A Sober take on Love, Life and London
By Janna Fox
So I’m sure it hasn’t escaped anyone’s notice that I’ve sort of borrowed my tag line from a very famous book slash TV series slash film also known as Sex and the City. I don’t feel bad about this as the biggest form of flattery is imitation and the first rule of art is plagiarism. True Story. I chose this wonderful title because a) me and Carrie are both writers b) me and Carrie both live in ‘the city’ and c) me and Carrie both have long term complicated non-relationships with men who to the rest of the world pretend we do not exist. I am of course talking about Mr Big. Well, My Mr Big who definitely bares heavy similarities with Carries’ except ones a drug dealer and ones a big Wall Street money guy so again not so different.
I met My Mr Big five years ago on Good Friday in a bar in Shoreditch. I had just finished a ten hour shift and decided to go and have a drink with the tall black stranger that had been making eyes at me for the last two weeks over the bar. He was with a friend of a friend so I had an in. He was aggressive, direct, obviously attracted which for me is normally a turn off but I enjoyed the attention and gave him my number anyway, I realise now this is a practised technique and I imagine it has a fairly high success rate, it did with me anyway. He called me on the Sunday and we met for a ‘drink’ which turned into about twenty. We collided with all my work mates at a cocktail bar a few hours into the date and one of them, our mutual friend, warned me off him there and then; told me he was a liar and not a photographer as he had said but a drug dealer. The night ended with an eerie drive back to his place through the Blackwall tunnel, slow motion, underwater, trying desperately to stay awake followed by some not really worth it sex by our standards which still tops the average persons.
Like Carrie I too know good sex.
I wasn’t interested really at the time. There were several things putting me off, his career choice for one but mainly the fact that he’d lied to me about it in the first instance (he is not the first drug dealer that I’ve known intimately) plus he had a lot of baggage and seemed like a player. Although I enjoy living on the edge or did for many years monogamy is something I do not compromise on, you fuck me, you only fuck me. I sensed that with our combined baggage we could be on a very painful road to nowhere which would all end terribly. How right I was. Except one thing.
It didn’t end.
The see saw of me and My Mr Big started with three missed calls. He called me three times in a row one sunny day when I was walking down from Stepney to The old Half Moon Theatre in Poplar for a rehearsal of a monologue piece I was rehearsing at the time. We had seen each other a few times since the drunk driving incident and it was feeling immediately intense, not least because the sex was some other type of amazing but because it felt like we were standing on a cliff looking out to one reality while another one lay close behind and I wasn’t sure which one I wanted yet. I saw the name and number flash up on the screen. Three times. And I thought to myself ‘No Janna. Don’t jump. You’ll only regret it’. And I did. And I do. For so many reasons, so many times. Years later this would be thrown back in my face time and time again as the reason for him not wanting to commit now because I missed my chance then when HE wanted to commit, he had even used the most desirable word ‘girlfriend’ which five years in is the My Mr Big equivalent of ‘Voldemort’ and so it’s my fault.
A lot of things ended up being my fault.
I found out nine months in that he had been sleeping with someone very close to our mutual friend, that everyone at my work knew about it except me, that he had literally been leaving her house to come to my house or vice versa. I thought our conversations while he was in the bathroom proved intimacy it turned out they were so she wouldn’t hear.
I left. Quit my job, got rid of my room and crossed London to get away from it all. It didn’t make any difference. We were drawn back to each other every time. Whether it was a mini cab at three in the morning or a silent car ride, crossing London on the tube endless times; we always found our way back to be together and then like magnetic poles we would find our way back to blocking, shouting, screaming, crying, lying, furious text message rants, switching phones off, smashing phones, violent outbursts damaging anything in our wake except each other; nearly but not quite.
There’s an episode in Sex and The City right before she leaves for Paris when Carrie says to Mr Big ‘We’re so over we need a new word for it.’ I’ve lived that sentence. To the extent that even our messages to each other now are so well practiced I could write them; both sides. Our arguments are regimented like a computer program we both know which way they will go. Even when things are going well between us I can normally guess the date of the next suicide threat, the next blocking and then the next ‘U ok’ which will spark off the whole cycle again like an episode of Black mirror.
The worst thing is that it’s reflected in all my other relationships too. Every time I meet up with close friends the question is now also programmed into our conversation which again has three possible outcomes. The ‘I’m never speaking to him again and I’m fine with it’, the ‘things are going really well, I’m sure it won’t last but’ or ‘we’ve fallen out again’. Much worse is when I see a friend I haven’t seen for a year or so who’s looks of disbelief when I tell them we are still in this tug of war say it much better than any words ever will. I’ve been through phases of just lying to people about it. Pretending I haven’t seen him, I’ve not spoken to my parents about it for years; the shame is too much. I pride myself on being so strong and independent and to openly admit that I’ve completely lost my way in this non-sensical non-relationship is too much sometimes.
Logic left years ago. We have been to such extremes within this now that we can’t shock each other anymore. The goodbyes still don’t mean anything as they’ve happened before and never been final. We’ve attempted to break up civilly; doesn’t work one of us will lash out to try find that reason for anger, the justification to let go and never go back because we are simply incapable of being in each others lives and not being together. It hurts. However he is also incapable of being faithful and unfaithful people are a lot more jealous. He doesn’t want to be faithful though and I am naturally faithful which leaves us in a pretty precarious spot; him seeing me in his mind acting out his own behaviour while I will swear fidelity causing spiteful words, ugly tempers and torrents of tears. But instead of walking away like I did the first time four years ago I continuously wait and linger and seduce and listen and support hoping that one day he will turn around and offer me what I’ve wanted from him; commitment. And equally he keeps returning and entertaining and providing and protecting and connecting hoping that one day I will be fine with him seeing other women, I mean, I’ve never given him reason to stop, have I?
Stopping drinking and smoking and using were partly to help me stop this continuous merry-go-round of starting then stopping, drowning sorrows then texting, taking taxis I can’t afford and going back on my word time and time again.
Stopping My Mr Big is a much bigger challenge than anything else I’ve ever quit.
Maybe this time…