I recently got a new phone. After dropping my old phone one too many times during hazy stumbles at 2 in the morning, just at the beginning of lockdown it finally gave up on me – and so it has been replaced with a newer, shinier model of its predecessor. Due to my opposition to paying 79p a month for 50GB of storage in ‘The Cloud’, (which is not compatible logic when paired with my other spending habits) once my new phone had been ‘backed up’ the most recent pictures on the camera roll were from the summer of 2018 – the summer I left school. It brought me back to truly happy times and in a time of isolation from my friends I spent hours pouring over the photos, I hadn’t properly examined for years; the boozy trip to Zante with friends from school, a trip to Amsterdam, my Leavers Ball (although the false eyelashes I was wearing leave much to be desired).
But peppered throughout it were photographs of the boy I dated for nearly 2 years who I broke up with last August before I went to university. I say this with no exaggeration: when I see a photo of him I physically cringe to a level that would be more suitably matched for watching someone you love really fucking it up doing freestyle performance poetry in front of a packed audience. It makes me think of those times sitting opposite Adam in a café thinking ‘I actually really dislike you, your face and everything about you’.
Very perceptively, you may be wondering why I didn’t just break up with him as soon as I started developing those sentiments. It’s an excellent question. One that I don’t think I can quite answer fully myself. I suppose the simplest answer is that I was young (and yes, at 20 I am aware I am still very young) and although this might sound strange, I was aware I did not want to spend my life with Adam and knew that perhaps one day we would break up. I don’t think I quite realised, at the time that I had the ability to utter the words ‘I don’t want to be with you anymore’ and the power and the agency to actively leave the relationship that was draining me.
I eventually mustered up the courage to go through with it. Sitting in the coffee shop of my local branch of Waterstones reading the first chapter of my new book the epiphany struck me. I am so unbelievably unhappy in my relationship. I rang my mother who was in a meeting nearby. We went to Boots so I could buy a new tinted moisturiser. “I think I’m going to break up with Adam” I whispered, my lip quivering. “I know.” my mother replied.
When chatting with friends who knew me in my relationship many admit they never really understood why it happened at all – and their dislike of Adam and his (at times) possessive, moody and clingy nature made them very skeptical of the whole arrangement. Friends who never knew me in a relationship are sometimes confused as to why I harbour so much resentment for him. I think perhaps I am actually more angry at myself than at Adam. Now dissecting the relationship it is clear I was never in love with him and instead fostered a kind of a mashup of juvenile lust and an almost concerned and caring love. I close my eyes and envisage the words I have flung around about Adam; suffocating, dependant, annoying, cringe, self-important, attention-seeking – they swirl in front of me affirming my deepest fear: that I loved someone I don’t even like.
Like my new phone, I am a newer and slightly more reformed version of the same thing, a few bugs have been fixed and my analytical systems are sharper (yes, I did just metaphorically compare myself to an iPhone). Without a care of sounding worryingly like a voice-over monologue at the end of a bad coming of age film: I am hopeful for my future in love, I know I may well make many more mistakes, but I am excited to be in love and experience real, adult feelings for someone worthy of my adoration and care and who wants a partner, not a mother. I sincerely hope that there is a time, soon preferably, when I can see pictures of the time in my life I spent with Adam and just think ‘Oh. That’s nice’. I wait for that day patiently.
Images by Andrew Rocha, Ka Wing Falkena and tickatofu