Nightmare on Sheikh Mo Street
Imagine the following movie script. After having recently survived a burn out, depression and heartbreak from an Egyptian rugby player slash model, a Lebanese pilot, and a Peter Pan or 2 in between, you meet the guy you think is the One. At age 37, when you least expect it and already gave up hope, like you always hear in the chick flicks and read in the Sophie Kinsella books.
You didn’t even feel like going on the first date, so instead of putting on a sexy black dress and heels, you go right after work in your jeans, expecting to be home two hours later. Instead, the date lasts until 2 am, and you didn’t even realize you talked for hours. He’s the most handsome, tall, eloquent and charming guy and there is an instant connection. A few more amazing dates later, the guy tells you “you changed everything” and you fall in love.
Fast forward a few months. It’s the first time in your life you feel like you’re in a genuine loving relationship; you’ve broken the pattern! You might have closed your eyes for some red flags but ignore them as… well, nobody’s perfect. It’s the first time you tell a man you love him and he says it back, you introduce him to your family for the first time ever. A few months later you move in together, and have endless cosy movie nights and dates together. The companionship you always dreamed of. Finally you don’t have to think about planning your weekends or hang out at bars anymore, or Tinder the night away, trying to find the One amongst pictures of guys holding a big fish or gym selfies. He can whip up the best meals with the 3 ingredients you have in your fridge, makes you the perfect cocktails and breakfasts. You wake up every morning in each other’s arms. After work, you chat on the balcony for hours drinking wine and eating Tony Chocolonely chocolate. Finally having a feeling of coming home. Pure bliss comes from simple moments, as long as it’s together. You go on your first vacation together to Bali, which feels like a honeymoon, with endless dinners in the jungle and beach. Re-discovering your favorite place on Earth with your love this time, finally not traveling alone.
After 2 years, you’ve had ups and downs like every couple and you might have ignored some red flags but you love him and understand his past. Three days before New Year’s Eve you get a shocker; he asks for space. He has to work incredibly hard 7 days a week for a hotel opening he’s in charge of, and doesn’t want to disappoint you by not being available as much. He just wants to work and go home to sleep, to his own apartment. But it “has nothing to do with you” and he loves you. He admits he thought of proposing a few months ago.
It’s okay, you know you can make it work as you have so much love in your heart, so you give him the space he asked for. It’s hard and a mindfuck, but you totally understand the work situation, shift your focus to you and yet always are supportive when he needs it. He still calls you every single day, sends you flowers & a teddy bear on Valentine’s Day, a month later tells you again he loves you. You’re back on track!
Then the pandemic hits. He really was working hard and now needs to ‘cocoon’ by himself at home and game with his new Playstation, to clear his head and recuperate. It has nothing to do with you, and as everyone reacts differently to Covid, you remain patient and hopeful. He calls you three times a day (yet only from his car and not from home, a bit odd) and you accept that you won’t be meeting up soon. You have to go through isolation and lockdown alone, but aren’t worried as he’s doing the same.
Fast forward two months later. He’s been acting a bit weird and coming up with excuses why he still doesn’t want to meet up (OCD, just wants to sleep, is not himself, drinking a lot at home) and you are still blind and think he’s depressed and burnt out. When you give him an ultimatum he says he doesn’t want to break up; you get pulled back in as you realize the thought of being single again at almost 40 is not a good perspective either. And you do truly love him; when things get tough you fight and never choose flight.
You decide to go over to his place after all on a Saturday night, to drop off some stuff. A surprise visit and you know he’s working late today, but he always keeps his door open. You walk in, turn on the lights once you enter the bedroom.
You see about 10 pairs of women’s shoes next to his, and hey they are not yours. You open the closet and see an entire collection of female dresses and tacky bags, definitely not yours. Cheap make-up all over the bathroom. Next to the bed you find the same teddy bear you received for Valentine’s day. Two pairs of slippers – his and hers – from Atlantis. Where you staycationed alone a few weeks earlier, and he didn’t want to join as he had to ‘work late’. You go to the living room, it looks very cosy, candles everywhere, two glasses of unfinished wine.
The man you thought you were going to marry has been leading a double life and was living with another woman for months, quarantining together while you had to go through it alone and isolated, with dark spells of loneliness. She’s 10 years younger, a blonde and ditzy Ukrainian receptionist who barely speaks English, from the hotel he worked so many late nights. While he called you every day – pretending you were still a couple but he just needed space – only to go home afterwards to her.
And then you lose it just like in Fatal Attraction. You write ‘lying cheating bastard’ with her lipstick on the mirror, throw her makeup brushes and the his and hers toothbrushes in the toilet. From anger, pull out all her clothes from the closet. Destroy the gifts you gave him, along with the cosy candles and wine glasses. You tear up the ‘You are Amazing’ book you gave him.
It’s such a bad horror movie script, you can’t wrap your head around what you just discovered.
And then you close the door and know it will take a lifetime to recover.