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 ?”