Walking Home

In the twelfth year of my marriage something got lost. My husband Roger and I had a fight. It's futile to repeat what was said. Cruel, ugly words spilled out on both sides. My psyche felt like it had stayed out in the sun too long, defaced by blistered, oozing sores. Our bed, once an island oasis, was now as wide as the Gulf of Mexico, and each night I slept fitfully robed in grey flannel. We moved through our days in studied politeness. Emotionally abandoned and betrayed, for the first time I danced with the specter of divorce.

We were in a period of transition – in limbo between selling our business and figuring out what to do with the rest of our lives. For years we had denied ourselves vacations because of family and work obligations, and we had planned to travel for most of a year. Then, just when the world was our oyster, we lost our footing and dropped the pearl. We'd already rented a small, studio apartment in Paris for the month of March, and I hoped, “maybe it's close enough to April for blossoming chestnuts and the charm of spring.”

Our first few days were awful, trapped in a foreign city in a fourth floor walk-up with a man I felt I no longer knew. We decided to get out of the city and head to the small village of Bayeux to surround ourselves with tapestry and gravestones. Despite our fascination with the story of William the Conqueror and the horror at seeing pretty English roses hiding rows upon rows of D-Day dead; we stayed caught in personal pain, our conversation stilted and unnatural, like members of two alien species who don't know how to coexist.

On the two-and-a-half hour train ride back to Paris, we sat across from each other, at first barely talking, crossing and uncrossing arms and knees, avoiding gazes. Then a brief glance, a brush of thigh against thigh, and a reach across the void to entwine hesitant fingers. We spoke, tentatively at first, dipping one toe at a time into the vast, cold ocean of our mistrust. We tried to remember some self-help psychology. Stick with “I” statements: “I hurt,” “I'm sorry,” “I love you.” Outside the train window, fields and villages rushed by. Inside our small compartment, we dipped first a toe, then the leg, until we waded waist-deep, up to our chests, and finally in the fading daylight we began swimming out over our heads. Once in Paris, we caught the Number 4 line of the Metro to the Odeon station, and walked the few blocks to the apartment on rue Dauphine. We passed the same le marché, la pâtisserie, la boucherie, la pharmacie that we passed in that life before Bayeux, but this time, when Roger took my hand, I knew I was walking home.

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