We were almost perfect for each other. When he came out with me I felt like he was part of the group rather than someone I had to look after. One time I went to find him and he was providing a series of helpful directions while taking pictures of my friends, telling one to “relax the jaw” and “elongate the leg”. Another time he was on the dancefloor with a guy friend on his shoulders singing the words to some Irish song I've never heard of. He had great clothes that would look weird on anyone else. He smelt fantastic. The sex was great. When I laid back against him in smoking areas he’d wrap his coat around my shoulders. At an afters, he stroked my hair while my head was on his knees. He said he thought I was special. I thought he was, too.
But then there was stuff that I didn’t want, like him smirking at my bookshelf and saying “nothing, nothing” when I asked what was funny. Or this dumb argument he started one morning after we’d had sex when he asked whether people who don’t work should still get benefits. And I was too hungover to justify myself with something smart like – “Yeah, because I don’t think work is what gives people humanity, we should all have access to food and shelter” – so I just said, “Can we watch a documentary?” and then he told me that he was really disappointed in the way I shut down that debate.
“What’s happening with you and that guy?” asked my best friend Vicky a couple of weeks later.
“Oh, nothing, I just realised I wasn’t into it.”
“How did it end?”
“I just stopped replying.”
She shoved me in the shoulder. “What?” I asked, narrowing my eyes at her.
“He’s going to read your columns and think you’re a right bellend. You’re always going on about how bad ghosting is and you’ve literally done that exact thing to him.”
It hadn’t felt like ghosting. It just felt like we no longer spoke. But now I wondered if I ought to say something to round things off. To provide closure on whatever it was we’d had for that month or so. But every day I put it on my to-do list, every time I went to type something out, the act of sending it became bigger and bigger and more monstrous in my mind. As if it didn’t just involve tapping some buttons on a screen but some feat of endurance. In fact, I would have preferred some physical task to actually messaging him. I would have tilled a bare field with my hands. Cleaned the men’s toilets of a nightclub. I would have done two HIIT classes in a row. I just really didn’t want to send something to him. It joined the other 20-second tasks that I’ve been putting off for years. Like the clothes I need to put on Depop, the headphones I need to get repaired, the earrings I need to give back to a friend. And then amid all this procrastination, a feeling started to swell up inside me – one of outrage at the requirement for me to provide a response. This is actually making me anxious, I thought to myself. I can’t concentrate on reading my book. I need to prioritise my own feelings at this moment.