The Cheeky Charmer loses their cheek, charm and girlfriend

BY THE CHEEKY CHARMER, IMAGE BY JACKIE TSANG VIA PEXELS

It’s December 2017. I board the flight to Helsinki, soaking in the cosy warmth of the cabin. Throughout the flight, I keep peeking inside the little box that contains the ring. The ring I’m going to propose to my girlfriend with.

We’ve been in a three year long distance relationship between the UK and Finland. We adore each other but it’s not easy dating across countries. There’s always a lingering uncertainty. So, I’ve decided to lock things down and “put a ring on it”. I’m going to propose under the Christmas tree in the Helsinki Christmas market because we had our first date under the one in Covent Garden. 

I’ll do it properly – ask her dad if I can marry her. Not to honour a misogynistic tradition. He welcomed me into the family with open arms, even though homosexuality is against their religion. I feel it’s respectful and I want him to know I’ll take care of her.

Ironically, a few days later it becomes aparent I won’t.

As the plane lifts off I gaze out the window to see a lingering shadow, the spectre of a depression that’s been hunting me for days. And I think, if I can’t outrun it maybe I can outfly it. I am wrong.

I awake in the early hours, the day I’m going to propose, and reach for her. The bed is empty. I think I hear laughter coming from the living room but it isn’t. I find her crumpled and broken, sobbing into the sofa. Her brother’s died. Tragically. He was 41.

I push the ring box down to the bottom of my bag, knowing the proposal is cancelled for now. Somehow it feels like an omen.

I’m the arms she needs. At first. Until we fly to the remote northern village where her family live. That’s when the depression catches up and the devil comes calling. Somewhere between the grief, snow, and darkness that kicks in around 11am, I lose myself. I go to a dark, dark place and nearly can’t pull myself out. 

It takes me to the lowest point of my life. My girlfriend’s lost her brother and has to hear me say I don’t want to be here anymore. Rock bottom comes the day before Christmas Eve, when she drives me to hospital, where I cry, crumpled on the floor until they give me Valium. She stands there while I fall apart, a few corridors away from where her brother lays in the mortuary. I can’t take care of her, be who she needs right now, because I can’t take care of myself. I’m trapped in a mirrored cage. I can’t focus on her pain because all I see is my own reflected back.

Over the next few days, the cracks that run through our relationship erupt like an earthquake. The first she knows about the ring is me screaming, “That’s why I bought a fucking ring” when we argue and she accuses me of wanting to leave her.

She gets so drunk at a party, she wanders out into the snow. I’m not there. She’s found coatless and sobbing that she told me to go. I go on an angry walk at 3am where I fall into a snow drift and think maybe I could just stay here? lay down and let the snow cover me like a beautiful death? Like, somehow, the ice that’s so cold it burns, will numb the pain.

Something breaks between us that Christmas that will never heal. We’ll limp on for another year but this will be the last Christmas we’ll spend together. And I’ll never forgive myself, for not being enough, even though she does. I make a silent vow to never be so lacking for a partner again.

Stay tuned next Friday to hear from The Cheeky Charmer’s Ghost of Christmas present.

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