It’s raining. I’m stuck in a well-known coffee shop, watching the shoppers rush across the street through steamed windows dripping with condensation. At the next table, a griping child is opening sugar sachets onto the floor, ignored by his mother who is chatting on her smartphone to some guy she met in a club the other night. He’s obviously the one: she twirling her bottle blonde hair, ignoring her offspring, escaping in the moment. The sickly sweet smell of perspiration and cheap perfume lingers in the air. It’s grim in here. I’ve had another cappuccino and Helen has just told me even more lies. God, I hate Cheltenham, I hate Bury St Edmonds too. I hated Ely last time and as, I’ll soon find out, I’ll hate Harwich. I already hate Wivenhoe. Oh and Frinton. Woodbridge too. Stamford? Still love there as nothing bad happened. I hate London, but I already hated London so not sure that counts.
I know I should walk away from Helen, not give her a second glance, but I just don’t have the strength or ability to any more. I wonder if the other man, Peter, her supposed ex-, is controlled and manipulated in the same way. Or is he the other man? Is he the secret lover? Am I? What am I to Helen? What is he to her? How can she see me so often if they’re together? How can she see him so often if we’re together? She’s told me that he’s like her brother and her rock whilst she deals with the shit-pile she’s created. She’s told me he puts her down and doesn’t treat her as an equal. She’s told me so many negative things about him over the last few months. Oh I don’t know. I think she believes her lies in the moment, but who knows. She lies as easily as breathing it seems. How did it get to this? How could I get myself into such a position, such a state? Helen. That’s how. I’m such an idiot. I-D-I-O-T. For goodness sake, don't say anything she might dump you.
Looking back, I should’ve known she was toxic from the beginning, but I craved a relationship a few years after divorce and her outlook on life, love and desire was very close to mine.
It's now several years, a very long course of anti-depressants, many hours of therapy and CBT, four jobs and a rebound girlfriend later but I’m back to being me. Except with cushions, new curtains and that soap that comes in a bottle.