Tuesday 24 June 2008

The Wrong Love- How I Ended up With Claire

Although I DID start that series on science (and have indeed written the next post on it), I thought a break might be due to expand on the last post.

I think maybe it's time to expand a little on my love life history, because maybe, it might prove enlightening.
And hey, it's sordid gossip, so you'll love it!

I'm really not going to give you the full novel treatment. You don't need to know it. But key events, maybe.

First, the fact that I often refer to my first true love, Joanna.
But let's be honest, we're not just talking first. We're talking first, last and ONLY.

She isn't the subject of this post. She's the hole around which the subsequent history of my life on that front was written.

And which twice in my life I ALMOST escaped from. But never grasped that chance properly on either occasion, for reasons which will become apparent.

Let's just start by saying that post-Joanna, I didn't really have what you'd call a love life. Sex life, maybe, love life, no. This continued for almost three years.
During which time my general behaviour was pretty appalling.

Summed up best by this nadir of a line to a woman I was sleeping with 'Was you thinking of coming with us? Only me and (Chimney Sweep) was planning on getting laid, and that's going to be kind of hard with you tagging along'.

This all ended when I met Claire.

When I met Claire, I had been out of University a year. A factory job, a stab at tax consultancy, a few temp jobs.
One of which resulted in a permanent position. For a marketing company. I found I actually enjoyed it. And no one SEEMED to notice I was high half the time. And after a few months, I was advised to apply for a job in Business Development.

This necessitated a kind of transformation. The role involved actually meeting people a fair bit. Out with the long purple hair, the goatee, the black t-shirt depicting Elvis smoking a joint.
In with the look I've had ever since- though in fact I'd had it before a few times. The previous few years had been punctuated by regular transformations, experiments in styles of facial hair, hairstyle, clothing style, etc.

Anyway, my desk faced Claire.
Claire was not my type. Not really. She was due to leave in five weeks to become a college lecturer. She didn't drink, didn't smoke, went to a Unitarian church. She had modelled bridal wear at one point and had been her home town's carnival queen. All these things meant there was a certain enjoyment in flirting with her, but to be honest, I didn't take it too seriously.

More serious, in my eyes, was Megan in Accounts. We'd been to the pub together before- we had the same interests in many ways. Meaning dance culture and all that went with it. She was extremely slender and although not aesthetically perfect, had a lot about her I related to. Only one down side.
Her five year old child.

My new job meant that Megan only worked in the office opposite. And of course, unlike the floor staff, we could smoke when we wanted. So Megan and myself always took our breaks together.
Anyway, I wasn't really paying overmuch attention, or perhaps let's be more honest and just admit that I was being very blase about the whole situation, but in retrospect the two certainly developed a certain competitive dislike for eachother.

There was an added dynamic that my new boss knew Claire outside work and really got on well with her boyfriend. Me, he couldn't stand. He'd had to take me on, because I was the best candidate and while he thought I was good at my job, fact was, we'd met at a barbecue long before I suspected I'd ever work under him, and I was smoking a LOT of Marijuana that night. And getting off with more than one fellow employee.

So my continually flirting with Claire and her biting, was winding him up something rotten.
Claire later told me that while they car shared during the petrol strike he said to her 'I don't want you getting too close to that Crushed. He's a good salesman, good for the department, but he's way beneath you. Love 'em and leave 'em sort, him. And he's into drugs. You leave him to that Megan. She's more his sort. Birds of a feather.'

Anyway, this fatherly advice had the reverse effect. Claire most certainly WASN'T going to leave him to that Megan. Not of course, that I'd picked up on any of this.

After the petrol strike, Claire began to offer me a lift home every night. Even though it wasn't in her direction. So I just got her to drop me at the pub. One day she was mock complaining in the office 'I drop him off at the pub every night, and he never invites me in!'
So I shrugged 'I never stop you coming in. You never said you wanted to. OK, tonight we'll have a drink together'.

It was a strange sort of drink. To be honest, by this point I knew I'd only be working with her for three more weeks, and I still saw the flirting as play flirting. I think I saw it as an opportunity to unwind, find out what my boss thought of me so I could plan my tactics, and lastly, set her clear on a few points.

It turned out she had a poem she wanted to show me. She said she'd been inspired by some of my efforts (I used to write song lyrics in my lunch break). Yes, you've guessed it, it was about love. Something about holding you tight in their arms. I've still got it somewhere.
I won't say I wasn't uncomfortable reading it, I was. It seemed a bit personal. And it seemed hard to believe it was written about her boyfriend of two years, with whom I now knew, they were going through the death throes.

Anyway, I deflected this possible line of conversation, by telling her about Joanna, how I never thought I'd stop loving Joanna, how losing her had made me cynical about the whole thing, and that now, I'd prefer Coke to Love any day- at least Coke couldn't hurt me. I told her what I essentially told all of you in this post.

And she started to cry.

'That's so sad- but so romantic! Oh, I understand, XXX, NOW I understand.'

I remember smiling sadly and thinking 'No you don't. How can you?'

During the next week, the game kind of changed. Even I was starting to notice the puppy dog eyes. Though to be honest, I still wasn't paying as much attention as I should have been.
There was one occasion when I made a rather crude joke and she responded with 'Not with him, I would with you.' and I actually looked up in shock. NOT what I expected from Ms Strait-laced at all.
And I continued to while away much of my lunch hour with Megan.

Anyway, mid week I remember asking some question about her boyfriend and her saying 'I think we're splitting up. I've got feelings for someone else.'
I sucked my pen for a bit. 'Not Andy?'
She looked shocked 'No! Of course not! Tell you what, are we going to the pub again on Friday? I'll tell you then'.

I shrugged 'OK. Don't see why the mystery'.

The reader is probably slightly more on the ball here than I was.

Anyway, on the Friday she brought up the topic again 'Still OK for that drink?'
I slapped my forehead 'Totally forgot. No, I won't be getting a lift tonight, I need to go over to Operations and do some work on this college recruitment campaign. I'll be here till eight.'
'But you said...'
I shrugged 'Work, Claire, work. Another time. It's no biggy, after all. Next week some time, eh?'

I thought nothing of it.
Till she turned up at my door on Sunday.
'I thought we could go for that drink now'.
I was a bit gobsmacked, but grabbed my coat.

Anyway, we sat at the pub and made smalltalk for at least three pints (her on cokes, obviously), before I broached the topic 'Why the urgent rush to drag me out today? Is this about this thing you wanted to talk about? Your secret bit on the side?'
She looked embarrassed 'He's not a bit on the side. In fact I don't think he's interested in me. I think he likes someone else.'

OK. Even I have a good idea what's coming now. But hey, we might as well play this game to it's conclusion. 'Who is he then?', I ask with all the naivety of Baldrick.

Didn't stop my downing what remained of my pint when she answered. Christ. Now what? She looked like she was going to cry. So I just took her hand in mine and stroked it. And smiled at her. To let her know it was going to be OK.

'Let me just grab another pint.'

Whilst I stood at the bar, I watched her huddled up at the table, clearly writhing in embarrassment. She'd blurted her heart out and now she wanted an answer.

What was I going to say when I got back?

I looked at her. And I wanted to put my arms around her and kiss it all better.

I felt responsible.

She left her boyfriend that night.

I often think how life might have panned out, had I opted for Megan.

Four months later, we got engaged.
Two months after that, we got a house together.

I tried, I really did. Gone the Saturday afternoons spent in clouds of pot smoke. In with putting up shelves and walks along canal banks.

I think by the time we got engaged, it had already run its course. Certainly, living together, we had nothing in common. We argued about something most weeks. She continually complained she never had enough time with me and that was the root cause of our arguments. I felt exactly the opposite. Any excuse to stay at the office to avoid going home. And she didn't like me spending time with other people. Jealous of my mates. I used to invent little lies just to get me out of the house, and of course she then thought I was seeing other women, and of course with her continually accusing me of it, eventually I started to.

Thing is, these things are never black and white. Of course I remember the rows, the screaming, her threats to kill herself if I walked out.
But I also remember the fact that we used to go visit National Trust properties most weekends. We both loved history and it brought us together. She always said that the main thing that attracted her to me was when I went into full flow. She loved listening, as I would explain the history of the persecution of Catholics, or rotten boroughs, or the Plantagenet succession.

And I remember the picnics in the country, the spontaneous love making in not-so-secluded places, romantic dinners, our holiday in Devon, etc.

And I remember she aborted my child.

We were together a long time. And it ended very nastily.

And what lay at the root of it?

On her part, infatuation initially, I think. Had she not been so devout and 'prim and proper' in the old fashioned sense of the word, I think she'd just have seen me as a rebound fling, a sampling of someone a little bit darkly fascinating, before she went to find what she was really looking for.
Instead she tried to turn me into what she was looking for.

And on my part? A misplaced sense of duty, maybe. A sense that somehow or other someone was in love with you, and if you COULD try love them back you might as well. Because I really believed I'd never love anyone again like I loved Joanna.

I still dreamed about Joanna, and I know Claire knew I did. Because one day she said she dreamt she caught me in bed with Joanna (even though she had never met Joanna). Well, I had dreamed that night of being in bed with Joanna. It was too much coincidence. I MUST have said her name.

We weren't nice to eachother a lot of the time. Her temper was pretty nasty and at times her grip on my arm resulted in bruising.

But I could be as bad in other ways.

Two points to me sum up our whole relationship, exactly what it ended up being built on.

First, was after she'd had a car accident. A&E had given her tranquilisers to sedate her, but she refused to take them. To calm her down, I took her on the Severn Valley Railway (We lived in Kidderminster then).
It seemed she felt this was honesty day, or rather she didn't because she was pretty much delirious. She always claimed to remember nothing of this day, though I think she did.
It was like talking to someone possessed, but hypnotised. A bit like the Exorcist.

I can remember sitting in the old Nineteen Thirties railway carriage looking out at the scenery when this conversation took place;

Claire: Do you know WHY I hate you?

Crushed: Do enlighten me. I'm fascinated, seriously.

Claire: Because all my boyfriends loved me. All of them. I've only had three, but they all loved me. And I never loved any of them. And they were good people.

Crushed: And I'm not, I suppose. Because I didn't walk into a job my Daddy gave me. Because I'm just some druggie bit of rough you picked up at work?

Claire: That's right. That's what you are. I could do so much better than you.

Crushed: Go on then. I'm not stopping you, am I?

Claire: No. No you're not. That's the point. Thing is, I DO love you, but I don't know why. But one thing I do know, you don't love me. THAT'S why I hate you. For making me love you, when you don't give a damn.

I looked right at her. What did she want from me? Pity? Is what she just said supposed to make me feel good?

I muttered under my breath 'Hurts doesn't it, loving someone'. And Joanna flashed through my mind. Then I looked back at Claire, feeling in my guts I somehow owed her something. And I patted the seat next to me. And over she came. I kissed her forehead and ran my finger along her lips.

The second incident that hammers home to me a huge dynamic of why we stayed together is this story. Another argument in the tiny terrace property we called a house, voices raised, nosy Anne from nextdoor ear glued to the wall no doubt.

It had got the stage where I had my jacket on and was 'Off to the Boar till you sort your head out'.
Off she darts to the bathroom and comes running back in, bottle of sleeping pills in hand. Usually this trick worked- I'd dive towards her, wrestle the bottle out of her hand and in the tustling we'd start embracing and end up kissing. But today I was beyond that.
'Oh, the pill scare again. Come on Claire, you pour most of them down your top. It's not like you actually want to die now, is it? Go on, swallow them. Then ring A& E and tell them, because I'll be in the Boar.'
She winced. Off she runs again, to the kitchen this time. When she returns, she has both hands tightly gripped on the carving knife, the blade touching her windpipe.

I laughed (fake laugh, obviously) 'God, you LOVE the drama, don't you? Go on, I dare you! Go on, do it!'

I watched the expression on her face. There were tears in her eyes. She really was squeezing that blade. My senses returned. She really was that wound up, and she wouldn't back down. If I pushed my hand down on that door handle, she WOULD put that blade through her throat, to prove her point.

I lifted my hand off the door and walked over to her and took the knife from her.

I held her close and we went upstairs.

After it was all over, I really did hate myself. Mainly for the abortion, but also due to the appalling way we'd both treated eachother.

I still think I accrued a lot of negative Karma over that period, and whilst I don't think I deserved things that later happened to me in the strict sense, maybe in a Karma sense I did.

But here's the honest fact. Claire just stands out as the classic example. Because it was such a big thing. Engagement, living together, abortion.

But the fact is, a lot of my relationships since Joanna, have essentially been modelled to the Claire pattern. They happened, not because I loved them, but because they were there. The only other model, has been the 'arrangement', people you see for periods of time with a clear no strings proviso.

And me? I just carried on without thought, carried on regardless.

Twice in my life since this point, I've come across women I genuinely could have loved, I think. Maybe three, if you count Angela- though I think that was actually a rare example of an infatuation on my part.

Blew it in all cases, obviously. Possibly intentionally.

And of course I've only recently come to understand any of this. And oddly, it's only blogging has allowed me to do this- finally face the fact that there ARE women I purposely avoid for a reason.

But I'll come to that.


Anonymous said...

As I have said before crushed, sometimes we simply do the wrong things for the right reasons.

Can always say i agree or like what you have done or what you say, but i sure respect them since you have always been honest and open with them.

Tears without fears and "Mad World". Sounds really appropriate.

Anonymous said...

I feel a bit like nosy Ann from next door with my ear pressed against the wall :) I loved that line.

Hey..we've all been in dysfunctional hate/love relationships. I get the feeling you think worse of yourself than anyone else is thinking. To me, it just sounds like a bad relationship that you got out of.
I look back on the way I behaved 5 or 10 years ago and can be appalled at some of the callous things that I did.

I'm not going to say, "oh you wouldn't be like that in your next relationship because you learnt your lessons from it" because you might actually be a LOT like that same person.
I think it depends on where you are at in your life and how you respond to a certain person.

Anonymous said...

I think I used to do it like Claire; to 'force their hand', so to speak. Not anymore, I hope :-)

You hardly knew Claire, but you did what girls here do; its based on the premise 'it's not easy to find love, so don't be too quick to turn a good thing down'. Now, I can say, 'Even if he's a good thing, I don't want it.' *wry smile*

Anonymous said...

I feel like a bit of a voyeur, but then I'm sure it's rather cathartic for you to write that all down.

It is quite the ugly story and neither of you behaved well. But I'm sure you both learned a lot from it and that's what life's all about. Making mistakes, learning from them and moving on. Not that you won't make more mistakes, just hopefully different ones.

Anonymous said...

So many things that can fuck up a relationship. She admitted she did it three times herself. Love is way too complicated sometimes. I think if you find one that isn't, then that might be the sign you've found the right one...

Anonymous said...

Its a big call to recognise ones own 'faults', for want of a better way to say it. Think many have been guilty of falling for an ideal and then realising it will not work. Is it the loss of what becomes habit or loss of a belief that hurts the most , or both. Have only ever told 3 that I love them, two were mistakes, one never will be.

Anonymous said...

There is a fine line between love and hate and we don't always know how to distinguish which side of the line we are balancing at...

...but I understand you now. I really do.

Anonymous said...

Crashie- I think yes, it was a classic case of doing the wrong thing for the right reasons.

I've certainly been no angel in my life, but at heart I think I'm basically a decent person.

From 'The Hurting'. Great album.

Kate- The best one was when we were-er- well, it was a hot summers day and the window was open.
And I whispered to claire 'anne's brrom is slowing- think she's listening?'

We gave her something to listen to...
Her broom stopped totally.

I really didn't know much better at the time.

The trick is, as I've realised AVOID CLAIRE-TYPE WOMEN.
Because those are the ones I seem to attract.
And yet, once the novelty of their infatuation wears off, fact is, they're not the sort of people I'd actually choose as close friends. and that of course, is the point.

Eve- That's how I feel. Fact is, it doesn't matter HOW much someone loves you, they have to give you that warm fuzzy feeling.

Yes, I DID think that for a long time. Now finally I've learned, better not to be loved at all, than be loved by the wrong person.

jmb- I DID learn, but not as quickly as you might think. The same cycle did sort of repeat itself over and over.



Anonymous said...

Well life is all about learning and not repeating the mistakes. You have looked at it and seen the problems!

Anonymous said...

CBI I am always amazed at how much you lay open to the world. I write this sort of thing in metaphor or subtext because I would find the actual physical typing of it too difficult. And to write it so that it is good writing, and engaging, even easy to visualise - now that is very difficult indeed.

Anonymous said...

Jmb- To continue, I think the final lesson to be learned, which it took me a long time to learn, was ben careful what you get yourself into.

Fusion- Always seems to be complicasted though, doesn't? My first love wasn't, really, but then again it complicated things ever after.

Nunyaa- I say it all too often, and I've hardly ever meant it. In the moment I've said it, yes. But it seems to be one of those things you can't retract.

Heart- Yes, but True Love can never turn to hate, surely? Infatuations, yes, but never forget 'It is not love that which conditions makes'

I'm not THAT complicated :)

CherryPie- Yes, I attract the wrong women, basically.
Dizzy summed it up quite well really. She said because I have this little boy lost side to me, I attract the ones who want to mother and reform me and put me in a little box somewhere only they can get to.
But thing is, I hate being treated that way.

TD- I actually find these sorts of posts kind of write themselves pretty easy, because it's just a case of remembering stuff. Then I go back and realise I've missed things that could be relevant, but then I think if it was THAT relevant I'd have put it in in the first place.

I do write pretty much how I talk, actually, though it probably comes across very different in real life, because I'm quite an inflected speaker and prone to using hand gestures.

Anonymous said...

Crushed, You come over as reasonably objective when you write stuff like this. Trying to work out your own motivations and others.

Maybe you can be a bit too self absorbed, selfish? Love should be giving and not keeping score, unselfish. Sometimes if you are really willing to give everything then you get it all back again and more.

But, the thing is, in the end no love story can end up happily ever after, even the best, most permanent, loves eventually hit the brick wall at the end of time and one of them is alone again... for a time.

Take what you can while you can and make the best of it you can. Like in all those old black & white WWII movies about brave pilots and their girls. Those people the films were about understood I guess.

It’s uplifting, and somehow tragic at the same time…