Well, so it goes. The wonderful project that was to be my cohabitation with a partner I love more than anything has faltered, fatally, after a mere century of days plus change.
Let me say immediately that there is going to be no display of dirty laundry here, no apportionment of blame. The reasons are threefold: first, it’s really no one else’s business; secondly, blame is a function of perspective, and everyone has a different narrative* around the same events; thirdly, pointing fingers after the fact achieves nothing beyond spreading the misery around. I guess the best way to sum it up is to say that we broke it between us. Unless you know me well in meatspace, that’s all you’re getting – and meatspace friends won’t be getting much more, to be honest. That’s just how I roll.
What I am going to do, however, is state the consequences of the situation (because it’s the easiest way to let a lot of people know what’s happening, given that I’m geographically separated from almost everyone who’s likely to give a damn), and talk a little about how I feel (because I think I need to get it out before it turns toxic inside of me).
So, circumstances. These are likely to change in the microcosm as I analyse my options, but they can be summed up as follows: I live in a house where I can no longer stay, and will need to move in the fairly near-term, though exactly how much grace I will have on that remains to be determined. I currently live in a city where I know hardly anyone, and where half of those who I do know will likely (and quite understandably) have little interest in knowing me any longer. The level of my income from freelancing, while it was sufficient to keep me housed and fed and working before I moved, is now very much the income of a man who can just about afford a one-room bedsit with shared bathroom… provided he stays in the aforementioned unfamiliar new city.
In short: I am very close to ruined.
To unpack that a little: my flat in Velcro City was owned by a housing association, which meant that I had a perpetually rolling tenancy on an apartment which cost considerably less than a privately-rented equivalent. By surrendering that tenancy, I’m back on the regular housing market, meaning my budget goes nowhere near as far. Unless I’m willing to go back to house- or flat-shares (which after a decade of living alone, not to mention accumulating a large book collection, I am deeply loathe to do), my options – even here in Manchester, where housing is at least cheap and plentiful – involve tiny partitioned hutches, cooking my meals two foot from my bed, and saving twenty pence pieces throughout the summer so I’ve a chance of keeping the storage heaters running for the best part of the coming winter.
Yeah, I know, #FirstWorldProblems. I know that in the grand scheme of things I’m still much better off than a vast percentage of the world’s population. I hate myself for being upset about it. I hate myself for hating myself. And so begins an infinite recursive loop… hence this expungement of distress. I need to get this stuff out of my head and into words so I can deal with it, maybe get some advice. But mostly for the exorcism of it, really.
My options going forward at the moment seem to be as follows:
- Move across the Pennines temporarily to stay with my mother in Yorkshire, which is cheap, quick, and comes with much-needed emotional support on tap, but which is only a stop-gap – a stop-gap that leaves me in a part of the country where the prospects for rehousing myself are even worse in terms of both availability and price, and which isn’t terribly fair on my mother, who has a life of her own that I’ve already monopolised far too much of.
- Find a new home in the Greater Manchester area, which is financially within the realms of plausibility (provided I get reacquainted with a noodle-based diet), but with grim prospects in the long-term; the almost complete lack of a social support network makes this a genuinely terrifying prospect.
- Return to Velcro City, where I’ll be surrounded by people who give a damn, but where my money will go even less far on the open housing market than it does up here in the North, and by doing which I will once again demonstrate the truth of the adage which I myself coined, and which I thought I had finally broken for good. It’s called Velcro City because you get stuck to it, its hooks get jammed in your eyes. It has a gravity well, an escape velocity; to return will be to see the brightest hope I’ve had in about a decade burn up like a defunct comsat on a bad reentry course.
Oh, look: a bad metaphor. I must be on the mend.
Self-loathing aside, that’s the hand I’ve got to play from. Discussions and further thinking over the next few days may well erase one or more of these options, but there’s no point in second-guessing myself a worse situation before I need to; this one’s quite nasty enough already. If anyone has any advice for me, it would be much appreciated, no matter how vague or implausible.
And finally, those feelings I mentioned. I don’t want to die (and never have), but right now the thought of entering some sort of half-sleeping dream-state for the rest of my life, living out my days like a fevered schoolboy exiled to the spare bedroom with nothing but yellowing paperbacks and the inside of his own head for company, is horribly appealing. The shock is wearing off now, and beyond it lies the pain, the self-loathing, the loneliness… and the prospect of a long slow uphill battle to merely return to the point I’d reached around two years ago.
And truth be told, it’s the latter that’s the worst, certainly at the moment. My lifestyle has never been much beyond the luxury level of self-supporting post-graduate student, even when I was working full time for the Portsmouth library service. I’ve long believed (since my father died, or perhaps a little before) that life is all about compromises; you pass over on some things in order to let yourself have others. I decided I wanted a life where I could read, write and do other creative stuff for which I am statistically very unlikely to ever make any money from whatsoever; it took a lot of fumbling, steep learning curves and blind leaps of faith, but I built it. I had it. I was living it.
Now it’s gone.
As mentioned above, I’m not blaming anyone but myself. I took a gamble, trusted in love (in the Hollywood sense of the term), and – for once in my miserable, lonely and overanalytical life – let my heart lead my head. That’s what cuts the deepest, I think – the fact that the analytical little voice that haunts the back of my skull kept whispering to me that I was being crazy, that I was risking it all on an ill-defined and nebulous emotional concept, that I should have stuck to the status quo. “You’ll only screw it up somehow, and then where will you be, eh?”. That fucker has led me down any number of paths in my life, some good, quite a few bad. I guess that after him doing such a good job of getting me to where I’d wanted to be, I should have listened to him when I had the chance. I have no doubt whatsoever that he’ll spend the next few years reminding me of it on a daily basis. We live and learn, as the saying goes. The thing is, I’ve always struggled to do both at the same time. Selah.
So, here I am, emptier than a politician’s promise, wondering how to start the long dig out of the new hole. And as many of you who read this site are good friends, I thought I’d tell you so… because right now telling my ex-girlfriend’s cats just isn’t cutting it. Though they have listened very attentively, bless them.
Finally, for those of you on the UK genre scene who are wondering whether this means I’ll be going to Eastercon or not, the simple answer is: I don’t know. Given that my train tickets and hotel booking are non-refundable, I’m going to do everything I can to make it, because suddenly every penny counts in a far louder voice than before… and because frankly I think it’ll do me good to have other things to think about for a long weekend. However, circumstances may not permit. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what pans out.
Thanks for listening.
[ * How timely the arrival of this book, no?]