Yeah, you really must be some kind of lonely-romantic-weak-fuckup-case to do that.
To follow a girl, wearing only your Nike trackie bottoms, barefoot in the freezing rain.
Pleading, desperate not to lose her.
Trying to find some hint of softening in a face as closed as the metal shutters on the local kebab shop.
All the way from your shitty flat, along the impossibly bleak Manor Road, to West Ham tube station.
Then she’s gone.
Through the barrier.
All business, no backward glance.
You can’t follow because you have no money on you.
Probably better that way, eh? You think, as you shiver and trudge back home, your soles slapping against the cold wet pavement, as you look belatedly for broken glass and dogshit.
You’ve already embarrassed yourself enough, you twat.
When you get back, shivering uncontrollably, the blue front door is still open. Your mate, who happened to arrive just as Rebecca left, throws a towel at you.
The shoulders of his grey hoodie are dark and damp with rain.
What the fuck? He says.
Your teeth chatter as you dry your hair. You can’t even speak.
What would you tell him anyway?
That you tried to be friends with her after the break-up, but you were just too crazy about her?
You couldn’t help being pulled in by the tangled red hair, freckles, the sharp sculpture of her cheeks, the green eyes (one slightly lazy, so you were never 100% about where she was focused, and, sure, that sounds like a flaw, but that mazy look turned you on).
You couldn’t help thinking about all the nights her body was hot against you, from the dog days of summer to this bitter winter.
And, oh, the kinks that girl got you into. She was only 16. Had just sat her GSCEs at a girls’ school, but that didn’t stop her from being far dirtier and more experienced than you, the worldly-wise 18 year-old.
There was the outdoor fucking on the rooftop behind the local pub. The rough sex with hard slaps to the face and hissed abuse. The piss games. The oiled fucking on a plastic sheet, shoplifted from Boots. That was the one she liked the most. Sliding over each other, skin slick and shining.
She was wild. Maybe a little messed up. You always saw her as damaged, though she’d never let you in enough for you to find out.
Then you did what you always do, in a hopeless emotional death spiral. You confused sex with love. As you convinced yourself that you loved her, you tried to exercise just a little too much control.
Attempted to lay down the law after a game of strip poker went wrong during a house party in Plaistow. Went wrong as in you punching a leering rival, who in all honesty, was too drunk to put up much of a fight. After a brief glorious moment of validation as you watched blood pour from his nose, some other lads took you off to the kitchen to cool down.
Rebecca didn’t follow.
What the fuck? Where was she?
You stormed back into the living room to find she’d carried on with the game, topless and down to her knickers. Her luck with the cards obviously hadn’t improved.
You’re coming home with me. We’re leaving now, you’d shouted, nursing raw knuckles and wild possessiveness.
Fuck you. I’m staying. She said with a shrug.
And that was that. You left. She stayed. You were dumped.
She ignored a few phone calls before you really took the hint.
Then, a few weeks later, she turned up, saying she wanted to be your friend.
Faced with the removal of ecstatic access to her body, you couldn’t quite accept the tame substitute of conversation over Tesco Savers instant coffee and the occasional badly rolled spliff.
So you got sneaky. You went to Body Shop and bought Sensual Massage Oil. You borrowed a friend’s book on the subject and read about half a chapter. Just enough to bullshit with reasonable conviction.
When Rebecca dropped by, you drank a few glasses of rank German wine with her and casually said you were learning the art of massage. Could you practice on her?
She was up for it. Took off her top. Lay face down on your bed, bra undone. One thing led to another, as the oil, Rebecca’s erotic kryptonite, poured and your hands wandered.
Then, when the shagging was over, with Rebecca straddling you, you tried to pull her close for a kiss and she suddenly went rigid with fury.
The longed-for moment shattered like a bottle of cheap vodka on a kerb.
She leapt out of the bed and threw on her clothes.
What’s wrong? You asked. I don’t understand why you’re angry. Why are you angry?
She didn’t answer. Just flew out of your flat as your aforementioned friend arrived.
Which, of course, leads us to that ill-advised walk in the rain.
And its aftermath.
Like a Tesco Savers Keats, you proceed to succumb to apocalyptic flu, rapidly followed a chest infection. Coughing like an old man smoking untipped Woodbines, you are bedridden for a week and lost two stone in weight.
You frame yourself in the pub retellings of this tale as the slightly ridiculous, but romantic, fool, whose passion led to illness. Rebecca becomes the untamable femme fatale.
Now, many years later, you wonder about the manipulative, calculating way you seduced her. Ultimately she was just a little too free for you, wasn’t she?
Maybe you’re not the fool, but the villain.
The fool and the villain.
Left wondering how Rebecca would tell this story.