Exactly a week after my husband has walked out on us, we are meeting to discuss All The Things. It is cold, detached and formal, and I am struggling to believe that our life together boils down to this. This stilted bargaining for things that no longer hold any meaning for me while I desperately search his face for any trace of the man I once knew. I am denied any semblance of familiarity; it has all been replaced by clipped professionalism that I do not recognize. I ask him why he couldn’t have stayed, why we couldn’t have worked this out for the sake of the children. He looks at me somewhat incredulously and tersely explains that the last few years have been for the sake of the children, he hasn’t been happy for a long time. I quickly realize that I am the whale and he is the hunter, far from bringing any kind of closure, answers are merely harpoons in his hands, and my heart is being brutally ripped apart. I stumble on, regardless, desperately sifting among the ashes for something, anything, that might be salvageable. I implore him for some way back, some way of fixing this, of getting some help. In return I get a blithe Uhhh, no. A jolt of recognition comes to me, finally. This is the same way he had always ended any argument when he thought I was being completely ridiculous. It was his final word, conversation over.
Yes, there had been arguments, and I am the first to admit that I had my own faults. Most recently, I had been consumed by the trial by fire that comes with the first few years of motherhood. With two under two for a while, it had, at times, been overwhelming. So yes, there had been fights. But there had also been as many apologies and promises to do better next time and hopes for the future. There had been weekends away, and hands held and love made. There had been happiness, and laughter and hours of fun with our dynamic and endlessly entertaining boys. For him to sit there and make statements about how he should have had the guts to leave years ago feels completely disingenuous. Mind you, there is nothing about this entire process that doesn’t feel disingenuous.
He is reiterating the importance of me transferring the power account into my name. It is risky, he laments, to keep it in my name when you could rack up a huge bill and not pay it and then run away. Then it would be my credit rating that gets affected. I’m too distracted to be outraged. Incredulous at his priorities. I know we have been tip-toeing around the most important issue and I am trying to prepare myself for what is coming. But when it comes up, I am both relieved and surprised. We make mutually agreeable arrangements for the boys swiftly and without fanfare. He then leaves swiftly and covertly while the boys are distracted. That’s it then. Just like that. We have now sorted All The Things.
It has been 24 hours since he left me without saying goodbye. Actually, that is being a tad generous considering there were two small boys that he also left behind. He must hate me. It becomes my mantra. He must hate me so, so much to rip our lives apart like this, especially our babies. The snippets of conversation from him that I am actually privy to seem to confirm this. It is too late, he tells me. Our time for talking is through. My dignity fails me and I find myself begging; imploring him to see that the past 9.6 years of our marriage can outweigh what he might be feeling now. But his answer slays me: I just feel like I have wasted the past ten years of my life on you. I understand that message loud and clear, like a lightening bolt through my soul. It is over. There is no coming back from this. My self loathing is now around 99% complete. I feel like death would be preferable, but alas, there is no time for such hysterics: all that is in my immediate view are two small, beautiful boys who cannot understand where, how and why their daddy has gone.
Is this like a game? I see their faces desperately trying to ask me. The question behind the question. The need for knowing without being able to understand. It makes my heart ache beyond anything I ever thought possible. I want to tell them the truth but the truth just reads like a terribly maudlin and messed up Dr Suess story: “Daddy loves you, right, but he just ran away to somewhere else, which is a terribly unloving thing to do, sure, but you haven’t done anything wrong. It doesn’t sound like he will ever live here anymore because he clearly doesn’t love Mummy and more but hey, it will be like one big party when you get to visit Daddy again, as soon as he feels like talking to Mummy about that!” No. The truth isn’t really a complete option so I find myself thrown into a crash course in swallowing my feelings and my pride and becoming my husband’s (ex-husband’s?) greatest cheerleader. Daddy loves you so much. Daddy will always love you. You haven’t done anything wrong. Sometimes Daddies just need some space, and you will see him really, really soon. It hits me that I shouldn’t have been the one explaining this. That this isn’t us, we were always going to be a family no matter what. I rage inside at the powerlessness that I feel, that I had no choice in the way mine and my children’s futures are now going to go. I try and think of the last time I ate. I can’t remember but it does momentarily distract me. My big boy only wants to sleep in my bed. I don’t even think twice: there is a lot more room now. For a moment I am floored at how this was even an issue when we all went to bed last night, battling our son to stay in his own bed, to encourage his independence and to give us parents some space, physically and figuratively. All we need now is the comfort of each other; such noble quests for growing up seem superfluous and ridiculous now.