I did not choose my wife so much as she selected me, I suspect, because I was a biddable man of decent family, with a gift for mathematics which promised a future of passionless security. She was a women who, in other matters, showed her fear of the wider world by controlling what was closest to her, including her furniture, me, and our social diary.
I did not mind that much, at first, at least, because we got to be physical, and she made a sort of fuss of me, when others merely passed me on their way to somewhere else. I was not a silent, or even passive man in everyday life, but I lived without agenda until her agenda became mine, regardless of my own inclinations.
In those early days, when we first celebrated our union, we used to cuddle up together on the sofa, and in bed of course, to express our closeness and our intimacy but gradually that changed, so we did the exact same thing, but now it was to mask our lack of closeness or intimacy. Nothing was said, because we were too polite to discuss the fundamentals, and nothing happened to challenge the establish order, until, that is, she got a job in another city and worked away from home all week.
She used to arrive back late on Friday evenings, complaining about her workload and saying the house was “disgusting” which, in her case, meant there was an unwashed plate in or near the sink. After a period, when she had been fed and drunk a glass of wine ,she mellowed slightly and flicked around the TV channels seeking entertainment. She might turn to me sometime in the evening and ask if I was alright, in a manner which sought the briefest of affirmations. In short our lives had become habitual and resolutely uncurious.
One weekend, and then gradually another, she told me that work had piled up, and she must remain up north to “try and catch up. It’s a nightmare you know,” until her weekends home became the exception to the rule. I muddled on, of course, getting by on phone calls and an appetite for crosswords and worked as diligently as I could until one day, to my surprise but no one else’s, she revealed she “Had discovered love” with some Australian and was moving abroad to climb mountains and find a new life on a commune.
“Surprised” is a word used to the point of exhaustion, but I must ask its help once more to try and tell you how I felt. “You were always so boring and so limiting” she said. “You are a very decent man, and I feel bad about it but really, “Who wants to spend their life counting match-sticks for a hobby?” The Australian, met in some wine bar, a place she and I had never been in together, had swept her off her feet. Kind in her punctilious way, she wanted nothing from me but half the house, my savings and a portion of my pension fund.
I take the larger view of life, at least I hope so, so I told her to take plenty of sun cream as her skin burns quite easily. We were not face to face for our final conversation but you can sometimes feel irritation, even down the phone: at least I think so. I never spoke to her in person after that, but I still have some photographs in which she is always smiling. Photographs tell lies about our life I believe, but then I keep such thoughts strictly to myself. By and large it’s better that way, don’t you always think ?