The e-mail came in around mid-day. “Just driving thru London and listening to Volcano. Thought of you…”
It was my favorite song while I was with him. We listened to it over and over and again while spending lazy, boozy days in bed. At times, the lyrics felt uncomfortably familiar. Damien Rice's moody voice a constant reminder of the 14 years that separated us. It only bothered me because it bothered him. He’d go back and forth, joking that I was more mature than he, but then noting that in just 4 years he’d be turning 40. “Fourty…” he’d repeat, spitting out the word like a piece of sour candy. I’d stay silent and stroke the back of his head, watching him as he wrapped his mind around that reality.
The irony is that he was such a boy. It’s what pulled me towards him; it’s what made me stay. Tall, clever, bookish, and handsome; ours was part-time relationship built on excess. He was never my boyfriend—he was just the one I thought about at night, the one I spent my weekends with. He was selfish, though. Arrogant too. He talked too much and listened little, but it was the way he looked at me that made it OK. He was fascinated by me. Continuously impressed by the way that I lobbed his clever comments right back at him. One morning, as I stood in the kitchen making breakfast in his t-shirt he looked at me from the bed.
“What?” I asked, noticing the bemused smile on his face. “You’re perfect,” he said, his accent drawing out the syllables. “What are you doing with an old man like me?”
“I’m making you tea,” I said as I poured water into the kettle.
He drank and smoked and partied too much. So much that it was a problem. He was like a volcano waiting to erupt. Slurred phone calls, cancelled dates, days when he went missing. I cried a few times. I hated that I’d let him get to me. And so I put up a wall, and slowly got over him.
He moved back to London. He got help for the drinking. The messages started again, but they were different. Friendly, but stilted. I just wasn’t sure what to make of it. I didn’t really want him as a friend, and I’d already shut down the other part.
“Come to London,” he asked me. “I’ll take care of everything…”
Three times he's offered over the course of the past year or so. Three times I've refused—the most recent being a few days ago.
It’s an offer that few would turn down. A trip abroad, to a city I’ve always adored, with a man I once thought I did. But I can never bring myself to accept.
When I got his message today, I searched for the song in my library and listened to it a few times. Memories and feelings rushed back like a wave. Strange how bad ideas can sometimes seem less so when you feel a little bit lonely, a little bit sad…
“I still love that song,” I finally replied. Just not him.