You chose to be comfortable. So now you lead a quiet life. Your girlfriend is likable. Sometimes you purposely try to rile her up, just to see what happens. But she just calls you a ‘silly sausage’ and changes the subject. She does not have it in her to be detestable, to be raging, and you like that. You think. Or at least, you should. You do, to an extent, but it does not matter anyway. She’s here now. She’s part of your life, now. The life in which you drink cold beers in someone else’s garden. In which you put furniture together in someone else’s house. In which you count the minutes until work is over. In which you eat the same thing for lunch.
Sometimes, though, it comes over you. All of sudden. A kind of heat. You stand in the shower and try to drown it out. But when you close your eyes, she’s there. The other one. Arms wrapped around your torso, staring up into your face. She wants you to kiss her, or answer her, or look at her or listen. You are not quite sure. You were never really sure. But you do know this: she was not comfortable and she was not dependable. She was not easy. She was not nice. She was a constant spinning tornado of a person.
But you knew her, and when you were with her you lived. You tried. You rode that storm all the way out to sea and just before it drowned you, you strapped on a life jacket and floated back to shore. You left her there. You left her. There. But she keeps turning up. Here. All of a sudden, out of nowhere.
Better the devil you know, she used to say. Better the devil you know.
You bought a new car. New start, new car. You drive it to your mum’s house and everyone stands around, nodding. They like the car. The car is safe. The car is good. Not like the car you used to have. Not like the car you had, when you knew that girl. No more overnight bags in the back, no more torn maps. Nobody is going to be pressed against this dashboard, hot, sweaty. Nobody is going to stroke your hair while you drive. You are going to be safe. You are going to be good. And that is fine. You tell yourself that, everyone agrees that, this is fine.
But sometimes the car stalls. And when the car stalls, you find yourself faltering. You stop on the hard shoulder and you call her. She is quiet while you whisper that you miss her, that you need to see her. She asks when you’re free and you can’t answer. Not then, not when you have to commit. Say a real date, a real time. You catch yourself. You don’t really want to jump off this bridge. You just want to know that if you needed to, if you had to, you could.
You hang up the phone. Start your new car, turn on your new radio, drive home to your new girlfriend, eat steak and chips off your new crockery. You watch the news. You talk about the future. Your girlfriend tells you a story about her childhood. You watch her lips but…you are not listening. You are thinking about the other girl, the first girl. How soft her skin was, how big her eyes were. All the nuances that played on her lips, when she was afraid, when she was angry. When she was tired. When she was done. You go out onto the balcony and call her again. This time she does not pick up.
It’s ridiculous. It is. You know that it is. But you start to panic anyway. Like you did all those years ago when you didn’t know where she was, what she was thinking. It feels like someone has their hand around your throat. Like someone’s burying you alive. You lie awake in the bed that used to be hers. You wonder what she is doing, who she is with. Does she hate you? Does she miss you too? Does she think about you ever? Does she hate you? She must hate you. Right now, you hate you.
Your girlfriend rolls over and puts her head on your chest. It’s crushing you. You can’t breathe. You want to tear your hair out. You want to punch the wall. You want to see her. You just want to see her.
Why won’t she leave you alone?
You chose to be comfortable. And all the silence, and the polite smiles, and the simple gestures that come with it. But it hurts, and it is maddening and you regret it every day.
You chose. You did. You just didn’t know you were choosing all of this.