Alphas have handed in their initial feedback.
I wish more of that time, those memories, existed as sculpture. It’s all Impressionism now, distinct and separate blotches of color that form a whole I can never quite resolve with clarity. Those were the halcyon days; each moment was a glossy black and white magazine spread where underground trains streak by in the background while kisses are stolen, breathless promises exchanged over twined fingers, and acquaintances peer to decipher our body language but know better than to ask. They feel it too, the contagious rush, the amphetamine momentum of two people falling into trouble. They know better than to break it.
Whatever Plato’s thoughts on the role of necessity, I look back on it during those days as an intrusion into paradise. The very first occurrence of this is not lost among the colors. It stands sickly white against more passionate hues.
Sitting on the edge of my hotel bed, I cradle my phone like a broken but still-beating heart. This morning the comforter is snapped down tight by Housekeeping, unwelcoming. It knows that conference week is over, and so is the post-conference tourism week that international participants have observed. It is telling me to get out, no compassion for my slow tearing-apart.
Paul’s number sits patiently on my screen, waiting to be dialed. It’s so long, with the country code and the area code, a digit for each hundred miles between us. Isn’t it so much more than miles now?
A voice talks me down from pressing ‘call’. In the soothing but clinical cadence of a therapist it reminds me about time zones and poor connections, and, rather practically, the cost of an international call. A call will mean tones of voice, knife-edged inflections. You should send a text, it coos. For convenience.
I know that I should not do this. I should be an adult; I know how. Manners, basic courtesies. But I’m a former wife, and I don’t know how to be, not yet. I feel that no woman does until she no longer needs to be one. The learning must be long and clumsy, solitary. Who can tell me how to be Paul Archer’s first wife? Gracious, civil; kind yet firm. Resistant to passive-aggression and name-calling. Grateful for what I’ve taken from our time together, whatever that is. Centered, benevolent.
Believing any of this possible would require me to smother a decade of knowledge about Paul. He will be Wrath and Need. I delete the number and open a text.
I have decided to stay in London indefinitely. My mom will come for my things.
My mom. Now she is mine. Once she was ours, because Paul does not have a mother. This is cruel and painful. I should give her back. I amend the phrase to ‘Mom will come’. It feels better. I haven’t made him divorced and an orphan in one sentence.
My phone pings almost instantly: You’re fucking crazy, Kate.
But like Napoleon in the throes of conquest delusions, I am the ruler of my Elba, my St. Helena. I am liberated as much as any person can be.
I’m not crazy. I repeat this in a harsh whisper but I do not call my mother about clearing out my things. I certainly don’t text her. The most irate husband is no interference at all compared to a Worried Mother.