November 1, 2010 § Leave a comment
So I told Adam that I was writing to a survivor of domestic violence who I met at a work function a couple of weeks ago. I should be, but this has been on my mind for a couple of days now and it requires me to write.
His divorce certificate arrived in the mail last Friday. I was excited and sad and thrilled. I didn’t ask him how he felt about it because I thought I knew how he felt so there was no point in talking about it again. But I kicked myself for this later on (i.e. between Friday and now) because so often we just assume that we know how the other person feels. Half the time we don’t, the other half of the time we’re completely wrong anyway and everytime we don’t bother asking, a little piece of the relationship dies because you no longer bother taking the time to communicate with each other properly, not having the energy to discuss something that could potentially end in tears or arguing or both.
Leslie no doubt received her copy when she returned from her recent trip over east and it wasn’t until I asked Adam this morning about it that he realised why she looked so furious when he saw her later that afternoon. I can imagine the raft of emotions that she went through that day.
For me, a different raft of emotions has been circulating inside me for the last few days. It has been unexpected for sure, as I was completely convinced that I had analysed every corner of every emotion that I had ever felt between now and when we first starting sleeping together. But as it seems to do, it popped its head up again after Friday and demanded to be paid some attention. And so here we are.
For some reason I have been looking back – though when I say it like that it doesn’t sound that unrealistic, considering I’ve spent most of my life with my head turned backwards, living in permanent retrospect. But since Friday I’ve been looking right back, right back to the beginning when it was just Adam and I, before Leslie became a part of my life and I a part of hers. Back when I was intoxicated with a poisonous love for a poisonous lover – a man who both adored and demeaned me. Back to a time when too often I felt the bone cold pang of loneliness, when I was caught in limbo between living and loving and when I was obsessed with a most beautiful man who said that he loved me. It is difficult for me not to want to regret at times. I would not give my partner up for all the world but when they ask at what cost love comes at, I know the answer – the cost is high, the cost is great and you will spend the rest of your life paying for it in one sense or another.
I remember my amazement at how little I had to pursue him. It makes me grin for a moment… and then the grin fades and my heart starts to ache because I realise how long he had been having this dream for in order for him to snatch me up so quickly before the opportunity passed him by.
I remember the river cruise, meeting his wife without really knowing who he was or what he meant to me. I cannot recall seeing her face at all for the entire night after I boldly introduced myself to her on the jetty. The most important part of the night – cornering him at the back of the boat and making my intentions clear after too many glasses of cheap champagne. Where was she then? Did she see me whispering in his ear? Would I be in a different place now if she had stayed at his side throughout the night?
I vaguely remember the first time, drunk and excited and over far too quickly, with not enough recollection even now. A hot afternoon, fumbling at belts and zippers on my bed with the shades drawn.
I remember when the emails started. I remember the writing we began to share. I remember showing snippets of emails to my co-worker who seemed to be in on the secret somehow. The excitement of realising that this was about to morph from casual sex to something far more dangerous.
I remember the unabashed admiration of his writing. Thinking about it now elicits two reactions from me: my heart soars when I think back on all the beautiful, gorgeous things he used to write me. And then it sinks as I struggle to recall the last time he wrote me, when I think about all the times I have asked him to write, suggested, pushed, nagged and then let go as I realise I am fighting too hard for this, that it must come naturally for him. I will never, ever let go of the value of his letters and emails to me. Every time I read them I fall in love with him, and then wonder if he loves me now like he loved me then. I cannot believe that he could ever love me more than he did then. He stopped writing, he stopped reading my writing and then I stopped writing. We have already fallen into friendship and complacency.
I remember the lonely nights. I think of Leslie when I think of myself, alone in that horrible house and lonely. I remember losing hours just lying in bed, staring into space, sitting in front of a blank computer screen. The echo of the front door shutting behind him, straining to hear his bike or his diesel down the road as he drove home, drove to her. I remember the daily cycle of absolute elation followed by total destitution and back again. Forever rotating. My heart would soar and crash over and over; I would swing from giddy ecstasy to self-loathing and disgust within hours. I would hang on his every breath while he held me and then fall into total devastation when he was gone. I would push my mind into total numbness just to escape the unanswered questions and the relentless shame and self-esteem battery. “You have to believe their marriage is crap in order to maintain enough self-worth to keep breathing.” The misery and pain that I put myself through for those years has scarred me forever.
I remember his email, entitled “Heart n Mind”. I remember sitting at my desk in my teal Peter Alexander dressing gown, reading it first thing in the morning, and having to get up and walk outside as I tried to catch the sobs in my throat. They leapt out like frogs, coming in short bursts, completely beyond my control. Hot tears flooded my eyes as adrenalin pushed its way through my fragile body. I thought I was going to die.
And of course, I remember that day. That day, when I got a text message late in the morning, that day when the world yawned off its axis. “Hi babe. Will have to cancel canoeing tomorrow. I told Leslie this morning that I am unhappy in our relationship and that I want to sell the house. As you can imagine it went down like a lead balloon and it’s been a pretty average morning.” I remember collapsing in my housemate’s bedroom, stumbling and falling into a heap on his beanbag and sobbing uncontrollably as he sat on his bed, Xbox on pause, speechless.
I remember that I had never felt relief, never felt love like the following Tuesday morning when he slid into my bed. He was shattered; I could feel in his body and his breath and his bones that he was completely wiped out. I wanted to hold onto him forever and ever and ever. I loved him with every fibre of my being.
I remember the devastation that followed that Tuesday morning, the mess, the pain and suffering, the hurt. Those four weeks, and the months to follow, the year even. I can’t think of any way to describe those four weeks other than shit. I nearly tore my own heart out in those few weeks, even in the weeks after he actually left. He nearly killed me and I nearly hated him for it. I have never experienced pain like it.
I remember the Sunday afternoon when we were both in the office working. I remember sitting on the floor beside his desk, chatting and bantering like everything was back to normal, that I wasn’t dying, that he wasn’t killing me. I remember the phone mix up, listening to Leslie’s voice for the first time, the hot flushes and mounting anger. The guilt, for the first time I felt guilt. I remember taking the lift downstairs with all my bike gear on, bawling and sobbing as I went out to my motorbike. I remember having to stop myself and telling myself to get a grip, otherwise I was going to have an accident on the way home and then it would all be for nothing. I remember the wait.
I remember the wait, going home and sitting in my house unable to function on any level. I sat at the dining table for hours, mute, deaf, motionless, numb. I cycled through resignation and defeat to hope to assurity and back again and back again. Hours passed and again I thought my life would end.
But then I remember the text message. “I am at Kings Park. I need to see you.”
I remember, vividly, the emotions, quick as sticks. Hope. And terror. Complete and utter terror because I was convinced that this was it. He was not leaving her; he was leaving me. Now my life was truly going to end. The sheer exhaustion, the resignation that I couldn’t possibly take any more. I would not have survived the rejection, the devastation, the loss. I have no doubt that I would have quit my job and possibly quit my city all together. I would not have survived.
(To be continued…)