Return to April 17, 2001 (person)

Today I lost a friend. It's taken about 8 months but today was the end.

It started when Jenna said she was getting married to a man I'd never met, a 22 year old Kosovan refugee who she'd met 6 weeks ago in a pub while she was doing her finals at uni. I was mostly happy for her at the time, a bit worried that he was a refugee and suspicious at his motives for rushing the marriage but I tried not to let my prejudice get in the way of Jenna's happiness.

I travelled down for the wedding that was being held in a registry office local to the uni, not at home. Maybe because Jenna's mother died a few years back and it would have been painful to hold it there. Jenna was making her own dress from a shiny blue material and hadn't bothered to get a cake. The make-up was left last minute and her hair was a state. Chain smoking roll-ups and scratching at the rash on her neck, Jenna made her way to the Registry office followed by a few family members and old friends, flatmates and a group of 6 scruffy foreigners presumed to be linked with Julio, the man of the moment.

The ceremony was a farce. Julio couldn't understand the words he was supposed to say and reverted to saying "yes" to every statement. At the end, the vicar announced "as long as he knows what he's done". I could almost hear everyone thinking

"oh yeah, he knows alright, he's just won a free ticket to stay in this country".

As we left the office, I saw him give Jenna a hard slap and call her bitch, grinning at his mates. Drinking began, fights ensued, many tears, many cuts and bruises. That was the day that Jenna broke. She'd always been strong but that day she seemed so small and helpless. She stuck up for Julio and his trouble causing mates, she wouldn't hear a bad word against them. I have no idea why.

Later on it surfaced that Julio was only 17 years old and not from Kosovo but from Albania. He did not, as it turned out, go to any university or hold any job but instead relied on thieving from houses and cars with his gang of other aggressive Albanians.

So you'd expect Jenna to leave right? I know I wouldn't stick around for any of that crap. Or at least she'd try to get some distance on it yeah? But no, she didn't even blink, as if the lies weren't important.

I've seen Jenna cry, I've seen her family leave her from necessity, they just couldn't give any more. I've seen friends, including me, grow weary of trying to help someone who simply won't help herself. And now I can't see it getting any better until one of them dies. I pray that it's him and not her.

I will never understand how so many women can fail to recognise the huge steaming piles of shit dished out to them by their lovers/husbands. I mean, I know the first flames of desire and the rosy glow of a new relationship can help to mask the fact that he rips his toenails off with his teeth and leaves them on your bedside table. But when he's sleeping with other women, bleeding you and your family dry of money, thieving from your neighbours and still can't speak enough English to hold down a job (for which he has no British work permit anyway). He hits you, calls you bitch and slag every 10 minutes. He's been the sole reason that you have no friends left and are taking Prozac in a last ditch attempt to hold your sanity together. Yet still, you say over and over again that you love him. As if that were reason enough to excuse all the degradation and pain.

"I love him. I need him".

YOU COULDN'T BE MORE WRONG

Love is respect and a willingness to walk an extra mile for someone you appreciate.

You need self respect, you need to love yourself just enough to realise that this stack of dung holding a gun to your head is not giving you anything to make your life better.

But there's nothing I can say or do to stop it. Apparently "there but for the grace of God go I". It seems that we females have some genetic dysfunctional tendency that leaves us powerless against the scummier dregs of the masculine gender.

Well, I can't believe that I could be that stupid or weak. Surely my lost friend is an exception and there's some hope for us all. All I can say is it hasn't done much for my perception of the unfairer sex.

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