Monday 29 December
Florence. Two days before New Years Eve, which is without a doubt the most overrated shit-show of a spectacle the world will ever know. Or rather, not know. You apply so much effort and pressure upon yourself to have the greatest night you’ve ever had, and you question why you’re walking home alone at 4 am crying into a goon bag of repugnant wine, shouting obscenities to the heavens and cursing the zit on your face; which is obviously the reason you’re still single. Or maybe that’s just me. Either way things were going from bad to worse, and with just under 48 hours to get drunk in order to countdown ten seconds to a new year and kiss a stranger, I was once again panicking at the incomprehensible thought that it would be another let down. Why? Because I was stuck in Italy. And it’s New Year.
So I’d met a girl. In Rome. And no, before you ask, I wasn’t old enough to be her dad. She was 29. Italian American. Red head. God I love reds. An unusual mix of heartbreakingly unique beauty, and that psychotic drama ice queen I do so adore to attract. The first night we hung out, she kissed the waiter in our restaurant. The second, I stormed off because she wouldn’t come home with me – so she hooked up with the guy I was confiding in. Actually confiding in the guy, about her, and then the second my back is turned they’re at it. As you do. It stands to reason then, that such a passionate, chaotic beginning, deserves the chance of an equally passionate, chaotic end, and an (anti) romantic trip to Florence was arranged.
The depths to which our brief encounter descended have left me with an incredulity that only Christ knows how to define. There’s a big question mark over my head, but one that slowly began to dissipate, once she had stormed off for her train, white-girl-wasted, at 5 am on our last night. I have come to some conclusions. I have also come to some realisations. And for all the twin-peaks-bunny-boiling horror show, I have finally understood something I’ve failed to grasp for two decades of my life: I scare girls off.
We’re both damaged goods. Both carrying the weight of loss on our shoulders. Both heavy smokers and drinkers (for a short time we made a very effective team, like a hostel bar power-couple. Tequila Brangelina). Both running from something, but ultimately both with the heart to turn around the hurt. I could see the potential. So as usual, I go all in. I say the nice things. I make the grand gestures. Then I wonder why after four shooters and telling her I could fall in love with her, she bounds away like a ginger Gazelle. I thought I could save us both. Or maybe we could save each other. How wrong I was.
In spite of this, she tags along on our experiment to Florence, but it’s clear there’s no interest. Now I’m no guy for the PDA either, but this was ridiculous. Walking ten feet behind me, hardly saying a word for hours on end, and spending more time with her nose pushed into her fucking iphone. Blood from a stone and hens teeth don’t even cut it. The only time there was even the slightest connection, is when we have a few moments in a hotel room; and even then after she’s slapped my arse and rolled over to go to sleep…I felt like…well…I felt like I was having sex with a guy.
Then it went spectacularly tits up.
We’ve visited Pisa for the day, and by and large it was a reasonably pleasurable experience. Following a wonderful meal back in Florence, she decides it’s time to get on it. And by that, I don’t mean me, I mean copious amounts of booze. And he’s the rub; I’m the one who goes back to the hotel room, barely a drop in me, while she sits alone in a bar getting trashed. Fast forward to bringing her home, and she begins to aggressively demand sex, like a pissed up, demented, nymphomaniacal wailing banshee. Now ordinarily, as I’m sure you’re aware dear readers, I wouldn’t be adverse to this. However, considering her actions during the day, with not one iota of affection given, I decided to say no. It was the principle of the thing. After physically wrestling her off me, I eventually had to scream “NO” in her face, before she stormed off in a haze of alcohol fueled rejection. “How dare could someone refuse me sex..?!”
I wasn’t having a running battle in the street and this was becoming a car crash. Sober as a judge, I’m standing dumbstruck with flashbacks to a time I nearly got arrested by plain clothed Police, for chasing down one of my ex girlfriend’s tantrums. That was over eight years ago, and it sure as hell isn’t happening when I’m five years off forty. (Jesus!) People were watching. My companion was refusing to listen to reason, flouncing down the middle of the road, screaming abuse, and bawling about how she doesn’t need anyone. She’s a strong, independent woman and I can go fuck myself. The dawning realisation that I won’t put up with this anymore was like being born again. I turned and walked away.
To cut an already long story short I found her again some hours later sitting at the same bar. The ostentatious melodrama given the slow-clap ripple of applause it deserved, and sobriety was kicking in. I was genuinely concerned for her well-being. We met some cool people, had a nice night and ate freshly baked bread in the early hours. And then we returned to the hotel room…
Once again the relentless arrogation for sex ensued. All I’d said and explained had fallen on deaf ears. By this time I was physically incapable even if I’d wanted to, but she battered on regardless, yanking at my underwear with surprising strength. After half an hour of this carnage, I turned, grabbed her throat, screamed for her to stop, and then let her go. Calling me every name under the sun, she left the room full of hatred and loathing. The first time I had reasoned with her to stay, that it wasn’t safe to go wandering around when you’re that out of your gourd and alone. This time I let her go.
By morning I felt pretty horrible. In spite of such a late (early) finish to the lascivious carousel, I woke with the kind of dread that only plagues you when you know something bad happened the night before. Seriously, it’s better than any alarm clock in the world. You will bounce out of that bed as if your life depended on it. I’d had to physically restrain a woman. I’ve never done that before. Violence against women is something I abhor. And yet there I was, with my hand around a girls neck. What else could I have done? There was no reasoning. Nothing I could say. Maybe I should have left? Waited until she passed out? I don’t know what the answer was. But I felt more alone than I’d been in a long time. And then, things started to fall into place. For the first time, I felt as close to what it feels like for a girl when I guy becomes that aggressive. When a guy demands and pressures for sex. The only difference is, men generally have the strength to fight it off.
Now I’ve had my moments, but don’t get me wrong; I’ve never been that guy. It’s consenting adults or nothing; to the point of I’ve stepped in many times in the past to tell a guy to back off because the lady isn’t interested. I want you to want me. But then I looked back on the short time we spent together, and the penny dropped. I was having sex with myself.
Not actually myself you understand of course, but the female version of me. Our similarity was striking. The loss of loved ones, the alcohol abuse, the stumbling direction, unemployed, chasing cheap thrills, searching for a validation from strangers…But above all, the meaningless sex with someone who you don’t really care about. I felt like those girls who have invested more time in who I was, only for me to shrug it off. To not give a shit. To go straight back to the dating pool and hook another fish. To “charm the pants off a girl, and charm them right back on.” This time I was looking for more. She just wanted sex. And then she’d held a mirror up to the way I have behaved, and continue to treat women. The ghost of Christmas present.
And so I was left alone to contemplate the events of a deservedly failed romance, while my net-book hard drive was getting repaired. Three days late and returned with Windows 7 in Italian, and I was still stranded. Ride shares fell through, and my trip to the Juliet balcony in Verona was looking increasingly unlikely. Probably for the best anyway right? I opted for a lengthy bus journey back to Zagreb.
Running for the bus, I stacked something proper into traffic. My guitar and backpack have gone over my head, and I’ve slammed into the rear wheel of a moving car. Shaking off, I don’t stop to see who’s laughing, and collapse onto my ride to get the fuck out of Dodge. I’ve got a long way to go, but sitting there, staring out the window with my recent epiphany; and I think it’s done wonders. Perhaps it’s all been worth it? Maybe it takes an experience like this to reach your watershed? To learn lessons. Will I learn them? Maybe. Will I try? Definitely. But the two infallible certainties that I am taking from my experience here; is that I’m never again dating anyone remotely from this country, and I’m gay for Michelangelo’s David. Thank goodness he’s not Italian.