outwait outrun outwit


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My projects have fallen to the wayside. I write diary entries and to-do lists, surrounded by the uncanny remnants of our former life. A thick film of dust covers the owls, plants, and candles on the windowsill above my desk. The office is now a repository for drying laundry and clothes to sort. The dishes are unused, the fridge filled with sodden or expired food. Dog toy, unchewed, on an armchair. Bedclothes piled on a chair in a bedroom that was once my refuge. I don't know myself in this place ... and I feel myself unraveling bit by bit at the kitchen table in the house above the pub, as husband and mother-in-law discuss farm entitlements and beer orders and dog training.


An acquaintance of ours has left his wife for a woman, married with two kids, who declared to the wife, He's the love of my life. They have moved into a flat beside the pub, and his dog yaps away while she drinks wine in the garden all day, waiting for her amour to return from teaching duties. His daughters cope in different ways: the younger one has taken to wetting the bed and the other girl won't talk about her father. Like the wife, I once underwent the unraveling of a marriage, undone by a man's pull to more exotic shores. 9 years ago in February, Jim asked for a separation after months of saying he might move to Berlin in the midst of my Ph.D. studies. He, too, had once called me the love of his life.

We separated in the hours after I returned from watching a play based on Carol Ann Duffy's The World's Wife. On a tiny stage, three women interwove their bodies among high-hanging dresses, which they donned with each testimonial from Mrs. Faust, Frau Freud, Pygmalion's bride, Penelope, Eurydice, even the Devil's wife, offering their stories and husbands' secrets to our eyes and ears. As I sat in the dark, these women reminded me of the nature of marriage: a wayward thread, wound on desire and its lack, bound to structures of power; violence inherent. In their stories, I could sense the warp and weft of my own; where it might unknot, and unknot mine did, swiftly and irrevocably.

I can't remember Jim's words from that night. But I remember shadows flitting across a stage, working magic on my mind, saving me from the near-future, even if I didn't realise it until long after the stormy seas of that difficult year.


Demeter's Prayer to Hades, Rita Dove:

This alone is what I wish for you: knowledge.
To understand each desire and its edge,
to know we are responsible for the lives
we change. No faith comes without cost,
no one believes without dying.
Now for the first time
I see clearly the trail you planted,
what ground opened to waste,
though you dreamed a wealth
of flowers.


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