The World

What I wanted more than anything else in the world was for you to stop me. As I turned my back on you and walked away across Leicester Square and into the night, everything inside me begged you to follow - to pull me back, and to fight for me. To fight for us. My determined stride was just for show. Inside I was weak and I could not bear the thought of leaving you, of losing you.

 

I only managed to get halfway across the square before my willpower waned and I stopped and turned around. But then you'd gone. You hadn't waited. You hadn't followed. And for the first time in so long I didn't fight the tears.

 

It was Friday night and London was alive. Curious tourists, lovestruck couples, theatre buffs and groups of excitable teenagers surrounded me. I was swathed in a mixture of languages and cultures, but I had never felt so alone. People pushed past me in every direction to shows, cinemas, restaurants, bars and clubs. But I was in a different timeframe. I stood still and looked back to the spot where we'd been standing, unable to stop the tears rolling down my flushed cheeks. My pride no longer of any concern, I had no qualms who saw my devastation. How had it come to this?

 

The night had started out earlier with at least some promise. We knew things weren't really working out as they should be. We both knew that something was wrong, but I'm pretty sure we both thought it was something we could overcome. We'd worked through things in the past. Neither of us had been ready to quit before. I still thought we were forever.

 

You'd chosen a restaurant on the edge of Chinatwon. Near enough to the hustle and bustle to have an atmosphere, but far enough away that we could talk in low voices. It almost felt like a date. When we sat down I wondered when we'd last met like this - gone home and changed into out weekend best, made an effort for the other. I ran a hand through my hair, freshly highlighted and blow dried. An effort for you? Or was it for me? I wasn't sure. Perhaps I knew even then that the effort was in vain.

 

You were the gentleman as always - my chair pulled out, my glass filled, my arm touched. You always charmed me. You had an assured but gentle manner that had really touched me when we had first met. I felt sad to observe it now and realise it touched me still. I did sense we were nearer an ending than a beginning.

 

But we tried. We started with small talk. Comments on our days at work, on the restaurant, the waiters and the menu. I'd never discussed Chinese food in such detail. We both said anything to put off the more serious conversation we knew was inevitable. But we couldn't hide forever and the time came when we could no longer play the game of avoidance. You might have been the cat, but I couldn't pretend to be the mouse - so I started, knowing you wouldn't, or that you couldn't. I remember how difficult it was to catch your eye. You were distracted. You looked down. I could see your discomfort as you fidgeted in your chair and you rubbed the stem of the cheap wine glass with your thumb and forefinger. Talking about things that meant something was never really you, was it? If only I could have put our relationship issues into a football game - would you have understood then?

 

It was old ground. The same enemies back to fight us, the same ghosts to haunt us, and as we went around in the same circles again and again, something inside me broke. It's too much of a cliche to say it was my heart. I think it was my fight. I saw that I was the onle one fighting for this, and suddenly I was tired. In the midst of the battle the very thing I'd be fighting for had slipped through my fingers and I couldn't remember a time before the war. Should love really be a battleground?

 

I bit my lip hard so I didn't cry. My fingernails pressed into my palm so hard that they left marks. I didn't want the tears to come - not yet. You were angry. Your face flamed and I saw your frustration - with me 'acting out', with the situation, with the fact that you couldn't communicate with me - in the way you summoned the waiter for the bill. Not quite the gentleman in your manner now. I rarely saw you angry. You always tried to hide that hot temper, that essential passion. Ironic - when that was what I wanted from you the most.

 

Bill paid, we stood outside and stared at each other. Almost as if surveying each other for the first time I no longer knew what to say to you, and you - as always - said nothing. You just eyed me up and down slowly. All smiles and pretence gone, guards up once again. The silence between us, once so safe and companiable, was deafening me.

 

I told you the truth. I felt so alone, I couldn't carry us both, I needed you emotionally as well as physically - that hit a nerve. You visibly tensed. You were suddenly aware of where we were, more concerned about strangers in the street noticing our raised voices. That infuriated me. More cross words. We both told each other that it was fruitless. We had reached the end of whatever 'journey' we'd been on.

 

I didn't mean my harsh words. I won't ever know if you did. It feels like a blur. And then I was turning my back on you, telling you I couldn't cope any more. Why I wasn't telling you how much I loved you, how much I really did adore the man you were, I'll never know.

 

And so I walked away, cheeks glowing, heart racing, legs shaking. And what I wanted more than anything else in the world was for you to pull me back and hold me in your arms. To smother me with the same apologies, the same lies, and the same false promises. I wanted you to fight for me, for us - to be the hero of the hour - but you disappointed me once again, for the last time.