I’d been getting nervous about meeting David at the art exhibition in Chichester, then us both staying at Bailiffscourt Hotel, on the coast. You see, I think it sends out the wrong signals, now we are ‘just good friends’. He will think he is ‘on a promise’ – that he has to do nothing, merely turn up, a toothbrush in his top pocket, and have sex with me. He hasn’t even asked what our dinner plans are, or if he can take me to lunch the next day. I don’t think relationships should work like this. What exactly do I get out of it? I know what it will be like in the lovely double bed: he will keep moving around and coughing. It’s ironic, isn’t it: 40 years of leg waxes in order to snare a boyfriend, and now I discover I can’t be a***d.
Last weekend, I had to go to Wales for work, to interview the artist whose private view I’d invited David, a former art student, along to. I told him I was leaving for Wales, and got no reply for days. So I texted him again, ‘It’s like being friends with a dead person.’
He answered. ‘Oh, she’s very relaxed, then, before her show?’
Dear God. I meant him!
He told me he was off to Luxembourg for the weekend. On Monday, he texted me, ‘How was your weekend in Wales?’
‘It was OK. Exhausting. I drove there and back in one day. How was your trip?’
‘Oh, it was cancelled. “Herding cats syndrome.”’
I wondered if he meant he was having trouble finding someone to look after Prudence, the cat he allowed me to feed for three years before snatching her back, without telling me. ‘What does that mean?’
‘Oh, trying to organise three people and their foibles is like herding cats: futile.’
‘Why do you never invite me to do anything nice? I invite you to things all the time.’ (Movie premieres, private views, Oxford and Cambridge debates, live TV shows, villas, hotels, dinner, parties.)
Him: ‘Sorry, I didn’t realise you wanted to visit the grave of my ex-girlfriend, or endure a long drive.’
You see? Missed the point entirely. Whoosh! And, as he hadn’t told me that was the reason he was going, how on earth was I to know? I might look like a witch, but I’m not psychic.
Me: ‘No, of course I don’t want to visit a grave. I mean, at other times over the past three years. Invite me to do nice things. Obviously.’
Him: ‘What have I done that you would have liked to do too? I loved you and did my best to please you.’
For Christ’s sake. ‘Be a normal boyfriend and suggest stuff. You are not proactive. I don’t mean I wanted to tag along with what you were doing anyway.’
Me: ‘You must have invited me to do something once every 12 months.’ Dinner at Moro on my birthday, a stay in Ramsgate for my birthday, dinner at the Shard. I don’t count the trip to Milan, which was for one night, with a 4am start, or a wedding in Scotland, where the bride didn’t even ask who I was, or give me any food.
Him: ‘I invited you to the Lambeth Country Show.’
Me: ‘It doesn’t matter, now we are no longer going out. I just wondered what stopped you being normal. Making an effort.’
Him: ‘Make an effort! Jeepers, I made more of an effort with you than with anyone else. It shouldn’t be an effort, should it?’
Well, actually, yes it should. But I typed: ‘Why not just suggest something nice?’
Him: ‘Nice things cost money. Do you not think that if I could whisk you off to Venice, I would?’
Me: ‘Tickets to see something at the Royal Academy or the Tate cost less than your daily two pouches of tobacco. I thought we might go for a walk on the beach the next day, after the private view, but of course you won’t be able to do that, as you can’t walk.’
Him: ‘You are best rid of me then.’
You see, a normal person would say, ‘I know. I must do something about my health. Try to give up smoking. Eat more healthily. Do some exercise. Sort my flat out.’ But not him. Not David. I sent him another text:
‘You’re inert. Like radon.’