With Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s passing late last night, a memory. I open an old copy of One hundred years of solitude and find something unexpected. A note written in my handwriting, addressed to Ben. I gave him this book a few months after we got together. At the time, I didn’t realise how prescient an act that was.
Solitude. It’s what marked us. And what claimed us, too. We were never a typical couple. We never hung out. Not really. Back then he was a music student, down in the practice room for eight to ten hours a day. I spent my time reading, writing, and getting on with my own stuff.
We moved in together knowing it wouldn’t break us, because we spent so little time together anyway. We overlapped between the hours of 2 and 8am. Back to back. Asleep.
In some ways, it was the perfect relationship for me. I tend towards the misanthropic. I crave solitude. So, I found a way to be with someone while simultaneously being alone. But it was a bit too much alone, even for me.
In those days, I wrote a diary, each page filled with the burden of solitude. The years passed, but the entries remained uncannily similar. Even this blog isn’t so different from those early thoughts of long ago.
Here is an extract taken from my diary shortly after Rosie was born and before I knew about Ben’s alcoholism. It could have been written any day, really.
“It is a funny thing, this life. It gives and it takes away. What it has given me has been so wonderful, so beyond what I might have imagined. Yet in my greed, I crave more. And it is this craving that leaves me despondent with grief. I need not detail the colours of my disappointment. I am locked in a room that has little within it that can be called ‘entertaining’. This is my marriage. As a mother, I am elated. As a wife – widowed. This is the reality I live in. So has it been, so will it be. Forever and ever. Amen.”
Marquez’s One hundred years is an ode to love and the solitariness of experience. It was a fitting gift, given some 17 years ago, to the man I loved in solitude.