Sometimes, when I’m feeling a little bored and alone, I start to remember what it’s like having a steady girlfriend; it’s been a while. And sometimes, I engage in imaginary conversations with ex-girlfriends. I talk to myself:
“No, that’s not what I said.”
“No, that’s not what I meant, either.”
“No, I don’t hate your family.”
“No, I don’t hate all your friends.”
“So, you’re not talking to me now?”
Or, my absolute favorite of all time: “Yes, actually, I was planning on wearing this shirt out tonight.”
Then I remember. Then I feel better. Suddenly I don’t feel very bored and alone anymore.
I can remember the precise instant on the specific day that I decided to break-up with a major girlfriend. She was one of the big ones. My family even thought that she was going to be THE big one. The relationship was one of those problematic, on-again-off again, and long term, complete-mess-but-very-passionate types. The type that makes you shake your head years later while saying: “What on Earth was I thinking?” The type of relationship that is difficult to end. I like to tell people who ask, that my girlfriend and I went out together for about a year, then spent the next four years breaking up. I also like to tell them that she was pretty, sexy and good hearted, there was only one thing wrong with our relationship- her (just kidding).
Sandra and I had first met a few years earlier in a medium sized country town at the western edge of the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. It was a Saturday night at the local R.S.L club auditorium and a high-quality band was playing good music onstage. A slim and pretty, young blonde sat in the seat across the table from me and was obviously enjoying the music, as I was. We were both on our own; serendipity. We struck up a conversation and after the last song of the night I drove her to where she was staying; the motel her parents owned at the edge of town. We arranged to spend the next day sightseeing. The following morning I picked her up from the Zig Zag Motel, under the curious eye, and much to the amusement of, her father, mother and little sister who just happened to be out on the front lawn at the designated meeting time. We drove around the tourist spots of the Upper Blue Mountains for the day. I bought her pizza for lunch on that fateful day. I had pepperoni, black olives, anchovies and extra garlic and she ordered ham and pineapple; I should have read the warning signs right then and there. It should have been plain to see that this relationship was heading towards inevitable disaster. However, we got on pretty well the whole time and enjoyed each other’s company immensely, she laughed at my jokes and I thought she had a great sense of humour. But there were logistical impediments to getting together. Sandra lived and worked as a nurse on the South Coast, about four hours drive away, and besides, she was over ten years younger than I was. We didn’t see each other again until about a month later, when she was once more visiting her parents and when we met at another night of live music. This time we hooked up for the night; our anniversary date, or, the beginning of Armageddon as I prefer to refer to it. We visited each other regularly over weekends for a while but Sandra had already planned to go overseas indefinitely, on the obligatory, young Australians’ backpacking tour of Europe. We wrote. I decided to take leave from my teaching job and join her on the Continent. My fellow musician and I put “on hold” the musical duo I was playing guitar and singing in and I met Sandra in Austria, where she was working in a ski chalet as a waitress. There, we embarked on the three month, monumental, horror and conflict tour of Italy, Malta and Turkey. There were some very nice moments at first; sharing a picnic in St Marks Square, Venice (after an argument), sitting in the brightest, most romantic moonlight, on the lawn in front of the gleaming, white marble of the Leaning Tower of Pisa (after an argument), waking up and looking out from our bedroom window over the red terracotta rooftops of Montepulciano and the rustic, panoramic view of early morning Tuscany (after an argument the night before). You get the picture.
I remember one day trip to beautiful Capri- “the island of love”. How could I forget, we fought like cats and dogs the whole day. We subsequently spent brief moments of truce over the battlefields of Malta and Turkey. Visits to the War Museum in Valletta and the trenches of Gallipoli were particularly poignant. What I did not realise at the time was that these fierce battles and desperate travel experiences were actually bringing us closer in the long term. Our shared and shattered emotional journey was gluing us together through some kind of bizarre adhesive born of adversity. The passion and intensity we were sharing on a twenty-four hours a day basis was actually building a bond between us that was always going to be hard to break. I think we became emotionally dependent on one another to some extent, and that heightened the fear of failure, as far as the relationship was concerned, which drew us together. Whew! Never want to do that again!
Anyway, years after that most memorable of travelling nightmares, Sandra was staying at my house in the mountains one weekend. We had been invited to a barbeque at a friend’s house, a short to medium drive away by car. Sandra had driven up from the South Coast, after work, the night before. One of the many “issues” we seemed to suffer from and which made things tense, was that Sandra was very laissez faire in attitude whereas I was (am) pretty much anal retentive. I must always be on time and punctual, whereas Sandra was not fussed over deadlines and could not understand my stress at being late.
I awoke early on the day of the barbeque and tried to wake Sandra from her customary deep slumber. Sandra was a notoriously late riser and truly loved her sleep. No luck getting her up, so I showered, shaved, dressed and tried again.
“Come on Sandy, time to get up now.”
“Ahhh… yeah…. mmm…in a minute.”
“Okay, hurry up or we’ll be late.”
“Ahhh… yeah… mmm…”
I went into the kitchen and organised the things we were going to take to the barbeque with us: esky, beer, wine and wrapped the meat. I took from the fridge lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, capsicum, celery, Spanish onion and salad dressing. I chopped the salad ingredients, made a nice, big, green salad up in a bowl and covered it with glad-wrap. There was still no sign of Sandy, so I marched into the bedroom and went into battle with the comatose un-dead again.
“Come on honey. They asked us to be there early, around eleven for a drink before we start cooking. Time to get out of bed or we’ll be late.”
“Ahhh… yeah… mmm… in a minute.”
“Oh for God’s sake!”
I removed the bed covers, undressed her and gently dragged and carried her into the shower recess of the adjacent en suite, all the while ignoring her pleading, protests and whining.
“Please hurry will you, it’s getting late.”
“Yeah, yeah. Alright! No need to stress out. God you’re such a stressor!”
I went back to the kitchen. Cleaned and wiped the bench and chopping board, washed the few utensils I had used preparing the salad and moved the esky close to the fridge for a quick pack-and-get-away. It was then I noticed that I could not hear the shower running. I walked back into the bedroom. She was in bed again.
Once again, I dragged her limp and naked body up by her floppy arms and deposited her into the shower, this time after turning on the water to a reasonable temperature. She complained the water wasn’t hot enough.
I went back to the kitchen, fuming. There was nothing to do but wait. We would already be late. However, I was determined not to get into an argument and spoil the barbeque. Furthermore, I wanted to avoid wasting any more time, convincing her to go to my friends’ house, after we had engaged in unpleasant words and she subsequently became angry and decided not to go. It would have been embarrassing to go to the barbeque alone and answer all the questions about “where was Sandy?”
Time seemed to elapse slowly. Some considerable time later, Sleeping Beauty appeared in the bedroom doorway, topless, but wearing tight blue jeans and a pair of brown leather shoes.
“Do these shoes go with these jeans?”
Now, Sandra owned something like one hundred pairs of shoes (I know that because I can remember her delight in telling me that priceless piece of trivia one day and me replying: “What are you then, some kind of centipede?”). I had about four pairs of my own and know very little about ladies shoes, but she had decided that she needed my expert opinion on whether one particular pair of her shoes matched the specific pair of women’s jeans she wanted to wear, before committing to the outfit.
“Yeah, yeah. They look great, now hurry up will you.”
I watched as a look of utter disgust and loathing slowly spread across her un-made face.
“Oh, you don’t care! Sooo selfish!”
Sandy stormed back into the bedroom to sulk.
It was at that precise instant, on that specific day, that I decided to break up with my girlfriend. And we did break-up… about a year later.