I will never understand the concept of being friends with an ex. I just don’t see how it can work. If we think about this logically, most relationships end because one person has hurt the other or one person wanted it to be over while the other didn’t. Or in my case, you’d been breaking up for months and going back and forth with each other out of habit. It’s not healthy to attempt a friendship on those foundations. So why did we? The only exception I can think of is when you’ve let some real grieving time pass and then you reconnect later in life.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I was hurting. The shock of the break up and how it had happened had left me feeling rejected, confused and insecure. The feeling of rejection pretty much explains itself, when someone says they don’t want you anymore it stings. Confusion was over my acute sense of loss, since I thought that I truly wanted it to be over, why was I so upset when it happened? The insecurities started seeping in when I started to process how I had been treated, driving myself mad questioning myself trying to figure out why Katy didn’t think enough of me to be faithful and committed.
Even with all that going on we still saw each other regularly. We’d go out to Bath with Emma and Lara, Ryan and Peter. Occasionally other people would join us too. It was a quiet time out on the scene, Christmas and NY was over and most people were staying at home nursing their badly bruised bank balances. I would have gone crazy if I stayed home.
A month or two before the break up Michael had started working at the same company as me and we enjoyed working together. When the break up happened he was really good at pulling me out of my slump. We went out in Bath with a couple of the guys and didn’t set foot in any gay bars, we hit on bar maids and shop assistants with the cheesiest of chat up lines. We laughed a lot and attempted to forget our troubles if only for a little while.
I remember a night out with Katy, Emma and Lara at Mandalyn’s quite clearly. It was shortly after the break up, maybe by just a week even. When we got to the bar a couple of Emma’s friends were there and I’d never really spoken with them before, Emma introduced us and the six of us settled in for the evening around a table together.
It was a rare quiet karaoke night, I wasn’t in the mood for singing initially. Then I started to feel upset, Katy was having a much better time than me, she could easily engage with her friends, flirt with girls like nothing had even happened. I could feel myself getting a bit teary and wanted to leave but I knew no one else would want to cut the night short.
I think I was driving that night so I couldn’t even bury my feelings with alcohol or maybe I just had no money after the break up bender that cost me about £120, so I did the one thing that made sense to me in that moment to channel the anger and the pain. I took to the stage with the tragically apt song choice of James Blunt’s Goodbye My Lover. Now, not to be modest or anything, but I freaking nailed it. All the same it was a very emotional performance, my karaoke adrenaline always makes my hands shake so no one noticed anything different.
No one except for Katy. This certainly wasn’t one of my usual karaoke choices, I’m usually much more predictable than this. I remember as I was singing that she was looking daggers at me, she knew exactly why I had chosen this song. In a ‘show must go on’ feeling I got through to the end even though the way that she was looking at me had tipped me over the edge a bit. When I got to the end of the song I almost threw the microphone back to the karaoke DJ and all but ran for the door and out to where the car was parked.
Lara followed me to make sure I was OK, she found me just around the corner about to go to pieces and just gave me a hug. Despite the good friendship that had sprung up between Lara and I this was the first time we had ever hugged, or ever had any contact between us I guess. I didn’t think much about that at the time, but looking back we’d always kept a careful non-contact friendship up to that point because there were feelings bubbling under the surface that couldn’t be expressed. It was too soon to think about anything like that.
Over the coming months there would be more nights out where I would have to see Katy often, we still had a lot of friends in common and it wasn’t fair to split their time between us. That meant going out in Somerset with the boys, going out in Bath and Bristol with the gays and never hanging out just the two of us. If I tried really hard, I could deal with that.
Throughout the coming weeks Lara would be amazing, she’d stay up late with me talking the night away. Letting me babble on and on about everything that had gone wrong with Katy, she’d tell me how things were going with Emma. I remember Lara telling me that Emma was often ‘over the top’ with affection and spoiling her with ‘just because’ gifts and paying for everything whenever they went out. It made her uncomfortable, like Emma was trying to buy her affection.
After a few weeks of hearing stuff like that it began to bother me that Lara was with someone she wasn’t happy with. Emma also started to notice a change in her and would often ask me what I thought was wrong and why Lara didn’t seem interested. I knew exactly why, but it wasn’t my place to say. It was clear that Lara was sticking her head in the sand and ignoring the situation with Emma in the hope that it would go away.
We’d still meet up almost every night to chat, I remember working late shifts one week and Lara came to mine to watch a film. We talked the whole way through it the first time we tried to watch it, then played it again and paid attention. It was getting on for seven am when she left my house that night. Katy still worked mornings in the shop at the end of the road and had seen Lara heading home, from that moment on she had her suspicions that Lara and I were carrying on behind Emma’s back. We weren’t, but Lara was spending more time with me than Emma since she didn’t want to confront their problems head on, they’d only been dating a month by this point.
After the karaoke incident and a few other drunken nights I began to feel the relief. I was still angry at the way I had been treated, Katy was equally still angry with me and I can’t even pretend to know how she was feeling, we never talked about it since. We both started to move on quickly, or so I thought. There was an Irish girl we saw out in Bath often who Katy was quite sweet on and so received a lot of attention from Katy during this time. I was relieved when I didn’t feel jealous, I felt like I’d finally drawn a line under the mess and we might stand a chance at being friends.
The friendship would be short-lived. In a few months we would have tried and given up, the friendship fizzled out a lot quieter than the relationship had, but there would still be a few fireworks to come.