A group of four sit down in the corner with their porridge and orange juices. I looked up from what I was writing, and saw the one with green hair take off her coat. She looked like an old girlfriend of mine, when I lived in Brighton. Except this girl had bright green hair. But it looked like her. I kept looking. We caught a glance every now and then, but there was no recognition. If it was her, she had changed a little but still looked young, full of beans (she used to call me ‘bean’, it was a positive association), but what made me think it was her more than anything was that she was clearly the centre of a loving and calm and sweet group of people.
It was her. I was sure. Not quite. But then my body knew before I did. A brick wall went up. Although I wasn’t sure it was her, I also couldn’t imagine that she didn’t recognise me. I had changed less—she had green hair. But I recognised her in going off to brush her teeth, and then passing on that toothbrush and paste to a friend, and in the small dance she did on returning from the bathroom. A sudden engulfing of the cafe, slowly, not dramatically, but an isolation from the other coordinates. The music, my work. I was in my mood—my body. Something between shock and regret. I realised I was writing about a character who has a sudden paralysis. It felt like that. The location was at the Eiffel Tower (in my book), a scene from another relationship, where L fell faint in the lift on the way down. It felt like that. Not claustrophobic, but focused, tight, too tight.
I googled. A Riot Grrrl event in Newcastle today. So yes, it was her. A surging pulse, like hitting a wave, or being hit by a wave, and coming up for air, and then being hit by the next one, although the wave hadn’t stopped. More shock, more regret.
It was because I couldn’t remember how we’d left it, although it hadn’t been good. We’d seen each other for six months, moved in together, but it never worked well. She was queer—this was how she identified herself—and it made me angry. We both held responsibility for getting into something that wasn’t right for either of us. But her way out was to slink away, to always be doing, shifting, moving, acting. Positively. To do little proactive harm on the way to the exit. That left me as the one being left. At the end a friend of hers was staying over most nights on the sofa. Not just a friend, I guessed. Now it comes to remember, I can’t even recall how it ended. Just a few righteous emails after, from both of us, setting the record straight at a disintermediated remove.
It was also because it was an obvious statement on where I am now. Not wanting to hurt K any more by… well. K has given me another chance. We are close, close friends. I am not going to risk that. In the past I’ve made so many poor, irritated, broken decisions that have meant the investment in a relationship, friendships as well as intimacies, have all ended without contact. I don’t want to keep doing that.
[UPDATE: I emailed her instead. It wasn’t her. Just a doppelganger. What does it say about me, anything more than what I’ve written above, that I created this situation—now, six years ago, and since—and needed to feel those things, that shock, that regret, almost as if this were a parable or lesson for how to act; what to do next? It was a scene from the future.]