October 21st, 1989

October 21st, 1989

Flight from LGW – MBJ

First time in Jamaica but I couldn’t care less.

Total shock this morning when David rang, from Manchester! Apparently, he spoke to mum last week, while I was away. He left the name of the hotel where he’d be staying with mum, in the hopes that perhaps I’d be able to meet him. Mum assured him she would pass along the message but sadly she started slipping into her present condition, so that didn’t happen.

While I was talking to David (worst chat ever, felt totally stilted, all my doing)

Ben showed up. I gestured for him to go wait in the kitchen. Through the glass wall, I watched him moving around, with ease; making tea, scoffing biscuits.

“I have to go,” I told David.

“Of course,” he said, sounding despondent. “I’ll be back in LA when you come home from Montego Bay. Give me a call?”

“Yeah, sure,” I sighed.

“Who was that?” Ben asked, when I went into the kitchen.

“None of your business.”

“Fair enough. Listen, I rented a car for a few days. I can drop you off at the airport if you want.”
In a snippy tone, I said, “I have my own car.”

“I’m well aware of that,” he snapped back, before promptly changing his tone. “I thought maybe it would be a good opportunity for us to talk.”

Being in the car together did allow us to talk at length and from what Ben said, I don’t think he really knows what (who?) he wants. He claims he does but I totally disagree.

Our goodbye felt strained and awkward and he didn’t offer to pick me up upon my return. I certainly wasn’t about to ask him to either but the second I walked into TriStar House, I felt sad and hid in the loo for a while ‘til the tears subsided.

I was surprised to see Frankie in the briefing room.

“You look awful,” were her first words.

“I’m not in the mood for anything today,” I groaned. “Least of all, hundreds of passengers.”

“How come?”

I shook my head. “It’s a long story.”

One I’m really tired of.

 

October 20th, 1989

October 20th, 1989

At home

I didn’t sleep a wink last night and from the sounds of it, neither did dad. Several times throughout the night, I heard him moving around the house. I could tell it was him and not mum because mum is much heavier on her feet.

I can’t imagine how difficult it is for dad to see his wife in such a bad way (again.) Mum’s pattern is the same as it always is, which means she’s only going to get worse. Before dad left for work this morning, he knocked on my door and poked his head in. “Keep a wee eye on mum, please,” he said, his tone sounding flat.

I tried to sleep but my mind was too busy so I got up, made tea and toast and left the same for mum on the bedside table. Took Tini out but it started pouring so our walk was cut short.

Back in the house, I found myself pacing around in an agitated fashion and knew I had to talk to Ben. I went upstairs to check on mum; the tea and toast lay untouched on the bedside table and she was asleep.

After ten minutes, walking in the rain, I arrived at Ben’s door, drenched. I knew his mum and dad would be at work so I wasn’t worried about having to face them. When I rang the doorbell, it felt like my heart was beating outside my chest. There was no answer, so I rang the doorbell again and knocked a few times.

Ben opened the door looking bleary eyed, wearing only shorts. “You’re soaked,” he said, standing back so I could step inside the tiny hallway. I took off my coat, shook the rain from it and hung it on one of the hooks, just like I have hundreds of times. Ben closed the front door and as I followed him into the kitchen, I felt a strong urge to reach out and touch his beautiful, tanned shoulders.

I stood by the washing machine while he filled the kettle with water, then he stood across from me with his arms folded. We stared at each other and I could feel my heart racing. After a minute or so, he opened his arms to me and I fell into the all too familiar feeling of him.

I left three hours later, after much talking and crying. I have so much to think about that I don’t know where to begin. He said he loves me and always wants it to be me but after all that’s happened, how can I believe that?

I think the only chance I have of getting over him is to move far, far away.

Maybe, to France.

 

October 19, 1989

October 19th, 1989

At home

Her name is Mandy.

Apparently they met while she was on holiday in France. She was so smitten with him that she forgot to go home and soon moved in with him.

I found this and more out this afternoon when Ben finally appeared on my doorstep. He looked like shit and said he said he had just come back from Liverpool.

“I have a lot to tell you,” he said, sitting across from me at the kitchen table.

It was so difficult listening to what he had to say about the girl he went to Liverpool to see. Apparently, she came home last week, with the expectation that they would continue to see each other once he got back. However, after our last conversation, he said he realized I’m the one he wants to be with. So, he went to see her and tell her it’s all over.

While I was listening to him spill the beans, I watched him closely and for the first time, it occurred to me what an actor he is. It seemed almost as though he was reading from a script. I wanted to tear his eyes out and kiss him, all at the same time.

All of a sudden, mum came crashing through the kitchen door, looking completely disheveled. From her expression, I could tell she’d taken too many tablets. She took one look at Ben and shouted, “You better leave, right now.”

Ben looked at me but I couldn’t find any words. He stood up and looked at mum. “I’m very sorry,” he said.

Mum stared at him. “Get out,” she hissed.

“Mum, please calm down,” I said, as calmly as I could. “He’s leaving.”

Ben followed me out into the hall, where I heard something crash against the glass wall. I didn’t dare look to see what mum had thrown.

“I love you,” Ben whispered, while I held the front door open. “This can’t be the end of us. Tell me it isn’t,” he pleaded.

I didn’t look at him when I closed the door.

 

October 18th, 1989

October 18th, 1989

At home

I’ve gone from being on cloud nine, to shedding more tears than I know what to do with.

As soon as I got home this morning, I made a dash for the phone and felt really excited when I dialed the number I know will be forever etched in my memory. It rang four times; long enough for my stomach to somersault, with the knowledge he was only ten minutes away.

“Hello?”

“Oh, hello Susan, it’s Karen.”

“Hello love, how are you?”

“Fine thanks, is Ben back?” I quickly asked.

“He is love, but he isn’t here.”

“Oh,” I said, feeling confused. “Where is he?”

“He’s ehm, he’s in Liverpool.”

“What’s he doing there?”

“I’m not sure love but I think he said he’s coming back tomorrow so maybe you can talk to him then.”

The way Susan said it told me something was off. I could feel the lump forming in my throat so I hurriedly said, “Ok, thanks” and hung up.

I sat in the phone chair for ages, trying to figure out what might be happening but my mind only drifted to bad scenarios so I went upstairs and knocked on mum and dad’s bedroom door.

“Mum? Mum? Are you awake?”

She was in bed, facing the other way. I climbed on the bed and sat behind her.

“I just wanted to let you know I’m back,” I said, rubbing her shoulder.

Mum didn’t answer but I could tell from her breathing that she was awake.

“Do you want anything mum? Do you want some tea?”

Nothing.

“Alright, I’ll let you get some rest but I’ll leave the door open, so just shout downstairs if you need anything.”

I changed out of my uniform and took Tini for a quick walk. It was one of those gray, dreary, October days where the sky feels like you could touch it.

By this afternoon, I could no longer stand not knowing what’s going on with Ben, so I rang his house again but nobody answered. I rang again tonight and had the most awkward chat with Susan I’ve ever had. In the six years I’ve known her, regardless of what was happening between her son and I, we remained friends but tonight, it seemed obvious there was something she wasn’t telling me.

The last time I talked to Ben, he made it quite clear that he couldn’t wait to get home. He said he wanted us to try one last time in the hopes we could make it work and be together. So, why the hell isn’t he here like he said he would be? More importantly, what is he doing in Liverpool?

He knew I would be home today and hasn’t even had the decency to ring and let me know what’s going on. Now I understand why mum says he makes me unhappy and is no good for me.

But I still want to see him.

 

October 17th, 1989

October 17th, 1989

Night flight from LOS – LGW

One would think that after one has trouble zipping up one’s uniform skirt, in a hotel room in Nigeria, that maybe, just maybe, four hours later, one might refrain from eating the biscuits one eyeballed in the First Class galley, while one accompanied a young boy and his Father on a visit to the Flight Deck!

However, here I am, on crew rest, at the back of the TriStar, separated from the passengers by only a curtain. Judging by the crumbs that remain on the plate on the tray table, it would appear that one has not yet learned how to curb one’s craving for such!

Saw absolutely nothing of Lagos! Cabin crew are advised to use extreme caution there and it’s not recommended anyone leave the hotel alone. Besides, there was nothing close to where we stay, so I spent the entire day in my room! Read, wrote, ordered room service (more than once) and couldn’t help but think about mum and how she’ll be when I get home.

And Ben. I don’t even know where to start with those thoughts. As I write this from 35,000 feet, somewhere over Africa, I find it hard to believe that he’s already back in the UK. It’s been four months since we said more than a tearful (mine, not his) goodbye in Spain. To say I’m excited and scared about seeing him again, is a major understatement.

I wish I could just close my eyes and have him standing in front of me when I open them.

 

October 16th, 1989

October 16th, 1989

Lagos, Nigeria

Our crew hotel is in the middle of nowhere, so I spent most of the day by the pool with Lorna.

Making myself comfortable on the lounge chair, I said, “Thanks for listening to my woes last night.”

“Don’t be silly,” she smiled. “Anytime honey, you know that. I hope a wee bit of insight helped you.”

“It really did. You explained a lot I wasn’t aware of. It helps just to know what might be happening to my mum.”

“There are some good books I can recommend as well. I used to have them but I’ve moved so many times I don’t know where they ended up.”

“You’re lucky to have lived in so many different countries.”

“All by the ripe of old age of twenty-one,” she said with a wink.

“You’re not that much older than I am.”

“You’re twenty-two, right?” she asked.

I nodded my head, yes. “I’ll be twenty-three in February.”

“Yer a wee spring chicken,” she chuckled. “Seriously though, it looks like I’ll be on the move again soon.”

“Holland with mister KLM?”
“Oh aye, without a doubt,” she said, excitedly. “This is it for me.”

“Isn’t it amazing that you met him on a trip and now, as you say, you’ll probably end up marrying him.”

She smiled. “It’s been some year for us honey, hasn’t it?”

“It really has. I can’t believe we’ve only been with British Airways since January.”

“You know,” she said, looking pensive. “I see this job as a double- edged sword.”

“How so?” I asked.

“Well for a start, we hardly spend any time at home and when we do it’s rarely during the weekend when everybody else is off work. And we’re knackered. That combination makes it difficult to meet anyone at home.”

“You can say that again,” I laughed.

“And then when you’re on a trip, you might meet somebody but the chances of seeing them again are slim to nil.”

“But not in the case of you and Dutch boy.”

“He’s no boy, honey, he’s a man,” she boomed, pretending to shake all over.

“You are too much,” I laughed.

“So what you have to do is make the most of wherever you are and just go for it.” She paused and looked at me. “Right?”

I nodded yes. “I think I’m doing that.”

“Good,” she said. “So does this mean everything with that bloody Ben is done and dusted?”

I sighed deeply. “I don’t think so.”

She sprang up from the lounge chair. “You’re no still in touch with him, are you?”

I didn’t dare look at her. “I’m going to tell you something but you have to promise to keep calm,” I said.

She loomed over me, forcing me to look at her. “If it’s something to do with him, I cannae promise anything but tell me anyway.”

“He arrives back in the UK tomorrow.”

“You better be kidding.”

“I’m not.”

“And let me guess,” she said, placing her hands on her hips. “You’re going to see him.”
I looked at her but didn’t say anything.

“Ohfurbeepsake,” she shouted.

“I didn’t know you were already fluent in Dutch.” I said, trying to keep a straight face.

Lorna grinned and sat across from me. “I could throttle you right now.”

“Please don’t, I’d rather not die in Lagos.”

“Listen,” she said, with her finger pointed at me. “I’m just going to say one thing about this.”

“Just one?” I smirked.

“Aye, just one, so listen up.”

I sat up and faced her. “Ok, I’m listening.”

“Love. Is. Not. Meant. To. Be. Com. Pli. Cated.”

I opened my mouth to speak but she “hushed” me with her finger and continued. “When it’s right, it all falls into place and works. Effortlessly.”

Based on that advice, I definitely have it all wrong.

 

October 15th, 1989

October 15th, 1989

Flight from LGW – LOS

My first time on the continent of Africa, namely, Lagos, Nigeria. Seems incredible that a mere seven hours on a plane can transport us to such an incredibly different landscape.

Seeing Lorna in the briefing room this morning was a lovely surprise.

“I didn’t see your name on the roster.”

“I was on standby with ten minutes left when crewing phoned. I thought Kimberly was kidding when she said it was BA on the phone.”

“Well I’m happy to see you,” I said.

We worked down the back together and eventually took off four hours after the scheduled departure time. All because of a generator replacement, nothing too serious!

Arriving in a new destination is exciting and I’m not jaded enough yet (unlike many crew) that I don’t still enjoy the views from the crew bus on the way to the hotel. Vast and dusty are two words I’d use to describe my initial impressions of Lagos.

Most of us met in the CSD’s room where, according to the crew, there’s not much to do here so I imagine it will be a quiet trip. After just one drink, I decided to leave the room party. Lorna said she was leaving too.

“Why don’t you come to my room, honey and we’ll order room service.”

“I’m not really in the mood, but thanks.”

“Wait a wee minute,” she said, grabbing my arm. “Come with me so you can tell me what’s upsetting you.”

“I’m fine, just tired, that’s all.”

“Aye right,” she said. “Enough of that. You’re coming with me.” She tugged on my sleeve and literally marched me to her room.

“You really a bossy cow.”

“The word you’re looking for is assertive,” she smirked.

I wasn’t hungry (for once) but Lorna insisted on ordering all sorts of goodies from room service.

“So,” she said, staring at me. “Is it that bloody Ben again?”

“No, it’s my mum.”

“Is she alright?” she asked.

“Probably not.” As soon as the words were out, I started crying.

“Och, c’mere honey,” she said, putting her arms around me. “Whatever it is just let it all out.”
When the tears stopped, I took a deep breath. “My mum suffers from depression and she’s, well, I don’t know how to explain it, she’s on her way into another one.”

“I take it this is no the first time this has happened?”

“No, she’s had it for most of her life.”

“Does she get help?”

“Sometimes,” I sniffed, “but sometimes she takes to her bed and that’s pretty much all she does, until she comes out of it.”

“How long does it usually last?”

“Days, weeks. Months even, it’s hard to tell but I know she’s falling into it again.”

“Och, the poor thing,” she sighed.

“It just makes me really sad. I always think it won’t come back and she’ll be ok but it always does.”

“I know honey, I know. It’s an awful thing for anybody to go through. You know I was a nurse before this,” she gestured around the sparse, dated looking hotel room, “life of glamour and glitz took over?”

I couldn’t help but smile. “I do know that, yes. I remember you getting the highest scores in training, when we covered Aviation Medicine.”

“What you probably don’t know, is that I specialized in psychiatry. For years that was my area of expertise.”

“I didn’t know that part.”

“Well now you do honey, so grab another wee cake and tell Auntie Lorna everything.”

 

October 14th, 1989

October 14th, 1989

At home

I have no idea what time we stumbled back to Stephen’s last night but regardless of the hour, he insisted on playing his new Gloria Estefan cd. The two of us danced around his living room to “Oye Mi Canto,” which, according to Stephen, means, “hear my voice.” A perfectly appropriate title for the way he belted, “Take me, only for what I am,” as Jon looked on in amusement from the spot he staked on the futon.

This morning, when I stumbled into Stephen’s kitchen I looked over to where Jon lay asleep on said futon. I moved quietly around the kitchen so as not to wake him then I heard him say, “I’m awake McGarr. I’ll take any type of liquid. Soon. Please.”

I made him a cup of tea.

“I’m never drinking again,” he lied, as I sat on the other end of the futon drinking my tea.

He had the sheet wrapped around him, with no top on and I have to say he looked rather yummy but I did manage to keep my eyes focused on his face. Mostly.

If only to distract myself, I made tea for Stephen.

“I’m never drinking again,” he lied, from underneath the duvet.

“Two liars in the same flat!” I exclaimed.

“What are you on about?” he mumbled.

“Oh, nothing.”

Stephen peered out from under the duvet and looked around his bedroom. “Did you shag him?” he whispered.

“No, I did not,” I sibilated. “I slept in the spare room and he slept in the living room.”

“You should’ve,” he grinned. “He’s got it bad for you, you know.”

“He does not. We already did all of that. Now we’re just friends.”

“We’re just friends,” he said, mimicking me.

Through the duvet, I slapped his leg. “I’ll leave you to drink you tea,” I said tartly, “and at least make an attempt to do something with that face of yours.”

After much more tea, toast and chuckling at the state Stephen was in, Jon and I left.

“I appreciate you taking me to Gatwick to get my car.”

No problem, McGarr. How’s your car running by the way?”

“It’s a bit slow.”

He gave me a confused look. “What do you mean by slow?”

“It lost power last week, then sputtered and stopped.”

“But it’s running ok now?”

“It was fine after about ten minutes, bit scary though, it happened at night.”

“Did you take it in to have somebody look at it?” he asked.

“No, I didn’t actually.”

“Might not be a bad idea.”

“I hate doing stuff like that. I think it’s time I got something newer with more power for all the motorway driving I do.”

“I can give you a hand looking, if you want.”

“Thanks. I’ll let you know.”

On my way home from Gatwick, I sang along to the radio and thought about how much fun we had in Brighton, but that all changed when mum opened the front door and I saw how ill she looks.

 

October 13th, 1989

October 13th, 1989

Stephen’s flat, Brighton, East Sussex

Whoever said, “Life is strange,” certainly wasn’t kidding!

Because of our late night, I didn’t wake up ‘til noon, at which time I thought about going home but quickly decided I wasn’t in the mood for the long trek. Made tea and read for a bit but soon got bored so I went to wake Stephen up.

“Whoever you are, go away,” he croaked, after I knocked on his bedroom door.

“Get up!” I shouted, striding into his room, where, with a flourish, I drew the curtains open.

“That’s really bright,” he groaned.

“And you, my dear, are a sight,” I said in a sing-song voice.

“Ughhhhh.”

“How you feeling?” I asked, perching on the edge of his bed.

“I think somebody must have slipped me a dirty ice cube last night.”

I laughed. “Obviously. I mean it couldn’t possibly be anything to do with the amount of tequila you drowned in.”

“Not even,” he laughed.

“Get up, get dressed and we’ll go for a nice, brisk walk!”

“I hate you,” he shouted as I headed out of his bedroom.

The brisk walk was more of a saunter that ended at one of the benches facing the beach. Stephen and I were laughing about some of last night’s antics when I heard, “McGarr! McGarr!”

I spun my head around and there, in his car, was Jon!

“What are you doing so far from home?” I yelled, making my way towards him.

“I’ve been at a conference at The Grand this week, we finished early.”

“This is mental,” I laughed, bending into the car to kiss his cheek.

“And what are you doing so far away from home?”
“I’m with my friend Stephen,” I said, pointing to the bench, from where Stephen sat, smiling and waving as if he was in a parade.

“Come and join us,” I said, excitedly.

“Are you sure?”

“Of course, but good luck finding a parking spot.”

Stephen was all smiles when I joined him back on the bench.

“Well, well, well,” he smirked. “I guess this means bye bye cobwebs.”

“He’s just a friend,” I stated.

“That’s what they all say darling.”

A few minutes later, Jon and Stephen shook hands and made small talk as I sat, sandwiched between them. Stephen said he was feeling, “worse for wear” and that he was, “going home to take a nap.”

“I’ll be back in a little while,” I said, as Stephen got up and walked behind Jon, where he made rude gestures with his tongue!

Jon and I chatted as we made our down the Palace Pier, where we bought chips that we ate, sitting on the deck chairs.

“What’s up with you McGarr?”

“Why do you ask?”

“You don’t seem quite yourself.”

“It’s a long story,” I sighed.

“This is a big bag of chips,” he laughed. “And we can always get more.”

I don’t know what compelled me to tell Jon about Ben and my mixed feelings over seeing him again, but once I started, I couldn’t seem to stop. When I was done, I thought I’d possibly shared much more than I should have, so I waited for Jon to speak.

“I think you’re worrying about it all far too much, McGarr,” he said, with ease. “Just wait and see how you feel when you see him again. Once you do, you’ll know.”

“Do you think so?”

“I know so,” he smiled.
It was starting to cool down and Jon seemed in no hurry to leave, so I asked if he’d like to come to Stephen’s with me.

“Do you think he’d mind?”

I shook my head no. “Not at all, especially if we show up with a few bottles of wine.”

An hour later Stephen’s flat was filled with an array of characters aka his amazing mix of eclectic friends. I could tell Jon was really enjoying himself.

“Why don’t you stay a bit longer and come out with us?” I suggested.

“That’d be ok?”

Absolutely,” I said, looking to where Stephen and his old pal Charlie were standing, smoking, out the window. “Stephen,” I called, but he didn’t hear me. “Stephen!”

“Yes darling?”

“Jon is thinking of coming out with us.”

“If that’s alright with…” Jon started.

“You’re in the mix now, honey,” Charlie chirped. “We won’t let you leave, even if you want to,” he said, with a wink.

By the time we stepped out of the flat, onto the teeming street, we were all pretty tipsy.

“It’s Friday the thirteenth,” Jon remarked.

“Look around,” I giggled, “it most certainly is.”

“Where are we going, McGarr?”

“You’ll see.”

We walked a few paces behind the others and talked nonstop as we made our way down towards the seafront. When we reached The Zap, there was a queue to get in but Charlie waved for us to go straight to the door.

Once we were inside, I watched as Jon scanned the crowd.

“There’s not too many girls in here.”

“How very observant,” I laughed, pulling him in the direction of the dance floor, where

we danced for ages to some of the best acid house I’ve heard in a club in a long time.

“Isn’t this fun?” I shouted.

“Brilliant,” Jon beamed. “Just don’t leave me alone.”

“Don’t worry,” I laughed. “I won’t.”

Stephen joined us on the dance floor and with a hand on each of our shoulders, he slurred, “Do you know what?”

“What?” I asked.

“You two really suit each other.”

I crossed my arms and jokingly glared at him.

“Do you know she used to be my girlfriend?” Jon shouted over the music.

“Oh yes, darling, I know it all,” Stephen said, swaying ever so slightly.

I looked at Jon and shook my head, laughing. “What do you know, Stephen?” I asked.

“I know that whether you’re gay, straight or whatever, love is a bitch.”

He has a point.

 

October 12th, 1989

October 12th, 1989

Stephen’s flat, Brighton, East Sussex

Big surprise this morning when Ben rang!

I’d arranged to come and see Stephen tonight, but I was such a weird mood after my chat with Ben that I was tempted to ring Stephen and say I couldn’t make it. All I wanted to do was hibernate with my pen and paper but instead, I got in the car.

Parking in Brighton is a nightmare and I definitely wasn’t in the mood for faffing about so I drove as far as Gatwick airport (two and a half hours) then caught the train. On reflection, it was probably not the best idea to take the train because it only allowed me time to think and of course my mind kept wandering to Ben.

During our hour-long chat, he said he really wants us to make a go of being together again. A couple of months ago, I would’ve been ecstatic to hear him say such a thing but now I don’t know how I feel. Yes, I really do want to see him but no, I really don’t want to go down that road again, where our relationship feels destructive and hurtful and stuff from the past gets in the way. I know the past is dead and gone but it still manages to creep its way into my thoughts sometimes. If I can’t get rid of those thoughts then I fear they’ll rear their ugly head (s) when I see him. Just thinking about Ben being in the same country again is enough to confuse me!

When the train pulled into Brighton station, I took a deep breath and hoped that when I saw Stephen, my mood would lift. He was waiting on the platform and waved when he spotted me walking through the compartment towards the door.

“Hello gorgeous,” he said, giving me a hug.

I stood on my tiptoes to kiss his cheek. “You’re looking well.”

“Glamour never takes a day off, darling.”

“Obviously not,” I said, mimicking his tone.

Stephen put his hand on my arm, took a step back and looked at my feet.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Seeing what kind of footwear you’re in.”

“Why?”

“It’s such a nice night. I thought we might walk back to the flat.”
“Great idea,” I sighed. “I could really do with a nice walk.”

“Hmmm, clear the cobwebs and all that?”

“Is it that obvious?” I asked.

“It wasn’t, until I saw those ugly shoes you’re wearing.”

I swiped his arm and tried to keep a straight face. “You. Are. Absolutely. Vile.”

He smiled. “Anything you want to talk about?”

“It’s just stuff, you know?”

“Boy stuff?” he asked.

“Pretty much, yeah.”

“Nothing a few bevvies at the Frock and Jacket won’t solve.”

I linked my arm through his. “Lead the way.”