December 2019. I had just arrived back in London from the most amazing trip to Mexico. After my breakup with B, it was the perfect time to get away and gain a bit of distance and perspective. I flew into Cancun and from there travelled to the chilled, vibrant island of Holbox. Next, I set off to the old Spanish colonial town of Valladolid and then to the paradise beaches of Tulum, finally ending my trip in the beautiful lake town of Bacalar. I stayed in hostels for the first time in years, since travelling down the east coast of Australia, back in 2013. I had one eyelid always marginally open keeping a watchful eye on weird, Netflix Guy in our dorm. It was 30 degrees outside, but he spent all the daylight hours watching his iPad in bed. He was obviously a vampire (and the not the Edward Cullen, sparkly kind).
I enjoyed spending quality time with my brother and meeting new people along the way. I lost count of the number of tacos I consumed, and subsequently the number of times I had to run to the bathroom due to a disagreeable ‘al pastor’. I waded through the sea in the rain for an hour to find flamingos, only to see one vibrant pink blur flying away in the distance. I discovered I disliked Mezcal as much as I did tequila, and ate a questionable brownie, supplied by a hippy, resulting in me being put to bed at 8pm. We went sailing with a dog as sea captain and paddle boarding in crystal, turquoise waters. It felt good to get away from the hustle and bustle of London life, to not bother blow drying my hair or wearing a scrap of makeup; where my biggest decision was whether to have banana with my Nutella crepe that day or not (yes, always yes).
Did a part of me hope that B would be there at Heathrow arrivals to greet me and say that he wanted me back?…Yes, absolutely. Did this happen? No, of course not. Because this is not a Christmas rom com with an ‘and they lived happily ever after’ ending, or my sister’s life; where that did actually happen (with her now husband). No, this was my life, and stuff like that just never happens. So, I landed back in London after almost three weeks away, incredibly jet-lagged and dragged my (over-packed and excessively heavy) backpack across the underground, back to reality.
B and I had stayed loosely in contact over the two and half months since we’d broken up. I saw him once before I went to Mexico and we had messaged each other sporadically whilst I was away. It had been over a month since I last saw him and he had since turned 30, so we agreed to meet up and go for a drink to celebrate his birthday.
It was the week before Christmas, after work on a Monday, and I nervously waited by the entrance to Market Hall Victoria. I was living at my aunt’s place in Kent until the new year, when I’d be moving into a new flat back in London, and B had suggested it would be best to meet somewhere near my train station. The doors opened and I watched B walk towards me. I felt a physical pang of longing as I saw his familiar glasses and smile. We hugged each other tightly; this had been the longest time that we hadn’t seen one another.
The evening went just how I expected it to. We drank, we ate, we laughed, it was so good to see him again. Several times throughout the evening we held each other’s gaze a little longer than we perhaps should have, my hand reached up to caress his face probably one too many times, and he stroked my hand from across the table, no doubt against his better judgement. It was useless trying to be just his friend; it felt like we were two magnets being forced apart. I started to get tearful, asking him the same question: but why weren’t we together?
B suggested we go for a walk. Once outside in the fresh evening air, he enveloped me in a hug. He explained that he still needed to do what he needed to do. I nodded. I knew he did, I just couldn’t get my head around why I couldn’t be a part of it. We had only been together five months, so why was it that over two months later it still felt as raw. It felt like our time together had been wrongly cut short. I pulled away from B and looked up at him, our faces inches apart. B sensing what could happen pulled me back into his chest and away from his lips.
“Would it really be so awful to kiss me?” I asked.
“No, it wouldn’t… but I don’t want to lead you on, Jess. It’s not fair on you and it’s not fair on me,” he whispered into my ear.
“It wouldn’t hurt me,” I mumbled into his coat.
“But it would hurt me,” he replied quietly.
“C’mon let’s get you on a train.” B said taking my hand and leading me to the station.
I felt the unfairness of it all well up inside me. “Oh, fine then, let’s just ship me off home! So much easier than just talking to me!” I said, dropping his hand and stomping off down the street.
“Well that’s a bit sassy, c’mon Jess, that’s not fair.”
“No, I’ll tell you what’s not fair, all of…this!” I said, gesturing between the two of us. Anger and hurt pulsed through me. Tears began to form in my eyes, “What hurts me is us not being together.”
Out of nowhere B swooped down and kissed me, stopping me mid-sentence. My breath caught in my chest and I melted into his arms; all of the nerve-endings on my body screamed with pleasure and longing.
After a few seconds B gently pulled away and I sheepishly smiled at him. Next thing I knew, he had picked me up and started to carry me into the station. I wrapped my legs around his waist and joked that he was making a scene. B only put me back down again once we were in the middle of the station concourse. We both laughed with tears glistening in our eyes. It was almost 10pm and London Victoria was still heaving with people. Commuters ran across the concourse with seconds to spare before catching their trains home. Holidaymakers wheeled heavy suitcases around in circles staring up at the departures board. Parents fought to drag screaming toddlers through the barriers and down into the underground. An electronic reindeer was playing ‘Jingle Bells’ on repeat, whilst tears began to roll down my cheeks. It was a surreal moment. It felt like B and I stood opposite each other; frozen in time, whilst the station’s hectic atmosphere was on fast-forward around us.
I looked up at the departures board. My 10.10pm train was delayed, and the platform number hadn’t been announced yet.
“I don’t know what to do.” I sobbed to B. “It’s been over two months since we broke up and I feel like I can’t move on. We message each other at least once a week and I feel guilty even thinking of trying to date again, like I’d be cheating on you! Which I know is ridiculous!”
“I know…I feel the same way,” replied B. “How can I help, Jess? Do you want me to text you less? Text you more? Tell me what to do.”
“I don’t know… all I know is the thought of not having you in my life at all kills me, but at the moment all I’m getting is crumbs, and I deserve more than that. I deserve the whole cake.”
And I did, I really did. I deserved to find someone who felt as strongly about me as I did them; someone who wanted to be with me against all the odds. I deserved to find my person. If B didn’t want to be that person, shouldn’t I give myself the opportunity to find someone who did?
My train was still delayed.
“Do you love me?” I tentatively asked B.
“Jess, you can’t ask me that.”
“I know, you’re right. I’m sorry.” I sighed. I never really knew how B felt about me. I knew he had strong feelings; otherwise we wouldn’t have even been in this situation. But I honestly couldn’t say if he felt about me the way I did about him. It felt like I’d never know. I didn’t know how long I could hold on to him (both literally and metaphorically), I knew it wasn’t healthy. I’d have to eventually make my peace with it; to let him go and try and move on.
The tannoy announced that the delayed 10.10pm train was due in at platform 2. B pulled me into him and gently kissed me before urging me through the ticket barriers. I reluctantly broke away from him, trying to drink everything up about this moment. My eyes searched his… would this be the last time we saw each other? I wanted him to give me answers; to tell me what I wanted to hear. Instead, we smiled at each other; I scanned my ticket and walked through the barriers.
I walked towards platform 2; my heart heavy in my chest. I thought B would have left, but out of the corner of my eye I saw him walking round to the next set of ticket barriers; the ones closest to me. We both walked up to the barrier, until only the main gate stood between us, our bodies pressed up on each side against the cold metal. B pulled me into him as much as he physically could, and I wrapped my arms around his neck; kissing him tenderly goodbye. The electronic ‘Jingle Bells’ continued to play in the background; maybe this was a bad Christmas rom com. But I didn’t care. I didn’t care that everyone on the concourse and the platform could see us; all that mattered in that moment was just the two of us.
And then my train pulled into platform 2, and it stopped.
“Merry Christmas, Jess,” whispered B, stepping back from the gate.
“Merry Christmas, B,” I replied.
And with that, B walked away towards the underground, glancing every few seconds over his shoulder at me. I turned on my heel and walked towards my train and away from the man I love.
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