Born Surplus To Requirements

Late in September, some decades ago, a short episode of unremarkable intimacy, coloured by manners more than passion  and governed by ritual rather than appetite, ended the day of a man and wife. This infrequent coupling, occasioned by the man’s diffidently expressed appetite and the ladies “strained-against” sense of duty, was a residue of those dimly recalled times, sometime in their past  when the need to share and be all to each other was the driving force of dialogue, and being free to love their only wish.

Gone were the days when these episodes, lit by passion,  fuelled their mutual discoveries of each other. Now, years into a marriage burdened by  children, weighed down by routines and all else, they did not need another mouth to feed. Thus it was when she said some weeks later, at the breakfast table, “I’m expecting,” her husband raised his eyes to hers in shock, laced with an undiscussed apology. He knew how much she wanted the peace to dream,  and how a new mouth to feed, and sleepless nights and nappies needing changing did little to excite her imagination.” What will be will be” was all she said.

In the first flush of courtship and then marriage, the line was said in jest, part of a conspiracy in dialogue, their secret code, which marked them as a couple, but now it had iron in it’s tone and so her husband quickly drained his cup and said, “I must be off to work.” The office was his refuge now, where simpler goals could be identified and managed. Back at home, the name he gave this house, where money always seemed to be a problem, his wife,  who hated interruptions , felt the burden growing deep within her: a new demand to act as if motherhood was touched with infinite patience, unblemished by exhaustion or the need for peace.

In this house, where music once was played, although of different tastes. Where laughter could mark the passing time, the needs of faith, pride and social custom prevented them  saying singly and together, “We’re tired of this, and each other, and all we long for is some privacy, where we can think and feel and wonder, unburdened by life’s drudgeries.

Into this world I came uncelebrated, and surplus to requirements,handled with the skill of those who sought the minimum of contact, and who faced each new disruption with unease. Now, I am all I know, and that dimly, but with the knowledge gained as best I can, I launch myself at life and ask the basic question, “Can you tell me please, what love is ?”


About Peter Wells aka Countingducks

Trying to remember what my future is
This entry was posted in character, childhood, creative writing, faith, Fiction, Life, Love, Peter Wells, Relationships, Romance, values, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Born Surplus To Requirements

  1. catterel says:

    Understated everyday tragedy – very moving. You’ve done it again, Ducks:-)


  2. elainecanham says:

    That was beautiful. But I would argue that there is irony here, in that the narrator already knows what love is, by showing his/her acceptance and understanding of the feelings of the parents.


  3. eric keys says:

    This is a wonderful piece, Peter. I think it is one of my favorites of yours.


  4. Writing is always personal, at some level. That same question was asked of me by my current spouse what seems centuries ago at a kitchen table in Montana. Long before the question became a personal one. I think it is an excellent question because until we begin to define it we have no idea of what we are looking for. And we settle for far less than we should.


  5. Pingback: Eric Keys | Born Surplus To Requirements

  6. Ina says:

    A sad story but one very moving, and it happens, maybe we all must have felt as if our parents did not really want us. Not to know what love is, is a sad thing. And it also is sad when a baby mixes up the lives of a couple that doesn’t want one. And it is a beautiful story! 🙂 x


  7. How very sad. An unlikely view of what parenting is or could be, but it is not unrealistic.


  8. 50djohnson says:

    Sad, very sad… Especially to those of us who wanted more than life itself to know the joy of the sound of a newborn babies cry. Raising another woman’s children through adulthood..still rejected because of the barrier of loss in the tiny unreceiving shallow hearts. Love is the unconditional love only God can fill your heart with to continue loving and giving without the joy of receiving in return. Then,, being showered with the love of their father for knowing how very much you want to be loved by a child, and yet continuing to love by choice because of your devotion to Him.


  9. They know how these things happen and how to prevent them, don’t they? Why do you write them as victims of their circumstances? Just curious. I suppose some religions don’t permit birth control…


  10. Wow! This is a fantastic piece, Peter, cleverly crafted and developed to give both a sense of time and of immediacy. The sad part is that relationships like this are possibly becoming the norm as the empty promises that have been dangled before us prove ever more oblique and unattainable.
    One can only hope that the child can recognise the failings and seek to overcome them, breaking the cycle.
    Excellent writing.


  11. genusrosa says:

    ‘I launch myself at life and ask the basic question, “Can you tell me please, what love is ?”…’ I love how you conclude this! On a hopeful note. Poised at the edge of an exciting journey that can carry us far and away from the uncelebrated beginning. No lackluster spark here…growing as a burden inside a disinterested woman. I am reminded of a discarded chrysalis; all crusty and no longer necessary. Life, however indifferently passed on, is still life. As usual, I marvel at your poignancy; and so often, you leave us with an intriguing surprise at the end!


  12. Caroline says:

    A certain coach’s explanation of this is: “Love is the feeling I give myself when I’m with you”


  13. Well written! It conveys an emotion that many have felt in their life, at one point or another. I enjoy the fact that I never know what to expect whenever I read your work. Whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it right!


  14. gotham girl says:

    I’m sure this story showcases many real lives in our world today…your writing always keeps me yearning for more!


  15. Al says:

    Not too uplifting to say the least. I suppose they could have aborted this child, but I suspect you will pen about his finding the cure for cancer in your next accounting.


  16. desertrose7 says:

    So very sad. I just love the way you write!


  17. What love is?
    You. Are. Love. x


  18. Jane says:

    This went right to my heart. I love your work.


  19. I can only imagine that feeling. Love binds a marriage and parenting, but it doesn’t pay the bills. I don’t have many problems I can’t outthink (I don’t have many serious problems either), but this one might do me in.


  20. Yes, please tell me what love is??


  21. This is a keeper Peter! Expressed perfectly in your now, for me, immediately recognisable style. Such a sad truth expressed here and something maybe many of us dare not let ourselves feel.


  22. Robert Mitchell says:

    This reminds me of the Frank Norris novel “McTeague.” Have you read it? Highly recommended. And so is this short piece — well done sir!


  23. Peter….good one…I mean could anyone ever replied to this without a pause…that speaks it all


  24. This is very moving! You have a beautiful way with words and touching the human spirit. However, I am in a foolish mood this morning and at the same time I was reading this I was waiting for the song “Every Sperm is Sacred” to pop up. lol.


  25. A lot of truth here, sadly. You made the melancholy palpable. Nice write!


  26. Scarlet says:

    Indeed, privacy and the luxury of having time to think is hugely underrated. You can’t buy it… you have to steal it whilst nobody is looking.
    Lovely piece of writing, Mr Wells.


  27. r e douville says:

    We tend to look for the spectacular, a function of our entertainment needs. Life doesn’t work quite that way for many or even most. Loves can exist comfortably in the mundane.


  28. Kavita Joshi says:

    Love your work as always dear and its close to my heart 🙂


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