When I first saw you I was thirteen and you were the twenty four year old vocalist of a band that I liked. Like a young, punkish Iggy Pop you were a wonderful frontman and I absorbed it all. How could a person who wrote such angry, bold lyrics not chime with me? Let’s say we we knew one another in the most casual ‘hello, goodbye’ way.
A record deal, being on TV, all strong signifiers that you Lady Stardust had spotted you and your place outside the rank and file was all but guaranteed.
Yet it didn’t happen.
The big time eluded you and where you vamoosed to in order to lick your wounds was pretty much unknown.
I meanwhile had many relationships then a serious one then a child then became widowed.
At forty six I was unprepared for dating.
I was fat and frightened and hadn’t had a good haircut for eons.
I changed that.
Fast forward a few years and I am wearing a UK 10-12 size clothes, moreover I actually have clothes. Cashmeres, silks, wrap tops, kitten soft suede ankle boots, faded jeans now become me and my dirty blonde hair has been coloured and now has shades of vanilla and caramel running throughout. My make-up bag contains delicate, flattering make-up and my skin care routine brings out the best in my pink and white complexion. I glow.
The band reform to everyone’s surprise, treading the nostalgia boards like so many others and there you are, my degenerate, dishevelled ex-hero. Old pictures of that sculptured, decadent face pop up online and I cannot resist liking each and every one of them. I am hidden in a crowd of others who are all pretty much doing the exact same thing. I am safe here in cyberspace.
But your antennae twitch and you start to zero in on me, soon the ‘likes’ are flowing my way. Maybe I am witty after all, maybe everything I say is note-worthy, maybe I am just the chosen one. The latter it would seem, I become your chosen one and you invite me to come and see you. We go for a drink. It’s good fun. I attend one of your gigs and that’s even better as you dedicate one of your more salacious tracks to me and break off mid-set to kiss me. I am blushing but pleased. Your messages are like honey, sticky-sweet. Am I safe? Do I miss you? If so, you miss me more! Will I come to your place for a few hours? Pretty please?
It is quite far, maybe a £15 cab fare, but I make a decision. It’s OK. I’m going. I take three long hours bathing, creaming, shampooing, conditioning, blowdrying, scenting my flesh My underwear and clothes are selected with great care.
I take pills since being widowed. Valium, they come in handy tonight and I take a few before leaving. i cannot bring myself to tell my son where I am going yet so tell him a shaggy dog story. Your messages push me onwards with their urgency ‘come on!’ they say, ‘I am waiting.’ I am ten minutes late when another flashes up ‘where are you?’ I am too nervous to not reply. Lipstick, chewing gum, scent. The taxi-driver watches me brush and rebrush my hair and smiles knowingly. That look tells me that I am back in the world of dating, of appeal, of gloss, of sex and best of all, love.
You rent a room in a HMO [house of multiple occupancy]. Men only. There is a spy-cam in the communal kitchen and another blinks at me on the stairway. The house smells of cereal packages stashed in a pantry, stale and biscuity. You lead me to your room that contains only a single bed, a lamp and a small black and white TV. Amy Winehouse is playing on your laptop, sad, smokey, sexy-voiced, booze-wrecked Amy.
I don’t know what I talked about. I listened as you told me about two ex-wives, both serial cheaters and both heartless enough to remove two sets of children from your life. You tell me about your most recent ex who bought you a car, a guitar and a watch, but she’s gone now, the mad-woman who set your flat on fire out of jealousy when you wanted to quit the relationship. Another female friend has found you this room and paid the deposit. Your Housing Benefit claim has yet to kick in. You do not tell me what your last job was, but then I didn’t ask.
We are all over one another. I draw the line at sex but there’s still this weird feeling of losing myself. I feel very young in this tine room and in the pitch black could be anything or anyone. i don’t need to be this sad, hung-up women, I don’t need to be the mourning widow, I don’t even have to think about being a mother for a few hours. Who wouldn’t feel slightly high? It’s 3am when I leave. I smell of cigarettes and stale biscuits. My phone alights ‘my pillow smells of Floris scent. When will you be back?’
‘Soon!’ I reply.
We see each other at the weekend at first, then a day in the week is added then another. i carve out time, I make the time that I hardly have. My son is behaving badly to garner attention, my father is dying of cancer, my mother ridicules me moon-blind about how I look and how I behave. But i don’t care.
A is an opportunist. My mother and my son are visiting my father? Great! Let’s use the free bedroom. Which we do. And we do so every time they visit. We sneak around like alley-cats and have sex in strange places. Graveyards. Phone booths. Public lavatories. I ache inside and keep getting Urinary Tract Infections. Doctors. Antibiotics. Antibiotics. Doctors.
I offer oral sex to silence him and this is accepted but he wants the power over me, not vice-versa and arguing over my ‘frigidity’ is such a drag that I often just let him proceed.
The cigarette burns my clavicle and A does not apologise.
His lip, I notice, is studded with cold sores and I ask him about it.
‘That’s from you,’ he replies. ‘Your pussy.’ He shakes his blonde head ‘and what about the STI you gave me?’
‘UTI,’ I correct, after all, I have never had an STI. But A is not listening, not at all, he doesn’t believe me, thinks me unfaithful and then swiftly drags me by my hair to his Facebook page to show me the ‘lover’ he thinks I am screwing behind his back.
I don’t know the guy and am certainly not sleeping with him.
I am in A&E. I cannot breathe from three fractured ribs and trauma to my breasts just adds to the pain. I stay in bed for three days, but the texts roll in at any time of the day or night. i lose count, hundreds each day, telling me what a whore I am, what a groupie-slut I am, what a disease-ridden c**t I am. I tell him that I am in bed and he tells me that he has seen two men come into my house. i am a prostitute so how much am I charging them? I sleep only for a few hours in any day. The glow has gone. As for weight, my size 12 clothes hang off me.
We don’t part. I see him when I am better but reduce the time we spend together. I am also looking around A’s room when I get the chance, I feel invasive and mean but do it anyway.
Girl’s pants, age group 10-12, are in one drawer, lube, anal probes and vibrators in another alongside hundreds of viagra tablets. His hidden bottles of vodka are in the cistern of the lavatory. I guess he gets slaughtered at soon as I leave his side, maybe prompted rows so that he could be alone and drink until he passes out.
I am nauseated but he likes me nauseated though and shows me the gay modelling calendar he posed for aged 20, tells me of boyfriends who have paid for his services in the past and that he is bisexual. Vanilla sex bores him. When will I just give him my arse instead of my boring vagina? When will i learn to give a proper blow-job?
It is June. We have been together for a year. A quits the band for the final time and they are glad to see him go, they too have been receiving around the clock abusive texts, they too have seen him punching holes in walls when he doesn’t get his own way. One band member tells me that the ex-wives were all beaten up and the children abused. One of his daughters was dying aged 30 of breast cancer yet he ignored that because he wanted to be with me. The ex who ‘set fire to the flat’ did no such thing, but he did.
Had they told me would I have believed any of it? Or would I have opted for his version of events? Hard to say.
June is also my birthday but he gets me nothing, he never has. Valentine’s and Christmas and birthday are for other women not me, which is too humilating to admit. I leave for three months with my son and never return to his side. I go to an STI clinic and get a comprehensive check-up and mercifully all of these results are clear.
A still says that he has only ever loved me in his life. On Facebook he posts that the one he loved was both cold and detached and people ‘like’ the comment. They have decided who the ‘bad’ one is. Me. His dwindling audience are my judge and jury.
I haven’t seen him for sixteen months now.
Life never guite reverts back to how it was, you do not emerge from a fire minus burn marks, but I think that i have learned a lot since the day I first clicked ‘like’ on one of his old pictures, amazing at that bug-eyed, cheekboned, ravishing face.