Eyes opening, too late
Posted On April 15, 2020
On the long drive home from the hotel the sky was a vivid angry pink, streaked with gold, turning a delicate violet and navy at the edges. It was dramatic and beautiful.
I felt like I had become a gyroscope, balanced on a narrow point, spinning and close to toppling. When I had finally picked up the phone, my husband had said “Where are you? Who are you with?” and I had said “You know. You know.” And that is all that we had said to each other.
All I could think about, now, was the lying. All of the months of lying, to my husband, to my children, to my very best friends. What had it all been for? As it turned out, it had apparently all been for this numb journey through fenland on a summer evening with everything I knew in tiny pieces.
When we got back to my parked car, X stopped his and held both of my hands. He looked into my eyes and said, with all of the gravity of his history, his superior adulterous wisdom, “Listen to me. This is the shitty bit. This bit is going to be awful. But we have to stay strong. We win, at the end of this. We WIN. We get each other.”
I thought – yes. Yes, you are right. This is the point where things are broken to make stronger, better new things. I have read about this sort of process. Through the fire of adversity, or something like that, we will forge an unbreakable loving bond. Or something like that. It is a story that people know, and have told to me, and now it will be our story.
So I drove home. I drove home and sat silent and bullish on the sofa while my husband explained that he knew I was having a crisis, he had known for a while, he had let me down because he had ignored it but for a long time he had known that I hadn’t been myself, probably since my eldest daughter turned 18 or I came off the pill after his vasectomy or something, just that something had changed, but we had decades of love and trust and we could get through this. We could.
It didn’t matter what I had done, he said. He would work through the pain because I would always be the furious-looking girl who marched up to him and told him he was lovely and twisted my weird fucked-up life around his straightforward one, pulling him with me into a marriage and a life that we had enjoyed together ever since and that we had both always known was special. We had known that for such a long time. Hadn’t we? Hadn’t I? Hadn’t I?
I didn’t want to think about it. I just said, over and over “I love him. I am leaving you. I am sorry.” My husband was stamping with frustration and fury. He said that he couldn’t break through to the real me, that I didn’t know my own mind, didn’t know what I was saying, that I was a brainwashed victim.
I was cold with him, equally furious. I said that there was no point even beginning to talk if everything I said was viewed through his prism of my absent mental capacity. I told him, dully, that no one ever listened to me and this was a prime example.
I said, again, “I love him. I am leaving you. I am sorry.” This cycle continued into the pitch dark and until we were both exhausted. I slept fitfully in the spare room and it occurred to me that I had spent my last night in my married bed and that I had not even known it. Everything was moving away from me, very fast.
In the morning, when I woke up, it was my 37th birthday and no one was at home.
X telephoned me first thing in the morning, asking if we could meet. He said, when we did, and when he saw that my eyes were swollen closed and purple from crying, “This is the first time I’ve ever seen you look ugly.”
He said “You know. This is all very unfair on our children.”
He said “I don’t know what the future holds for us. I can’t tell you what to do. Any decisions you make must be entirely your own.”
He said “I keep having moments of wondering what the fuck I have done here.”
He said “I need time to myself, to sort out my head and my life. I can’t say how long I’ll need.”
He said “I am a bad person. You should think about that.”
He said “I can’t make you any promises.”
I went home and my husband was waiting. He said “I love you. I have been thinking all day, and I don’t want to lose you. If you can take some steps, try to remember who you are, cut X out of your life, really work with me and our family, I think I can forgive you in time. I love you.”
On the first day of my 38th year I fell asleep knowing two things. One, that my life was entirely blown to pieces, fucked, ruined. Two, that I had done every painful bit of it to myself.