Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Part 3 - Hindsight is an exact science

I discovered that there was nothing more painful or enlightening than a spell of enforced introspection; navel gazing at the lowest level, to give myself some perspective on the problem. Two weeks of wearing a hair shirt and practicing virtual self flagellation of the deepest level had come and gone. I was sick of hearing my lone voice asking over and over what could have been so bad that caused him to scarper in such a manner. The sound of silence was deafening and I longed for the adrenalin inducing verbal jousting that we used to have. This was no existence, I told myself. I felt invisible and invalidated. It was astonishing how quickly I had become proficient at licking my wounds and being completely self absorbed in my problems. I became obsessive in my pursuit to find answers and raked through every phone bill and credit card receipt for clues. Numbers that I didn’t recognise on his cell phone listings were called in the hope of discovering who they were and how they knew him. I hid away from those people that might judge me and in turn isolated myself wherein I became a prisoner in my own sad and pathetic little world. Every conversation we had before he left was analysed; no matter how insignificant it had seemed at the time, if it could be replayed, deconstructed and reconstructed to find some kind of meaning then it was done. I picked and picked away at the scab of my life, never giving it a chance to heal.

I might have coped a little better, emerged from the shock a little sooner, had he been there to join in with the conversations I was having with myself. I didn’t have his voice to ‘contaminate’ my inner thoughts; to challenge the authenticity of my recollections; to provide another perspective and to put me right when I got it wrong. Silence is golden – but it can also destroy your soul.

I couldn’t find him; he was A.W.O.L – missing in action with no trace to follow. His prolonged silence was the cruellest of punishments to heap upon me. I had been emotionally and mentally beaten to a pulp.

“Where are you, you cowardly bastard?” I would lob at his non existent presence. I threw a million expletives and curses on his soul and out into the ether in the hope he could sense my tears, anger, and fear. I railed at him until my throat was raw, until my chest ached with the constant convulsed efforts at crying when there were no more tears left to shed. Alcohol became my crutch as I'd slip into a drink sodden coma for a few precious hours and it was a welcome relief. But coming round to the effects of a prolonged and cumulative hangover compounded my misery; it was hell and I knew it had to stop but I could see no other way of fleeing my mental torture, of having some respite to keep me just this side of sane. I’d drunk more than a coach load of 18-30’s holiday punters on a two week bingefest in the Costa-del-drinkyourfaceoff could manage between them.

I knew that the time was coming where I had to face reality; to get a grip on my life such as it was. "Tomorrow", I resolved and I sat down one more time, a very large drink in hand, and played Natalie Imbruglia's 'Torn'. May as well go the whole hog, I thought, and completely immerse myself in one more mega session of self pity and self indulgence. I played the track on repeat and cried my heart out until sleep found me. But as a coping strategy, consuming bucket loads of alcohol had reached the end of its life. My life may have been torn apart but it was time to cut back because the real world was knocking at the door.

In time I let my friends in; let them see me in all my dejected and ‘sorry for myself’ splendour of tissue mountains, the remnants of uneaten congealed ready made meals and empty booze bottles dotted around the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and sitting room. The house looked like a recycling centre. I didn’t care, they were here, they helped me tidy it up and the in-depth analysis of my situation continued in profusion only now with the combined experience and opinions based upon their disastrous love affairs interspersed with mine.

“It’s another woman, isn’t it? Do you know her?”, one friend asked. “I know he was a quiet guy but you know what they say - still waters run deep”, she added.

“No he’s gay, got to be gay”, offered another. “Don’t you remember that time the bald guy with the string vest and cowboy boots minced after him all night at your brother’s party? He seemed much too delighted with himself that another man found him attractive. And then, when we pulled his leg about it all, he got all pissed off and flounced off in a huff!”, she added as way of evidence that my man had possibly started batting for the other side.

“He didn’t flounce off, he strode away because we were pissed and really getting on his nerves and er, well, no, I don’t, I don’t think he’s gay”, I replied, coming to his defence rather too quickly for some odd reason. Perhaps, I considered, it would be worse having him leave me for a man instead of a woman; that our relationship had been based on a lie for all those years.

“Well maybe he isn’t a hundred percent gay yet but he’s bi-curious and couldn’t bring himself to tell you”, chipped in my friend of the gay theory who seemed to be warming to her theme now that we were on our second bottle of red wine. “That’s why he’s done a bunk sweetie, without facing you properly, you mark my words.

“And you’re far too flippin gorgeous for him to leave you for some predatory wee tart with Tupperware tits and a trick pelvis”, said my friend sporting the ‘other woman’ theory. I laughed at the image; especially as two weeks of mourning and neglect had left my face looking like a smacked arse nestling in a string bag. Come to think of it, my arse looked in pretty much the same condition too. At least, I mused, my arse didn’t have hair on it so I could tell them apart if need be. I very much doubted that right now I could see off competition from Lilly Savage let alone someone who might just look like Barbie so I hoped she was wrong on that count.

I pulled myself out of my reverie; "or maybe, just maybe, it’s drugs or gambling or fraud or murder or rape or God knows what”, I said in sadness and desperation. I’d thought the unthinkable because I had no choice.

"I might never know", I said forlornly. "I may as well consult the ruins or the tarot cards or tomorrows horoscope for all the hope I have of hearing it from the horses mouth. Until then it's just guesswork and conjecture and only when he tells me the truth, will I know that I can treat it as hindsight, something that has already happened that I cannot change and that it is indeed an exact science".

Friday, 26 October 2007

Part 2 - The sands of time.....

…..ran inexorably slowly whilst I grieved. Grieved for the loss of our future together; for the loss of the perceived certainty of tomorrow; for the loss of the plans that we had together. Life stops. Just grinds to a halt. I was banjaxed. I’d accelerated slap bang wallop into a brick wall I didn’t see until it was much too late. Now every second felt like a minute, a minute an hour and a day an eternity. I had been sucker punched in the stomach and winded badly by his leaving so quickly and so suddenly. There hadn’t been enough time to absorb it all, to ask why, really why, he was going. I wished desperately for a fast forward button to speed me away from this nightmare part of my life; to take me past the hurt, the pain, the humiliation of rejection; of having to tell family and friends that he had gone and that I had been dumped on the middle aged scrap heap of life. Somehow it was easier to pretend that he had died for I couldn’t feel such shame and betrayal if he had just died; it wouldn’t have been his fault; I couldn’t then blame him or hate him for destroying my life because he never meant to; he just died; end of story; now get on with the grieving.

I felt a fraud grieving for a lost love, but it is grief, except I knew that one day it was inevitable that our paths would cross again. That one day I would have the anguish of seeing him happy and in love with someone else; I could easily have gouged my eyes out there and then to make sure I never captured that memory to replay for the rest of my life.

In the first real thrust of passion in the early days of our relationship he had promised that he would never hurt me. “How could you have lied so?”, I asked over and over. "If I had known how bad it felt to lose you then I would never have let myself love you so much".

My friend, my lover, my mentor, my future had bolted from my life and I knew not why.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Part 1 - "Procrastination is the thief of time"...........

…….My husband responds as I complain that I have writers block; that it is so bad even Dyno-rod or semtex couldn’t shift it and that I’m going to give up this blogging lark. I’m such a wee gobshite that he can’t believe that I have nothing to say and tells me “to get on with it” before he hurriedly kisses me goodbye and rushes out the door on his way to work. I’ve, tried but damn it, maybe if I leave things for a while something interesting might pop up and I’ll be off again writing like a demon, perpetually re-writing my prose in the search of the ever elusive perfect sentence. But, I can procrastinate for Britain, and would deservedly earn a gold medal for my efforts in the art of displacement activities.

I’ve never been domestically oriented in any way, shape or form and as long as I am alive there will always be a thriving small business empire in the guise of cleaners, gardeners, decorators and window cleaners. I refuse to lie on my death bed wishing I had done more ironing. That said, when there is a deadline looming, a difficult report to write or indeed a blog to compose there is nothing more distracting to me than the sudden need to attack a pile of ironing, to clean the cooker, (a job I completely detest), or to get behind the furniture and vacuum up those dust bunnies that have lain dormant for six months. Any old displacement activity will suffice in the process of avoiding what really needs to be done.

So here I am with an abundance of domestic chores to choose from which you wouldn't expect to have when we gainfully employ a cleaner. How so you might ask? Well in short, my cleaner hasn’t really embraced the concept that she is a cleaner and merely exercises the dust from one room to another on a weekly basis. I’ve tried leaving a duster wrapped around a tin of furniture polish in the hope that she will actually use it to trap dust rather than relocate it. But alas, her frequency in polishing rather than dusting runs to approximately once a month. On the upside, a tin of polish around here can last about two years. Early on in our ‘relationship’ I naively sat her down to discuss the possibility that she might like to consider a schedule of chores that she could undertake on a rota basis. “Perhaps”, I said smiling benignly at her, “if we set out what we would like you to do and in return you can tell us what you are prepared to undertake, we’d all know where we were coming from, domestic wise so to speak”. It was probably around this time that she decided we were a couple of gullible and intellectually challenged eejits who were deluded with ideas above our station. Only the village idiot would be daft enough to interfere in her working practices – for what they were. I had no doubt she would lose no time in tossing our names into a hat as ideal for the position of village idiot should the current incumbent relinquish his post. So what was the outcome of our little chat? She dutifully came every Wednesday, followed the same routine and left four hours later. I even paid her holiday money for the days she took as leave such was my need to hang onto her. It was clearly a sellers market and an inconsistent cleaner was better than none, I had convinced myself.

On the surface the house looked clean and tidy but on closer inspection there were tell tale signs that not all was as it seemed. The dust bunnies and cobwebs were all too apparent on the cat’s head as he emerged from his foray along the back of the couch. It was a trick he somehow perfected when guests were in residence. People say that animals have a sense of humour – this wee guy was a riot. I was ashamed to open kitchen cupboards as their contents would surely have given the Environmental Agency and their team of microbiologists cause to condemn us for harbouring plague inducing growths. It was months before we realised that anything that got in the way of vacuuming the bedroom carpet was duly flipped underneath the bed by her very deft footwork. It was a veritable treasure trove of missing shoes, a tie, odd socks, a pair of knickers, a wire coat hanger and a mug with a penicillin culture thriving beautifully in it - and everything covered in a thick layer of asthma inducing dust.

We muddled along year after year. We’d frantically run around tidying up the evening before she was due. She’d arrive the next morning and move the dust around, have two tea breaks and snaffle half a packet of bourbons before having it away on her toes with her financial recompense. The arrangement worked, after a fashion. We could live with it, we told ourselves. After all, she kept the place ticking over, we agreed. Once a month I’d do under the beds and every six months I’d spend a weekend cleaning out kitchen cupboards and running a wet cloth around the skirting boards for a laugh - not. I'd spend my lost weekend cursing her and her tardiness and my inability to redress the imbalance. Then things changed.

On a Wednesday she arrived, took off her coat and hung it in the hall cupboard. I heard the familiar click of the kettle as she popped it on for her first tea break of the day. I’d forgotten it was Wednesday and that she would be here. I was surprised that I had heard her at all for I was sobbing so very hard that it was almost impossible to breath. I was in shock and deeply upset and I tried hard to rally myself, to stop crying, lest she should hear me. I found that I couldn’t stop; that my heart was so shattered and in pain that I would probably never stop crying, ever. I sobbed behind my bedroom door; she busied herself shuffling dust particles around. In time I heard a gentle rap on my door. Without waiting for a reply, she entered and walked towards the bedside cabinet. Making a space between the mountains of soggy tissues, she set down a cup of tea, before turning to look at my hugely swollen red eyes and blotchy face.

“He’s left me”, I managed by way of an explanation. “I know dear” she replied, by way of acknowledging it. She sat down on the edge of the bed and wrapped her arms around me. Her kindness overwhelmed me and I convulsed and continued to sob even harder than I thought possible, because somehow saying it out loud, made it that little bit more real. She stayed with me until my tears dried; she made me wash my face and brush my hair and swap my damp pyjamas for jogging pants and top. She left with my promise that I would get out of bed every morning and do the same. She came back every day for a week to make sure I did.

I found kindness and sympathy and help that day. A lifeline thrown from the most unlikely of sources and from someone I didn’t know was a friend until I really needed her.