Ben comes round at noon to let the boiler man in. Rosie and I have been bathing with pots of boiling water for the last few days, since the tap hasn’t been offering up anything other than cold. I am therefore grateful that Ben has agreed to be at the flat given I am in meetings most of the day.
My work situation is deteriorating dramatically, with termination approaching and more and more of my long-time colleagues deciding to take voluntary redundancy rather than hang in and be re-deployed. I have my own pressing decisions to make, with my gut flipping first left and then right, as I try to steer towards the best option for Rosie and me. I leave the office with a storming head ache.
When I get home, Ben is still on his way back from the child minder with Rosie. I take a moment to lie on the sofa and rest my eyes.
Fifteen minutes later, Rosie is smothering me in a head hug, yelling: ‘Mum! MUUUUM!’ Ben is in the kitchen. I want to sleep, but I’m too hungry and my head hurts.
How to say what happens next or where it starts? In an attempt to make conversation with Ben, I ask him about his friend in south London. Ben is meeting him on Friday night, he says. So I ask what they tend to do. What sorts of things they talk about. He lists a whole load of things – politics, bit coins, other former rehab clients like them, stuff.
You see, I’m curious about this relationship because the only time I see Ben smile (apart from when he’s with Rosie) is when he’s talking to this guy. I know they have a bond from rehab and all, but why is it he doesn’t show the same sort of delight in my company?
These thoughts start shoulder-checking each other, like hockey players, inside my head. I start thinking about our telephone conversation earlier, how I tried to tell Ben I was feeling depressed about work, that things are getting ugly there. He said something I can’t remember (because it didn’t make me feel any better), then spent the rest of the conversation talking about how he and his friend are trying to figure out an inexpensive way of meeting each other (the guy lives south of south London – very far from where Ben is). Neither of them has a job/money, so they have to take buses through the city. Apparently finding a convenient place to meet is a challenge.
Then I start thinking about Wednesday.
On Monday, Ben promised Rosie he would try to visit her on Wednesday. When I text him from work to find out what time he is heading over and whether he is collecting Rosie from the childminder, he says he is suffering from hayfever and not feeling great. Apparently, he and his friend met up in Regent’s Park earlier in the day, and this has set off Ben’s hayfever. I say: “So, are you collecting Rosie?”
Now, I know he’s said he isn’t feeling well, but I don’t get a day off from collecting Rosie just because I have hayfever – or any other fever, for that matter. So, I ask the question again. He is annoyed, but why shouldn’t I be, too? I’ve been at work while he’s been swanning around Regent’s Park with his mate. Then he’s too ill to pick up Rosie so I have to leave work early to do it instead.
More hockey players get busy in my head.
At some point I try to engage Ben in conversation again, suggesting he meet his friend on the South Bank. His reply is characteristically barbed. “What for?” he says. I say, What? Because it’s on the Thames, it’s closer to him, you can walk and look around. Why are you always so rude to me? I’m trying to show some interest by making a suggestion. You don’t give a shit about anything I do or what’s going on in my life.
Oh yeah, that’s how it started)
He gets angry now. He starts throwing all sorts of things from the past at me, claiming that whenever I ask him what he’s been doing, I am really saying he’s a waste of space. The thing is, although my tone might sound abrupt when I ask him these questions (the question often ends up something like: so what exactly did you do today?), it really isn’t deliberate. I know it looks bad quoted here, too, but the reality is that Ben often describes his day like this: Yeah, I had some bits and pieces to do. Nothing interesting. So when I ask the question, it really is because I am annoyed by his vague references and want detail. I’m a details sort of person. I need detail to build a picture in my head. Otherwise, conversation is pointless.
He doesn’t believe me, of course. Because he is always willing to believe the worst about me. Maybe that’s a mutual tendency, who knows. At some point after he accuses me of lying when I try to explain my question, I blurt: Why don’t YOU stop lying. Why don’t you just admit you hate me and get it over with?
He denies the charge repeatedly, and this time it’s my turn to express disbelief.
As always, he leaves. As he goes, I hear him say: I don’t hate you. You’ve got that wrong. I don’t hate you. I just can’t live with you.
You and me both, I want to say, but he’s already gone and I can’t be bothered.
- Et oui, c’est le fil! (marriedtoalcoholic.wordpress.com)
- Epic rage (marriedtoalcoholic.wordpress.com)