When I moved from London to Manchester in 2011, I asked a friend to help me with a project I was beginning, and as time passed, I found myself growing closer and closer to him. At the time, the idea of he and I dating was impossible, though we did become very good friends, and when a destructive relationship came to an end in late 2012, he was the one who came to rescue me, sit with me, hold me and let me cry.
In a way, it seemed quite ironic that at the same time as my world was being outraged by the concept of Mr Nice Guy, I began to develop feelings for him: he'd been on the periphery of my social circles, just generally being an outstanding person, for about two or three years, and then when I needed someone to look after me, he appeared and supported me, but of course, he wasn't the trope Nice Guy: he asked for nothing more than friendship in return.
He gave me some rolls of film and we went shooting together. He reminded me how to develop my own films, and helped me find my passion again. He bought me coffee and gave me hugs and listened whilst I talked, and he didn't offer advice or try to fix me; he was just there
. He took me to a goth night on New Year's Eve, to take photos and dance the year away, and when he asked for a kiss at midnight, I remember feeling like nothing that had been bad was important anymore.
We talked the next day; I confessed that I had feelings for him, but that I didn't think he liked me in that way, but of course he already knew, and he did, and the kiss was his way of letting me know. But he reminded me that I needed time to heal, and said that right there and then, he wanted to be my friend first and foremost, to help me through the shitty time I was going through, and we agreed that we shouldn't rush anything. Over the next few weeks, he became one of my best friends, and somewhere along the line, we fell in love.
As the months passed, he inspired me to take more photographs. He pushed me to join the ranks of the Apocalypse Girls
photographers, and helped me arrange my first shoots. He passed the role of ArA's photographer onto me. He looked into my eyes and without any words at all, he made me feel like one of the most important people in his world. He helped me learn, and grow, and change. He encouraged me to find love with others. He taught me to make an incredible curry, and made me laugh until my sides ached.
When he told me on November 1st that he wasn't in love with me anymore, I stared into my lap and tried my hardest not to cry, as my heart split into hundreds of tiny pieces. He sat next to me with his arms around me, and I knew he was being completely truthful as he told me that he did still love me and didn't want us to break up, but all was not as it had been. I somehow managed to keep my composure as I said that maybe, if both of us wanted to be together, we should keep trying to make it work. He agreed, but as the days passed, I came to accept that the disparity in our feelings for each other was too great, that trying to force a relationship would be too painful, and a week later, we agreed to go back to being "just friends".
I fucking hate that phrase. There is no just
about our friendship, and there never will be.
Last night, I went dancing again, and we wrapped our arms around each other as the midnight bells tolled and people sang Auld Lang Syne, before he ran away to his decks to play the perfect track to open a new year
, and I followed to dance with all the energy I had.
And then it hit me, like a punch in the stomach, the bittersweetness of the moment winded me. From a kiss full of hope, to a hug with an air of finality. I slipped off the dancefloor and into the little room at the side of the church, knowing my absence would be noticed eventually, but that I needed a little quiet time to myself first. A few people dropped in, chatted, and left again.
At the end of his set, he came and sat next to me, and when he told me he'd noticed me slip away, I explained through my tears what was going on in my head. That I was mourning for what we'd had, yes, but that I felt so lucky to have been his partner at all. How our relationship had helped me to grow and become a better person, strengthened our friendship, and helped me rekindle my passion for photography. He told me he was proud of me for finding my way in life again, and it took everything I had not to fall apart. I thanked him, and told him I couldn't have done it without him, and he hugged me tighter.
With impeccable timing, the PA boomed out the opening bars of a tune I knew, and I looked into his eyes.
"Yeah, let's dance."
So we did. I closed my eyes, and I danced, and when someone cursed at me for dancing too wildly, I laughed, because this time last year, I stood awkwardly at the side of the room admiring those who had the confidence to let themselves move so freely. When VNV Nation seamlessly transitioned into Bad Romance, I cheered and sang along and danced more. After I'd been dancing a while, my feet began to object to the weight of my boots, and noticing people milling around where I'd been taking photos, I returned to my camera to snap and chat. The Cure came on, and he danced with me again. We ran into the side room again to deconstruct the mini studio I had set up, and we finished just in time for the final song.
He shouted "CONGA LINE!", and Kolyn grabbed hold of him, and I grabbed hold of Kolyn, and Laura grabbed hold of me, and we went snaking around the revellers, collecting more dancers as we went, laughing at a group of vampires who stood at the door mocking us even as our line grew, and then when the lights went up and the music faded, I stood in the middle of the dancefloor, clinging onto him with one hand and the stitch in my waist with the other, and I laughed and laughed.
We loaded up the car with the photography gear, I called shotgun because my poor feet were aching from the dancing, and Laura hopped in the back, then we all chatted together about love and relationships and how we're all slaves, to feline creatures and deadlines, and we each resolved to take on a new project for the coming year (mine: Project 365
). When he pulled up outside my house, he turned to me and wrapped his arms around me again.
"You did great. Do 2014 even better."
"I will. You too. Together?"
He kissed me goodbye, and it felt different this time. I'm not in love anymore, either.
I let myself into the house, where I remembered that I am alone for the next several days, and I cried for three hours, until the birds outside began to sing, and I had nothing left.