One man’s truth is just another man’s fiction
– K. Ryder
Soliloquy of a Fading Light
I dread the flashing red light on my phone each time I arrive at my flat. You know, to tell me there’s a message, and when I play it, it’s a police officer telling me that my wife has been killed in a car accident, or that she’s lying in a coma in the hospital, because now that we’re no longer together I’m not first on anyone’s list of names to call, so everyone just mistakenly thinks that I don’t care or am not interested.
It frightens me so much that instead of checking the message, now I just delete any that come in. Just in case it’s that one.
Every time I see one coming towards me – that distinctive grill, with those four interlocking silver rings – my heart squeezes shut for a moment. I check the plate, even if the car is a different colour or model. I don’t know why. Then I look to see who’s behind the wheel because… well, I don’t really know why I do that either. I drop my head or turn away. It’s never her. One day it will be though – I know that for sure – because in a city this small, there’s only so many times two people who are trying not to find each other can be in different places.
Her car is dark blue, and the ones I usually see are red or white, or dolphin grey. That’s actually the colour. It’s funny, because that’s what she called those potatoes – you know, the sliced ones with the cream and garlic. Dauphinoise. I think they’re French. But they were always dolphin potatoes to her, and it didn’t take long before they were dolphin potatoes to me as well. That’s how relationships work, you see. Now my brain just defaults that way, and it’s a habit I can’t let go. The same goes for croquettes. Those breadcrumb-fried suppository-shaped potatoes. She pronounces them crotch-ettes. She always has – even before I came along – and it’s so damn cute I’m smiling even as I type it. Maybe it’s a potato thing.
I count them when I’m out. The cars, I mean. Sometimes it seems there are no other makes of car in the world. I see them wherever I turn. On my way to work this morning I saw thirty-nine of them, which doesn’t help either because that’s just how old she is. And that just makes me think of her.
I turn on the radio and the jockey is playing Dancing Queen, which would be fine, because I quite like that song, only it reminds me of the first day we met when I sang that to her in a karaoke bar after she had put my name down for it. Then the song ends and now it’s something by Don Henley, the lead singer of The Eagles, and that takes me back to our wedding day, and our first dance. I could keep a nightclub alive for a whole weekend with the number of songs that I can’t stand to hear anymore.
So I don’t listen to the radio these days.
My grandma still has my wedding photograph hanging on the wall in her living room, even though she has known about the break-up for several months now. She doesn’t seem to realise that every time I walk in and see it she may as well be driving a spike into my stomach. She says she keeps it there because she has nothing else to put in its place, but I don’t know if that’s a good enough reason anymore.
Tomorrow I’m taking it off her wall. Not that that will do me any favours however, because I’ll just end up taking it back to my place and hanging it there instead, where I will see it every day instead of every weekend.
I still keep a picture of her in my wallet too, but there’s no logic attached to it. Sometimes I’ll look at it long enough to blur my vision, and that never takes long. Maybe grandma has a point, because I have nobody to put in her place either.
I lost my wedding ring a few months ago; somewhere at work between the first coffee and the last. When I looked down and it wasn’t there, I cried like I didn’t know how to stop, even though we had already separated and people told me I shouldn’t have been wearing it anyway. So now, I wear a plain silver keyring on that finger. It’s a close fit, and if you just catch a glance, from a distance you’d never know. Of course, occasionally someone will stare long enough to figure out that it’s not really a wedding band at all, and then they’ll look at me like maybe I’m not holding it together in the way that they thought.
Because crazy comes in all sorts of colours. Sanity on the other hand – that’s crystal.
I stopped going to the movies a while back too, because even in the darkness, there’s nowhere to hide. Every film I see stars someone who was in something I saw before. With her. And that just takes me back to happier times. Likewise, there are a lot of television shows I just can’t watch anymore.
I still sleep on the left side of the bed, even though I’ve had it all to myself for too long. I feel strange if I wake up and find I’ve rolled over to where she should be.
But I suppose that’s what happens after you spend a large chunk of your life with someone. They become a part of you in a very tangible way – like a limb you didn’t even know you had, but now you can’t live without – and it’s something you don’t even realise until they’re no longer there.
So I go to work every morning and I do my job. I laugh when my boss tells a joke. I stay back when I really don’t need to. I pay my electric bill just before they switch my power off, and I run at least one red light a week. My mum asks how I am and I tell her I’m fine. I wander around stores for hours and never buy a thing. I stay in touch with my friends just enough so that they think I’m okay. I play tennis. Read books. Draw pictures. Bake cookies. Make origami swans. I build jigsaw puzzles, and I don’t even care if there’s a piece missing. Hier soir, j’ai appris cela en français. I take long baths and I go to bed early.
I do all those things because that’s what I have to do to Get Over It, and that is, of course, the ultimate goal.
And I do a lot of that too. At first it helps a little, but nothing comes out the way it should, and very soon it doesn’t help at all.
And soon after that, it’s what I’ve just written.
And therein lies the irony.
And there’s that flashing red light again.