When I was 22
She was my brother’s friend. Someone who was mysterious and extremely funny and entertaining. Small in stature, chocolate coloured with a beautiful androgynous face and a mischievous smile. My brother had told me about Vivian as she had the same name as another of his friends and he differentiated between them by colour. I was young and about to leave home for the second time and planned to live with my brother until I was sure-footed once again in the big bad world. John and I decorated a room in readiness and I felt free once again.
My brother, a gay man, had many friends and I got to know most of them. They were kind and generous to me and most helped me on my way as a young lesbian. Viv, had immediately intrigued me and started to visit my brother regularly. It was a while before my attraction to her was noticed then she would smile every time she saw me.
She would come round and make us laugh and we would smoke a few joints and just not be able to stop. My brother noticed my attraction and warned me off getting involved with her but could never tell me why. What did he know about lesbians? We became lovers soon after I moved in and she fell in love with me and opened her tortured heart. Viv had a lot of things just not going her way. She was on the dole, her heart had been broken by a very nasty piece of work and her mother, brother and sister were poor and lived in the rooms above her granny flat. She came from a mixed race family and her father had left her when she was six. She wanted to be tall and become a blues musician – everyone had got her wrong.
I wanted to rescue her, give her my heart and everything I had to heal those wounds and show her a love that was real and let her know how talented she really was.
However, after six months together I knew something wasn’t right. I felt I had got myself into something that perhaps wasn’t very good for me but I wasn’t going to let my friends and family know I had made a mistake and that this was a relationship that was going to work.
“She said I was wasting my time with members of my family and friends as they didn’t understand me and didn’t understand us.”
Viv smoked a lot of drugs and took a lot of speed. She needed dope to wake up, speed to party and get herself through the day and dope to bring her down and help her sleep. She never wanted to take drugs by herself and it became a priority on our shopping list. I say this because drugs would deepen the moods and fuel the sudden changes and verbal attacks. She wasn’t physically violent at that stage but was capable of shooting me down in words and making me feel humiliated and scared.
I left my brother’s after a big row that was instigated and fuelled by Viv. She managed to drive a huge wedge between my brother and I. I didn’t speak to my brother until the relationship with Viv came to an end three years later. I moved into her granny flat underneath her family in a big, run down, Edwardian house.
Two years had gone by and I was starting to look ill. I had lost an enormous amount of weight through nerves and drugs and had isolated most of my friends. We would only go and see friends that she trusted. She said I was wasting my time with members of my family and friends as they didn’t understand me and didn’t understand us. Sex between us had dwindled and I began to feel nauseous whenever she would touch me. The good times together were getting few and far between. She controlled my days, my social calendar, the clothes that I wore and the people I would speak to. She kept me from going to see my family by starting a big row just before I would leave. My sanctuary was my work. How I managed to work and survive this relationship I don’t really know but eventually the phone calls at work started. After three years, I was extremely unhappy with no-one to talk to and something was happening to me that nobody could know about.
I was ashamed and afraid of what people would think. When she had taken speed during the day I knew we would be arguing all night. She wouldn’t let me sleep until I had come round to her point of view. She would argue points again and again until I would fall asleep staring at her, which would start her off once again.
I thought if we moved into a place we could call our own everything would be better. I borrowed money, got a mortgage, and told her that she now had a home of her own to share with me and that I loved her. From now on things were going to get better. They never did.
Eventually when the calls at work became embarrassing and I would have to leave work to go home and row with her, physical fights started to happen. She hit me and I hit her back and I started to feel sick but couldn’t pull away from the relationship. All our friends knew by now and would avoid us because Viv would like to humiliate me in front of them. One good dear friend who is now dead, said that one day I would find the strength and that he and his boyfriend would support my decision. He was one of Viv’s closest friends and I started to think about things and talk to people and decided enough was enough.
The end was very messy. I had to be sneaky and think carefully about how I would pull this off. No dramatics – I was exhausted. I had to distract her from what was going to happen and I hated myself for it but I wanted peace. Eventually it would come, but at a price.
That relationship, while enriched with valuable lessons, left me sick and untrusting of anybody for a very long time but eventually I fell in love again. We lived in a small town but whenever we would meet she looked right through me as if I didn’t exist. She had been betrayed. Nobody could understand why we weren’t friends.
Healing for me has been talking about it and here I am eighteen years later still talking about it.