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Depression as vanity

  Mon 4th December 2017

Apologies for the editing error in this post which visitors who arrived before 0955 UTC today would have noticed. The sub-editor has been subject to a peculiar and original humiliation.

9am, and Karen's upstairs in bed, still asleep.

We bumped into each other in The Shipbuilders Arms last night and ended up walking back arm in arm to mine. The soundtrack: her head-tilted, sotto voce insinuation from a month or so ago. You know what's going to happen, don't you, looby?

We got to mine and she announced that she wanted to go to bed straight away. We went upstairs. I took all my clothes off. She took her shoes off and mummified herself with the duvet. Her thick, glossy black hair poured onto the pillow, as impossibly inviting as her wide open legs that I was imagining. After an hour or so I got up, put my vest and pants back on, and went to sleep in the spare room.

"I woke up and you weren't there! Was I snoring?" she asked the next morning. "It wasn't you snoring, pet." "Oh I'm sorry, I know I do it." "No, Karen -- it really wasn't that. You weren't snoring." Don't pursue it looby. She's not interested. "Anyway, shall we have some coffee?"

A few days later, she texts me to cancel our drink for the following day with that unanswerable reason, "I'm going to Preston with my sister." I reply suggesting we don't make any more arrangements and just leave it to bumping into each other. Two days later our paths cross unplanned, and she tells me that she's going to give it another go with her ex. It's a shame we couldn't have filled the hiatus with a few weeks of futureless sex.

Flirting with the bank teller. I eschew internet banking as far as possible, just to talk to her. I pull a crumpled fistful of notes and change out of my pocket. "Hello! How are you?," I start. "Some more of my ill-gotten gains to pay in." "Do you know how much is there?" "No, I'm sorry, I don't. I just thought you were looking a bit bored, so maybe you could count it." I know exactly how much there is; poor people keep accurate accounts. I just want to prolong standing there and to glance very quickly down at her bloused, buttoned, tight-skirted sexiness.

She asks me about my children and how they're getting on at university. I ask her about her cat and whether it misses her when she's out and how her cycle ride home was in the torrential rain the other day. I type in my PIN number on the keypad, imagining her arriving home drenched and leading her to sex without letting her dry herself, the rain, part of it.

"Would you like a receipt?" "No, the less of a paper trail the better." "Don't!" she says. I smile and say goodbye, nodding slightly and keeping eye contact while I do so. I hope she knows. I walk back down New Street wording and re-wording her Valentines card. All this imagining, always imagining.

At book club, someone who has been absent for a few meetings while he splits up from his wife, reminds us a few times that he's been suffering from depression, and turns every attempt to move the conversation on to general or impersonal or literary themes, back to himself. He reminds me irritatingly of Julie Birchall's dig: "depression is the highest form of vanity."

Trina comes round with some of my books and records, which were at hers when I didn't have anywhere to live earlier this year. Whilst I am in the kitchen she reads a card from Helen in which Helen urges me to make things right with Wendy.

Trina then goes on an hour-long, Malbec-fuelled pestilential interrogation of me. What's gone wrong between you and Wendy? You never tell me anything. Why does Helen know and I don't? Why do you always hide things from me? "Of course I hide things from you Trina. This is what happens when I tell you things -- or rather, when you go poking about in my private correspondence."

She only ceases when I threaten to stay at Kitty's. I clap my hands to signal the discussion over, and put some music on, but her drunken resentment clouds the room.

Trina won tickets to go to see a singer I like in Manchester. One of the artists sat with me for a while and wanted to show me a couple of pictures of semi-detached Edwardian houses in a suburb of Manchester. They were unremarkable to me, but his delight in them was a pleasure to share. Only me and a very drunk girl dancing.

On the way back I stop for a couple of hours in Wigan. An execrable open air radio station doing something for cancer; and there's some kind of campaign going on in the pubs to try to get men to talk to each other about depression. I deface the beermat.

Someone confides "I think he's on his way out." His friend, pointing to someone on another table, rejoins "no he's not, he's over there!" "Oh, sorry, I thought you meant the dog."


Comment from: daisyfae [Visitor]

i do understand that sentiment regarding depression. there are deep, chemical imbalances that drive the depression of some - and that’s a different case. but i have often wondered about those who wave their depression like a flag, when it seems more due to circumstance than on-going brain chemistry.

some happy memories of short-term, futureless sex. some not-so-happy memories. maybe she’ll give up on him again, and you can get in a few good weeks.

Tue 5th December 2017 @ 02:13 Reply to this comment
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

I’ve every sympathy with people who are affected by it, whilst – if I’m honest — they’re not great fun to be around. Julie Birchall unleased a massive shitstorm when she said that in one of the Sunday papers but it stirred up a good debate I remember.

I don’t think it’s worth planning anything with Karen. There’s a 10% chance of an unplanned night together, at best.

Tue 5th December 2017 @ 09:09 Reply to this comment

She’s so clueless. Or passively hostile. I can’t decide which is worse.

I am surprised by your yearning. I always fancied you a bit of a loan wolf. Turns out even a lone wolf needs a she-wolf once in a while.

I’ve always found alcoholism the highest form of vanity. My step-da was one. As soon as he walked into a room, all attention had to focus on his drunken self. And god help us all if it didn’t. It’s that way with a lot of dunks.

Tue 5th December 2017 @ 11:48 Reply to this comment
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

Who? Karen or Trina?

I like female company – of which I have more than most men. But there’s another aspect of being with women of which I would like a lot more.

Vain drunks are also vain sober people I find – it’s just a question of degree. Thank goodness that as a heavy, daily drinker who writes constantly about his personal life in a public forum, I buck that trend.

Tue 5th December 2017 @ 15:23 Reply to this comment
Comment from: Eryl [Visitor]

You could end up with quite a nice thing going with Karen if she does attempt to settle down with her ex. Having made him an ex rather suggests she doesn’t get all she needs from him, so if you provide whatever that is, or something approximating it, she may happily provide the comfort you seek. Utopian? Possibly.

I never know what to do with people who have to dominate groups with their woes. Usually I switch off and let them get on with it, but sometimes I want to scream at them.

You have a lot of female friends, which still seems unusual and pretty impressive. Have you ever tried dating sites for the other aspect? A friend of ours whose wife died earlier this year (after a long, hideous illness) seems to have now met the (new) love of his life that way. We were faintly disturbed by the fact he used such methods until we admitted it was either that or move to a place with more women in it.

Tue 5th December 2017 @ 15:47 Reply to this comment
Comment from: [Member]

I know an outside observer might suggest I can hardly be objective, but I can’t really see Karen and the ex-ex working in the long term. Nothing has really changed between them that I can see. Anyway, she knows I’m happy to step in whenever!

I’ve tried internet dating for years, with occasionally favourable results for a couple of short-term flings, and I met a truly great and close friend – Kim – through it, but I’ve taken my profile down now. It was just turning into an expensive way of wasting money in Manchester.

That’s when it gets that far – the great majority of women leave it on clicking on “like” but very few follow that up with a message.

Wed 6th December 2017 @ 09:12 Reply to this comment
Comment from: kono [Visitor]

The sad part about technology is that it’s driven us more apart than ever before when it comes to actual intimate relationships, we click like and scroll on or find an imperfection in the picture, bio, whatever, it gives us an excuse and if by the lord of the internets we do meet than it’s also much easier to believe that if it’s not perfect why bother? back to the clicking and the scrolling, it’s sad really, i fancy you’re a bloke like me who does his best work live and in person, the internet steals all the charm and quick wittedness and fun really, the investment is gone because it’s to quick and easy to swipe to the next one… this isn’t directed at you by the way my good sir it’s just the musings of melancholic stoner, a stoner who’s spent the early part of the night watching well-dressed women enter my attractive divorced Peruvian neighbors house across the street for a party while i sit in my pajamas with a bad back and think of how wonderful they smell and how white their teeth must be and the lusciousness of their voices while i sit alone sipping tea and pulling tubes…

Sat 9th December 2017 @ 01:46 Reply to this comment
Comment from: looby [Visitor]

Yeah, internet dating hasn’t really worked out for me, and my profile is a bit too honest maybe. But yes, I do take drugs “often". I’m not hiding that from anyone. I’ve had a couple of short term things but I want a girlfriend really. Well, I want Wendy really but she’ll never be mine.

Are you not tempted to wander across the way and see if they would let you in if you said you were neighbours?

Sat 9th December 2017 @ 03:20 Reply to this comment

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