When we bump into each other every Sunday and you say we must meet up, are you actually meaning it, or are you just being polite?
The text message left my phone and marked itself as delivered. His response pinged back a few minutes later.
I do mean it, I've just been busy and I wasn't sure if you wanted to see me any more. How are you anyway?
And so eventually the day came when our diaries converged; three months after silence last descended. We sat opposite each other in a cafe between our two houses late one Saturday morning. My food arrived and as I lifted the fork to my lips, and chewed, nausea rose in my stomach.
"Urgh. I'm struggling a bit this morning. Do you want it?" I pushed my food to him.
"Yeah alright. Late night?"
"Early morning." I conceded.
It's then I pinpointed what I missed; the ease of it all. The ability to be so hungover you nearly vomit the next day and he just rolls his eyes and reminds you of the last time he held your hair back after a particularly heavy night in Vegas.
We laugh.We get on. We always have.
We talk and walk, taking in our local area. We catch up, we talk about how he's doing; his new exercise regime which is keeping the demons away. We don't touch on where he went for those months, why he went quiet. We hug and leave each other hours later; him with a promise of meeting again soon, me with a glimmer of hope.
I'm more surprised than I probably should be when my text message a couple of days later goes unanswered.
He's still lurking in my mind two weeks on, when myself and PIB are seated in a restaurant eating lunch.
Talk turns to ex-boyfriends, and the cycle of getting over someone. The protracted, long, drawn out process which is made infinitely harder when you still get on with them, when you often bump into them in the street each weekend and when, despite your efforts, you still can't let the barriers down for anyone else.
"Have you ever told him what he's done to you?" she asked, placing her fork to one side. "That he basically completely shattered your trust in everyone? Yes, he had a breakdown. Yes, he had depression. But what about you? You'll always protect him, because that's what we do. We protect boys like him because we don't want to hurt them. We mother them, tell them these huge things they did don't matter. But they do matter, and he's selfish, and he doesn't know how you are, which..." she paused and I felt tears fill my eyes, "...isn't too good, at the moment."
Which is strange, I thought, because that's exactly what my instinct said after three minutes in his company that day, a flash of innate knowledge that was later clouded by familiarity and hope.
The omission of a single question.
No. This isn't going to work because he hasn't asked how I am yet.
He'll never ask how I am, except to be polite. He doesn't want to know. And that's probably why he goes off the radar. He's protecting himself, and he always will do.
"Besides" the PIB said, resuming her lunch. "Regardless of anything that happens, I'd still kick him in the balls."
And sometimes, in a world where people are often just being polite, I think that's probably the best course of action.