(Afterword: Having read a couple of comments below, I thought that perhaps I should explain that these events, spaced across 6 or more years, at the time did not feel catastrophic, dramatic or even on ordeal. Life just lurched from event to event, good and bad, intense and less so. Perhaps it was because I was so young and had nothing to compare my life with, perhaps it was the time itself? In the early to mid '80's I had never heard of 'Domestic Violence' I don't think the phrase had been realised back then, it wasn't on the news, on advertising hoardings or seen between TV programmes, it wasn't in my vocabulary; things happened but that's just how it was. I didn't share these events with my family - can you imagine the fuss, things were complicated enough? But then again, as I have said, there didn't seem much to tell. It is only now, now that I put it all together - and condensed here even more so- that I realise I was a victim in a way. But I prefer, like many others, to think of myself as a survivor - and that is a survivor of life in general, not just of Domestic Violence.)
"Guess who touched me on the arm in the supermarket yesterday?" She says in an animated fashion. I shake my head. "M!" she shouts with glee, "you know, your old flame?" I nod my head and she continues with enthusiasm. "He asked after you". She is pleased to have seen him and I look at her in amazement.
She is talking about a man that she didn't really approve of all those years ago, he had tattooed arms ( I was instructed from an early age to "never bring a man home with a motor bike or tattoos!") and long hair - though no bike - and she had said that he had no table manners at all. She thought he was lazy and not suitable (despite owning his own company) and "was he seeing someone else?". I will always remember that line because I was never quite sure myself. Yet here she was talking about him like an old friend (though she had warmed to him over the 6 or more years we were together.)
"I just happened to have some photographs of you all, I'd just collected from Boots" She continued. Goodness me she has shown him photographs? "He has 2 girls now you know?" I did. "He says tall Girl looks just like you"
"Poor thing, everyone says that to her." I reply as I make a swift mental calculation and realise I was hardly 3 years older than she is now when I first met him.
As she carried on I began to remember parts of those 6 years, or was it 7. The images flashed through my head at speed, like a film-strip flicking on a stark white wall superimposed on the current view of my mother sitting in her conservatory. Each scene played for only seconds but were none the less vivid: The fist through the car windscreen, from the inside; the blue room, in a fairly grim B&B in Dartmouth, and the searing pain of sex, as I lay silent and he ground down on top of me without my consent; the view from the back of the ambulance as we sped to hospital to have pills pumped from his stomach; the promise I made afterwards - how many others had said those same lines?
"He says he thought he saw you the other day" She smiled as she delivered this piece of news "and I told him you'd love to have had a chat" I smile back, remembering better times, times when he could talk me out of a black mood and make everything in the world seem so much better, just with words. The time he stroked my head until an agonising migraine had passed; his last note to me - everything will be alright.
"He says he often thinks of you kindly" She finished
How strange, until now, I had never thought of him at all.