Excerpt 3 – Life’s Elixir

I always saw him from across the room. A somewhat distant figure. I never bothered to make the awkward eye contact that precedes the manly nod, or better yet the slow raise of the palm that somehow translates to a silent hello. I would peer over my computer screen and glance at him sitting sternly in the glass walled meeting rooms.

There was something about his aura. His greying hair, deep green eyes and pale skin told stories of a thousand misfortunes. I heard excerpts of rumours. Nothing concrete.

One week I was in the pub after work with Stacy doing our usual Friday catch up when she brought him up in conversation. It was almost as if she had anticipated my curiosity. “Mike… Mike is an absolutely great guy” she said. I lifted my glass and swirled the melting ice around its bottom surface. The pub was unusually empty that night. There is usually a swarm of bodies displaced around its antique furniture and half empty pint glasses scattered around its chipping window seals. “The good ones always have it worst you see, Dean” she continued.

Speaking to Stacy was always an experience in itself. She had a strong middle class ‘posh’ accent and the most animated mannerisms. It was like watching theatre.

“The poor lad has been through it all. A few months before you joined the Audit team, we had a work soiree. It was meant to be just a brief dinner but a few of us decided to go over to the new indie bar in Shoreditch – It’s the only place that closes at a bloody decent time.” She tilted her head towards the flickering mock-candle lamp that gracefully swung above her head, ran her hand through her silky blonde hair then curled its ends wrapping them around two fingers. “Mike was once married. They had been together for 3 years when he realised he had been caught in a web of lies. I remember the look on his face when he told me, Dean, his poor soul broke before my eyes.”

She waved at the bar tender and ordered another glass of red. Cabernet Sauvignon – She called it ‘Life’s Elixir’. “The moment that put the nail in the coffin was when he found out, oh excuse me…”. Stacy’s phone began to ring. She flashed the screen at my eyes showing  an unsaved mobile number. “Hello” she said. “Oh hello darling…”. She was an incredibly attractive girl. Each day she would be draped in designer brands and her beloved collection of J.Crew denim jeans that painted her curves revealing her slender yet hour glass figure. She was no stranger to attention but she cared very little for it.

“I do apologise, where was I again? Oh yes, Mike found out his best friend from Birmingham was in fact the ‘girl friend’ that she had been visiting every month spending 2 and sometimes 3 nights with. How sick is that, right! The worst part is how this retched whore showed no remorse.” The way she exclaimed the word “whore” was Audrey Hepburn in the flesh. She paused to take a sip and before her lips were off the glass, she continued, mumbling the first sentence “the boy is a mess! Absolute mess…” She gasped in a heart felt exhale, almost as if she was describing herself – “but he is slowly recovering. Tragic!”

As she was speaking, all I could think about was Vanessa. It’s funny how we have no idea how to gage the extent of our plight until we hear of someone else’s tragedy. At this moment, I found peace in accepting that the difficulties I faced with Vanessa were just merely inherent with being in a relationship – the same way paying for insurance is a ‘matter’ inherent with owning a vehicle. It doesn’t mean it’s a problem per se, nor does it indicate anything is wrong. It’s just part of love.

I looked at Stacy and smiled. She smiled back. I swiftly picked up my coat, kissed her on her pale rosy cheeks and headed for the tube. “You are a sick bastard you are” she exclaimed, spinning round her bar stool to face me, running her finger over the rim of the glass.

That night I couldn’t open the door any faster. I began to remove my tie, shoes, belt yelling “baby, babe…” right from the door all the way into the bedroom. Vanessa was already home in bed watching her favourite show. It was something about a group of young, teenage suburban girls hunting for clues regarding a person called A or B or something to that ring. I took the laptop from the bed, closed it and placed it on the floor. “Hey Mister” she greeted me, smiling, reaching for my face with her soft, open palms.

We kissed our problems away. She had on one of my plain white Ralph Lauren t-shirts. Nothing else. Usually, I would have complained about her painting my t-shirts with Bobbi Brown but that night I could not have cared less. I went atop of her. She straddled me with her legs locking her feet around the back of my thighs. Amidst the passionate kissing, we locked eyes. The dimmed crimson bedside lamp created a glimmer of sparkle in her left eye. We paused. “I trust you”.

I said these three words not because I meant their conventional meaning. I said these three words not to reassure her of my trust. I said these words as a plea. I was pleading with her heart. Like a scared child, I was asking her to carry herself the way that a trustworthy person would. It was a question. Will you love me enough to be honest. Will you care enough not to hurt me. Will you be true enough not to become the very thing you fear in me and destroy me the way you pray I never destroy you. Will you?

I have come to the belief and understanding that the thing that we fear most in others is the very thing we fear most in ourselves. If we did not realise and recognise our capacity to lie, cheat and hurt the person we love, we would not worry about that person doing those things to us. If we did not realise how near and possible the decision to be selfish is within ourselves, we would not spend our lives in worry that one day our lover would slip and fall into the wrong decision that breaks our heart for eternity.

Someone once told me, the day they cheated on their boyfriend was the day they became the most damaged and insecure lover. She told me every day she imagined him cheating with every girl in his phonebook. Every day she kissed him she imagined she was tasting the lips of the girl from his office… or the pub, the restaurant, the tube. As I watched her break down, she told me it was never because he was a bad person. It was never because he had cheated before or had a reputation of womanising. He was lovely. He was a diamond. It was all me she said. My mistakes made me expect the worst. My mistakes made me realise how easy it was to tear apart a beautiful thing. I embedded my wrong doings in the capacity of his nature.

“I trust you too”. I had no time to unscramble her words in my over active mind. All I could think about was her lips.

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