I need to say some things to you, whether you read them or not. You probably won’t. But that’s okay. Now that you’re gone, I can say what I like. You have freed me, even though I never asked for freedom. My words need no longer flutter against the cage of our desire.
You once captured my heart. You were my lover first, then my jailor, then my husband. And I was your willing prisoner. Why on earth would I want to escape my barred paradise? Oh, the ambiguity of words! How you relished dissecting them, poking about with their exposed innards. We both did. But your knife was sharper.
You were the one who taught me to be cautious of the word “love”. So I was cautious. You were the one who gave “desire” the same treatment. “Need kills desire,” you said. So I tried not to need. And the more I tried, the more I needed, the more I loved. The more your knife twisted into my words. The vicious circle of love and desire. And there I was, imprisoned by both, unable to escape. Not wanting to escape.
“You need to free yourself of him,” my wise friend advised. “If you go on like this, you’ll be fit for nothing.” Oh, my well-meaning friend, couldn’t you see that I was already fit for nothing? That I couldn’t care less? That was the price I was prepared to pay. Anything was better than not having you in my life at all. You, my philosopher, my lover, my jailor.
“What’re you doing with him?” other friends questioned, truly confused. But why did they ask? Couldn’t they see the power of your mind, your wit, your knowledge, your amazing perception, your cutting harshness … damn you, why was that harshness so addictive? Couldn’t they see I was your willing prisoner?
And then, fast-forward twenty years, it’s our daughter’s turn to ask. “Mum, doesn’t it ever occur to you that you and Dad just aren’t compatible?” Of course it occurred to me. Many times. Right from the beginning. So what? I’d shout to myself, to others, to the world. With a gag in my mouth.
“I love you,” you used to mock. “What the fuck does that mean?” So I stopped saying the words. They were banned. But the love somehow seeped through, all the same. Our love. That could never be banned.
Yes, my estranged husband. You did end up loving me, for all your clever mockery. Oh, yes, you did, you did, you did! So there! And I ended up being the one to hurt you. I almost lost you because of it – that mindless betrayal, while you were away in England for Christmas. Why didn’t you ask me to come with you? Then there would have been no need or place for betrayal. But you didn’t ask me.
And here’s the thing. Your discovery of my insane fling is precisely what ended up bringing us together. But only after I’d almost lost you. Had to beg you to stay.
So you stayed. And we moved in to a new place together, to unburden ourselves of unwanted memories from our last mausoleum. And I got pregnant. We had a beautiful daughter. A daughter who has now left home, as you have, but in different ways.
And we got married – not quite what I wanted, having already done it before and failed – but you wanted it. So we did it. You see, my old love, I’d have done anything for you. Anything.
But fast-forward twenty years once again, and the situation is irrevocably reversed. The only difference now is that we are older and not particularly wiser. And of course the desire has waned. Isn’t that what always happens? After twenty-plus years?
It’s the why’s that hurt most of all. I wish that perfidious word didn’t exist.
Why couldn’t we have settled for what we still had? Why couldn’t we have continued to share what was good about our lives? Why couldn’t we have grown old together? Why did you have to give up on our future? Why did you have to look elsewhere, once you’d given up? Why did you have to free me? I never asked for freedom!
Why did the latter years have to become our death sentence? Why couldn’t the happy-ever-after ending of Thirteen States of Being – the novel I wrote for you, for us – have continued into eternity? At what point did the hard but beautiful years metamorphose into a statistic? One in three, isn’t it? I can’t bear to be a marriage statistic. And I can’t bear to read that novel now. Because whenever I try to, I’m plunged back into then. When you were my life, my love, my future, no matter what anyone else thought.
And now … now there’s another potential love, another beguiling future, however fragile, however distant, however giant a leap is required. Perhaps there’ll be a letter to him one day?
So where does it all end?
All that I ask of you now, my estranged jailor, is that you remember. As long as we both remember, then what we once had will still be out there, in some shape or form, no longer behind bars. Just gone.
So where does it all go?
You’re the philosopher, can’t you give me the answers?
But no. I don’t want answers. I just want acceptance. And peace.
Goodbye, my old love.
Click here for extracts from “Thirteen States of Being”: