Chapter 4

You must write, she tells me. When the mere thought of her sucks the breath from me, I must write. Write about every demon that possesses me. Write every time I need to cleanse my mind of the toxicity that insists on invading my thoughts. Write to purge myself of my burdens. And so I do.

I think she thinks that by doing this, I will be able to write her out of my life. As conveniently as writing a cheque: amount, date, sign; transaction completed. That’s not possible. See, she is inside me. Fulfilling a void I was never really aware existed until we met. And I do the same for her. There is no ego or arrogance about it from either of us: it simply is. Together we feel whole. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, almost transcendental in its intensity. Beyond friendship, beyond sex; beyond even love, which is what I always assumed was the ultimate feeling of satisfaction with and devotion to another person. There is something that instils a calmness and serenity in me because she has seen the bad yet accepts me as I am – and I her. There is a bond forged from trauma and tribulation, from overcoming experiences that should have crushed us but didn’t. Things that don’t necessarily need to be said, but if they are, can be said without fear of reproach, of belittling, of being told what a terrible person that makes us. Where love and trust and security and safety are not just aspirations, but the bedrock of what it means to be together.

I think of her constantly: of what she’s doing, both in any given moment and as a whole, for me. She has given herself to me in every way except physically, and then, in an act of love I struggle to comprehend, has pushed me, encouraged me to make my marriage work, for the sake of my children. She can’t know this, but that only makes me love her more deeply. She’s so utterly unselfish, and I have repeatedly trampled on her heart as a result of my own internal conflicts. How many times can I be expected to pull her close and then when she’s at her rawest, her most vulnerable, I chuck another hand grenade into the mix and blow her to pieces?

In turn, my biggest worry about us is that for her, I’m not man enough. She craves strength and stability. I understand that a man must provide both, and I aspire to be those things, yet still – despite my flaws being pointed out and my own reasonable levels of self-awareness – I find myself slipping into old patterns learned and honed over a lifetime, oozing weakness and indecisiveness, anathema to her desire for me. To the man she needs.

Regularly, I start messages. Delete them. Strip away to the subtext and too often they’re about one thing: trying to alleviate pain, the pain of being without her. Selfish. I know some of the pain that she is enduring. I’m feeling it too. But on top of that pain, she has to endure the thought that I am supposed to make it work with someone else. I have no right to encroach on her with my torment when I’m sharing a life she wants with me with someone else.

In another life, she says. It’s enough in this life to have met and shared a moment. Our second in time. Me, I don’t believe in reincarnation, except on an atomic level. We are all made of stars. But as to this quintessence of dust, I think the essence of humanity lies in taking the opportunity, during this lightbulb flash we call existence: to eke out the most from our lives. Ultimately, the only tally that truly counts is opportunities taken and those we missed. It’s the latter which weigh heaviest on our minds.

So no. The notion that we may have an opportunity to be together in another life brings me no comfort. This is the only life I’ll ever know. I don’t mean that in a nihilistic way. In fact I think that recognising that we only have a short time in existence gives an appreciation for life in a way that those who rely on the promises of an afterlife for spiritual fulfilment don’t get.

Now, as ever, I wonder what she is doing. Is she once more building up her walls, retaining and reinforcing the remnants of self-preservation I’ve systematically decimated over the last few months? Is she cursing the moment we met, the ensuing emotional turbulence where for every glorious high there is almost always a painful low? Are we doomed to our “moment” or could there be a future?

Me, I have many regrets, but never this. Not once. It’s that transcendental feeling, you see. I consider myself privileged to have even experienced it.

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