It was a Thursday when I found out my ex-husband had a child. I never did like Thursdays. At my desk, in between writing radio scripts, with Bob Marley blaring in the background, I did the math. We were still married when he fathered this child. Still sharing a bed, sharing a surname, sharing dreams. It was only three years later, after the divorce papers were signed that I now found out. Google snitched. Facebook confirmed. I may have never known. Perhaps one day on a Thursday evening, many years from now, in the middle of the supermarket at the tampon aisle, I may have run into a teenage girl with the green eyes of a man whose heartbeat was once my lullaby. These eyes would have haunted me all night, as I tried to figure out how she stole the eyes of a child that was supposed to be mine.
The Thursday I found out, I walked out of the office, willing myself not to fall apart until I was in the safety of my car, where the closed windows would at least give me the illusion that my wails couldn’t be heard. It felt like this was another woman’s life. Not mine. Clearly there had been some sort of a mistake. This life didn’t fit the way I had planned. Surely it was supposed to be for someone else. Not me.
I had already done the whole coming to terms with my marriage falling apart thing. What a trip. Certainly not planning on going through that again. And just as I had closed that book, caught my breath, exhaled, this new wave of betrayal washes over me. Hot. Frothing. Greedy. You see, husbands never leave their wives for the other woman. Isn’t that what everyone says? But mine did. So what does that say about me? A rejection too sharp in its bite to contemplate.
There was another woman.
There was a child.
There is a child.
And like I do with most things that are too terrifying to dive deep into, I closed my eyes and ran, screaming into the night, far, far, far away, filling my life with busy. So much busyness. Hoping it would sink into oblivion, cease to exist. After all, if my consciousness never registered that it had happened, then did it really happen? But it did. And this one refuses to be covered up with layers of work and life. It threatens to spread the rot to everything I throw over it. Screams with a sound so shrill, only my heart can hear it. Emits an odour so foul, it climbs deep into the nostrils and lodges itself within the nose hairs, nestled right next to the memory of the stench of death.
So this is me, dipping my toe into the pool of pain and swirling it around. Slowly submerging myself in it. Allowing my body to register a change of space. Because one day, it will adapt and the pain won’t be new, won’t be something to be felt, it will have just woven itself into the rich fabric of the person I am.
It has taken me weeks to write this piece. I wanted to wait for the bile in my throat to dissolve. I only wanted to write it if it served a purpose. I wasn’t sure I would write it at all, but it stopped me from writing anything else. I contemplated taking down this post, my homage to a love that once was, the remnants of which lingered in my heart, until that Thursday morning, when it disappeared instantly. Went poof in the air, soundlessly, quite undramatically. Where did it go? Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but transformed from one form to another. So what has it become, this energy that once fuelled my tomorrows? Love is a shape-shifter. Perhaps love isn’t really energy after all but merely a story we tell ourselves. Then I read the comments you left on that post, and I became acutely aware of a gift you had left for me in the footprints beneath the post. I realised, when you write your truth, it frees people to give themselves permission to acknowledge their own truths. Permission to feel their own pain.
So I write.
I used to have this irrational fear. That I would marry a serial killer and one day end up on The Crime Channel, the wife of a hacker, truly stupefied, sitting on our sofa with an array of family portraits mocking me as I proclaimed to the world that really I had no idea. It has always terrified me, the possibility of a deception so bold, the knowledge that you can really not know someone so profoundly, and still think that you do. In a way, that is what happened to me. Because I really had no idea.
I was never able to understand what pulled the thread that unravelled it all. Untill that Thursday. It would be mostly married people who would ask, arranging their expressions into the correct proportions of comforting/not prying/caring/non-judgemental, furrowing their eyebrows a little, softening their eyes, leaning in and asking, ‘so why did the marriage break apart?’
And I would say, I had no idea. They would look at me with disbelief. And then irritation. Like I was lying to them. As if I had the secret, but was just being inconsiderate and selfish with the wisdom of the-thing-not-to-do, and if I just shared it with them, they could sleep secure in the knowledge that they were not doing that-thing-not-to-do, and if they just continued not doing that-thing-not-to-do, they would be fine. And live happily ever after.
The truth is there is no road map to failure. There is no formula either. Perhaps that’s why Indian weddings are steeped with rituals to bring luck to the couple. Maybe our ancestors knew that you may as well place all your chips on luck, because everything else is too subjective to be relied upon.
So what would I do differently? I honestly don’t know. Except for one thing. I wouldn’t expect someone else to be responsible for my happiness. No matter how much I love them. It is too great a burden to place on anyone’s shoulders. And when you hand over your happiness to another human being, you give away your power, your sparkle. And that is a monumentally bad idea, after all your sparkle is all you really have in this world that is truly yours.
Photo Credit: Volkan Olmez