Tuesday 9 July 2002


Recently reading White Teeth by Zadie Smith (very well-written but with an unsatisfying ending) one particular passage struck me as descriptive of me and her. One of the characters is thinking about how the word involved is the best way to describe a complex and torturous web of relationships:

Involved happened over a long period of time, pulling you in like quicksand. Involved is neither good nor bad. It is a consequence of living, a consequence of occupation and immigration, of empires and expansion, of living in each other's pockets...one becomes involved and it is a long trek back to being uninvolved.... They are not wanting this, they are not willing it - they are just involved, see? They walk IN and they get trapped between the revolving doors of those two V's. Involved. The years pass, and the mess accumulates and here we are. Your brother's sleeping with my ex-wife's niece's second cousin. Involved. Just a tired, inevitable fact....An enormous web you spin to catch yourself.

And in a soul-sapping M40 service station, to the tune of looping adverts and the accompaniment of grizzling, tartrazine-powered children, I started the long trek back to being uninvolved, I dumped her. That is, obviously, dumped her as much as it's possible to dump someone who's said she doesn't want to go out with you and is living with someone else.

It was on the 3000s weekend, and I'd found it very difficult to be with her. To talk and be with her was to be constantly reminded of how she was changing without me - trivial things like her new rucksack, or talk of weekends she was going to spend with him just demonstrated how I was losing her. I'd hoped I could be mature and rise nobly above how I still felt for her - the wronged hero, like Bogey in Casablanca - but actually I couldn't handle her company and resorted to being uncivil and uncommunicative - more like Mr Bean.

And whilst things between us thawed over the course of the weekend to the extent that I really rather enjoyed spending Monday with her, I knew that if I continued to be her friend, then I would just be accurately and painfully charting the decline of our friendship as our orbits around each other changed from spiralling binary system to distant astronomical object (see here, change e from 0 to 0.9), a process that would cause me too much pain.

So I told her I didn't want to speak to her or see her other than when we were walking (something about the group dynamic smooths the raw edges). It was the last step I could take to prove to her how much I meant to her, the romantic equivalent of the Cold War Mutually Assured Destruction, and the only step I could take to protect myself to some degree.

Although I don't regret any actions over the last two years, I wish it had never come down to an action of such finality, I wish the story had played out with a different ending. But now, a month later, despite missing her and thinking of her every day, I know it was the right thing to do, every week I feel more in control and sorted.

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