When I arrived home from work she was sitting on her suitcase, crying. Tears with the bare-branched promises of a rainy autumn afternoon: Tears distilled from the inevitability of a lonely winter.
“I don’t want to share you with your children. I’m only going to hurt you,” she said.
“I know, I know,” I soothed, holding her head to my chest.
“What I want, it’s not right, and I feel guilty about that.”
“That may be so. I can’t do anything about your guilt, but you have to let me and my children make our own decisions about how much pain we can bear. They are grown up and know something of human imperfection.”
“I was single a long time before meeting you and it’s hard for me being in a relationship, making compromises.”
“Where were you going to stay tonight?” I asked.
“I burned all my bridges to be with you and now I don’t know where to go.”
“You can’t just walk out the door without a plan. The streets are not nice around here at night. Anyway, there’s plenty in the bank account and I shared all I have with you. It’s yours to do as you wish. No questions. Why not stay at the casino hotel for as long as you need to think things through. It’s safe and comfy, and has nice facilities. Nothing has changed about the way I feel about you.”
I carried her suitcase to the station and we sat together in silence on the train for the two stops down the track to the casino. We joined the stream of staff and patrons hurrying in the chill evening air from the station platform across the carpark. The slick lights and fancy cars by the casino entrance promised a bright future for the lucky. I needed a piss.
She showed her passport and credit card and signed the register. I kissed her before she disappeared into the lift with the bellboy. Letting her go was like staking all on a single number bet on the roulette table. Rien ne va plus.
I found the men’s room off the lobby. Lights dim, no other customers. I did my business, zipped up, turned and stepped forward to look for a wash basin. Someone was walking towards me. I paused and stepped aside. The other person blocked me: solid, defensive, head down. I stepped the other way only to be blocked again. A rush of adrenalin smashed me up for a fight. Then I realised, I had walked into a mirror.
As I rode the train home I wondered if I had fought too hard with her over my children.
published 8 June 2016