I don’t care much for surprises, so this is how it goes: There’s a lot of sad stuff, and some funny stuff and I think it ends on a happy note. It starts like this:
The second worst day of my life I realised my wife was cheating.
And it ends like this:
Which isn’t such a bad place to be.
So. The Second worst day of my life I realised my wife was cheating. The first worst came a few days later. It was a Wednesday and broke the little left of me.
Lacking self-respect and the ability not to cry, I’d taken the day off work. I sat at our shared laptop, opened up Hotmail and saw M had left herself logged in.
I wouldn’t usually read her email, but it was a few days after what I’ve written about before. I had a fascination with her so- recently-secret life. He I knew by name, and from a few photos. She, it seemed, I didn’t know at all.
The inbox and sent box were overflowing with words that began before Christmas, two months longer than she told me. They were hard to understand. There were gaps, likely filled in with phone calls and texts and intimate talks. I was jumping from inbox to sent box, trying to make sense of it, reading too fast.
I needed to know everything at once, but was also scared of what I was going to find out.
Which, when you think of it, is kinda funny.
And the language was difficult too, because it was written in the secret language of lovers. I didn’t have a lover. She didn’t love me. I was just finding that out.
And here’s a funny part. I was wearing her bathrobe! I’d thrown it on without thinking, even though it didn’t really fit. I probably looked a comical sight, sitting in a too small bathrobe, reading her emails and concentrating hard just to breathe!
The big things should have hurt me most, but they didn’t. The week I believed she spent in Paris with a friend was actually spent in Poland with him. But it felt too comical to be sad, too ridiculous.
For a week, I didn’t know what country my wife was in!
The little things killed me. “I want to talk to you about everything” was just a throwaway line, but that one broke my heart.
And there was so much! More than an email everyday. Furtive planning, shared jokes, flirting, reminiscing, on and on they went. And on and on I read. And I was in them, too. Everyone is a bit part player in somebody else’s life, and so it seemed I was in M’s.
“He’s downstairs making some tea, so I have to be quick..”
“He just asked me what I was laughing at – I couldn’t tell him what you wrote to me! ;)”
“He doesn’t know anything”
I read those over and over. The shock meant that the pain didn’t register immediately, it took time. I had to fill the time, so I read those over and over.
Next was a funny bit I don’t remember. I found myself sitting on the floor. At some point, who knows when, I had to have fallen off the chair! I was struggling to breathe and my hands were shaking and my tears were stinging my eyes. I must have looked awful. And probably kinda funny too.
It took hours and hours to get through them all. After I’d finished reading I cleaned out our hamster’s cage, which is kinda funny because it’s not what you’d expect someone to do after learning all the intimate details of their wife’s infidelity.
But I’d forgotten to do it the day before, and it needed to be cleaned. It was getting dirty and she was probably sad, so I cleaned it and that’s the last funny bit. Crying man in woman’s bathrobe cleans out hamster cage. I’m sure I’ve looked better.
After I finished I sent a text to M. I asked her to try finding another place to stay that night. There was no big confrontation. The drama of the day was done.
And now it’s 2 years later, and I can finally write this down. I’m not broken anymore, pretty much, and 6000 miles away. I’ve learned about myself. I understand more about my flaws, and why things happened. I’m proud of myself too, that I never shouted at her, never let myself be bitter. And I’m proud that I’ve started a new life somewhere else, taken a risk and got some reward.
Most of all, I’m proud that I’ve come far enough to say that I’m proud.
Which isn’t such a bad place to be.
There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
Listening to music can be like cauterizing a wound. It burns and it stings but the purpose is curative. If you’re cut open by infidelity then I want you by Elvis Costello. Beginning like a love song, it quickly collapses into the sound of someone clawing at their chest, trying to dig out and discard their heart. Three words run through the song, visceral, broken, angry, defeated.
I want to know the things you did that we do too, I want you
I might as well be useless for all it means to you, I want you
A rival to Something I can never have by Nine Inch Nails as saddest song ever.
Self-pity, like saunas, should only be wallowed in for a short while, but having the person you love inexpressibly, hurt you so viciously can leave you conflicted.
For bitterness, (but to be kept at bay) When did you stop loving me? (When did I stop loving you?) by Marvin Gaye.
And for sadness, the kind that paralyses all but your tear ducts, You don’t know how lucky you are by Keaton Henson. An acoustic guitar, a heartbroken voice and an almost unbearably sad video.
As time passes, open wounds become scars. I can never be by (the male Amy Winehouse) Maverick Sable, drips with regret, but is hardened by resilience.
And lastly, if you’re British you’ll know that no-one is ever quite so succinct in song as Jarvis Cocker. TV Movie by Pulp is at once achingly stark, lonely, dark, wry and moving.
my life has become
a hangover without end.
A movie, made for tv:
Bad dialogue, bad acting, no interest.
Too long with no story and no sex.
Dear M, it still hurts, but I think any anger has gone and I never let the bitterness best me. I think more about the future than the past now, and though it terrifies me it’s good to feel alive again. Goodbye my lover, goodbye my old best friend.
Any other songs for the broken-hearted? Leave them in the comments below.
Music is the art which is most nigh to tears and memory
Her stuff isn’t strewn around my room anymore. There are exactly 50% less ciggy butts in the ashtray, and one less glass of wine. It’s been a disgraceful, debauched and deeply lovely week.
But now it’s quiet, and empty because G is gone.
More than things, she isn’t here, and I’m even emptier than the room.
She left yesterday. Our friend P came to the airport too. He was picking up a new teacher, so the taxi on the way was free. G and me both share the benevolent luck of coming by freebies easily.
She left, and I won’t be hearing laters, taters anymore. I waved and turned and walked away and felt the physical distance grow. In the taxi back I glanced up at the sky, hoping, like a fool, to see a plane.
I filled my evening with friends and filled myself with drink. Somehow, still emptily.
And she talked of coming back, and she might, but I think it was meant to make our parting easier. I think that I know that it’s over.
It was intense and it was beautiful. Days spent entirely in this now empty room.
We talked each other inside out. Made the most of every moment. We did, for this last week, what people so often forget to do: We lived.
Her wry smile, wit and eloquence are far, far away. And it hurts that I might not see her again, to amuse and be amused, be awed and to kiss. But I’m stronger because of her. And I’ll remember when she said:
You’re gorgeous and you’re perfect.
Not true. But she thought it, and the thought was so big and uncontainable that she said it. Here in my empty room I’ll always be able to think of her and smile.
“If there’s any kind of magic in this world… it must be in the attempt of understanding someone, sharing something. I know it’s almost impossible to succeed… but who cares, really? The answer must be in the attempt”
Celine, “Before Sunrise”
I thought anniversaries were over for me, but here are my one year ago words:
My life, in the last few weeks, has come to resemble a newspaper and not a story. Gone is the structure, the narrative, the aims or the arcs. Life, my life, is now a series of unconnected, meaningless events.
This blog won’t always be so bleak, but I have a little more gloom to gift you.
My wife has cut me out of her life without telling me.
After eight years she has cheated on me, and is now in the process of leaving me for good. Not for better but definitely worse.
If pain should be embraced and burned as fuel for our journey, then I’m at the beginning of a very long trip.
I knew something was rotten in the same way an animal is aware that it’s dying. A dog is incapable of equating it’s deteriating condition to the end of it’s life. It merely experiences every moment in isolation, each increasingly worse.
And I too have now experienced something dying, without being aware of it’s impending death. Life is full of experiences!
This is a blog with a purpose, because I no longer have one. In writing it, I hope I might find some humour, some insight or, at the very least, a little comfort.
This blog will not be bitter. I may be betrayed, hurt, embarrassed, depressed, angry, jealous and broken, but bitter I am not. Hearts aren’t to be hardened even if they are made to be broken.
This blog will be honest and avoid self-pity, though in the interests of honesty, into this blog some self-pity may slip.
This blog isn’t about revenge because I don’t want to dig two graves.
M has diligently cut away at the threads that connected us, and set herself free, floating away and leaving me among the debris of our former life. I am, as I write, empty and alone.
I’m at the end of something and the beginning of something else, and I’ve no idea about either. And so begins the trip…
I postpone death by living, by suffering, by error, by risking, by giving, by losing.
Halong Bay is a good place to be: Mysterious, vast and eerie. Two thousand limestone islets jutting out of lagoon blue water, echoing into the distance. Sailing through them, you expect at any moment to hear the roar of King Kong. The sense of being at the edge of the World surrounds you like the rocks.
I sailed on a Chinese style junk to take me around for two days. With a capacity of thirty I expected good company. Instead, only seven. Myself and three couples.
Yet more hard practice in the getting-used-to-being-single-stakes.
They were nice and I was polite, making sure not to ruin their romance by my presence too much. Sitting on the top of the junk, on a long empty deck alone was good, in any case. Silence and movement. It’s getting easier to be alone.
In the early hours we fished for squid, while drinking Hanoi Vodka. It’s a drink which, along with getting you blindingly drunk, (or at the very least, blinding you) almost certainly has a practical use as drain cleaner. Not for the feint of liver.
The squid teased us but we caught one, cheering the victory like it was Moby Dick himself. We talked, and smoked, and joked and drank, seven people outside of time and the World for a while. A little light in the middle of the black Bay.
Afterwards we smoked in silence for a while. Each of us alone in our own thoughts.
And my thoughts were these: Right now, in this short silence, all of them are alone like me. And I’m together with them in being alone.
Halong Bay is a good place to be.
I usually keep talking to kill the silence, in just the same way as I keep doing, to kill the thoughts. Almost everyone who I wanted to tell about our seperation has now been told. Some know about M’s adultery. Nobody knows what to say.
So I keep talking to kill the silence, doing to kill the thoughts.
Jesus, people say, I don’t know what to say. The scale and severity of the cheating really does knock people cold. I find it comforting. That the lies and deceit can kick people so hard, people who have not been directly stabbed by them, makes me feel stronger than I am.
I haven’t screamed, shouted, smashed or struck out. I’ve stayed calm. A friend who’s a counsellor tells me my reaction, my lack of anger, is unusual. I suppose I’ve always liked to be different.
I overheard a woman in the theatre yesterday. She asked, in an opulent, privileged pleased-with-ones-self voice;
Would you give me the number of the police station please?
The staff acquiesed.
I think my bag has been stolen, she continued. I left it in the taxi and the driver was black.
She was tall, slim and elegantly dressed, yet her face was marked with the sourness of a thousand frowns. The body of a swan with the head of a vulture, I thought. Nothing as bitter as the bile in her throat.
Tomorrow M will come back here. She is selfish and a liar, but not as bad as the woman in the theatre. Her new place isn’t ready for two weeks and she’s nowhere else to stay.
A lot of people I know think I shouldn’t let her back. And I wonder: Should my kindness not be confused for weakness? Or my weakness not for kindness?
I need a little anger. I need to feel a little less sad about who’s leaving my life.
I’ve worried about him using you, of you ending up all alone. And then it struck me: In what way have you changed? Perhaps he will leave his wife and kids, and perhaps one day you’ll cheat on him too. I think I’d probably like that, and I’m sure that you would cope.
fire. It burns it all clean.
I could see in M’s face tonight the old woman she’ll one day be. I looked at her features and form. I watched her fingers as she opened her purse, slim and coiled, spiralling out like spider legs, the deftness of her movements that once seemed so elegant and poised now dark and menacing.
Has she aged in the past month? Am I seeing lines that aren’t really there? Or has a veil been lifted and the truth been revealed?
It might be hard for me to see someone so delicate and pretty so capable of doing me so much harm.
We saw the psychological show stopper Derren Brown. The tickets were bought when times were not so bad, and in the great tradition of dysfuncional behaviour we attended the performance together.
The show was the usual, though no less astounding, mesmerising fair from Mr Brown. A mix of misdirection, suggestion and psychology. Much of the seemingly magical relies on the audience’s belief in it’s own free will, a position proved pitiful by the great man’s reveals on how thoughts can be controlled.
How much of what we think, do we actually think, and how much is already thought for us?
Perhaps I’m simply spiteful. Perhaps she’s just as beautiful as she ever was, but I no longer want to see. Tonight she seemed frail, but less a butterfly, more a moth.
Has she always been ugly on the inside, or am I seeing what my mind deems right for me to see?
A few more weeks and she’ll be largely out of my life.
I doubt everything, and as you’re the cause I hope you won’t mind my distrust of you. But of course, you won’t, because what could my opinion of you matter to you now?
“The paradox of reality is that no image is as compelling as the one which exists only in the mind’s eye.”
The night that I knew that my wife was cheating was not the nicest of nights.
She vanished from me a long time ago, back in January, when she stopped smiling. The smile that says I love you, the secret shared look that no-one else sees.
The intimate milisecond when eyes might meet and everything you’ve ever shared is there.
She faded out of my life in the last few months, reappearing like a shadow of herself, emotionally somewhere else with someone else, likely staring into his eyes.
And how, I wonder, did the two of them smile?
She came home late night after night, went on trips with flimsy excuses and for a while I thought to myself: Most men would think she was cheating, but M wouldn’t do that, she’d never do that…
Yes, life can be so ironic! And how trusting is a fool.
And now a moment, if I may, to add an extra layer: He’s married. Married, with two young children.
I wish you ill and I wish you well and I don’t know where I am. I wish you’d been less cowardly and ended us in January. And I wish I’d hugged you more, and kissed you more because I won’t, anymore. And I can’t imagine doing so with anyone else.
The words that told me M was in the arms of someone else were conveyed via text: “Staying at a friends house tonight”.
Prosaic, brutal, cold.
But if I was smarter, more intuitive or less human I might have known from the wan smile in the restaurant in January. The one that said, “I’m smiling because I ought to smile but I don’t want to be here with you.”
And now you aren’t here with me, and I’m not smiling, but I can conceive of a time in the far future when I might. Had I done what you have done, I’d feel undeserving of ever curling my lips upward again.
“I can imagine no more comfortable frame of mind for the
conduct of life than a humorous resignation”
~W. Somerset Maugham~
Is it weakness or kindness to feel compassion when someone has hurt you?
M called round this evening to collect some things. She wanted to know what my parents and sister, whom I’d just recently told about the infidelity and seperation, had to say.
I can’t deny a certain spiteful glee at unleashing the words theat they used. To expose her to them was unkind, but her reaction was perhaps kharma dealing me a fair hand. I felt no pleasure, only regret, at the way she crumpled and cried.
I hugged her as she did so, but it wasn’t comfortable. I hugged her in the way I imagine Prince Philip of England would hug someone. He’s no doubt familiar with the concept and has a rudimentary familiarity with the dynamics involved, but his execution would, as was mine, be somewhat awkward and stilted.
Tonight was another evening out, a leaving party for a friend due to departs this City. We attended an event celebrating Eritrean culture as the only two non-Eritreans to begin. My knowledge of Eritrea was sadly quite lacking but I can now confidently expouse the virtues of their cuisine, and dancing.
I also made a friend. A five year old who found the funniest thing in the World to be bouncing a balloon against my head. You can only envy someone who hasn’t yet been distracted by all the nonsense. He seemed to enjoy my exaggerated, comedic responses to his repeated inflatable attacks. He might not have enjoyed it as much as me. If only life were as easy as being hit by a balloon.
I wonder where you were tonight. You would have enjoyed it.
Place in matter and in flesh the least of the values, for these are things that hold death and must pass away. Discover in all things that which shines and is beyond corruption
Cognitive Dissonance might be the reason why Harold Camping still believes in the end of the World, and it might also be why I so failed to see M’s infidelity.
She didn’t try to hide it, just relied on my absolute trust in the goodness of her character. I knew something was wrong, but thanks to my brain and adaptive preference formation, I convinced myself that I was being unkindly suspicious.
This evening I went out and felt out of place and lost. I don’t want to be a single person. I did all of the single person things and bought the t-shirt in my twenties and I have no desire to go through the games all over again.
Life as a thirty-something single is daunting. In your twenties the rollercoaster is just an exhilerating ride. Post-thirty all you can imagine are the nuts and bolts coming apart and a vicious gruesome death befalling you at high speed.
You have stolen the happy memories of us, you have cheapened our entire relationship. You have made yourself someone who deserves to be unhappy and you have made me a fool, an idiot and a loser in the eyes of everyone, including myself.
Relationships are, of course, always hard. My friend told me of a friend of hers who had confided a problem with her boyfriend.
“What’s wrong?” She enquired, imagining something mundane. The response:
“He murdered a duck with a stick”
Maybe I shouldn’t worry about being single forever when men who murder ducks with sticks have girlfriends. At the moment, however, I still only want to be with M.
Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage