She said that no one could fuck the way we had unless they were in love. I remained silent. We’d already got our signals crossed and I was anxious not to add to the confusion, but more than that I was unsettled by where this conversation was going. I’d given it my best; I lost myself in the moment and surrendered to the passion. The sex between us was good, it was terrific, and if we could spend our lives in bed everything would be rosy, but I did not love her.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, “Don’t you fancy me?”
I fancied her alright – at least physically. She was very attractive, she was desirable, but she was complex and emotional. Life with Susan would be a series of emergencies and I was settled into my conflict free zone. I prized my independence and would not relinquish it for convenience sake – not again. I couldn’t say the words she wanted to hear. I did not love her and I never would.
“Of course I fancy you” I replied. “You’re beautiful.”
“Then let’s move in together” she responded.
I felt the blood drain from my face and my insides squirm with embarrassment. I wished that the bed would just swallow me up and I could disappear without a trace.
“Aren’t you going to say anything?”
I was definitely not going to say anything. She left in a flurry of clothing and muttered curses. It was the last time I ever saw her, but not the last I was to hear from her.
“I feel sorry for you Johnny. You’re gonna end up a sad lonely old man because you just can’t commit to anyone or anything. You’re a machine – a cold heartless machine.”
She left slamming the door at her heels. I thought that was the end of the matter but she took to calling me in the middle of the night – both tearful and angry. I took to leaving the phone off the hook. On those occasions when she caught me in I’d hang up on her as soon as I recognised the voice. I thought about changing my number, but there were my customers to think about and the all the hassle that entailed.
She’d leave me alone for a few days and just when I thought it was all over she’d start calling again. Things came to a head though when she dragged my mother into it. That really pissed me off.
“Susan was just here – she was in an awfy state. She told me that you two are having problems. Are you alright? She says she’s awfy worried about you – that you huvnae been yourself and you won’t answer her calls. I don’t want to be sticking my nose in darlin’ and it’s no for me to say, but there’s something no quite right about that lassie...”
I knew it was a mistake to introduce Susan to my mother. She got entirely the wrong end of the stick and that was my fault. Now she was using my mum as a piece in whatever game she was playing with me. Power is a crucial dynamic in every relationship – the struggle to gain power, or to keep it, has been the preoccupation of lovers since Adam and Eve. I couldn’t be arsed with all that nonsense – whenever I settled down it would be on equal terms and unconditionally. I’d know when I met the right woman and wasn’t Susan. All she had achieved with her hysteria was to reinforce that conviction. Some things once said can never be retracted; they are steps that cannot be retraced. We had reached the end of our road and there was no going back. It was over for us and we both knew it, but she was angry and, looking back, I don’t blame her.
This depressing scenario went on for months and I was at a loss for a solution to the situation. It was Susan who gave me the idea; she wrote me a letter. It contained a confused mishmash of pleas and threats with declarations of love and hate thrown in. It was as I held the letter in my hands that I stumbled on the answer. She had drawn a heart on the envelope – a torn heart. It was the kind of gesture you’d expect from a heartbroken teenager, not a mature woman.
Susan was one of those people who care too much about appearances. She fixated over imagined slights and the opinions of total strangers. I used this knowledge to great effect. I bought some blank postcards and wrote to her...
“Dear Susan, will you please stop harassing my mother and I. My mother has been very kind to you in the past and I have been patient with you, but that patience is wearing thin. If you don’t stop calling us I shall be forced to seek legal advice. Yours sincerely - Johnny.”
It worked a treat. Susan never called again and there was no more schoolgirl correspondence. I later heard from a mutual friend that she was totally bent out of shape by the thought of Bert the postman or the good folks at the sorting office reading my postcard and perhaps forming an unfavourable impression of her. She left me alone because she dared not risk another postcard.
At the time I told myself that I never made any promises – so I hadn’t broken any. I even cast myself as the victim and Susan the villain of this sad chapter. I told myself that I was honest in my dealings with women, but now I know that the worst of lies are often the ones you conceal from yourself.