“I want a romance so grand, so resplendent, they will write literature about us. I want poetry,” he said.
“I want the everyday mundane,” I said calmly but with metaphorical heels dug in.
“But that is what I am leaving behind; a wife, kids and in-laws. The honourable correct path whose joys we exaggerate to convince ourselves that it is worth the price we pay,” he said.
“Stiff price indeed; unified with the people we purport to love. Are you trying to sell me on your merits as a human being? If you are, slow down. You just shot past the mark.” I started to get my sarcastic warrior fully dressed for battle.
He sighed. “Oh come on. You know what I mean. I have tried this thing. I did my best but flanked. Our kids even love her more and chose to stay with her. What’s going to save me is a shot at something I haven’t already failed at. A romantic, poetic love.”
“Well, I am not how you reinvent yourself, Tom. I am merely the woman who fell in love with you long before I realised I was something of a vacation rental: a calm pretty resort away from real life. I am only a woman who loves you and wants what women want with men they love: your brood & the chaos of raising it. I want a son & I want to watch you teach him how to polish his shoes. I want you to stall the school van driver while I finish tying up our daughter’s braids. I have imagined it that far. And yes, it is mundane and lovely.” I put so much emphasis on the last word that it came out more like a bite rather than a sentimental thing.
“But it could be so much better, Lydia. So much less ordinary. We will see the world. We will have all the time in the world for each other. You will write books and I will support you. I will wife you: fetch you tea and make you juice while you dazzle the world with brilliant mind of yours.”
“Of course. Because the only people who have seen the world were childless. What if, what I want to do with this brilliant mind of mine is biologically clone it? You know Tom, these arguments have brought me to that point that I’m not sure I want all the time in the world for you.”
“Okay. Time out before we say things we can’t take back.”
“Fucking, patronising, arrogant pig,” I heard myself say. Surprised at my own anger, I immediately shot him a deeply apologetic look. But his face was expressionless. Apparently, I hadn’t actually voiced the words. I sighed with relief. He reached for my waist to pull me to him but I was too stiff with anger, the embrace was just awkward. We disentangled shortly.
He moved to his TV unit to pick the movie we had earlier agreed on. I sat at the extreme end of the sofa, taking the popcorn bowl with me as minor punishment for him. He glanced at me curled up in a tantrum, nonchalantly pushed the movie in, hit play and returned to take the other extreme end of the sofa. But then, he changed his mind about the movie choice; changing to an old porn movie. You know the type. It starts with a long shot of a young girl sitting in a park. A creepy, overly muscular man joins her. The camera closes in on him working his hand entirely too energetically. But apparently, she loves it so much that in a matter of seconds, a real geyser of liquid shoots out of her. We always got a kick out of providing commentary to the proceedings: “Well I thought that was squirting but it clearly isn’t because it has left her strong spine-d enough for coitus with that phallus shaped industry grade pipe,” one of us might start it off. Then like kids who only recently discovered their favorite cartoon is an exaggerated tale, we would jostle for who had the best vocabulary for the absurdities therein.
This time though, when he switched it on, I shot him a look that said, “you are out of luck, mate.” He read it right and said, “it’s okay. I’m not trying to get laid. I have a headache anyway,” causing me to throw a popped corn at him. Soon enough it was a pop corn and throw pillows fight. Then we were settled in for our movie commentary.
It, of course, concluded with him reaching into my pants to feign horror with, “do you realize how absurd it is that these terrible terrible movies turn you on.” “It’s never the movies. It’s knowing that at the end of it, you’ll reach into my knickers.”
“I’ll take it whichever way I get it.”
So once again, he had screwed my mind away from the reservations I had about the relationship. Momentarily, anyway. It’s the trouble with dating men who have years of sexual experience over you. They also have years of sexual manipulation over your pretty little head.
When the sex was over, I went to the bathroom and actually cried. I really, really, wanted to let it go. I wanted my life options back. Although I was the side dish he had eventually left his wife for, the holy grail of the side dish life, this didn’t feel like a win. It didn’t feel like the life I wanted for myself was ahead of me. It felt like I had gone from side dish to a treasured trophy but I would never quite be a full partner. A muse? Oh, yes, I was that. A confidant? Yes, that too. An intellectual wrestling mate? That too, actually.
So, you are going to ask me what more a woman could want. I will tell you what. A woman could want to be a real person. Not just something out of a romantic fantasy, even if she were effortlessly that. A woman could want to be the person you will make your mistakes with. A woman could want to be the one whose life’s regrets intersect with yours. A woman could want that even the unshared hours of your lives reflect on the record as hours that were yours together. A woman could want to be your wife.
So, I picked my knick-knacks out of his bathroom and went to the room in the apartment that had somehow been assigned mine, even though we slept together in his bedroom every night. I threw them onto a shelf in the closet and when back to join him. When we made love again, you would have thought he knew I was leaving. It honestly was the most moving thing that I ever was a party to. How gently he loved. How slowly. How quickly he switched pace to catch up with me when the intensity shot to my brain. How he held me for so long afterwards. It could have been a wedding night. But it was the end. I haven’t seen him since. While he slept, I went back to ‘my room’, stuffed my clothes into his travel bag and sneaked out of that apartment, taking with me his favorite book. Don’t ask me why. I didn’t much fancy the book myself, but I guess I am just not large hearted enough to walk way without inflicting pain. In the dark of the 10th hour of that night, I walked down that fearsome Makindye Hill road until I came upon a bodaboda that sped me away from the insanity of love.