I Am The Ex Offender
"Joe! Joe Banks!" For a moment, I thought he would walk on, pretend not to have heard me, and that thought made me angry, made me shout his name louder.
He turns. I knew that face, that body so well, once, I could trace it in my sleep. His hair is almost all grey, a little too long (though I always liked it that way) his beard a little too shaggy. That long nose, that slightly foolish grin - like Busy P's mouth inserted into Lindstrom's face. I thought my knees would give way as he turned around. We stared at each other in shock.
It's been 5 years since I even saw him. He hasn't changed. I have, I'm not sure for the better. My knees feel like they will give out.
We exchange tense, stuttering greetings. "Sorry, I'm just shocked," I manage to get out. "Me, too. Well... I'm shocked to see you. But I'm more shocked... about something else in my life, I can't tell you about." Fucking Joe. In an instant, any residual love or fondness is gone. His evasive answers, his half truths, his self aggrandisation. I want to run away, I want to leave, but I'm rooted to the spot.
It spills out of me. I don't even ask how he is, I don't want to know. I tell him I've got a good job - well, it is good on paper, it's well paid for a start. I tell him I've bought mine own flat, down in Streatham (that's a dig at him, still living in the flat his mother bought him, I bet.) I tell him I've been working a lot.
"On music?" he asks. Yes. I mention it so casually. Oh, that little band I started after we split up, we did really well, we were on the telly, on the radio... "Oh, I didn't know. I listened to your stuff on the internet, though. It was good." Yeah, well, this record label in California wants to put out a retrospective of our work. I'm really busy, I'm DJing a lot...
I can't shut up. I want to rub it in his face. He made me feel like such a failure when we were together - look at all the things that I did when you kicked me out. It wasn't me that was at fault, it was you. I was a failure as a Bloomsbury wife, but I was a success as a musician, an artist, a writer. More successful than you. Anything to avoid the questions about my personal life, anything to avoid the answers about his personal life. I don't want to know, don't even glance at his finger to see if he's married now.
He mentions his mysterious shock again, tells me again he can't tell me what it is. I don't care. I don't want to know. Your mother has died. You're having a baby. I don't want to know. I force myself not to care. "Yeah, well, see you around," he tells me, touching me on the arm as he looks straight into my eyes. His eyes are so blue as he raises his sunglasses. I remembered them as greenish. I remembered lots of things as better than they were.
I practically run, crossing the street to get away from him, more shocked than anything else. To see him, so suddenly, so unexpectedly, after 5 years. I'd just been walking back from work, laughing over a funny twitter exchange with friends that morning, and there he was. Three years of working around the corner from him and I never saw him, then suddenly there he was.
I managed to get to the tube before I started crying. I wanted to put my book down and bawl, but I just couldn't, not with so many people around. You hurt me. You broke me. I've never been in love again, since you. Now don't take that as a compliment or anything - it was because of how badly you betrayed me, how systematically you broke my trust and you broke my heart, how utterly unflinchingly you did your best to destroy me.
Well, I was stronger than you. I wanted that song on the TV, wanted that song on the radio so you would hear it, and you would know. Was it the truth? No. Life is so unfair. How do you get to go on, and be happy, and I don't? I hope karma hits you hard, I hope your shocking news is awful and horrible and terrible and rips your world out by the foundations like you did to me. Our relationship was a prison. You demanded freedoms for yourself that you refused to allow me. I could not bloom, artistically, until I was away from you. But emotionally, I never bloomed again.
I want to call someone, want to cry and moan down the phone, to someone who has known me since then, since before then. Who knows what it means, to have seen you. But there's no one I can call. All my friends of 2003, oh how they've all moved on, new lives, new friends. And me left behind, never really healing.
Everybody gets tired of me in the end. The mental illness, it never changes, it never goes. There are occasionally better patches, but that darkness that you saw inside me, that scared you so much - that will never go. I wear people down, wear them out, they get sick of my bullshit and they move on.
I should never have called your name. Should have let you slip off down the street, written it off as a trick of the light and too much caffeine.
Came home, and I can't even cry. No more tears left in me, I cried them all for Bimble last week.
Why did I see you? Nothing ever happens for no reason, I fundamentally believe that, to impose order on chaos, coincidence on randomness. Note to self: finish the album. Fucking do it. What do you have to prove? I have to prove to Joseph Caxton Banks that I am *still* stronger than you. I still record on your mixing desk, still do my sequencing with your MIDI controller. I took your stuff and I did better work with it than you will ever do. Yes, you absolutely broke me, emotionally. But I am still stronger than you.