I think I was about 24… I can’t remember. But I belonged to a Jazz forum as I am a huge fan of Jazz and Blues. I met a guy on there who’s whack sense of humour appealed to me. He was a bit older than I was but he seemed like a normal guy. He was an advocate for children who were in foster care – something to do with benefits and rights or… something. He wrote for a jazz magazine and was (and is still) a highly regarded internet blogger of all things jazz.
Things progressed, and he asked if he could come and visit, as his father had passed away in a lodge a few hours away from my home – and he wanted me to go with him (romantically) to this lodge so that he could see the place his father had passed. He seemed normal enough so I thought – yeah, cool, free holiday and maybe he is actually as normal as he appears. Plus, he has a job, stability and he is as crazy about art and jazz as I am.
So he arrived. Met the family. My brothers all looked at him like he was something out of The Adam’s Family but that wasn’t unusual, so off we went to Mpumalanga somewhere. Let’s name him Nigel. Nigel booked a very nice room and it was all very nice. The food, the game drive blah blah. I am FROM South Africa so it wasn’t all that exciting but he had a blast. I had started to grow bored about four days in (a curse of mine when it comes to relationships) but he was besotted with me. He took photos of me all the time and emailed them to his mother.
Then, he invited me to Durham, up in England near Newcastle to come and see his world for a month. I figured, what the hell, I mean ANOTHER free holiday and I get to listen to and possibly steal all the jazz that is not available to me here. So… off I went.
And this is where normal STOPPED. I am going to do this in bullet form – because that is kind of how it played out in my head.
- As I stepped in the front door I saw a large glass cabinet filled with teddy bears. At least 30 of them, all placed in human like poses. I thought it was weird but chalked it up to the fact that I had never ever liked stuffed toys or stuffed anything as a kid.
- Nigel needed to hold my hand all the time. If we came up to a group of young men he would hold it in a way that made me feel like I had cling film wrapped around my face.
- Nigel wasn’t a smoker and at that point – having lived in London before, I was PRO at rolling my own cigarettes, even in a blizzard I could have got that shit right. But Nigel didn’t like smoking at all, so I would go outside, roll a smoke, smoke it, come back in and wash my face and brush my teeth. This annoyed me after about the tenth time.
- Nigel was an avid cyclist. Now, that’s all cool. Seriously. But I have OCD. And when he came back – my brain did the following:
Wow – he is sweaty.
No, don’t hug me.
Did you really just whip your sweaty dick out and take a piss and NOT wash your hands.
That means your bike handle bars are…. *gag*…
Did you REALLY just open the fridge with that hand?
Hold on, I touched that fridge…
You DID NOT just stick your hand in that bag of Maltesers…
NO you may NOT put that in MY mouth with THOSE hands…
- What do you want for supper, babe? he asked. Anything except pasta if that’s okay. Nigel goes shopping and comes home with pasta.
- Why aren’t you drinking your wine? He asked. Nigel. I TOLD you, I don’t drink anymore. ‘Oh’ he says, and fills up my glass.
It was at this point that I started to panic. I realised that he was playing out in his mind what he believed the perfect relationship should be like. Except he was playing dress up with a girl who doesn’t care for bad hygiene or pretending. Or pasta. Or wine.
- I freak out. Mammoth monumental proper freak out. I go have a shower and I get into bed, determined to sleep the rest of the holiday away. 3 more days, only 3 more days.
- I am nearly asleep and a strange high-pitched voice starts speaking to me. Nigel has places one of his teddy bears on my chest and is attempting to have a therapeutic type conversation with me THROUGH the teddy bear. “Would you like to talk about your anger problem’s Sam?”
- I punched a teddy bear. Not my proudest moment – but when I saw Nigel’s face… it all became very VERY clear and as calmly as I was able, I said: Nigel. If you do that again, I will rip that toy in half. It will DIE. Do you understand me?? I spent most of the night on the front porch smoking while Nigel cried.
- Meet the mother. Yay. Not. So… I step into her front door, and the first thing I see is three photos in a row, of ME. Then more in the kitchen. More in the stairwell, more in every fucking room in the house.
Are you allergic to anything dear? The mother asks me.
No, I just don’t eat coconut, rhubarb or peas.
(Fuck.. are you kidding?)
- Nigel!!! Why are there photos of me everywhere in your mother’s house?
She is happy I met you. We are going to get married.
- Freak out No.3. Epic.
- Home time. YES!! But before we go to the airport, Nigel wants to stop at IKEA to buy some print that he liked, and have a meal at the restaurant inside. I shit you not we had not made it 10 meters into the door and there was one of those machines where you put 50p in and the claw moves to pick up a toy.
This bloody machine was filled with teddy bears. I looked at Nigel. He was frozen in anguish. “Look at it..” he begged. “Look how it is pressed up against the glass, so sad…”
Nigel. It is a STUFFED TOY.
“Do you have any change?”
Nigel tried for 45 minutes, until we thankfully ran out of money. All the money we had on us. So no print and no food. Just a long, silent trip to the airport.
“Will I see you again, be honest Sam.”
“No, Nigel. It’s not likely.”
“But… you can learn to love the bears.”
“No Nigel. Let go of my hand now please, I need to go find somewhere to smoke..”