Have you ever experienced a period in your life where time seems to move differently around you? As though you have left the linear timeline and are floating free above it all in a bubble? Where the order of things doesn’t seem to make sense or matter, everything is interrelated and you know you just have to ride it out? I’m in one of those bubbles right now. I’m assured this isn’t a breakdown, just more grief and perhaps the final major bout of it (which seems to only compound it somehow).
At the end of my last blog, I intimated that the next step in the process to keep my house was to contact Matthew and so I did. I arranged to meet him though we probably could have negotiated via email. I guess I wanted him to face me one last time and not pretend me away while we cut this final cord. Also, if this was the last time I was to see him as I expect it to be, then there were a few things I wanted to stay, things that have been weighing me down and are no longer mine to carry.
We met at a café in the city and I got straight to the point. He was confronted but for the duration of the coffee at least, he seemed to hear me. We moved on to discuss the house. I presented him with my offer and left him with the paper work so he could think it over. So much of the anger I took to the meeting dissolved into sadness by its conclusion. He disappeared into the crowd and I, into the nearest bathroom for some silent sobbing.
But that’s not where the bubble began. A few days before the meeting, he posted a picture on Instagram (an online photo-sharing and social networking service) with the rather innocuous caption “last day at work”. Presumably all the people liking it, strangers to me, knew what he was talking about while I was left wondering if he quit, was moving overseas, won the lottery etc. It wasn’t a game-changer, just a reminder of how utterly excluded I am from even the most major details of his new life. In the context of finalising the house, it threw me into a spin bigger than it ought to. I should mention that I stopped following him on Instagram and all other social media a long time ago when it became apparent that he’d so restricted my access that the only glimpses I got of his life were distorted by lack of context that left me with more questions than answers. I scraped enough dignity together to remove myself but I’m still human and the occasional peek on Instagram is the last little window I have allowed myself.
When I discovered Instagram, it was a revelation. I found it at a very difficult time in my life and it became a very useful tool that enabled me to stay focused on the present and recognise beauty all around me. Through it, I’ve made friends and realised opportunities that I otherwise wouldn’t have. But like all tools, it can be weaponised and wielded with a force as destructive as it can be creative – and I guess that’s what I was doing to myself.
I accept that you deserve what you get when you go snooping and I have been hit hard by digging down a little too deep into the photo feeds of many of his new friends who are less discreet than he. But the very day after our meeting, I was kicked in the guts by a photo posted into my own feed which innocently and unknowingly contradicted something Matthew had told me the day before. Apparently, I got the wrong end of the stick but the fact that the lie was easier to believe meant the damage was already done and I was undone… completely. With that one photo, my right to stay on Instagram was outweighed by the pain it was causing me to do so.
And so I have temporarily removed myself from the last little window until I have the strength not to look through it anymore. In fact, I’ve retreated from everything until this storm passes. I was explaining this to my friend, Rachel, as we made our way into the theatre to see a play that ought to have been the first thing I ditched!
I originally got tickets under the mistaken belief that it was an adaptation of my favourite German movie. It wasn’t until it started that the penny dropped and I realised my mistake. The plot of this play was more intricate and intertwining but the two major relationships were easy to follow because it seemed to me that I had written one and lived the other. The first bore an uncanny resemblance to a portentous story I wrote when I was sixteen that I had presumed to be long gone until it eerily resurfaced when I moved back into the house. The second was as literal a retelling of the end-of-days for Matthew and I as I have encountered.
Watching it was agony. I might’ve gotten up to leave if I could’ve moved but I was paralysed by the potency of the emotion of it. It felt too pointed to be coincidental and I wondered at what malevolent forces had conspired to put me there when I was already suffering so acutely. I reasoned that there had to be meaning in it or at least determined that I would find some to justify the torment.
The one thing I felt certain of was that it was a test of strength (not that I know who’ll be grading it). As I’ve mentioned, the house is the last thread that connects us. Settling it will be the final cut. Although none of this has been as I’ve wanted it, I haven’t come at it meekly. I have squared up to meet every challenge with courage and strength and it would seem that I’ve been met by the same force in response. I can’t say definitively that this has been the toughest test yet, it’s impossible to be that objective, but it’s been tough enough that at times, I thought I might break.
Half way through the play, Matthew sent an email accepting my offer. I should be happy, but I’m not, not yet.
The play stayed with me for days while I tried to make sense of it. As I floated further from it, I was able to gain more perspective and see that perhaps it was as simple as hearing ‘him’ say to ‘her’ the things Matthew can’t or won’t say to me. Things I’ve known in my heart to be true and having heard them spoken aloud and suffered the pain by proxy, finally begin to make peace with the fact that he has nothing left for me.
The heartbreak and finality of that revelation has driven my bubble higher and from here I can see an even broader perspective – those two parallel plots like bookends marking out the beginning and end of my time with Matthew – a collection of volumes that I’ve always taken to be my entire story. At one end, the story I wrote when I was 16 that awoke something profound in me and set my life on a certain trajectory that has now played out to its conclusion, represented so vividly by the other bookend plotline in the play.
Even as I write these words, I am terrified of their truth because it means that after two decades of defining myself by my relationship to this other soul – the first eighteen years by his presence, the subsequent years by his absence – that it’s now incumbent on me to walk away having acknowledged how completely he already has.
It’s so hard and I’m scared to be so undefined even though I recognise the limitless opportunity in it. I suppose our humanity resides in our limitations, whilst our divinity (for want of a less religious word) lies in our limitlessness.
From my bubble I can sense the ground beneath me shifting – I can’t see what shape it is taking but I know I needed to be thrown up into the air for it to happen. The thin membrane will pop soon, this personal epoch will end and my timeline will resume –for better and for worse, by the end of the month, I will own (the gigantic mortgage on) my home and a new era will begin.