I can’t do this any more

A small tear trickled down my cheek, then another, and another, until I found myself sobbing uncontrollably and burying my soggy face in a pillow.

My ex had given me some divorce papers to read and something in the wording had unexpectedly triggered this reaction. I wasn’t crying because I wanted my husband back, but for the finality, reality and sense of failure it brought about. I had failed at being married – something which doesn’t take special skills or qualifications. Somehow, I had not been able to keep it together.

You are probably thinking “Why is she still not divorced?” I agree  – it’s been a long time coming and I’ve been in limbo for quite a while, but it wasn’t like I was going to get married again; I am not sure anyone would take me, even if I did feel like doing the whole ring-exchanging, dress wearing shebang.

While the whole d-i-v-o-r-c-e thing is mutual, it still feels like being dumped. Except a long, drawn out dumping, with lots of paperwork. I remember the good old days of being chucked. It was hellish, but at least it didn’t take a couple of years or involve no longer being together, but having to remain in the same house until one of you could move out. It also cost a lot less – maybe a CD, or pair of socks, but not the bank-breaking prospect of buying out someone’s share of the house/car/dog.

My first memory of being dumped was the 18-year-old groper I went out with when I was 15. The whole thing was doomed from the start – I was too shy to speak to him, other than yes, no and other monosyllables while all he wanted to do was stick his tongue down my throat and his hand down my pants. You couldn’t say it was Romeo and Juliet in the making.

This was back in the late 80s/early 90s, so there wasn’t widespread internet or mobile phone use, so no hiding behind typed words. This meant he used the easy method of that era, i.e. doing nothing and hoping I’d go away. He suddenly stopped phoning me. Every evening, I would wait by the phone, walk past it, check it had not been accidentally left off the hook or unplugged. I became a phone obsessive. I eventually plucked up the courage to ring him myself, but somehow he was always “out”.

When he realised I was going to keep phoning, he must have finally asked his mum to stop lying for him, took the call and gave me the first of many “I can’t do this any mores” – it’s usually that or “this isn’t working”.  Although “I can’t do this any more” always makes me chuckle, when I’m over the break-up, as it sounds like they are constipated or that the whole relationship was down to their hard work and effort – yeah, and I was just passive while you slobbered on me, stuck it in, forced me to watch some dull action movie, put up with your kebab breath…

The other big avoiding-my- calls-break-up was H from uni. He was my third ‘relationship’ before Christmas, but this time, I had completely fallen for him. The guy was a drunk, but he was a witty, intelligent and talented one, who could play guitar and write songs like a proper rock star. I was in awe of him and at times turned into the shy 15-year-old I had been with ‘the groper’, even though by now I had a few notches on my bedpost and knew a little more about what to do with young men.

We were involved for the rest of the year – Christmas until the summer. Unbeknown to me, he was probably counting the days until he disappeared to Northampton and I would be over 100 miles away. Then he could put his no phone contact plan into action. He was either out, asleep, busy, in the shower or up a tree when I tried to contact him. As before, he eventually condescended to speak to me with good old “I can’t do this any more”! He was capable of far better than that, but clearly, this line trips off every man’s tongue.

Fast forward many years later and we can all hide behind text and email, wording it as elaborately or simply as we wish. In favour of writing, though, it does mean you can get things down that leave your head when you are face to face.

I remember seeing a guy I met through an internet dating site. I thought things were going well, the sex was fantastic, we had lots in common and could laugh together. The only warning sign was his lingering anger at his ex-wife which bubbled to the surface now and then. But there were no obvious signs that the axe was swinging over me. Until I got a text message on my way to work. It read: “I can’t do this any more. I am not ready for a relationship – my head is all over the place. All I wanted was a few dates.” I was absolutely gutted and had to keep sneaking from my desk to the toilet to cry.

Now, I think: “Hold on to your head and press it down, and don’t spend three hours in bed with me when all you wanted was a few dates!”

Face to face break ups have been very rare for me, but the best was one from a similar era to the internet guy. I called him Benito in a previous post, so let’s stick to that. Things never really got off the ground with Benito, so I shouldn’t have been shocked when it ended after five weeks. We had got into a habit of meeting for a lunchtime coffee every other week. I thought this was just another such meeting. But no, he had a mission. I will at least credit him with giving a full speech.

And he used “this isn’t working for me” for a change. There was a long ‘presentation’, including things like “we are too similar”, “I want kids but you already have one, so probably won’t want to do it again” (this had never been discussed so how dare he assume!), “you are really pretty, but I don’t feel we are right for each other” etc. etc. Then the pièce de résistance: “I’ve been back in touch with my ex-girlfriend and went to see her the other night and we kissed.” If he had said this from the start it would have saved us from all the other flannel.

I don’t want to portray myself as an innocent victim in all of this – I have delivered some devastating blows in my life and still feel a tinge of guilt for some of them, while with others I know I was doing us both a favour.

But whatever your age, rejection and being told you are not good enough still hurts like Hell and it takes time to recover from being verbally kicked in the stomach, whether it’s face to face, on text, email, fax, letter or flashing up on the scoreboard at a football match…





Celluloid or cellulite – part 3: The end of it?

Sandra has been feeling closer to Barry as they have enjoyed their little interludes together – even if it means a quick one when they have both managed to snatch half a day off work, or Barry has snuck into Sandra’s for a quick beer and crisps after her kids have gone to bed. In fact, she thinks about him a lot and suspects she has started to feel the ‘l’ word.

The trouble is that Barry is starting to feel a bit trapped, as Sandra is always texting and calling him to find out when they can next get together. He likes her, but this is starting to feel like the ‘r’ word – something that scares the bejesus out of him, ever since his marriage broke up three years ago, after he found his wife in bed with his next door neighbour. He’s not going down that road again and letting anyone close enough to leave him open to that kind of trauma.

Benedict has similar commitment issues after his ex-wife ran off with the gardener when they were living in his family’s oversized country pile in the prequel to this movie. (Critics panned it when it came out for being ‘too Lady Chatterley’). So he is wondering if he has been spending too much time with Rosetta.

Sandra texts Barry to ask what he’s doing on Saturday, as her kids are staying with the ex and she’d like some quality time with her favourite man. “DVD and a takeaway, if you don’t feel like going to the Sheep’s Leg” she suggests.

But this is the final shove for Barry, as the bleep of his phone interrupts his thoughts. He decides not to respond – his usual way of avoiding a difficult conversation. Sandra gets agitated and as she sits behind her work computer she can’t think about anything else. She pretends to read a report, but is really gazing at her phone, willing it to bleep. When it does she almost jumps out of her chair, before seeing it’s a company asking if she’s had an accident and wants to claim compensation. ““No, but I know someone who bloody-well will soon,” she whispers.

Script writers have made Benedict a bit more open and honest and he phones Rosetta, asking to meet in a quiet café. “I am sorry, darling,” he says, “This is really hard for me to say, but I have to say it. Everything has been happening so fast between us that it has turned me a little dizzy. I need to climb off the carousel and take in some air.”

Rosetta’s perfectly smooth forehead furrows ever so slightly. “What are you trying to say, darling?”

“Sweetheart, you are lovely, gentle and beautiful, but I need to take some time out, to decide what I want. I told you what happened with Cordelia – I need to be sure before I open my heart to anyone else.” Sad-sounding violins and pianos play in the background as Rosetta’s China blue eyes well up with tears.

“You are casting me aside?” She sobs.

“Not quite, darling. You are not an old sweater. This may not be the end. I just need some time out, a break to find myself.”

It is four hours since Sandra sent her text. She is now chewing gum in a fit of frustration to stop herself from eating the entire contents of the office’s biscuit barrel. As five o’clock strikes, she rushes out of work not wanting to talk to anyone and heads for her train. As she sits wedged between two suited men who won’t budge in either direction, she gives in and sends Barry another text, trying to adopt a cheerful, not-in-the-slightest-bit-exasperated tone. “Or we could still just go to the Sheep’s Leg, if you’d prefer that.” She then spends the rest of the evening going from one task to looking at the phone, almost like a religious ritual. Even bathing the kids is punctuated with glances at it, which leaves the screen blurred with condensation.

She goes to bed with the phone on the pillow next to her, just in case Barry feels the need to respond to her at 4am.

On the commuter train again, she cannot bare the waiting. “Barry, are you ok? Starting to worry now.” Still no response. Still no response by lunchtime and Sandra, by now, is on the edge. Then at 3.30pm he texts: “Sorry – can’t do this any more. Don’t want a relationship.”

Sandra re-reads the message three or four times to take it in, even though it’s only ten words. She then runs off to the toilet, locks herself in a cubicle and cries as quietly as she can.

Meanwhile Rosetta is sobbing into her silky dusty pink duvet in her spacious pastel bedroom as piano music plays in the background.

So, readers, is this the end for our foursome? Maybe I’ll return to them at some point to see what happens next…


I look out of the window for the umpteenth time at the same time as reprimanding myself for doing so; I know standing at the window doesn’t make anyone arrive sooner, but I still do it and have done it since I was tall enough to see out.

Waiting for someone to arrive doesn’t get any easier. Despite age and experience, it still drives us to distraction and makes us obsess about things that are normally trivial.

I take another look at my dress. It looks wrong and makes my tummy bulge. I run upstairs to frantically search for an alternative, then dash into another room which looks out on to the road. Still no sign of him.

I check my phone for the 20th time – no new messages. So I start looking at earlier ones to see if there is any hint that he will be late or even not show up at all. There’s nothing obvious – just a series of ‘Oks’, ‘Yeses’ and ‘See you thens’.

Why do we over-think things and look for ‘signs’? They don’t read into anything.

Catching my reflection in a mirror I scrutinise my makeup. A tiny smudge of eyeliner convinces me I have to do that eye all over again – it just won’t do. And is my underwear ok? Does that bra work? Do my arm pits need an extra scrape with the razor, even though I did them only 40 minutes ago in the shower?

Eye redone, undies satisfactory, pits passable, I rush downstairs – I could have missed him in the 30 seconds which have elapsed since I last looked out of the window.

I then turn my attention to straightening newspapers and magazines on the table in the lounge, crawling around on the floor picking bits off the carpet and straightening cushions on chairs. This is all punctuated with glances out of the window every few seconds.

I am now running out of slightly pointless things to do and will soon move on to utterly ridiculous things if he doesn’t come soon. He is already five minutes late. What if he is not going to show at all? What will I do?

My phone suddenly bleeps. I jump a few inches off the ground, as I am so on edge that the slightest thing is liable to send me into shock.

‘Running a bit late’, he says.

‘A bit late?!’ I scream out loud. Not the best news when I’ve been running back and forth and up and down the stairs like a demented hamster. But at least I know and now have even more time for carpet bit-picking, cushion-fluffing, lining up bowls of nuts in perfect symmetry and checking my makeup 20 more times.

‘Ok,’ I reply, ‘no worries’.

Catch us if you can…

…But please don’t – it’s the risk of being caught that’s so exhilarating. If we actually did get caught, we would probably die of embarrassment.

And what are we doing that we don’t want to get caught doing? Nicking sweets from the newsagents? Writing rude words on toilet walls? Flicking elastic bands at people in the office? What do you think?

A few months ago The Man and I were going through a particularly horny phase and there just weren’t enough opportunities outside working hours to satisfy our hunger. So we thought about how we could squeeze in some extra activity at work, if only there was a secret safe place.

After some exploring, The Man found an empty, slightly dusty room in a part of the building very few people used. We had to pass a couple of offices to reach it and go up a flight of stairs, so it would involve carefully timing our journey and hiding if anyone came out of either office on the way.

Our first rendezvous meant him going up first, texting me and waiting. I snuck out – for all anyone knew, I was off to the ladies’.

I tip-toed upstairs, into the little ante-room, which contained a few empty boxes, a sink, trolley and shelves. It had the musty attic smell of somewhere not entered very often. We kissed frantically. I hoped I wasn’t getting any phone calls downstairs. His zip came down; I knelt and devoured his already hard penis. Then he moved on to me, his fingers finding their way inside me, making me tremble and feel light-headed. I completely forgot about bloody phone calls. We were both now slightly dizzy and on the brink of combustion. He leaned me over the sink and entered me from behind. We fucked quickly and quietly but it was enough to have our fill (and thrill).

We then went our separate ways, heads down and back to our desks. I didn’t have any phone messages and no one had even noticed I had been out of the room for more than five minutes.

On another occasion we found ourselves unable to contain our physical enthusiasm on a train journey home. It had been one of those evenings of flowing alcohol which left everything with a sunny hazy glow, giving the illusion of all being well with the world and nothing seeming impossible. We had both acquired the slightly drunken drive to make things happen, even though we had no place to do it that night. The Man had led me through at least four or five train carriages to find an empty one where no one would see me bent over his lap, my head bobbing up and down.

And we just couldn’t leave it there, after the sheer luck of not missing our stop. My ex was babysitting so there was no way we could go back to my house.

The Man led me to some nearby woods and we clambered up through the undergrowth, until we were a few yards in and reasonably out of sight, but still getting light from street lamps and nearby houses. We then carried on what we started on the train, getting more and more turned on by the setting and the fact that we were only yards from people and the occasional voices and footsteps of passers-by on the pavement below. What if someone else chanced upon our spot?

As the leaves rustled from our movements, I bent over a small, slightly crooked tree trunk as The Man again entered me from behind and our movements became more frantic and rhythmic and our breathing heavier. As he climaxed I pulled him closer and pressed his torso against my back as though we were imitating a large tree trunk with branches made from our limbs and a sticky sap pouring from it.