Somebody always gets hurt.
And this time, it won't be me.
It began on February 7, 2013, and here I am, barely a year later, blanking several phone calls a day. The number - or rather the prefix, 028, the only digits I need to see - appears on the screen. I shiver, blanch and hit "Silent". It never buys me more than a few hours, though, before the phone's ringing again: 028 … Northern Ireland. She never leaves a voicemail.
I'm starting to regret downloading that 24 ringtone. It was meant to put a smile on my face but it's performing the opposite function. Sorry, Kiefer. This is one predicament even you can't help with.
She's taken to sending me emails which somehow bypass the spam filters (has she studied computer programming the better to get her message across to me? You might think that'd be sick - I'd not argue -but I wouldn't put it past her. She's nothing if not tenacious). Why would she imagine I even open the emails? They'll all say the same thing. Don't leave. Stay. I need you. And I'm way past wanting to hear it.
I should be ashamed. I know it's over but haven't mustered the guts to say so. The distance between us helps my inner coward - she in Belfast, me in Glasgow (albeit a neighbourhood that resembles the Northern Irish capital in miniature every summer, Orange marches waking me on Saturdays long before I intend to rise). We've all been there, haven't we? What the eye doesn't see the heart doesn't grieve over and so on. How many of us are still there? Yep, none. Zero.
I made her no promises. That's never been my style. I'll make vague, breezy allusions to a future happiness far deeper than the inchoate joy of the days, nights and weeks at the beginning. This time, I didn't even do that.
I did worse: I said yes. Those three letters were my downfall. It would've been quicker and more prudent to say two letters: no. As in "not interested". As in "leave me alone". As in "no".
Don't get me wrong - the first eight months were immaculate. There was never a cross word. But the accident changed everything.
It didn't help that I'm a stupid, short-sighted, feeble man, a sitting duck. I made the wrong choice - maybe we both did - and now I'm paying for that misjudgment.
There's only one way to end this harassment. I have to tell her I'm looking elsewhere, that she can't give me what I need. Thing is, it shouldn't be this hard. All I'm doing is moving my car insurance to another firm.