‘You want me just to talk, then? OK. Well, when I met Michael, the very first thing he said was that he’d had testicular cancer, which I thought was strange because we’d been e-mailing for about two months by then. Huh, cancer reappeared a few months later, but I’ll try and keep this in order.
‘He was older than his photograph, about five years, I’d say; his hair was a lot greyer and thinner, but cut stylishly, you know? Michael took pride in his appearance; he ran, went to the gym. He was a small man, but he liked having muscles. A few times, I saw him standing naked in front of the mirror, but I never assumed he was posing.
‘He was always saying I was lovely, kind and funny, but sometimes? He’d say my jeans made my thighs look big, my lipstick should be pinker; it looked like concern, but I felt less attractive.
‘One day, we were walking up Skiddaw,when he said I was putting weight on. I said he was unkind, and he just exploded. Out of nowhere, cursing me, shouting, he stormed off and left me up that hill. It was two
miles, and I was expecting the car to be gone when I got back down. He sat on the wall, watching me walk towards him, then he got in the car, and didn’t speak to me all the way home, not even when he dropped me off.
‘Next day, he turned up on crutches, told me he’d torn a ligament when he fell on the way down alone, and it was a good job he could look after himself. On facebook, he posted that he’d fallen off a mountain; he was on his phone all afternoon, checking the comments, then he announced that he had 244 likes, and some people cared. I did my best, and after a while he was mollified enough to eat dinner.
‘Oh, yes. I kept misplacing things. My keys; I’d put them in my bag, and find them in the bathroom or the kitchen. Plausible, but unlikely places. I thought I was losing it, honestly. And he was always playing with my phone, posting things on my facebook page. Nothing awful, but intrusive. When I asked him not to, he’d make a big thing about me not trusting him.
‘He didn’t work for months. Friends got him a couple of terms lecturing at an FE college. He was only there a few months, when he said he’d found a blemish on his foot, it was skin cancer, and he’d have to have more surgery. It was an odd, flat, brownish-purple mark, about the size of a 2p coin; covered in iodine, it was hard to see when he eased back the dressing. We had a row that week, and when he got in touch two weeks later, he told me he’d had the operation and lost his job.
‘I’m fine to carry on, but could I have some water, please? Thanks’.