Monday, 19 September 2011

The seven-year itch: a cautionary tale of tax, cuts and debt

There was this bloke. And there was this girl. They met, fell in love, got married, usual story. It was a big, special wedding – everybody went. A match made in heaven, everyone said. People came out of their houses to wave as they went to the church. Kind of wedding that fills everyone with hope for the future.

She was popular, always a lot of boys round her. But she was smart, knew what she wanted. Sometimes it looked like she wasn’t paying much attention, but she did when it counted. Didn’t stand for any nonsense. He, on the other hand, was a bit of a tearaway. Heart in the right place, but not very together, a lot of the time. And a drinker. A long history, in fact. Lots of girlfriends, but in the end, they all went, because of the drink. But not this one: this time it’d be different.

So, on the day they married, he promised to her that that was it with the drinking. And it was true. Never touched a drop. Day in, day out, he would walk home past the pub, think how lucky he was to have found her, and kept straight on walking. Life seemed charmed.

And then, one day, about seven years later – or was it eight? – someone asked him to stop for a drink. One couldn’t hurt, could it? And he did that, just one. He realised that he could have one or two, and it didn’t matter. He was delighted. He’d not only controlled his drinking, but he’d got it to the point where he could have one or two. And that’s all it ever was, genuinely. She could see what was happening, but she could see that it was only one or two. So, she turned a blind eye. It was under control, she told herself.

But there’s always one day, isn’t there? One day, he came home, stopped off for a couple of pints and then had to go and pick her up. And, as luck would have it, as dusk fell, there was one hell of a storm. A real storm. Sheets of rain, lightning, couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. Car in front braked. He swerved and skidded, into a ditch. Lucky he wasn’t going too fast. Nobody hurt, thank God. But his reflexes weren’t quite what they should have been, or he’d have stayed on the road. She was furious, obviously. “Fix it!” she screamed. She also smelt the booze on his breath, but said nothing.

The next morning, he got up early. Took the car to the garage. He emptied his savings out, told them to do whatever it took, whatever it costed. They did. They put three men working on it, and by the end of the afternoon, the car was sorted. All right, it wasn’t perfect, but it was fine. A few scratches they couldn’t take out. He paid the whopping bill and, with a smile on his face, set out for home. It was fixed.

But he got home to find his wife gone. He couldn’t believe it. The note simply said, “You broke your promise”. And it was at that point that things started to fall apart.

Within a very short time, she’d moved in with someone else. Slightly boring, conservative type. Not even really that into him, but she needed to be with someone, and the kids needed some sense of stability.

He, on the other hand, was devastated. Couldn’t quite get his head round it. Kept thinking she’d come back, but she didn’t. He stopped drinking altogether, of course. Begged her to come back, but she wouldn’t return his calls. Wouldn’t even give him the time of day.

Another year went by. Seven more years, in fact, since that fateful day when he’d had the first drink. Then, one day, they met by chance on the street. She wasn’t keen, but he persuaded her to have a coffee with him. He wanted a chance to explain himself.

“Listen, I know I let you down, but it was just one slip”, he was saying. “You see, I never did get drunk, you know, not like in the old days. I mean, I said I’d changed, and I had. I had it all under control, I only ever had two pints and went home. I was just once over the limit, on that day, just once. Not even drunk. And I’ve been on the wagon ever since”.

“I just want to know”, he said, a pleading look in his eyes, “what I can do to convince you to come back. What is it that you want from me?”

She looked at him and sighed in genuine pity. “I don’t know if you got drunk or not, and I don’t care. It doesn’t matter.”

“You just don’t get it, do you? You’re an ex-alcoholic.  You can’t afford to have even one drink, because no-one will trust you. I don’t trust you. That crash happened while you were over the limit.”

“You could have killed us both. Don’t you see? It’s not enough to tell me you’ll never have another drink”, and she looked him straight in the eye, “you’ve got to make me believe it”.

With that, she got up and left.

Moral: in any relationship, in the end it doesn’t matter what you say you’re going to do. It’s what you actually do, and what people think you’ll do in the future. And there, perception can be just as important as reality.

How does the story end? Will she ever come back, or is this relationship doomed to end like all his others?

Only you, dear reader, can write the ending.

1 comment:

  1. Final chapter. Nick knew he had done wrong. His name was mud on campus. Vince had warned him, why hadn't he listened? He had spent all his time with the new Professor, Dave, who had unsavory links to far right yobbos. Nick breathed in, he decided. "That is it, I am going to stop diluting the Protection of freedoms bill".


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