With Todd, the signs were always there, I guess – on our first date he spent rather too much time ogling a famous popstar across the bar. On leaving the place, I took him back to mine to teach him a lesson he’d never forget and, perhaps to both our surprise, it turned into something.
Little things would crop up every now and again to make me wonder. Todd’s insistence that he sit facing a window when we went out to eat, or going to a barbecue and eating only what he had cooked himself – a trial because he incinerated absolutely everything – or his annoying habit of refusing to accept I didn’t like red wine that much.
“White wine is for beginners,” he would say, impatiently, as I slipped a bottle of prosecco in the shopping basket. “And prosecco is for girls.”
“If prosecco is for beginners then I don’t ever want to be intermediate,” I’d reply trying not to roll my eyes. “And I’ll happily wear a dress if it means I get to drink cheap fizz.”
“White wine is for beginners,” he’d say, impatiently. “And prosecco is for girls.”
His main shtick – and the loudest of all the alarm bells – was trying to make me feel uncultured and shallow. He would get on to politics far earlier in the day than was acceptable, and call me out on “wishy-washy Guardianista received opinion” then bore me to death with his musings on the economy which I suppose I could’ve read myself had I not been laughing too long at a deliciously bitchy Marina Hyde column.
And yet, incredibly, he fancied me rotten. He would tell me so, very often. Over lunch, on the train, in the supermarket – usually mere moments after skewering me over my choice of wine. Looking back now, I suppose he thought he could get away with acting permanently exasperated at my faults if he told me I was pretty, like an old lady cooing at her budgerigar or a stable hand patting his thoroughbred’s thigh. Being single can be quite a fragile state at times, and I suppose being told I was hot by someone was a rare pleasure, it made me feel nice, albeit briefly, and it can be quite the aphrodisiac.
The final straw, however, was the most ridiculous of all. I had endured six weeks or so of this odd mix of him telling me I was irritating then being unable to keep his hands out of my shorts, but what finally did it for me was a toothbrush. Yes, a toothbrush.
I stayed over at his flat for the first – and, as it turned out, final – time. I woke first and ran my tongue over my teeth.
To placate him the night before, I had gamely joined him for a few glasses of red wine. My breath was pure vinegar and my teeth felt like tombstones.
I padded through to the bathroom, praying I wouldn’t bump into any of his housemates. He lived with two girls, but I never saw them, only their miserable bootcut jeans hanging to dry on a clothes-airer in his conservatory.
In the bathroom mirror, I surveyed the damage. Purple-stained lips? Check. Grey, wine-ravaged teeth? Check. General feeling of gut rot, extreme nausea and cottonmouth? Check in triplicate.
I glanced around, looking for something to fix my malodorous mouth. No Listerine in sight. I sighed heavily. No floss, either. I tried to remember what Todd’s teeth were like, realised I couldn’t, and thought that in itself was a pretty bad sign.
In a beaker by the sink stood four toothbrushes. One was red. One was pink. One was purple. And one was green. I considered them all. Three people lived in the house. Sticking to gender stereotypes, I reasoned the pink one would belong to one of the girls. I couldn’t see Todd going for a red toothbrush, and it looked quite grotty, so I assumed they used that one to clean the grouting. Purple or green would be Todd’s then. I thought of maybe just leaving it, but… oh my mouth. It felt awful, like it was screaming at me “Who did you let in here last night?!” I had to get rid of this feeling.
I grabbed the green toothbrush, smeared some Colgate on it, winced, and started to lightly brush my teeth, the bristles barely touching enamel.
“Why would you do that without asking?” he railed. “That’s my PERSONAL toothbrush!”
At that precise moment, of course, Todd walked in, scratching his arse through his boxer shorts. He stopped dead when he caught sight of me, his eyes darting from the beaker to my mouth, then back to the beaker, before resting on my mouth and widening in horror.
“Heeeeey,” I garbled through a mouthful of fluoride and foam.
“What are you doing?” he asked, his eyes like saucers and his lip trembling in a way I had seen once before but for a very different reason.
“I’m guzzhing my keergh,” I mumbled, before giving in and spitting out any toothpaste that had managed to stay in my gob.
“Where did you get that toothbrush?” His voice was almost a whisper, but with a hardness that I assumed was dissatisfaction. My lord and master wasn’t happy.
I gestured toward the beaker. “Right there.”
He pointed now to the brush still in my hand. “That’s mine.”
I made a face a bit like a pug trying to get chewing gum out of its back teeth. “Yes. Well, I don’t have one here. I thought I might as well.”
He started to go red. At first, I thought he was embarrassed at making such a fuss, but it soon became clear he was angry. Furious, even.
“Why would you do that without asking?” he railed. “That’s my PERSONAL toothbrush” – I can only imagine what his business toothbrush was like – “and I don’t like you just coming in here using it.”
I carefully placed the sainted toothbrush back in the beaker. “I wasn’t keen either,” I admitted. “But… I don’t really understand why this is a big deal.”
He snorted. “Come ON. It’s gross. It’s not hygienic.” He scrunched his face up in disgust.
“Are you for real?” I spat. “Your tongue’s been on just about every tooth of mine it can reach, and you had my… my pecker in your mouth a few short hours ago.” I cringed at the memory. “But dragging your toothbrush around my gob is a hanging offence?”
He looked puzzled and ran his fingers over his own teeth. “I don’t know where you’ve…” he stopped himself. “Um, you might have gum disease.”
I rubbed my eyes. Suddenly I was very tired and very hungover and very much hoping for teleportation to be invented within the next 15 seconds.
“I’m just a bit funny about what I put in my mouth.”
I slid past him and went back into the bedroom and started to get dressed. He followed, but the sun was in my eyes so I couldn’t see his expression. When he finally spoke, he sounded sheepish.
“I’m just a bit funny about what I put in my mouth.”
I pulled on my trainers in excessively energetic frustration. So many one-liners swirled around my head; a hundred possible put-downs and sparkling double-entendres willed me to pick them.
Instead, as I slipped on my jacket, I settled for “Fuck off, Todd” and left the room, his flat, his street and jumped on a bus to start my favourite journey of that year so far – the one that took me away from Todd for ever.
Image: pcapemax2007 on Flickr