It’s strange when you’re younger and you feel like you might never find someone else to love you besides your parents or maybe your sibling after you get over that initial hurdle of loathing him or her for fucking with all your possessions while your back is turned. Guy Hadden, a 31-year-old who lived in the last fringe area of London that could laughably be called cheap, Bexley–roughly a one-hour and twenty minute commute to “civilized” London (what Guy considered to be where the British Museum is located)–at age twelve, truly believed he would never be able to attain pure and romantic love.
It wasn’t until he turned twenty-nine that he met the woman he assumed he never would, Isla Grant, who was twenty-seven to his twenty-nine when they first locked eyes and often made it a vehement point to defend Isla Fisher movies. Being that Bexley is rather a stodgy and banal sort of place, Guy was often left to his own devices when it came to being a ruffian. So on weekends, when most people went to “mainland” London for their fun, he took it upon himself to get properly drunk at The White Cross Inn, which opened, as a pub should, at 11:00 a.m. His American friends, of which he had collected many over the years, always found it amusing when he took them there, primarily because of its location on North Cray Road. From there, he would typically walk the hour or so it took to get to Danson Park and muck about in his drunken stupor until the effects wore off enough for him to go back home and continue work on an art installation that he usually just stared at in between applying for new web design jobs. He hated web design, but it had somehow found its way to him after his father gifted him a course in it for his twenty-fifth birthday, a not so subtle manner of telling him: “Quit yer bleedin’ job at HMV and find something useful.” But he rather preferred working at HMV now that he looked back on it.
In any event, it was one of those drunken Saturdays in Danson Park that he first met Isla, who was having a picnic with a few of her friends. Reminiscing about it in the present, Guy remembered thinking the first time he saw her, with her long brown hair and quaint floral print dress, “That’s awfully somethin’, innit?” It never would have occurred to him that someone like her–someone who remained a sartorial classicist and regularly suggested picnics–would take a shine to him. But as he stumbled over to the Boating Pool area, Isla could foresee that he was going to fall in, taking it upon herself to rise from her post in the midst of spreading goat cheese onto some bread in order to catch him before he fell–which he did.
When he came to, he was lying on the grass with Isla gently soothing, “It’s okay. You blacked out.” Never in his life had anyone told him that it was okay that he had blacked out. He fell in love right in that moment. After introducing himself properly to her, Guy used some of his residual inebriated reasoning to give himself the courage to ask her out. Isla, somewhat charmed by his roguishness and willing to give a “bad boy” a chance, accepted his invitation.
Over the next few months, they became inseparable, finding themselves in Danson Park every weekend to carry on the picnic tradition. “I’m even wearing Top-Siders now, for fuck’s sake,” Guy told his mother, Eugenia, over the phone with regard to the positive effect Isla was having on his life. Eugenia was skeptical, but nonetheless agreed to meet her after Isla and Guy moved in together on Cocksure Lane, incidentally right near the White Cross Inn. Over the next years, Guy marveled at how close a person could be to another–again, something he genuinely never thought would happen to him, or that he deserved. He was a subscriber to that Morrissey quote, “I do think it is possible to go through life and never fall in love, or find someone who loves you.” Not so coincidentally, Guy’s frequency of The Smiths listening went down considerably during his relationship with Isla, especially just after he turned thirty and had to have a cancerous mole on his back removed. He was repulsed by it, by himself. The mole had always been a source of embarrassment that he felt self-conscious about whenever he took his shirt off in front of people, or just one woman. It was raised and always had at least one hair growing out of it. Many times, he had implored his parents to give him the gift of a surgical removal, but they insisted it was his own cosmetic insecurity, and that they wouldn’t give the National Health Service the satisfaction of paying an additional fee for something he didn’t really need.
At last, however, the time had come to prove his parents wrong, with a routine examination leading the doctor to biopsy the area and determine that the odious mole was, indeed, cancerous and needed to be swiftly excised as soon as possible. Upon learning this information, he didn’t tell Isla right away. He felt she already put up with so many of his physical foibles–pint gut, receding hairline, weak chin, etc.–that he didn’t want to burden her with one more: an unsightly gash in place of a grotesque mole.
Unfortunately for Guy, Isla had learned by now to pick up on certain cues that led her to inuit when he was hiding something from her. When she prodded him one night after preparing his favorite meal of scouse to help grease the agent that was his mouth in telling her the truth, he confessed to the procedure’s imminence. She smiled at his need to keep something like this a secret from him.
“I’ll take care of you, don’t worry. That’s what I’m here for,” she assured.
“You’re going to rub salve on my disgusting wound every day, three times a day?”
“Now if that’s not the making of some lovely wedding vows, I don’t know what is,” Isla responded.
“It’s going to be foul and I don’t know if I want you to do it.”
“When are you going to learn that you don’t need to hide parts of yourself from me in order to ‘keep me?’ I’m here for you, and I always will be.”
And for a brief period after this guarantee, he actually accepted that this existence of monogamy and unbridled love could be real. It wasn’t until about seven months subsequent to Isla’s daily mole scar caretaking regime that she told Guy she had met someone else. That it had all happened “quite unexpectedly” and that she really “couldn’t have planned for it without the hands of destiny intervening.” He wanted to vomit up the treacle tart she had just served to him, as though it was some sort of consolation prize for her egregious betrayal.
She left him for someone more sensible. Someone named Hamish. One of the finance blokes of the Square Mile. He could still throw up every time he thought of it. And every time he happened to catch a glance of the scar on his back in the mirror, he wished that the mole had remained, so that he could never have known what it was like to be loved and cared for with such a level of non-judgmental depth, only to have it excised as abruptly as the mole itself.