There's a song I like, a slow, melancholy little thing. The singer is upset that some past love told them over coffee that they no longer loved them.
Alison told me a thousand times, in a thousand tiny little ways that she didn't love me. I just chose not to listen for a few years. The lies we tell ourselves when the truth is something we'd rather not know. She never said it with words, we never sat down and discussed our problems over coffee. We let them fester nastily in the background of our relationship and eventually the disease spread to a point where it was too late for a cure, amputation was the only solution.
Breaking up is something I've never been very good at. I always either ask for, or give, one last chance. It never works. When something is dead there is little to be gained in pretending it isn't. With Alison I didn't give her the chance when she asked for it. I stood my ground, for once I had the courage of my convictions. She hadn't loved me for a long time, and I realised I no longer loved her. It was the right thing for both of us, carrying on would only have caused more pain and would just have postponed the inevitable. I stopped taking her calls, stopped replying to her emails and text messages and stayed with friends for a few days so she had no way of getting in touch with me. We'd agreed it was over, I thought she just needed some time to accept that.
Three days after I'd told her that there would be no second chances Alison ran herself a warm bath. She got into it naked, clutching a knife from her kitchen, the kitchen we had shared for three years. She made two long gashes in her own flesh, one running up the wrist of each arm. She died wet and alone.
I was staying with Terry when it happened, miles away in another city.
That night, as Alison lay with the last of her life bleeding out of her I had a dream.
I was walking in a park in a strange city. The spires of the buildings rose above the trees in the distance, towering above everything, a mix of skyscrapers and turrets and Arabian knights castles. There were people around me playing games, children running, couples having picnics, I seemed to be the only person alone. I walked along the path, past the playing fields and into a grove of trees. In a clearing there was a tartan blanket spread with a wicker picnic basket sitting on it. Alison was taking plates and sandwiches out of the basket. I sat down beside her and we talked. I told her that I had loved her, but we were no longer the people we had been when we met, that the person I had been still loved the person she had been, but that the person I was now didn't love the person she was now. She nodded, sadly and looked me in the eye. "They're coming" "Who are coming Alison?" "I'm going now. Goodbye Colin." and then she was gone. I looked down and saw that the plates were covered in blood. And then I woke up.
I thought about telling Terry about my dream but I decided not to. I didn't want him to think that I wasn't getting over Alison. I went home that night on the last train from Glasgow to Edinburgh and I sat and stared out the window and thought about love, and the tricks it plays on us.
When I got home there was a letter from Alison waiting for me that I didn't want to read, but I did. It was her suicide note. A last message to tell me that she was sorry, that she loved me, had always loved me but had just forgotten it for a while and that she knew it was all her fault that things hadn't worked out. She didn't blame me. That was the worst part. I sat in the dark and cried and wished that I'd loved her more, that I hadn't given up so easily. But even then, although I hated myself for it, I didn't love her. I'd killed her.
I tried to go to work the next day. I sat in my cubicle staring at my PC trying to convince myself that none of it was real, that Alison was still alive and I wasn't a murderer. Chris dropped by my desk with some questions about a new project and I answered them in a haze and suggested we sat up a meeting next week. I went out for lunch with my team and we talked about the Chinese economy and the documentary that was on BBC2 last night and I ignored the silences as I no longer cared to fill them.
Eventually in the afternoon I found a mindless task to stop me thinking for a few hours and by the time I left the office at 7pm it was dark and raining. I stopped at Tesco's and bought some food I didn't feel like eating and then I went home. I unlocked the front door and put the groceries in the kitchen before going into the living room and finding Alison's ghost sitting on the couch.