I lay alone in the dark, sensing that the bed was all mine. The clock said 8 pm but that made little sense to me – it had been morning not five minutes ago. Voices, barely audible, filtered in from the living room, and I remained still, my heart beating violently.
I was about thirty years old, stuck in between two relationships with two equally unsuitable men. One, an old friend, was someone I loved dearly but with whom I shared zero sexual chemistry; the other was his polar opposite – not very intellectual, a manual labourer, physically extremely attractive and a heavy drinker. Of course. Both were heavy drinkers.
For several months I had been pinballing to and fro between the two of them; the manual labourer doing nothing to stimulate me mentally, and so weekends spent with him would be followed by a desperate need to indulge in some food for the mind with the old friend, the one who was terribly intelligent and articulate, funny and kind, but for whom I felt nothing in a physical sense.
This particular weekend I remember feeling exceptionally confused and reckless, frustrated by the absence of a single man in my life who met all my needs, rather than these two semi-perfect partners.
On the Friday night I had gone to the pub with Mr. Physical, played a bit of pool, drank large quantities of strong, continental lager and smoked too many fags. We’d returned to his flat late to discover his flatmate and a bunch of his friends pre-loading with shots in preparation for a party.
I remember walking in to the party later on with all those men, grabbing a beer and swaying a little whilst chatting to someone, anyone. That was about midnight, and then my memory goes black. So far, so familiar. On such occasions, I never intended to go out and get absolutely out of my skull on booze, it just kind of happened. One minute I felt ok, the next I would be waking up hours later as if I had been abducted and then unceremoniously dumped by a bunch of memory-zapping aliens. I could never remember a thing.
When I awoke at such an odd time, 8 pm, in one of my unsuitable boyfriends’ beds, I knew something really bad had happened, something that went beyond the norm. It didn’t make sense that he wasn’t there; it was extremely out of character for me to be waking at 8 pm – where the hell had the day gone?
I just lay in that big, otherwise empty bed, staring at the ceiling, listening to his flatmate talking to someone in the living room. That feeling came again, the one that made me desperately want to crawl out of my skin and in to someone else’s, somebody good. I couldn’t call anyone, I was too ashamed. How can you make it sound normal, that you have woken up a couple of hours before you should be going to bed, unable to remember anything? I had no idea what had happened, and I couldn’t talk to anyone.
Whenever I wonder if I over-dramatised my alcohol dependency, whether I was just a social drinker who once in a while went a bit too far, I remember that night. I stayed on my own in his bed, wide awake, until the early hours of the following morning when he returned home, slightly drunk. My heart weighed a thousand tonnes, my eyes dead with the resignation that I had done something that I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to know about. The self-hatred gnawed at my insides like a rat. I never asked him what had happened; I couldn’t bear to hear his answer.
That was the loneliest time of my entire life.