It’s been a while since my last confession.
My sister came to visit me during the month of January. When she was born and I was a measly six years old my Dad said to me:
“Friends will come and go but she will be with you for life”
It’s always stuck with me. We’ve always been close, but the responsibilities of adult life and the physical distance between us have inevitably made us more distant.
I love her, but the distance makes me sad.
In Hoi An we saw a beggar lady. The beggar lady was, at a guess, 85 years old. A western lady tried to take a photo of her. The western lady was, at a guess, 35 years old.
I stood up, and tried to take a picture of the Western lady. I felt that a picture of a rich woman trying to take a picture of a poor woman said more than the picture of a poor woman taken by a rich woman ever could.
The rich woman asked what I was doing, so I explained. She seemed annoyed, although she’d never asked permission of the beggar lady to be included in a photo.
My sister understood, and I love that about my sister. My sister is nicer than I’ll ever be able to convey in words to her.
The rich lady and the beggar lady probably went back to their lives. My sister definitely went back to hers. I carried on my haphazard carry ons too.
I went to my friends place, P & Y. They live in the cosiest hole I’ve ever been in since I spent nine months in a womb. A one bedroom apartment, tiny and cramped, walls covered in their art, bed covered with a parachute and floors hidden by paint brushes, cuddly toys and nick nacks.
Together, we had a pleasant little mix of delightful drugs. With no windows, time bled meaninglessly by. I painted, and missed G.
I still miss G.
She popped into my life all too briefly, like a water nymph, decorating my edges with dazzling colours before kissing my cheek and diving back down under the waves. Exactly like the movie “Splash!” but without the happy ending.
And if she were here, oh if she were here.
Instead, I’m alone typing. I miss my sister and I miss G. My existence continues in the same erratic, libertine, directionless mess. Lovely but lonely.
Into this blog, some self-pity has fallen.
If I didn’t care for fun and such,
I’d probably amount to much.
But I shall stay the way I am,
Because I do not give a damn.
~ Dorothy Parker ~
Listening to music can be like cauterizing a wound. It burns and it stings but the purpose is curative. If you’re cut open by infidelity then I want you by Elvis Costello. Beginning like a love song, it quickly collapses into the sound of someone clawing at their chest, trying to dig out and discard their heart. Three words run through the song, visceral, broken, angry, defeated.
I want to know the things you did that we do too, I want you
I might as well be useless for all it means to you, I want you
A rival to Something I can never have by Nine Inch Nails as saddest song ever.
Self-pity, like saunas, should only be wallowed in for a short while, but having the person you love inexpressibly, hurt you so viciously can leave you conflicted.
For bitterness, (but to be kept at bay) When did you stop loving me? (When did I stop loving you?) by Marvin Gaye.
And for sadness, the kind that paralyses all but your tear ducts, You don’t know how lucky you are by Keaton Henson. An acoustic guitar, a heartbroken voice and an almost unbearably sad video.
As time passes, open wounds become scars. I can never be by (the male Amy Winehouse) Maverick Sable, drips with regret, but is hardened by resilience.
And lastly, if you’re British you’ll know that no-one is ever quite so succinct in song as Jarvis Cocker. TV Movie by Pulp is at once achingly stark, lonely, dark, wry and moving.
my life has become
a hangover without end.
A movie, made for tv:
Bad dialogue, bad acting, no interest.
Too long with no story and no sex.
Dear M, it still hurts, but I think any anger has gone and I never let the bitterness best me. I think more about the future than the past now, and though it terrifies me it’s good to feel alive again. Goodbye my lover, goodbye my old best friend.
Any other songs for the broken-hearted? Leave them in the comments below.
Music is the art which is most nigh to tears and memory
“How old are you?” one of my 14 year old students asked. 33, I replied. “And do you have a wife?”. I said no. She asked why.
I haven’t found her yet, I said, smiling. Her expression didn’t change but she said with some conviction “And you never, ever will…”
Kids. Bless them.
And I’m hung over but this is fine as, in one of the few examples where I am right and the world is wrong, I don’t work mondays.
It’s also fine because I have my own little hang over routine. It involves ice coffee and water and cigarettes and music and the merest splash of red wine. And I know when I’m feeling better because that’s when I start to dance.
Nothing you’d confuse with anything professional of course. Much more of a distant cousin 4 times removed from dancing. Swaying’s nephew, perhaps.
And I know I look silly but it makes me smile.
Today, I haven’t danced yet. And I don’t know that I will. Because I’ve been sharing hangovers with G, but G’s not here now. The ice coffee and water and cigarettes and music and overflowing red wine and dancing we’ve shared together.
And I know I looked silly but it made her smile.
“Without music life would be a mistake”
Her stuff isn’t strewn around my room anymore. There are exactly 50% less ciggy butts in the ashtray, and one less glass of wine. It’s been a disgraceful, debauched and deeply lovely week.
But now it’s quiet, and empty because G is gone.
More than things, she isn’t here, and I’m even emptier than the room.
She left yesterday. Our friend P came to the airport too. He was picking up a new teacher, so the taxi on the way was free. G and me both share the benevolent luck of coming by freebies easily.
She left, and I won’t be hearing laters, taters anymore. I waved and turned and walked away and felt the physical distance grow. In the taxi back I glanced up at the sky, hoping, like a fool, to see a plane.
I filled my evening with friends and filled myself with drink. Somehow, still emptily.
And she talked of coming back, and she might, but I think it was meant to make our parting easier. I think that I know that it’s over.
It was intense and it was beautiful. Days spent entirely in this now empty room.
We talked each other inside out. Made the most of every moment. We did, for this last week, what people so often forget to do: We lived.
Her wry smile, wit and eloquence are far, far away. And it hurts that I might not see her again, to amuse and be amused, be awed and to kiss. But I’m stronger because of her. And I’ll remember when she said:
You’re gorgeous and you’re perfect.
Not true. But she thought it, and the thought was so big and uncontainable that she said it. Here in my empty room I’ll always be able to think of her and smile.
“If there’s any kind of magic in this world… it must be in the attempt of understanding someone, sharing something. I know it’s almost impossible to succeed… but who cares, really? The answer must be in the attempt”
Celine, “Before Sunrise”
We met outside a bar in a shiny neon night. There were motorbikes and street hawkers and noise and dirt and we talked alone together in a group. My friend L was there, and she sent me a text. The text said something that only a kind and caring friend could send. The text said this:
Body language signs good. Don’t fuck this up, dick.
She – G – has been the best person I could meet. You don’t see yourself with someone else when you’ve been hurt, and broken, and damaged. I didn’t.
And whisper this, but I didn’t think someone would want me. That’s the sort of thing that you really shouldn’t say. And I didn’t, but I thought it. I pushed it down but it was there.
And then I met her, and she was damaged too. Damaged, just like me. The same exact experience, though all of the names had been changed. And is there anything more blissful and reassuring than to meet another human being who understands you?
Meeting another human being who understands you, and likes you. And you like and understand them too.
Isn’t that everything that anybody has ever wanted, ever?
Now, she’s leaving. And she should go, she should. I don’t want her to go. I don’t.
It makes sense for her to leave. She hasn’t taken to ‘Nam, and a cosy little role has popped up elsewhere. But my heart is like a child that just doesn’t quite understand. And I don’t want to tell it the truth.
The worst thing I could do is fall in love with you
And I should have said, “Do it”. Because it would have spoken of our natures. Impulsive and Reckless. A bit fucked in the head. And it would have made her giggle, and I like that sound. And it would have told her how I feel. Again, I feel.
I didn’t say “Do it”. I didn’t think of those words. I lay in the bed and looked at her, and she looked at me too. I think she was thinking what I was thinking and what I was thinking was this:
Stop time, remember the now.
But memory is hard to hold. I don’t even remember what words came next. The moment, like all the other moments, was gone.
I like listening to her. She chooses her words carefully, but with seemingly no effort at all. She makes me think differently about things. She smiles, even when she’s sad.
She’s lackadaisical or passionate but never in between. There’s no concrete plan, she doesn’t know where she’ll be but she wants to learn to trapeze and she will. She floats through life like me. She’s unfazeable. She’s witty. We do silly things together every time we meet. She plays poker. I fancy the pants off her.
But we’ve been damaged, and I don’t think she wants to be damaged again. We’ve met at the right time and the wrong time too.
And she should go.
And she will go.
When she goes, I’ll think this:
Would I wish that things were different when I know all things must pass? I wouldn’t. Who would?
“And I will always wonder how it would be if we never had met,
Life would be easier though dull, I suspect,
And I’d never claim you were mine.
Just if we were words, we would rhyme.”
~ Gruff Rhys ~
After four months of WordPress being blocked – the downside of living under a Communist regime – WordPress has miraculously returned, and so have I. Vietnam is still home for the time being, with travelling and teaching taking up most of my time.
Life has been good. I’ve even stumbled upon two women who, despite possessing ample good taste and intelligence in all other affairs, managed to fall for what could laughably be described as “my charms”.
The first of these two encounters was good for me. It was almost ten years since my lips had touched the lips of anyone other than M, and at the risk of sounding hopelessly pathetic it was a relief to find someone who wished to be intimate with me. Infidelity is a crushing blow, and it did crush me. I don’t think I’d realized quite how much.
I won’t go into details, obviously, other than to say I have never been with a woman who didn’t have the common decency to fake it. Am I getting to grips with the whole bragging thing yet?
The second woman, lets call her G, is an ongoing relationship. The same age as me, married within a month of me, unmarried at almost the same time, and with the same insane notion of fleeing her home Country to teach in Southeast Asia. So we have a few things in common.
We aren’t together together. Devastatingly atrocious endings to marriages tends to put you off the couple thing, but we do some of the things together that couples like to do.
She’s interesting, and laid-back, funny and good to talk to. She has good stories, and a laconic, dry way of telling them.
Like the Japanese couple in Indonesia, who complained very politely of a lizard in their room. The receptionist explained that geckos were everywhere, that they got into rooms and that little could be done to stop them but in any case, they were quite harmless. The couple listened, nodded, meekly returned to their room.
Only after they checked out next day did the cleaner discover the Komodo dragon in the bathroom.
I’ve had no contact with M, other than one picture of her on Facebook, on her birthday, in a restaurant. She’s sat next to a man I don’t know. A colleague? Lover? I don’t know. More importantly, I don’t particularly care.
I want to hope it is a boyfriend and that she’s happy and well, and in time I will. But for the moment, not caring is progress. I’m getting over her. Odd, but good.
Which, on a good day, is probably the best review I can expect from a woman with whom I’ve been intimate.
(Forgive my macho boasting).
“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”
I thought anniversaries were over for me, but here are my one year ago words:
My life, in the last few weeks, has come to resemble a newspaper and not a story. Gone is the structure, the narrative, the aims or the arcs. Life, my life, is now a series of unconnected, meaningless events.
This blog won’t always be so bleak, but I have a little more gloom to gift you.
My wife has cut me out of her life without telling me.
After eight years she has cheated on me, and is now in the process of leaving me for good. Not for better but definitely worse.
If pain should be embraced and burned as fuel for our journey, then I’m at the beginning of a very long trip.
I knew something was rotten in the same way an animal is aware that it’s dying. A dog is incapable of equating it’s deteriating condition to the end of it’s life. It merely experiences every moment in isolation, each increasingly worse.
And I too have now experienced something dying, without being aware of it’s impending death. Life is full of experiences!
This is a blog with a purpose, because I no longer have one. In writing it, I hope I might find some humour, some insight or, at the very least, a little comfort.
This blog will not be bitter. I may be betrayed, hurt, embarrassed, depressed, angry, jealous and broken, but bitter I am not. Hearts aren’t to be hardened even if they are made to be broken.
This blog will be honest and avoid self-pity, though in the interests of honesty, into this blog some self-pity may slip.
This blog isn’t about revenge because I don’t want to dig two graves.
M has diligently cut away at the threads that connected us, and set herself free, floating away and leaving me among the debris of our former life. I am, as I write, empty and alone.
I’m at the end of something and the beginning of something else, and I’ve no idea about either. And so begins the trip…
I postpone death by living, by suffering, by error, by risking, by giving, by losing.
Other than 4000 places in Japan, my favourite surreal place in the World is Dalat. It’s one of the few places in Asia where you can be lead around a field, on a horse, by a Vietnamese man dressed as a cowboy.
I went there with an American friend, L, who has lived in both the Ecuadorian rain forest and a mid-western trailer park. She’s an overwhelming force for fun, with a laugh that translates into any language as this: I just thought of something dirty.
To the Crazy House, a Gaudi-esque oddity, both tourist attraction and hotel, full of maze like corridors, stairways to nothing and bizarrely rendered animal statues.
Next the former residence of Vietnam’s last King, to sit in traditional Vietnamese gowns on a thrown.
Having posed most regally, we entered the Valley of Love. If we’d had a Seismographer specially rendered to measure kitsch, it probably would have orgasmed.
Hundreds of gaudy statues in acres of parkland, couple swings and cowboys, and everything imaginable twisted into the shape of a heart.
It’s a top destination for newlywed Vietnamese. L and I are not a couple, and so we diluted the sugary lovliness of it all by posing for pictures as corpses.
At dinner – shellfish on the street – we got through 4 bottles of Dalat red wine and, stumbling home, came across the bright shiny lights of a nightclub entrance. Like two dazzlingly bedraggled turtles, we headed straight for the sparkling lights…
At 8.45am I trudged downstairs to tell the motorbike guys we’d hired that we wouldn’t be ready at 8.30am after all. However, all would be well at 9.30am, and at 10.45am on the dot we set off for the countryside!
Motorbiking through spectacular scenery is an excellent cure for hangovers. We hiked down under a waterfall, in true Last of the Mohicans style, took a cable car ride, and, over a lunch of chicken, beef, wild boar, tofu, fish, vegetables and silk work larvae, regained memories of the previous evening. Which for L was mostly spent swinging around a pole.
To a silk factory we trekked, the endless drone, drone, drone of the machines deafening. How odd it must be to work in a dreary factory every. single. day, and have privileged Western tourists snoop all around you.
Next, a presumably little known fact: Vietnamese weasels love coffee beans.
They eat them, and when they excreate them, the coffee beans have become gorgeously delicious. How inventive and darkly humoured nature can be.
In pretentious and snooty and quite possibly, trendy parts of New York, a cup can set you back $200. We paid two.
Thick and chocolatey.
I can’t afford $200 coffee, and never will. But I don’t have to work in a humdrum and glum factory. All round, I have reasons to feel pleased.
“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognising and appreciating what we do have.”
It’s been ten months since my last confession, but I have been a bit of a busy bee. I’m 8700 miles from home. You can’t run away from sadness but I thought perhaps I could fly.
Vietnam is now home and has been since November. I’ve returned to the teaching English game.
Life is good, and I think of M less. I saw her before I left. We talked, a long talk, hours and hours covering years and years. When we said goodbye it was final. We cried in a fairly dismal, mundane setting, on a road by a river. We kissed and we parted. 8 years ended with the touch of two lips.
I haven’t kissed any other lips since. I’m still all too aware how lips can so easily lie. Friends and food and drink keep the loneliness confined to darker corners of my mind.
M now lives in the shadows of my life, but this is good. The long shadows remind me that to my life has returned some Sun.
Is this not the true romantic feeling; not to desire to escape life, but to prevent life from escaping you.
I usually keep talking to kill the silence, in just the same way as I keep doing, to kill the thoughts. Almost everyone who I wanted to tell about our seperation has now been told. Some know about M’s adultery. Nobody knows what to say.
So I keep talking to kill the silence, doing to kill the thoughts.
Jesus, people say, I don’t know what to say. The scale and severity of the cheating really does knock people cold. I find it comforting. That the lies and deceit can kick people so hard, people who have not been directly stabbed by them, makes me feel stronger than I am.
I haven’t screamed, shouted, smashed or struck out. I’ve stayed calm. A friend who’s a counsellor tells me my reaction, my lack of anger, is unusual. I suppose I’ve always liked to be different.
I overheard a woman in the theatre yesterday. She asked, in an opulent, privileged pleased-with-ones-self voice;
Would you give me the number of the police station please?
The staff acquiesed.
I think my bag has been stolen, she continued. I left it in the taxi and the driver was black.
She was tall, slim and elegantly dressed, yet her face was marked with the sourness of a thousand frowns. The body of a swan with the head of a vulture, I thought. Nothing as bitter as the bile in her throat.
Tomorrow M will come back here. She is selfish and a liar, but not as bad as the woman in the theatre. Her new place isn’t ready for two weeks and she’s nowhere else to stay.
A lot of people I know think I shouldn’t let her back. And I wonder: Should my kindness not be confused for weakness? Or my weakness not for kindness?
I need a little anger. I need to feel a little less sad about who’s leaving my life.
I’ve worried about him using you, of you ending up all alone. And then it struck me: In what way have you changed? Perhaps he will leave his wife and kids, and perhaps one day you’ll cheat on him too. I think I’d probably like that, and I’m sure that you would cope.
fire. It burns it all clean.