fil – (French) n. wire or thread.
Some months back, I wrote a post about Philippe Petit‘s Man on Wire. Back then, I was using the concept of the highwire as a metaphor for the tricky negotiations I was compelled to undertake with Ben as he began the first stages of recovery from his addiction to alcohol.
They were difficult days, those, replete with misunderstandings, misperceptions and misgivings. Missed opportunities, too.
Several months on and the metaphor is as relevant as ever. We may not be arguing with one another quite as fiercely or frequently as before. We may not sit in brooding silence either. But this is because we rarely speak to one another. Instead, we use Rosie as an intermediary. She isn’t a go-between. She is simply a conduit – which is not the same thing.
Sample conversation (digression a)
Me: Rosie, maybe Daddy would like some fish? What do you think? Would he like some fish?
Rosie: (looks over at Ben)
Ben: (looking at Rosie) Daddy’s ok for now, love.
Me: Thanks for checking with Daddy, Rosie. That was very thoughtful of you.
Note that in the above conversation, we are all in the kitchen, which is roughly 3×2 metres or about twice the area of a disabled toilet. That is to say, within earshot of one another. Note also that Rosie doesn’t actually say anything to Ben, thus proving she isn’t a go-between.
Au moins, on est sur le fil (at least we are on the wire)
Yeah, but we’re still on the ruddy wire. Today, Ben and I had a little argument over something petty and not worth repeating here. I was annoyed at him and didn’t hide it. But an hour later, I rang his mobile which went straight to voice mail again and again.
I was worried. I thought: he’s doing this on purpose. Then I thought: what if he’s drinking again? When I finally got through, it turned out he was reading Roald Dahl‘s BFG to Rosie. He sounded a bit strange, but he was actually fine. I apologised for getting annoyed and he apologised for not planning things better.
You see? Still a balancing act, with plenty of canting to one or the other side (and a fair few accidents).
Random thoughts entering my mind during commute home today (digression b)
- I’ll just ring him now. O…. no answer.
- He’s probably on the phone or something. Maybe he’s trying to ring me. Ok, let me try again.
- Arsehole, why isn’t he answering? Because he’s an arsehole, that’s why!
- Wait, maybe he’s outside with Rosie and can’t reach his phone. I’ll let it ring for a while this time.
- What? Voice mail again? What the? Why is he always so predictable?
- (passing mound of dog dirt) I wish people would clean up after their beasts.
- Oh Jesus, I’m going to get run over by a bunch of cyclists.
- It’s great that Ben finally has a bike. Wish I did, too.
- Where should we go on holiday? Will it be the south or the north?
- I fancy a packet of crisps. Resist.
- Please let the boiler man come today.
- Finally reading Middlemarch. About time.
- How am I going to have a shower tomorrow without hot water? (Memories of travelling to Sri Lanka where I bathed using a single bucket of water are marshalled for later use.)
- Rosie… my little craziola.
- Answer the phone!!
Reprise – toujours sur le fil
What it means is this. We slide towards and away from one another, arms outstretched and flapping. Our shadows lunge away from us, overlapping with each other from time to time to create a strange, two-headed beast. Sometimes one or the other of us holds Rosie, swings her between us, reaches out to her to steady our footing. We are simultaneously above and on the ground. The wire does not move. It is here to stay.