These past few weeks have been unremarkable (aside from my brief reincarnation as the Incredible Hulk a few days back, that is). Ben comes and goes, much like the postman, only he camps out on the futon for a few days in between the coming and the going. He also takes Rosie to gymnastics on Sundays and collects her from school on Mondays.
He does more than that – much more. He cooks and does some essential cleaning – stuff I would never have time to get to, like mowing the lawn or cleaning the oven (yes, he really did clean the oven).
These are all helpful things. No doubt, his way of contributing given he hasn’t the means to contribute financially. Still, I can’t help wondering whether they are also his way of compensating for being distant and unapproachable.
As the sun finally shows its face and the heat creeps into our bones, I find my thoughts travelling somewhere else, back to those moments of escape we thrived on so many years ago: a beach in Mombassa, a balcony in Kerala, a hilltop in Chiang Mai, twilight in Perth’s King’s Park, a Parisian ferris wheel, a ruin in Sri Lanka, a beluga whale in eastern Quebec, a foggy moor in the Lake District, the banks of the Thames. On and on and on and on – so many paths beaten in curiosity, so many chances to witness another part of this world and our place in it.
And when I’m back there, treading that route in bite-sized vignettes, I think how easy it would be to just slide these two halves together: the past and the present, and simply move forward. Why waste the last precious moments we have in this world contorted with bitterness? Why not close our eyes to the past and agree that we need to make this the best it can be, because this is all we have?
Trick of the light
Invariably, these thoughts dance up when I’m on my way home. They catch me when I’m alone, staring into an impossibly blue sky, or while I’m walking through the park with Rosie, both of us made stupid by the sun glancing off the fields.
And then Ben comes round and says the usual 10 words to me. He lies on the couch, nesting under a green blanket, and murmurs from time to time. It isn’t conversation. He speaks as if no one wants to listen. And because I can’t hear him, and because it is too much of an effort to keep asking him to speak a little louder because I’m deaf in one ear, I don’t want to listen. And if, by chance, we look at each other, his expression is flat and uninterested.
These thoughts, these memories, are from another era. They are aliens from another world, suddenly made visible by a trick of the light. Because when I’m sitting next to Ben on the couch, with the TV tuned to some dreadful piece of drivel (white noise that he uses to lull himself to sleep), the feasability of sliding those two halves together vanishes, replaced by an ever-widening crater.
Some things are irreparable.