This room where I sit and type, where I eat crisps after Rosie goes to sleep, where I watch iplayer on my computer late at night – this room feels unexpectedly empty now.
My home hollows itself out. The futon – that futon – is a desert populated by lone cushions that sag like wet thoughts on a sunny afternoon. The shelves slowly reveal books that have been hidden for years behind jars of old batteries and abandoned tools.
The floor is honeyed oak, shining still, the varnish stubborn and enduring. No more wine or beer spills, though if you look carefully, you might find red stains along the grooves between the boards by the sofa.
Today, I rang Ben on my way to collect Rosie from the childminder. Although we met on Sunday, we had little time to speak about anything significant. It was Ben’s birthday, and we’d decided to spend the day in South Kensington along with all the other families. We took in the rocket show (re-learning the laws of thermodynamics in the process) at the Science Museum, picnicked in the fountain courtyard at the V&A and observed hedgehogs in the Natural History Museum’s secret garden. A pleasant day, but one remarkably low on conversation.
So, I rang Ben today, chiefly because I knew he was meeting someone about housing, and I wanted to know how it had gone: okay, apparently.
Ben is sanguine about the whole thing. He accepts that this is the right way forward. He almost sounds like he’s looking forward to it. I guess he wants to see whether he can do it. I guess he wants to try to find his feet again – by himself.
I feel rather proud of him for opting to do that. It would have been easy to be bitter and sullen and blame me and anyone else. It would have been easy for him to demand to come home. I asked him whether he preferred to live in sheltered accommodation for a while, and he said yes. He said he wanted to see how it all went, that he was concerned about accessing after care at the rehab centre easily.
It all makes perfect sense.
But when he told me these things, a wave of melancholy slipped over me. Readers will recall an earlier post, in which I lamented the passing of my relationship. It turned out that it hadn’t quite come to that. But I’m wondering whether the end is in sight now, whether, like me, he is too afraid of going back there, and is choosing something else to break the pattern completely.
I think it’s the right thing to do. But it’s so very hard. I am tired – tired of carrying everything every day. My weeks run into one another, an endless cycle of work, cooking, laundry, grocery shopping, child-ferrying, etc etc. I want to just lie down and sleep for 12 hours, but this luxury, like the luxury of long showers, is a thing of the past. What I really want is for Ben to come back and be healthy again so he can help me. So we can finally get on with being a family.
But this is fantasy. We are here, treading a path that takes us further and further away from one another.
We keep telling each other it doesn’t have to be forever. We placate ourselves with suggestions that these arrangements are probably temporary – that we’ll see how it all goes. We leave things open. We are open wounds, searching for space to heal. We are hollow rooms, each without the other, waiting, thinking, searching, reading the shadows that stretch and fade against these empty walls.