I was loading my car boot up with shopping outside Tesco today when I heard someone call my name. When I looked up, I saw the friend of an ex-boyfriend, the ex being in my life at the very height of my heavy drinking escapades. The friend is lovely. In fact, so much so that I had a bit of a ‘thing’ for him when I was with my ex. Nothing ever came of it, but I always had a soft spot for him. In the car park, we kissed (on the cheek) and chatted about our respective children who both go to the same nursery, and about what each of us was up to in our lives, and about how manic things were this week, what with nursery being closed at the moment for an annual holiday.
And then we went off in opposite directions.
Years ago, when I was going out with the aforementioned ex, I was drinking at ridiculous levels. I was out of control, consumed by addiction and totally in denial. I met my ex in a pub one night, naturally, and I was drunk. Flirting with him, sending him suggestive glances across the bar, determined to make him notice me. Which he did, and we immediately became an item. In between the drinking, we had a few nice times – holidays here and there, walks in the Peak District. But always, like an ever-present storm brewing, there was the alcohol. And when I drank, all hell would break loose.
We went to a party one evening, and apart from the first couple of hours, the entire night is a blind spot in my memory: nothing, blank, a vacuum. I know that I abandoned my ex at the house at some point and disappeared with another man, returning in the early hours to find the party all over and my boyfriend sitting on the steps outside with his head in his hands and a weary expression on his face. Other than that, I have no clue as to what happened. I do know that my ex’s friend was there and I remember chatting to him in the kitchen early on. And because I know I fancied him a bit, I don’t like to dwell too much on what I said or how I acted. I’m sure it was loaded with connotation. At best.
The friend witnessed me on several other occasions during my relationship with that ex-boyfriend, extremely drunk, out of control, crying, flirting, and dangerous, unhappy, wild, reckless. I always thought he must hate me. I hated me. And I thought he was nice so I couldn’t imagine that he would have held me in very high regard. In the years that followed me splitting up with my ex, I broke out in a cold sweat whenever I saw him or any of his friends, knowing only too well that I had made a fool out of myself so frequently in front of them all.
So today, when I was talking to the ex’s friend in Tesco’s car park, I was struck by the normality of the situation. We were just two people catching up, both parents of young children, grabbing a bit of food shopping at the supermarket; in between chores, not hungover, not ashamed, not flirting – just normal human beings, being friendly.
When I left, I thought about that night at the party all those years ago and wondered if I’d acted inappropriately with him. What had I said? How had I looked at him? Did anything bad happen?
And I felt so happy and at peace with myself because I don’t do any of that anymore.