We arrived yesterday morning, and aside from puncturing the milk bottle I’d bought at the airport, and spilling it all over the front steps, things went largely to plan.
The first thing I did was vacuum and do a load of washing. I also cleared the laundry that had been left on the stand since I left for Canada. We did the groceries which, thankfully, are just a bus ride up the road and back, had lunch, and then cuddled up on the sofa. When I folded away Ben’s clothes, it was with a satisfaction I haven’t felt in a very long time.
Amazingly, Rosie managed to stay awake for most of the day. We slept for 14 hours last night and woke up this morning feeling like we had finally arrived.
Having the flat to ourselves – no Ben on the futon, no cans on the bookshelf, no ubiquitous TV noise – has been wonderful. I can sit here in the living room and type in silence. I can go out and come back with Rosie without fearing the worst in between. He’s not here. Let me repeat. HE IS NOT HERE.
And I love it. I love being on my own with Rosie. I love having this space to myself. I love that I finally have some peace of mind.
For Rosie, Ben’s absence is uncomfortable and unfamiliar. ‘Where’s my daddy?’ she asks over and over again. When I explain he’s at the doctor, she asks me why. The why’s don’t stop until she is given an answer she can accept. ‘But why does he need to stay there?’ she asks. ‘So that he doesn’t drink any more coffee,’ I say. (She calls beer cans ‘coffee’). Eventually, she asks me why he drinks: ‘I don’t know,’ I say. ‘Ask your father.’ ‘But he isn’t here,’ she says, distraught. ‘You can ask him when you see him.’ ‘When?’ ‘Today.’ This finally silences us both.
The truth is, it isn’t all rosy with Rosie. She has chucked several tantrums since our return – the screaming, hitting, biting kind that knocks me over and leaves me confused. She has told me she hates me more times in the past 36 hours than she has ever before. In fact, I don’t think she’s ever said it before. She’s four years old.
How do I rationalise these fits? At the time, I don’t. I shout back sometimes, or I take away one and then another privilege, until there is a list of banned activities as long as my forearm. Each time I remove a privilege, she tantrums again. And she says she would rather be with Ben than me.
Today, I took Rosie to visit him. I am not permitted contact with him until later this month, but our phone calls -which are frequent – are dismal. Ben keeps talking about the day rehab centre he attended before. He tells me how much better the group sessions were there than at his current centre. He says he may not stay more than two months. He is thinking of finding somewhere else.
I told him he can’t come back here. I’m not sure how much of what he is saying is dissembling and how much is genuine. Is he serious about recovery? Or is he looking for an excuse not to recover? Whatever it is, it isn’t my problem.
Rosie was much happier when I picked her up from the centre after her hour with Ben. Apparently, they played table tennis on the floor, hide and seek, and had a chat about Canada. She asked me whether she could visit Ben tomorrow. I said, no.
Rosie loves Ben. Ben loves Rosie. Of course they do. But what Rosie doesn’t understand is that Ben is where he is because of Ben. I’m coming round to understanding that one only now. So, how can I expect her to get it?
Years from now, she will look back and realise how unfair this whole thing was. She may even understand why it happened – why I am the way I am. Until then, I’ll have to accept she needs a bag to punch. I guess I’m old enough to qualify, yeah?