Separation. Agreement. Two words that don’t belong next to each other. Two bifurcating lines that somehow fuse together further down the path. Really, there is something fundamentally oxymoronic about the phrase.
To be honest, I’m stuck on the agreement part.
When I look back on how we got to this bit – the bit of paper that I’ve left on the shelf for at least a month now – I can’t recall how or when the separation was agreed.
Ours was more of a misunderstanding. When Ben was about to come out of rehab almost three years ago, I panicked. I didn’t want him coming back home. I couldn’t face another relapse. I told him I needed to be sure – really sure – that he had stopped drinking. I suggested a temporary separation.
He said he wasn’t sure it would be good for his recovery to be back home with Rosie and me. I took this as an agreement to live apart for a while.
As the months went by, this agreement to live apart grew more and more solid. Ben still came round and spent a few nights at the flat (on the old futon that had been his sickbed for so long). Soon a few nights became one night.
Last summer we sold the flat. Ben, very kindly, let me use the profit from the flat to buy the house that Rosie and I now live in. This, despite the fact that Ben is effectively homeless. At the time, he said it was the only thing he could offer for Rosie’s future. I said I would pay him back one day.
Understandably, he took legal advice. And that advice led to the dusty piece of paper downstairs. The piece of paper that gives Ben a percentage interest in my house – the guarantee that I’ll pay him back when I sell this house one day.
This is his right. I understand that. It’s not the money that irks me. It’s the meandering way we got to this point. The gradual calcification that we gave in to in the absence of solid agreement.
Perhaps that piece of paper is just a formality. But for whatever reason, I can’t bring myself to read it. As soon as I try, I’m overwhelmed by inertia.
And I turn away.