Friday, 28 May 2010

Looking Back

Apologies in advance, as this is going to be a very long entry.

I’ve just come back from a couple of days away where I had to oversee an election debrief with the team leaders from our offices in Manchester and Glasgow. I want to write about something I heard there but I need to put it into context by first re-posting some entries that I published soon after I started this blog. Sorry if you’ve read these already but I need to collect my thoughts and doing this gives me some time to get my head together.

The Second Affair
My second affair happened six years ago but it still feels so recent - probably because I still don’t think I'm truly over it. It was completely different to my fling with Ollie which, let's face it, was only about sex.

It started when one of the directors of the company I worked for, Iona, decided to pursue a better life in Australia and she wanted to see if she could run a branch of the business out there. So, she asked me to join her for a while to help set it up. She also asked a guy called Chris who was part of our team in Scotland. He was someone I knew of but had never actually met.

The offer came at just the right time and it was a challenge I needed. Ewan and myself were having serious problems. If we weren't arguing we had nothing to say to each other. We both decided the five week trip would be a good opportunity to try living apart for a while. He thought it was what we needed to get us back on track but I wasn’t so sure.

I really didn't go with any other intention than working hard to make the new office successful ....and maybe to get some much needed sun after yet another appalling British summer. Iona had already been out there for a month and she arranged for Chris and myself to travel out there together to join her. I had wanted to travel alone as I needed the space. The thought of making small talk with a stranger for twenty-two hours filled me with dread. Iona had already booked the flights and accommodation though, so there was nothing I could do.

I remember going to the airport early and checking in quickly so that I wouldn't have to sit with him! But I hadn't been in the lounge for long before he found me!! I immediately felt guilty because he asked me very pleasantly if I wanted to be alone or if he could join me. Of course, I couldn't say no to the latter and actually to my shame, we hit it off straight away.

Our flight was delayed for a couple of hours and in that time, I had him opening up about all sorts of things - including how his marriage was in trouble. I recognised a lot of what he was saying from what was going on in my own life and threw in my twopenny advice. He told me that he had never met anyone he could speak to so openly before.

In a last minute rush then, we got his seat changed so that he could be next to me and we had a great flight together. I've never known time to go so quickly. We talked and laughed and found we had a lot in common. It was just so easy and I really enjoyed being with him.

It was evening when we got to Sydney and there was a message at the hotel from Iona saying that she had to meet an important contact and couldn't join us so we had a lovely dinner on our own. By the end of the meal, I had told him all about the problems in my marriage. I never do that - I don't tell anyone anything about myself but with him I felt that he genuinely wanted to know and it felt good opening up to him.

We had arrived on the Saturday and got stuck into work pretty much straight away. On the Wednesday, we had got back to the hotel late after entertaining potential clients and gone to our rooms. I had just showered and got into bed when there was a knock at the door. I opened it to find him standing there with a couple of miniature bottles of brandy from his mini bar.

"I can't sleep" he said, in his gorgeous Scots accent "You don't fancy a drink do you?"

And so he came in and we did, in fact, talk for quite a while. He was sitting on my bed and then suddenly he just moved towards me and kissed me. He told me he had wanted to do that since the first moment he saw me and that's how it started, in earnest.

We spent all our time out of work together which meant we got very little sleep. Because I was able to talk to him so freely, I told him all my fantasies - things I had never even told Ewan. As a result, the sex was amazing. But more than that, it was just lovely being so close to someone.

It's simple things that make my heart race when I think back to that time. We went to the beach one weekend and he had gone off to get ice creams and I just remember watching him walking back to me, his shirt completely unbuttoned, revealing that amazing body. His soft, soft skin looked so brown against that white shirt..... I still feel light-headed thinking about how much I wanted him at that moment.

As the weeks went by, we knew that at the end of it we would both go back to our partners. It was understood but it just made our time together so much more precious.

Saying Goodbye
That time in Australia and our relationship meant so much to me.

For a few short weeks, I was with someone from whom nothing was hidden. I held back from allowing myself to fall completely but although I wasn't in love with him, it was something very similar. More than the physical, it was being able to talk so openly and to be with someone who couldn't get enough of me. That feeling of being needed, wanted, desired is very addictive.

On the flight back to London, we were both quiet. We reflected on the trip and what it meant to each of us. He told me that he never wanted to lose me as a friend and that I was to phone him or email him whenever I needed to talk and I was so grateful to know that for the rest of my life I would have a friend who knew me so totally. We talked about how we would deal with our problems back at home, how we would both make a go of our marriages, knowing that we had each other to turn to for support and understanding.

When we landed, he helped me load my luggage onto my trolley and then told me to go. I wanted to wait for him but he said that we had to say goodbye there. It had come too quickly but I knew he was right. So I put my arms around him and he held me tightly as we kissed and I just wanted to stay like that forever and not go back into that world that was waiting for me. Eventually, we broke apart, he told me to go and I walked away.

I didn't turn back, even though I wanted to with every fibre of my being. But instead, I walked through the doors to Ewan and the kids who were waiting for me. As soon as I saw them I burst into tears. They thought it was because I was happy to be reunited with them after so long, but only I knew I was crying for what I was leaving behind.

How It Finally Ended
After we said goodbye at the airport, I spent an evening catching up with my family but before I went to bed, I took my phone into the bathroom and texted him goodnight. He replied immediately saying he felt very alone in his London hotel. Even though I climbed into bed with Ewan that night, my heart was with Chris.

The next day, I had to take Sasha to a musical theatre workshop audition in Covent Garden. It was a beautiful crisp but sunny Autumn day and after I dropped her off, I had four hours to kill until I had to pick her up. While I was looking round the shops, I got a text from Chris. He said he had completed all his London meetings but his flight back to Glasgow wasn't until the evening, I told him where I was and within half an hour he was with there with me.

We had lunch outside on the Piazza but just like on the flight home, we didn't say much. We simply held hands and looked at each other, and that seemed to speak volumes. He did want to know though if I'd had sex with Ewan the night before. I told him that I had and he said the thought of that killed him but that it was OK because of course that evening he would be with his wife, Kaye. I hated the thought of that but said nothing.

While we were sitting there, we could hear an opera singer entertaining the crowds. She started singing Puccini's "O Mio Babbino Caro" and her voice was so beautiful that I thought my heart would burst. I looked at Chris and like me he had tears his eyes. Looking back now, I think I may have realised at that moment that it was really over and that there was no way we could even carry on a friendship. I can't hear that song now without thinking of that look on his face.

We walked to the tube station and this time there was no passionate kiss, he just squeezed my hand and walked away and within seconds he was engulfed in the crowds of commuters and tourists who swept him away from me.

We emailed and texted for a few weeks after that but he soon told me that he found it too difficult. He said it would be easier if we didn't communicate on a regular basis so I left him alone for a bit, even though I thought about him all the time.

Then, about a month later, Ewan and myself had the most almighty row which had been brewing for some time. Halfway through it, I snapped and said I'd had enough and that I was leaving. As I walked to the door, he grabbed me by the arms and said he wouldn't let me go and that running away wasn't the answer. I burst into tears then and I think had some sort of breakdown. I remember falling to the floor screaming in between great, racking sobs which seemed to come from deep within me. I was shaking and unable to breathe and Ewan cradled me and told me that everything would be OK and that he would look after me and help me through this, and I wondered if maybe, he knew.

Later when I was calm, he let me go off alone for a walk in the park and there of course, I called Chris to tell him what had happened. He listened, saying nothing. Then, when I finished he said, almost dispassionately, that he couldn't deal with this. That he wasn’t in the right place to be able to handle it. That he had his own problems and that he was sorry but a clean break was the only answer.

I couldn't belive it! This man....this man who promised to be my friend, in whom I had confided everything, was now telling me to go away. It felt as if he had ripped out my heart.

Once again in my life, I faced rejection and what felt like compete betrayal. Every inch of me wanted to curl up and let the world carry on without me for a while, but this time I made an immediate decision that I wasn't going to break.

I took a deep breath, wiped away my tears and returned home to Ewan.

Getting Over It
Although I made a decision that day in the park to carry on after he dumped me so unceremoniously, it took me a long, long time to get over it.

I felt so alone after that phone call. I found myself thinking of him constantly and even though I knew I had to get back to living my life, I felt such a fool. I couldn't quite believe that what we had was just over, so soon and unexpectedly. From the moment we had met at the airport, I thought I'd found a friend but it was clearly different for him and that felt like a kick in the stomach.

I was so angry for so long . So terribly sad and confused and constantly on the edge of tears. I couldn't understand why he would tell me that he couldn't deal with this, when together, we had gone over the problems we might face on our return and promised to be there for each other, however bad it got. Whenever I thought of how he had almost cruelly dismissed me that day, it gave me such a physical pain in my chest that I truly thought I might be seriously ill. It was the not understanding that was the crux of the issue - what had I done to deserve this treatment from him?

I kept running over in my head exactly what I would say to him the next time he got in touch. How I would let him know what a shit I thought he was to push me away when I needed him the most. But of course, he never did contact me - he cut me off completely and it hurt like hell to know that he was just not bothered.

I desperately wanted to tell someone but I looked at my friends and there was no one I could confide in. I knew they would judge me or tell me I was stupid and so I dealt with it alone. Or rather I didn't - I was in a sorry state for a long time and at one stage I thought I would never get over it. I had pinned such a lot of hope and expectation on him which is not something I normally do and that made it all the worse. Whenever I had any time to myself, it was that thought that made me cry the most and I hated him for making me feel like that.

I don't hate him now though and my heart and stomach don't churn so much when I think of him. Because however much I try not to think about him, I do. His face often comes swimming into view and I find myself remembering him yet again. I do wonder if I will ever truly get over him but even so, this feeling has in a way been more bearable than when Lee left me. Unlike then, there has been no time in the last six years when I have wanted to end my life, although there were many times that I didn't think I could get out of bed to face the day.

Not very long ago, I realised that in order to truly move on, I have to remember my time with Chris with great affection and no bitterness. After all these years though, I still want to see him and talk to him because I know I never did anything wrong and I've never understood why he went so cold on me.

Part of me now also believes though, that he's simply not worth my emotion - even though he has taken so much of it.


  1. A lot of this has resonances for me having just come out of a very similar, time limited relationship before I met my wife. It's truly bittersweet, isn't it, when you know it can't last forever, when you know a goodbye must come? That you must both return to a perhaps duller because safer reality? Because of that fact - because it can never last forever you actually give of yourself far more, you feel everything deeper because it's all in a little bubble. You give all for today and hang tomorrow. Recovering from that level of instensity - once the goodbye and the inevitable recoil has occurred - takes a long, long time. The worst part is all the anger and bitterness you feel - quiet naturally feel - because you remember the futile promise you made that you would never feel it and that you would always be friends. It's a promise that is impossible to keep. Friendship - in my experience certainly - is impossible. Any attempt prolongs the agony and makes messes you up further. I had to accept that the relationship could only exist in that bubble. Any attempt to make it permanent would have soured it, mortalized it, and it would have failed. And failed horribly. You will let go fully in time, by slow degrees. You did nothing wrong - just as you had complicated issues and emotional fall-out to deal with afterwards so I suspect did Chris. Too much for him to handle (us men are hopeless with coping with our emotions at the best of times) - he simply closed his eyes to it. But that's for him to deal with. You need to process your feelings - without guilt or self recrimination. Only then will you be free of it.

  2. whew. what a tale...i think i may consider this chapter closed. that way you can look back at the memory of it without it being clouded by the present...or what may happen if you did meet again...

  3. This post made me cry, Selina.

    I think Chris loved you too much and couldn't cope with not having you in his life on a daily basis. He wanted all or nothing.

    I'm wondering of course what you heard at the meeting to make you think of Chris.

    Come on - part two please.

  4. Aw, honey. You've gone and made me cry. Did you ever think that maybe you did nothing wrong? That maybe Chris got out of it what he wanted...and he was ready to move on? I don't mean to make him sound evil...but too often we're very quick to put the blame on ourselves....what did "we" do? How were "we" unlovable? What you needed from him and what he wanted from you may have been two different things...I'm sure of it. Women put our hearts into relationships much deeper than men do...don't you think? Give it time, sweetie.

  5. Oh dear, am I a heartless wench as my immediate thought was that this guy made the moves on you before you had even left the country, he may have been a serial adulterer , one of those "My wife doesn't understand me" types who with a bit of charm and charisma can get a leg-over toute suite?
    I hope you can get over this, you've too much going for you! :-)

  6. It may be that it was as difficult for him as it was for you, and that the only way he could move on and get over it was by not talking to you at all.

    I don't know. These things are very complicated.

    This is a beautiful story, though--beautiful yet sad, which is often the most genuine kind of tale. It sounds like a book I'd love to read.

  7. I think between this post and Steve's comment, you've pretty much captured the ground that these feelings occupy in many hearts. this is a very moving post and there is little that I can usefully ad. It always amazes me how much love can hurt when it goes wrong, or just not right enough. Take care.

  8. sad, but life goes on...

    Happy June!