Since then i've learnt how to save myself :)
The waiter stops to clear the empty glasses from our table. She’s young, good looking and super cool as all the waiters are in this bar. She glances at us, “oh, you two look so good together!” For a fraction of a second I double take and I sneak a glance at Guy, his face has a fleeting look of shock, or hurt, maybe anger. This is replaced very quickly with a look of bemusement, a tight lipped smile, very similar to the one that must be on my face now. Neither of us answer the waiter. Why bother? We haven’t been together for a year and a half but it’s none of her business. And I don’t have the words to sum it up concisely for her anyway, even if it was her business. I wonder about the genuineness of her words, but the truth is they ring with absolute sincerity. No trace of glibness or tell tale smoothness of a practiced line. They’d popped out of her mouth in a high pitched rush of excitement. She looks embarrassed now, and turns to the next table.
Guy and smile wryly at each other, I’m also feeling slightly embarrassed but deep down there’s also a sense of smugness, an internal voice shouting Hah! an internal fist punching the air. There’s a large part of me that’s confused too. How can we possibly still look like a couple? We’re sitting across the table from each other, not touching, and although we’re very comfortable chatting together there is not a trace of lover like behaviour between us. There is no depth to our conversation. It’s no use mentioning all of this to Guy, there’s a wall up now we’re not together. A wall 30m high and 2m thick that neither of us want to climb over or find away through. That’s why I’m confused. Why couldn’t the waiter see the wall? I can understand her not seeing our past together, the pain, the addiction, the mental torture we put each other through, the bruises, the lies, the madness. But surely it’s obvious; WE ARE NOT TOGETHER, anymore.
Perception is a strange thing, you can never really see yourself as other people see you - someone told me this recently. It’s because we only ever see ourselves in the mirror or photos. “But?” I wanted to say, “But I’m a trained artist, and portraits are what I’m best at. And. I can read mirror writing almost quickly as I can read normal writing. God damn it, I can even read upside down!” But I didn’t say it, because I know it’s true. Words are inadequate symbols for other things and I don’t know what I look like. I’m constantly surprised at how other people see me.
Guy and I were attending a friends wedding not that long before we broke up. We’d been asked to give them a photo, this was a part of the speeches, a slide show of the happy couple and family and friends. We dutifully supplied the photo. There was no suitable one in existence but thanks to Guy’s digital camera it had been easy enough to take one. I’m not photogenic but after a few goes we had one that even I was happy with. We didn’t look exactly cheerful in the photo but I didn’t look as depressed or as sick as I felt either. It had been a rough week, which basically means rivers of tears were cried, bitter, harsh words were screamed, punches were thrown, punches had connected and more than the usual amount of bongs were smoked. Probably enough to make an elephant pass out, but we were still standing, so we went to the wedding. Weddings are one of the few social occasions that are very nearly impossible to get out of.
We pretty much didn’t speak to each other for the whole time we were at the wedding. Guy was in charge of the video so it wasn’t that hard to avoid him. It was horrible. I tried to avoid talking to people as much as I could, not easy at a wedding, but It was getting harder and harder to put on the usual mask. The bruises on my arms and my head were throbbing intensely, another reminder of just how fucked up my life was. The worst thing was the dire need to get out of there, more specifically to get home and have another bong, to be numb again.
Speech time came, cool, this means I can go home soon. The slide show starts, it’s actually not that bad, they’ve done a nice job of it, it’s not nearly as tacky as it sounds. The guests are quiet through most of it, the odd laugh or giggle, especially at the baby photos. The friend’s photos start and there we are, illuminated on the screen, larger than life. Aaaawwww! That’s what they did! In unison, everybody in the room went Aaaawwww! How fucked up is that? I went and hid in the toilets for half an hour, quietly sobbing into a tissue. The photo that I see is plainly different to the photo that everybody else sees. I see a 60 car pile up on a highway, apparently, to everyone else, we’re in the running for cutest couple of the decade.
Anyways, I don’t see the happily married couple anymore; they’re Guy’s friends, not mine. I have a copy of the photo; it’s on my hard drive somewhere. I have seen it recently and with the passage of time I can see some of what that room saw. Our clothes hide the fact that we’re both dangerously under weight, the photo is slightly over-exposed which gives our pale faces a kind of glow and disguises the pasty skin and dark circles. We even look, well, not exactly happy, but as though we both want to be there, comfortable, relaxed. There’s an ethereal quality to the image, a childlike openness on our faces. I guess it was a trick of the light.
That’s what I should have said to the waitress, “it’s just a trick of the light”