We visit the town where we used to live. My parents moved while I was in hospital, I didn’t get to say goodbye. Mum drives past the old house when I ask. Without prompting, the memories come.
My then-boyfriend waiting outside the shop with my dog while I went in. He wanted to make shakshuka to impress my family. I meet my friend’s family in the shop and stay talking to them for a while. I just about manage to afford the ingredients. He asked for a beer as well. I have to leave it.
I tell him this outside the shop. He gets so angry. First for having to wait for so long and then for not getting his beer. I’d understand some minor annoyance but he gets so angry. He has a proper go at me outside the shop. I apologise, but what is he expecting me to do? He claims I left the beer out on purpose. He starts walking ahead of me with my dog while I carry the shopping bags. My dog is still a puppy, and his little legs tick forward behind him.
I feel so uneasy. Not because of the argument, we argue all the time but I don’t want my dog with him. I get this sudden urge to protect him. I don’t want him around something so small and vulnerable when he’s angry.
We drive past the pathway where I ran behind him saying: “Give me my dog, give him back right now!” And when he gives me the lead, he keeps walking ahead of us in angry strides while I balance both the groceries and the dog’s lead.
It was just a beer bottle.
I tell my mum about the memory.
“That’s horrible,” she says.
Was it? I didn’t really think it like that at the time. We always argued. The topics were often really trivial, so I became snow blinded by what was a normal thing to argue about and what wasn’t. Moral questions. Things that he blamed me for doing but I couldn’t remember. There was always something.
I was embarrassed to argue with him in my parents’ house.
“Why didn’t you tell us?” she asks.
About what? That my boyfriend has a hissy fit when I can’t afford his beer?
We drive past the local pub. We sat at the beer garden with my childhood friend and her boyfriend. He was shy, and my boyfriend did his very best to get him out of his shell. He talked about the boy’s interests, asked questions, listened carefully. I look at him as he heartily laughs at some joke.
“You’re never this nice to me,” a thought suddenly pokes at me. “When’s the last time you’ve been this nice to me?”
Pale ghosts of the past still sit at the corner table, walk a dog home while arguing, lay curled up on my bed with knees against chin as he yells at me for not wanting to have sex with him.
The house isn’t ours anymore, another family’s surname is on the post box.