I don’t really talk about Rita Katzenberg anymore. To be honest up ’til now there’s never really been any point, there was no way we’d have stayed in touch. I will admit to a spell of writing letters and emails, or occasionally calling her home number, but apart from the fact that this soon got expensive as it was an overseas number, it was also a tad on the stalker-ish side. My soundtrack for that small period of my life was Every Breath You Take by The Police. In a way I was lucky she didn’t live in the UK at that point, I’d have easily been arrested. But I will also admit to typing her name in to Google to see what came up, and once in to Facebook to see if she’d joined, but there was never anything to see. She always was a very private person, and always said that if you have something to say to her you should say it to her face, not through an email. Oh she hated email!
So there we were – the Uni golden couple. Well, not really. Everyone loved the whole life imitating art thing after we’d got together in both the soap opera and at the Christmas Ball. But after that it was nothing special. Even the shock revelation of the Northern DJ Stud and The Queen Ball-Breaker (hardly the most flattering of nicknames) getting it on the hotel and actually lasting past Christmas didn’t stay on people’s radars for long. There was always a new bit of gossip round the corner, and of course, exams and stuff. We were all students after all!
Rita and I were fairly inseparable. We’d always meet up for lunch in between lectures, we’d study together, helping each other out, often in more ways than one if you know what I mean! She was my first girlfriend, first proper relationship – and I was totally besotted. And she was responsible for more than just Dan Shears! Now you know how some girlfriends, when they take you on as it were, see a project - something that needs to be changed and moulded? Y’know, hair, clothes etc. Well Rita wasn’t like that – a shock when you look at some of the old photos. Awful hair on my head, seriously awful! But what she did do was change my attitude to things. Even though Max had landed me with the DJ bug, without someone like Rita my Dad would have been right – it would have been just another fad. But she was the one who made me carry stuff on, see it through when things got dodgy or tough. She gave me self-belief, and it was the best feeling - not that other people in my life didn’t of course. Jason was always pushing me, and Dad always said that he believed in me, but he had to say that. It was like that was their job, one I’m sure Dad considered quitting on more than one occasion. With Rita it was different - it was her choice to believe.
She was a healthy person too. I’ll be honest, fairly formidable. Being Dutch meant she was bound to be tall. Maybe it’s something in the water. But she liked things like martial arts and boxing. She was such a mild, unassuming person that you’d never guess that when she lost her temper it wasn’t a good idea to be within a five mile radius for fear of losing your genitals. Through her I got fairly fit myself. I discovered the joys of martial arts, running and weight training. Two months after meeting her I’d piled on two pounds of muscle and was getting as many looks from the females when I walked down the beach with my top off as I did behind the mixing desk.
I was still officially living at home but I spent more and more time at the university halls of residence I practically became a resident myself – unofficially of course. It made sense really – we were right across the road from campus, and staying in the same room as your fit Dutch girlfriend was always going to be a bonus.
It was perfect. I met her folks on a trip to Amsterdam. She met Dad and Liz. We threw around kids names. We ran together. We cooked together. We graduated together. And that’s where things changed. In the time Rita and I became close Max and Lucy had practically become Siamese twins, and now I think about it that when we started drifting apart – which I guess is kind of normal when you meet someone. Lucy was always a very pragmatic person, and while she appreciated his career as a DJ, she was worried it wasn’t substantial enough for a long term relationship. She viewed it more as a hobby I guess. Max, who over the eighteen or so months with Lucy had been (for want of a better word) tamed, began to see what she was saying and started gradually stepping away from the DJ scene. He told me he’d never been more serious about anyone in his life, and that he would do anything to be with her. After they graduated, Max apparently got down on one knee...
Rita was very liberal - I guess it’s another Dutch thing! She always said she wanted me to do whatever I wanted, as long as I was the best – and I was! After we graduated we wanted to stay together, but commitments for her back home and my aspiring career in England kept us apart, so we opted for the long distance relationship thing. Everyone said it was a bad idea, that a universityversity relationship is just that and it wouldn’t go any further. But you know how it is, especially if, like me, it’s your first. Nothing was going to keep us apart. We’d make it work.
But, over several rendezvous in everywhere from London and Amsterdam, to Paris and Floride, the strain was beginning to show. Our last proper time away in Florida, which was also the last time I saw Max and Lucy, we’d gotten pretty tight again after weeks of living in different countries. I guess two weeks together instead of what had become the obligatory Long Weekend made all the difference. We had a chance to get to know each other again instead of just meeting up and spending the next forty-eight hours watching the clock tick until we went our separate ways again. So imagine my shock when she told me not a week after getting home that she wanted to end things. “It’s just too hard!” she’d said. “It’s not fair on either of us” she’d said. What was even worse was I agreed with her. I had to. Without wanting to sound too melodramatic every time she left me a piece of me just died.
We met a couple of weeks later in an anonymous London hotel somewhere near Victoria Train Station - just one final weekend together. Rita hadn’t felt comfortable ending things over the phone. We watched bad TV. We went to museums. We talked about the good old days. We fucked. That was weird. Even in the midst of it I wasn’t really there, just watching from the corner as some hairy backside went up and down at various speeds and rhythms. (That’s another reason why that tape was weird. It was like a recap of past events...only my backside is a lot firmer!)
I said goodbye to Rita Katzenberg on platform 10 of Liverpool Street Train Station. It was 14:17. She was getting the 14:18 Stansted Express. We kissed one last time, I watched her get on the train, watched it pull away from the platform, waved one last time, and turned back down the platform to a new life of singledom.
I know now it was bound to happen. While we were both good for each other at university (her more so for me than vice-versa I guess) we were so different and ultimately wanted different things. I see that now. So why, in the name of Edward Time’s mullet did we get back together a few months later?? After the longest three months of my life, during which those vivid dreams had started appearing... Oh, here’s a classic one. Me and Rita are in an empty bar, just talking. There’s no one else around. Outside the glass windows there’s nothing, just entropy. We’re talking about something, not sure what. She gets taller and taller with every breath. And just when I’m about to be stamped on, the scene cuts to me flying through the city streets Matrix style, racing to catch someone falling from a skyscraper. So yeah, dreams like that! I spent about ten long weeks being a complete miserable git, so miserable that if I was to release a soundtrack album of that time in my life it would have consisted of such classic wrist-slitting artists as Coldplay, Travis and James Blunt – hardly the kind of stuff that brings the punters in to a decent nightclub! I thought moving away from Bournemouth and making a proper start on that career was the best plan, so moved to North London to start that new life. We’d kept to our promise of not contacting each other. Going cold turkey I guess was the idea. I was just getting over it. I would walk down the High Road in Wood Green and notice girls again. I would stand on the tube and notice girls noticing me. I was still missing her, but I was resigned to the fact it was over. And then...
From: [email protected]
Hope you are ok. Wondering if you around tonight for a chat? Would really like to talk to you. If not don’t worry.
Sure enough I was in. Sure enough we chatted. Shot the breeze a little. She’d been hanging out with friends, I’d been working. And then “I’ve been thinking” she said. “I’m really worried that we made a huge mistake”.
I didn’t say anything.
“I’ve just been out with someone and, well let’s just say I missed you. It just didn’t feel right”.
I didn’t say anything.
“I’ve just never been the one to end a relationship before and it’s really hard to deal with for me!”
I didn’t say anything.
“So I guess what I’m saying is, would you like to get back together with me?”
Ever seen that film called Sliding Doors, where Gwyneth Paltrow lives two different lives, lives that were changed by a single defining moment which determines the rest of the course? (Yes, I’ve seen it and no, despite what Marcus thinks that does not make me gay!) Well that’s kind of what happened to me at this very point, I just wasn’t wearing a dress or hadn’t grown my hair out...although I’d thought about it. (That might make me potentially gay!) But here it was, my defining moment. You doubtless already guessed what I chose.
She tried living over here, didn’t like it. Missed home too much, which is understandable I guess. I tried living over there, even went to language classes during the evening, but it didn’t feel right. We went back to the long distance relationship thing again, and soon enough we were back to where we were before. So we broke up again, this time for good. To this day I’m not proud of how it happened.
I was house sharing in a house on Nightingale Road, just on the Wood Green/Bounds Green border. I was working temp office hours, trying to get money in for another trip to Holland. The DJ scene was pretty barren since I’d moved to the big smoke and I needed to make some money somehow. I shared the five bed terrace with some convict... sorry, Australian called Adam who was over on a teacher training exchange. And there was Francis who was some kind of posh-knob business guy, and Mel. Mel was a fitness instructor, tall, wavy blonde locks, slim and athletic, which I guess came with the job description. We started getting really close. We’d go to the shops together, meet in bars after work, cook together. Then one night, after what was apparently a hard stressful day, she came home and collapsed next to me in the sofa, really snuggled in. My heart was pounding. I was in a relationship – what was I thinking? I somehow ended up massaging her shoulders, which she seemed to like. “You have amazing hands” she said. I already knew, Rita had said something similar. She took her shirt off and laid face down on the floor. I clambered on her back and carried on de-knotting her spine, catching occasional glimpses of her small but pert breasts squashed between her chest and the dark red carpet. She was moaning with pleasure. I was well aware of my shorts shrinking round the groin area. She started to turn over and then...oh the joys of housemates. The door started unlocking and we both sprang back to the sofa, Mel struggling to get her t-shirt back on, me nabbing a cushion from the opposite sofa and placing it subtly on my lap. Adam could obviously tell something was going on. Hell, someone who was deaf, dumb and blind could’ve still sensed the tension in the room.
The phone rang. I knew who it was before I even answered it. We shot the breeze. She was ok, I was ok. She was missing me, I was missing her. She was busy with work, I was, well, kind of busy. I took the phone with me in to my room. She loved me, I loved her. I sat on the bed, opposite an old film poster I’d nicked from a DVD rental shop that was closing down at the time. I’d thought it looked cool, even if I’d never seen the film itself.
She was looking forward to seeing me.
Nothing Lasts Forever. I’d never seen that before – the films less-than-optimistic tagline
Nothing Lasts Forever.
She was looking forward to seeing me.
Nothing Lasts Forever.
“Dan are you there?” she asked “Are you ok?”
Nothing Lasts Forever.
Eventually I replied half heartedly, but the pause must have been too long. She must’ve known something was wrong.
“What’s going on?”
I could hear the tension in her voice. I’m not sure exactly what was said. It was almost like I set the video to record and just wondered out of my body to grab a Coke out the fridge, every once in a while peering back to hear what was being said but being way past the point of caring.
Then she finally asked me. “Is there someone else?”
I knew there could be. What had just happened out there on the lounge floor could have easily turned in to a soft-core porn scene. What was worse, I’d wanted that to happen. I was tired. Tired of the distance, the disconnection, the phone calls. I wanted to be with someone who wanted to be with me, not just visit occasionally.
“Dan, is there someone else?”
My heart was pounding, head was racing. I also think I’d lost all feeling in my right hand. “Yes!”
For a while the phone went deathly silent, until suddenly she became, well, very business like. She said she understood; that things were difficult. That we’d had a good time while it lasted, but maybe it was finally time to stop. We said goodbye.
An hour later I was sat in the corner of the room, holding the phone away from my ear while Rita cried and screamed down the phone at me. How long had this been going on? Who was she? Did I even love her in the first place? Was I trying to hurt her, to get back at her for dumping me months before? How could I do this? I didn’t have an answer, for any of it. My brain was off making a sandwich.
An hour later I was free. That night I could’ve flung the phone out the window, ran to Mel’s room, tore every shred of clothing from her body and nailed her right there on the bed. After all, she was the alleged someone else, why not make it official? I didn’t. I sat on the floor under that poster, angry at the way I’d ended things and even angrier I didn’t have the guts to tell her the truth.
After that I was swallowed by a numbing guilt. I stopped DJ-ing. I temped for money. I stumbled around without a clue, care or idea in my head save one: no more relationships.
* * *
“Wow”. Max looks dumbstruck. “We never heard any of this.”
“You mean Rita didn’t tell Lucy?”
“Think she said something like you were the best guy that ever broke her heart, or some other poetic Dutch bollocks! So what about that Mel chick then?”
“What about her?”
“Well you boned her in the end right?”
“In the end?”
“Eventually, I mean. Even as like a rebound thing?”
“Not sure what happened there to be honest. We ended up hardly talking then she started shagging the Australian prick in the room next to mine.”
“Harsh. She must’ve been pissed at you for not giving her a Dan Shears pork injection after that massage!”
“Wanna know what’s harsher? Walls were as thin as paper!”
I suddenly realise how much I’ve missed Max. In some respects, more exterior and superficial, he’s changed a lot. Marriage, kids, mortgage, job, responsibility – all the kind of things I figured I’d have down by now. But underneath it all the guys still a big kid from Manchester.
“Dude, are you gonna be ok? This afternoon I mean. You know she’s gonna be there right, at the wedding?”
“You’ll probably think I’m weird for saying this, but I’m kinda looking forward to it!”
“N’ah, that’s not weird. Its plain fucked up!!”
I’m tired of talking so much about my sad pathetic life. It’s bad enough when other people start getting depressed with your whining and moaning but when you get to a place where you can’t even stand the sound of your own voice it’s time for a subject change. So I subtly flip the conversation round, asking about what’s going on with him, his fancy job, his wife, his family. Whether they’ve given any consideration to changing Liam’s diet in favour of foods with less sugar and general additives? The conversation is like an X Factor winner – fun enough but no real content or longevity. We’re just becoming mates again, so I’m nowhere near being able to ask him more important questions like, for instance, who the hell is aubern_audreyxXx and what the fuck is www.sexnchat.com? Although I think I’ve figured that last one out all by my myself.
“Christ, even when you go on holiday you’re making the papers!”
I have no idea what Max is talking about, until I follow his finger over to a half naked neighbour and the paper he’s reading while kneeling against a tree. I have to squint for a moment to make out the headline a few pages in. The neighbour has just seen me, and winked. Either he’s recognised me, or...
“Well, you’ve gotta give it to ’em” Max says leaning back in the grass. “They’re still good at writing those headlines!”
It’s not that good a headline for two reasons: 1) it’s using the same format as all the others cover stories with my name and/or grainy picture, and 2) it’s fucking news to me!
DJ Shears Gets Cut