Toothbrush (Essay taken from my book.)

I vow to never have sex with anyone again until it’s with someone that I am in love with. I wait a few weeks before shattering this vow, and then also my dignity. Then it happened. Out of the blue I fell in love. It’s not like in the movies though. There were no flowers, or romantic strolls along beaches that are so beautiful they almost seem fictitious. There’s no stimulating dialog or public displays of affection. Reality showed up with a shiny, razor-sharp pin and popped that bubble. When he texts me he’s normally abrupt; each message is laced with a general sense of indifference toward both the conversation and me – unless, of course, he wants something. When he turns up at my flat in the middle of night, it’s not done as a heart-felt gesture or a need to show me he cares; it’s done because he’s white girl wasted. He staggers up my hallway, fumbling from side-to-side. He resembles a human tennis ball being batted back and forth by the walls. I go through to the kitchen to get him some water and by the time I come back through he’s slumped in a drunken heap on top of my bed, fully clothed, tangled up in my two-meter long phone charger. His friends have left him, he’s really drunk and he has obliterated his phone screen and the battery has also died. Not four hours ago, I found out he was posting snippets of our private conversations on his Twitter and making fun of me. I confronted him about it, but the issue remained unresolved. Yet here he is, stinking of alcohol, caked in make-up, waking me up in the middle of night; dressed in tight clothes and armed with fleeting affection. I look down at him upon my bed and he’s still sporting that infectiously cheeky smile. He says that he knows I ‘hate him’ right now, but he has ‘nowhere to go.’ The truth of the matter is I don’t hate him, I love him. I’m angry as hell at him because he’s treated my heart like monkey meat for the last few months, but I don’t hate him. The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference, and there’s no way I could ever be blasé about his existence.  He lies there silent, squinting at his phone, looking at it the way an addict would crack if he was having withdrawals. He’s only been without it for an hour, if that, but his phone is his life-line. Rather than speak to me or explain, or even offer up an apology, he just glares into the screen which illuminates his drunk, fake-tanned face. I ask what his plans are, if he’s staying over or do I need to get him a taxi home. He opts for the latter. I’m a mixture of relived and hurt. He slurs the events of his night together in a few inelegantly crafted sentences.  I take everything he says with a pinch of salt as he lies a lot. He starts falling asleep, so I wake him up when his ride arrives, but not before I stop and look at him. Not in a creepy way, well not overtly creepy anyway, but rather in a way to says ‘I adore you’ because a pissed off as I am his face is very pleasing; it makes my heart leap-frog over fractured beats. His taxi arrives and he is once again zig-zagging down my hallway, out my door and, after the next couple of days, out my life.

I stay awake and wait for him to let me know he’s home safe. An hour passes and I hear nothing. I call, but his phone is switched off. I lay on my bed in a way that’s only acceptable if you’ve been in a bad accident or you’ve been crippled by seasonal depression. My mood is a concoction of anxiety, anger and arousal. I think about masturbating because even being near him makes my whole-body tingle, but then my attention is grabbed away. I notice my pillow reeks of alcohol and an unfamiliar aftershave. It’s not my aftershave and it’s not his aftershave – I know this because I bought him it – which means he’s been with another guy tonight. I sob, partially from picturing him being with someone else and also because I hate the way I am expressing myself. Maybe I’m too attached to know what thoughts are useless to me. I have all the knowledge but none of the language to get myself out of this situation. I’m really hung up on him and lately all he’s done is deliver blow after blow. I am not angry that I love him, I am just angry that I don’t have better words. It comes to 5am and I’ve still not heard from him. Eventually his brother lets me know he’s safe and offers a half-assed thank you for checking up on him – I can tell his family don’t really like me.

The next afternoon my heart still hurts. When I eat my lunch, when I’m working, there’s a constant dull ache in my chest. We’ve spent the day arguing about what I feel his behaviour is, and what I feel it should be. I try and explain his actions have consequences, but he’s a seasoned actor when it comes to playing the victim, so my words rang unheard. I sit and think back to all the times he’s made me feel worthless and all the times he’s made me feel good – both through sex and words. The bad is outweighing the good here. The weekend prior to him turning up at my flat sloshed he came over for drinks. At around 2pm he decided he was going to go to a party with his ‘friends.’ It quickly became apparent that there was a guy involved. The next day I quizzed him on the party and his actions. He said nothing happened other than he kissed that guy. We aren’t really a couple so I guess I have no reason to be annoyed when he does shit like this – and he does shit like this a lot. I sit and I think about him at this party, his wily eyes trained on another guy; his smooth hands touching someone else’s body. His lips pressed again someone else’s mouth or, worse, placed elsewhere. I feel as though there’s a bowling ball in my stomach. I find out in work that night that he lied and that he did hook up with that guy. He’s only telling me because he has since learned that this guy has chlamydia, but it’s okay because they are going to get tested together – how romantic. Having unprotected sex isn’t good for someone with my temperament. My anxiety is incorrigible; out of control. The fact he has had unsafe sex with someone he barely knows, then lied about it, loops in my head. Who else has he been with and not told me? I feel I’ve been made a fool off. I try to cry even though I don’t want to, but I know it’ll be cathartic. It’ll get it out of my system and it’ll prove my point, which is that he really has hurt me. I reluctantly tell my friends what has happened, my eyes still refusing to water, I feel they are betraying me. I’m told I will get over it, I always do. I can’t help but feel if they could see psychical signs of how potent this ache is then they’d be a bit more sympathetic. Right now, I don’t feel I am being clear about my pain. I am told by my friends that this guy is trouble, he’s not a good person, that none of this is my fault. Their opinion doesn’t mirror his though; he makes me feel as though there are at least ten different ways that this is all my fault. I misread things, I got attached, I’m too needy – just some of the reasons he gives for his behaviour toward me.  I’m told to cut contact and move on, but it’s not that simple. It feels like I’m trying to wrench a baby from its loving mother’s arms.

I’m back home now, sitting on my sofa. I allow my mind to wonder back and revisit the last few months, replaying every scene he’s been in and scrutinizing it as though I am searching for some vital piece of information I may have overlooked. Every conversation we’ve had I go back to; I analyse every time we were intimate, searching desperately for an explanation that’ll justify why he doesn’t feel the same way back. Maybe I wasn’t good in bed, perhaps that’s it? I am very nervous in the bedroom and he only heightens those nerves. I assign part of the blame to my backward bedroom behaviour. I spent weeks begging and showering him with affection before he reciprocated in kind, but even that was short lived as he took it back quickly after. I offered him honest and impartial advice on every subject under the sun. I leant him money, I bought him nice gifts. I made sure he knew how gorgeous he was every day. Sure, I got pissed at him quite often but only because he just didn’t get the impact of his behaviour. He’d hurt me and it would affect my mood, which would then become sour, so he had a domino effect on my day.

I never got to utter the words ‘I love you’ to him directly. I’ve said it over the phone, over Twitter, over iMessage; but never to his face. I think such a blatant display of affection may have sent him over the edge. He’s always so cold, he says he’s ‘just like that.’ I think to myself ‘who touched you as a child to make you so afraid of affection?’ After finding out about the chlamydia scandal I’d had enough. I went out that night and got sloppy drunk. I wound up fucking someone I use to date, but not before kissing a bar tender in the club toilets for a solid ten minutes. Intertwined my cold-comfort-guy and I fell into bed, I literally wanted to fuck the pain away. We had messy sex which was in no-way endearing or delicate, but it was a distraction which is what I needed. The pillow talk was a lot smoother than I’d thought, and we spent most of the morning and afternoon cuddling and chatting. I drunkenly sent a snapchat to the guy that hurt me, showing off my one night stand. It was solace though, not vengeance. I felt like a hypocrite. Even worse: I felt cheap.

I found out that he had been sending nudes to my friends and that he had been messing around with other guys. He’d been talking about me in person and over social media. He let me buy him things, he let me hold him. He sucked my dick a lot. Whenever I held him or spooned him I felt as though I was clinging onto my future; trying desperately to stop it wriggling away. I knew it would never work though, and there was no chance of reconciliation after all of this, so I took all the clichéd measures required to get over it. I deleted all 54 photos of him off my phone (both clothed and unclothed.) The picture frame he gave me for my birthday which had a photo of him in it with ‘Your 1 and only” etched across it in black marker pen has since wound up in the bin. I decided to not remove him from my life by blocking him on every platform possible, but rather just to distance myself. I done all this and I feel good. I feel sad, stingy almost, but I know I am doing the right thing. I start feeling like me again, so I organised to meet a friend for a coffee; I wanted to celebrate my new-found liberty from heartache. I went to get ready, got dressed and downed my fifth cup of tea that day. I ventured into the bathroom and checked the mirror, a final once-over. My attention is pulled down by a flash of colour lingering deviously in the corner of my eye. There it was, his toothbrush, regally standing next to mine. A little orange reminder that he had been here, in my life, in my flat, in my heart. I threw the toothbrush out. I felt like it was kind of a juvenile thing to do; that it was sad and petty. But I also felt that it was a psychical reaction to a very real emotional pain.  I felt it was kind of symbolic. I felt it needed to be done.

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