The ending was neither swift nor brutal. I should perhaps rephrase the latter, as it was torturous at times, in its drawn-out death throes. Our therapy sessions were cancelled due to work overload on both sides, but we both knew this was just another attempt to mask the true reasons of pride and folly. After awhile I started to despise my husband. It came gradually. A creeping feeling that was intensified by his presence. As I would watch him secretively, observing his behaviour and reactions, I came to loathe the ordinary and prosaic nature that had become synonymous with my husband. If I once found his Swedish roots a source of interest and enchantment, I could now only find his cultural traits lacklustre and bland. His only obsessions were keeping tabs on our finances through overzealously managed spreadsheets and all manner of safety and security concerns. He would insist on wearing seatbelts even in a taxi or keeping all the windows under lock and bar at night.
Those little eccentricities that I had previously put down to quirkiness were now a source of ridicule. One day I could take it no longer. I am still surprised it took so long, but I suppose my husband had even instilled that: a sense of complacency that should have been completely foreign to my Gallic roots. The source of the argument escapes me, and it was probably petty in its nature. What’s more important is the anger that I unleashed on Carl, hurling physical and mental abuse as I could no longer stand his presence.
“Why don’t you get the fuck out of here? The mere sight of you makes me sick.” I spat out the last words and had to wipe froth from my mouth. He just stood there saying nothing, watching me with a stone cold face. He was grinding his teeth, the lower back jaw moving in a circular motion beneath his taut skin.
“Aren’t you going to say anything, you idiot? You fucking piece of shit. Why the fuck did I meet you?” I pushed him, over and over, yet he remained standing, only slightly wavering with each blow.
I said so many things, to which he remained silent. It was only the last that evoked a reaction.
“If it wasn’t for you killing our first baby, we wouldn’t be here now. We would still have Emmanuel. It’s all your fault. You and your stupid Swedish whore. Why the hell did you come back? Why? WHY??? Tell me!!!” I screamed the last part and hit him hard on his face. He appeared shocked. Like it was something he hadn’t expected. I also saw for the first time an immense sadness in his face. In all honesty it made me feel good as I hoped it measured up to a bit of the pain that I’d been made to carry.
He turned around and left. I could hear heavy steps up the stairs and scrambling sounds coming from the wardrobe. Two minutes later he was out of the house. I remained sobbing on the floor.
Carl didn’t come back, and when I didn’t hear anything by that evening I started to leave frantic messages on his voicemail. Even though whatever had been unleashed was a reflection of the truth I felt and lived, it also felt irrational and premature and I was not sure at all that the outcome was a desired one. If anything, I felt ashamed of my actions. I had become the bunny boiler every woman will testify is not in her character.
Instead of accelerating my alcohol and nicotine intake, I drowned my sorrows in my writing. As I flip through my notes, stained by blotches of ink having come undone from the contact of tears, a certain passage makes me pause. It seems rather fitting. I suppose it could have been contrived this very moment.
“How did it come to this? How did life – which once seemed so full of promise, like a budding rose hiding its true potential behind its verdant leaves – how did it crumble to nothing? When we see the warning signs, spelled out in capital letters, seeking to communicate with us, why do we dismiss them? Why do we continue to see what is not there, creating illusions of a promised future whilst ignoring the symptoms of our disease? Preferring to instil false hope in every molecule and atom inhabiting our corporal edifice. We do it so well it has become the illusion of mankind.
Yet as much as my rationale knows this, and to a certain degree can find peace and acceptance in this notion, I am desperately searching for the escape clause that will mitigate the inevitable. I’m ransacking my mind, going through a hundred different alternatives and options, and yet to what avail?
Tell me, where did we go so wrong?
It took a week before Carl returned. I had then resorted to stalking his work, his family and friends. His mother tried to talk some sense into me, but I didn’t want to listen, oscillating between malevolence and repentance. Somewhere in the middle laid my true feelings, but my state-of-mind was too confounded to accurately ascertain the exact nature.
When Carl eventually returned, my mind was on the brink of civil war. I had gone from remorse to retribution and back again. I had drawn up a dozen exit plans, including divorce and its possible aftermath. When Carl entered the house after a week, he looked dishevelled and smelt of liquor. I only needed one look to know passionate reconciliation was not in the cards. I asked him if he wanted anything to eat or drink but he ignored me, walking straight upstairs to the guestroom. I didn’t see him for the rest of the evening. In fact, I saw very little of him in the following weeks, but by then my anger had dissipated and status quo once more ruled between us. It was in this equilibrium we continued to live, two people formally known as husband and wife, who for whatever obscure reasons, chose to stay together. Was it for need of punishment or salvation or simply for fear of the unknown?