when I said we'd eventually get to be together.

I was so upset I had to go and shag my boyfriend in the bathroom to take the edge off the guilt, the sense of loss that I felt.

It only worked for the duration of the sex, in a brightly lit, white-tiled toilet.

I had waited for almost ten years to hear him say those words. But all it did for me that evening was hammer home the painful difference between love and sex.

We were young and stupid and thought that feelings like that grow on trees, we looked for them everywhere, and when we didn't find them, we kept looking instead of returning to each other.

He's with a girl now that he's known for almost as long as he's known me, and I think he loves her.

And I certainly love J.

But the pieces of my heart I allowed to be cut out by the boy with the old eyes are still out there somewhere.

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