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When I planned my journey, I thought that everything would be done and dusted by September. But my solicitor was woefully misguided. As time went on, our case got messy. It became clear this was not the sort of case she thought it would be.
I left the UK and I had no divorce. The legals were not finalised. The finances were not settled. I wrote my letter to the judge to explain my absence and went on my way. My ex had known since January I would be leaving the country in September, plans discussed in an emotional meeting in the vaults of a pub by Borough High Street when I agreed to go and support him before he met his new therapist. He’d reached across the table and held my had to his face, smelt my perfume, said ‘she isn’t you’ of the other girl, asked me if I would wait until he was better and then give him another chance. I’d even suggested he join me in America. When we reached his stop on the tube he had not got off. We’d ended up spending that night together.
By waiting so long to applying for the case to go before the court his team could be confident the date that was assigned would fall when I was due to be out of the country.
So I carried the case around with me. Updates from my mum stressed me. They blighted our conversations. When I spoke to people I didn’t know what tag to place on myself. If I had a Decree Nisi was I divorced or wasn’t I?
When I found out the Decree Absolute had been awarded I was, ironically, on a train just outside of Penn Station, New York City. The place of our engagement. The place of our honeymoon. It ended where it began. There was a cruel but perfect circularity to it. My divorced friend of the family who had been my ‘Team Divorce’ ally in recent days had received his divorce that very morning. My mother sent me a message – ‘check your email’. Email subject: blank. There was a photo attachment. Zooming in on my iPhone screen I could just about make out the out of focus text of the document. 18th November. I had actually beaten my friend by a day. It was comical.
To be finally, definitively, legally single was a huge mental relief. No more confusion over what my status was. That chapter was closed. I felt like a horse getting its head at last after fighting with the reins for months, frustrated. I felt no sadness. None.
But as the dust settled in the following days, I reflected. I’d felt the urge to contact him in recent weeks, but now for different reasons. I had still had a legal tie to this person even though all emotional ties and physical ties had been severed. Now that too was gone. We were two separate people. Officially. Something we had not been for 2 years and 11 months to the day.
It seemed that with legal space suddenly came mental space, which allowed new thoughts and feelings to flood in. Perspective. The bigger picture. Now the story was finished, I could view the whole. An editor cannot write a book blurb until they’ve first read the book. An academic cannot write an abstract until the paper is finished.
And the blurb was that I loved the bones of the boy, and still do. Crazy or deluded as it may be, I still felt that his actions were so out of character they may well have been due to his illness and therefore, in my eyes, entirely discountable. I can’t actually say what I would do if he were to turn around and say it had all been a terrible mistake and blame a mental breakdown. Every time he had come to me I had taken him in. I had never turned him away. And I dare say if he came to me again I would do the same. ‘You seem to be the stronger one’ observed my male friend when I relayed the story of our relationship breakdown in new detail. And I was. I was able to withstand the repeated kicking he gave me from his confusion and the side-effects of medication. ‘I believe we’re only sent as much pain as we can bear, and no more’, I told fellow divorcee. He was dealt a devastating blow just days after we congratulated each other on our well-timed decree nisis – a family bereavement. ‘And I think we are sent more pain maybe because we are able to cope and others wouldn’t be able’.
‘Why are you still here when I’ve done enough to you to make you hate me for life?’ my ex had asked me once as we sat on our artfully distressed new leather sofa. He had debated and chosen the colour of it with my parents in a department store in my home city when I wasn’t even present, this was the nature of the relationship he shared with them. My mother had told me he was like another child to her. The sofa had taken so long to arrive that our marriage was over before it was delivered. Despite that, we christened the sofa. I took some grim satisfaction in knowing that whatever happened after, whoever lived with him in that house after I was gone, I was the first person he had sex with on that couch – and he would remember that. ‘That’s what you call unconditional love, I suppose’, I reasoned. But of course, evolutionary psychology teaches us that nothing is truly altruistic. I wanted to help him, because I wanted him. He came to me crying and – while there was never any alternative course of action in my mind other than to try to scoop up this man, wipe his face, listen to his fears and try to ease his turmoil – on a selfish note I would have done anything to get him back and ease my own suffering.
So as the days have gone on I’ve felt the urge to contact him. Something I should not do. And I’ve felt more and more the same thing.
Walking through the streets of Manhattan this week, I confessed. ‘I guess I still love him’, I said to my mother. This statement probably fills her with worry as to what I’ll do when faced with him in court. ‘I love the bones of him – what’s underneath it all – I think I always will.’
And I don’t know what that means. I don’t know what the consequence of that is. Or if there is any consequence. It’s been so long, I’m used to not being with him. I’ve come to terms as much as I can that he is not a part of my life anymore and I’ve reached some level of peace with that. He’s with someone else. We had something special but that time is over. And that love I have is just floating around in the cosmos somewhere, not reaching its intended target – which is kind of dangerous, because it seems all too easy for that to love to latch on to some unsuspecting target, like a heat-seeking missile. If your relationship lasted for 8 years, how long does the rebounding last? And how do you know when you’ve stopped rebounding?
I can’t tell him that I love him. I have contacted him while I’ve been on the road. Brief messages. Both unanswered. In neither did I say I loved him. It seems pointless to say, and I’m certain he still knows deep down that I do anyway. He knows I loved him unconditionally. If he were still single I’m sure he’d feel the same. And if one of my failed attempts at a relationship this year had grown into something more then I’m sure I’d feel I didn’t love him anymore either. I’m fairly certain we recycle love, like physicists theorise we’re all just energy and it never dies, but is just transferred and passed on in a different form. So it’s ok that my love doesn’t reach him, at least it’s a positive emotion I’m sending out into the world, and not bitterness. The only one suffering is me – giving out love and not receiving, my heart as open as a book, the stable door swinging on its hinges while the horse hasn’t so much bolted, but rather prances around the field aimlessly, skittishly.
So I love him, from afar, because there is no point resisting it, only pain in fighting it. And I steel myself for seeing him one last time in court, and dream of getting away afterwards to experience at last the solitude I’ve craved since the day he left.