Feeling weepy. Not sure why. Very tired.
I was listening to a CD I’ve not heard for a long time. It’s not one my ex ever chose or liked or listened to. Yet it made me think of him. Something about the Frenchness of it (not that he is French). Accordion. I know nobody else in the world likes the instrument, but I do. We had a small band with an accordion at our wedding in a small country inn in the French countryside, where we lived when we first met. Not because I specifically asked for it, but because that was what there was. We opened the dancing to Douce France.
Writing about it now I am reminded of something related.
About five years ago, after a rocky few years, we seemed to have turned a corner. In many ways, including financially. My husband had always insisted that we had, or were about to have, loads of money and could afford luxurious holidays. I was always cautious, not wanting to spend money before it was earned, or to run down our rainy day fund faster than necessary. But that was all behind us now, and I was relieved and grateful to have been able to organise a holiday with the children in Italy. So we were driving in leisurely fashion to Tuscany, where we’d rented a house for a week. A night in France, and we were approaching a hotel on Lake Como for the next stop. Bliss.
All was well. The children had been taking turns in choosing music in the car, and then my husband handed me his phone and asked to play some music from that. So I am looking at the music on his phone, and seeing lots of albums there that I don’t recognise. Something went ‘TWANG!’ in my brain.
I couldn’t understand why I was so alarmed and furious, but I fair freaked out. I spent the next few days apologising and feeling guilty and perplexed over this inexplicable outburst. And yet the rest of the holiday was lovely. We were all so relaxed. The weather was glorious, the children old enough not to need constant minding. I was abroad. We could eat out or visit museums without my worrying about the cost. My husband and I were getting on. Everything was rosy. And we had couple’s counselling booked for soon after our return home. Rocky patch over, I thought. Hugh sigh of relief at having survived the worst.
Well, it was only a few weeks later that I came home to find he had taken off. On the day of that first counselling session, to which he did not show.
I’ve given a lot of thought since to that episode with iTunes. At the time I thought I was upset that he had a life he didn’t share with me. I told myself this was pathetic and irrational. I really oughtn’t begrudge him (as he put it) some music to listen to while he was travelling on business (swanky hotels, everything on expenses and room service at his beck and call) and I was at home with the children. And after all, I sometimes bought music, too. I couldn’t understand why I was so rattled.
I thought then that I was overreacting to something trivial that was not being shared. I felt that I was given a fleeting glimpse of a secret life. But I thought this secret extended only to little, unimportant things. I know now that he hid far larger secrets and lies. I can’t explain, but sense that the sirens shrieking in my mind were pointing to a crack of some significance that I did not recognise at the time. It was like that moment with the woman and the dishwasher, only without the clarity! While he was away on business, and while he was in the office, and while he was at home, beavering away at his ‘work’, quite a lot of his energy was being used up in maintaining these lies. Transferring money. Opening bank accounts. Secret meetings with shady characters. Hoping I wouldn’t notice (I didn’t) that he was syphoning funds. Getting in deeper and deeper. Hoping against hope that THIS month his ship would come in and he could pay it all back. He must have comforted himself from time to time with some Bruce Springsteen or something he remembered from the time before he met me. (At the time, in the car beside the gorgeous glinting lake, he reminded me that I had chucked out all of our LPs in the run up to a move when we had just migrated from audio cassette to CD and – OK, I can see now that maybe that was rash, but after all, we had already got rid of the means to play them.) Perhaps he comforted himself with more than that, who knows? It must have been very stressful. I thought he was hardworking and clever. He was neither. Nowadays I feel sorry for him.
* Leonard Cohen, Anthem
Image: a window in the church on the Battlefield 1403 estate.