Signs of Life: dominoes

When Harold returned from the doctor his wife Janice asked ”How did it go?”

Harold was both taken aback by the abrupt question and in a quandary about a the answer. He had not expected that question so soon, but he knew she would ask it eventually. He knew he had to say something as that was the proper thing to do. Janice was his wife, with whom else should he be honest, but with her?  But he also felt that if he answered truthfully things would fall apart and then other things would topple over: dragging the next one down in turn. Events would be out of control, like a series of falling dominoes.

“Well, okay.”  Harold said and he quickly added. “We had a good chat.”

Perhaps he should not have added that last line. For with the first line he signalled to Janice that he did not want to talk about it (yet), but by adding the second he poked up the fire of her curiosity.

“A good chat? What then did you chat about?” Janice said.

Harold felt he was in a trolley put on a single track that just went into one direction: down a black hole.

“About me mostly.” Harold mumbled. Think she would let him off the hook if it was about himself. As if he was saying: this is private.

“Oh. Good! It was time you had one.” Janice exclaimed. The ‘me’ in Harolds sentence  meant ‘us’  to Janice.  Us  because it did concern her too.

“But what did you talk about exactly?”

“About my feelings…. toward others. You know..Those feelings.” He waved his hand as if to dismiss the matter.

Janice nodded. She knew: it was about sex.

“You know we haven’t had much intimacy of late.”

“Yes.” She nodded firmly. Of course she knew. She knew all too well.

“ I asked the doctor for a reference to a psychologist,,, because… you see.. I think I might be gay.” He blurted out that last line. He felt the first domino fall.



“Oh.. but that explains it.” Janice smiled.


“The not-having-sex. I thought you found me ugly or fat.”

“Oh.. I.. well.”

“But you are just gay.” She smiled and walked over and hugged him quickly before he could say or do anything else.

“So tell me when did you start to have these feelings?” She laid a kindly hand on his arm.

“I.. I have them for some time now.. feelings.. vague feelings…”  Harold said. He felt her hand warm and clammy  on his skin.

“All these nights that you pushed me away. It all makes sense now.” Janice remarked. She smiled happily and wanted to hug him again.

He took a step backwards, out of her reach.

“Janice? I just told you I have gay feelings and you start to hug me.” Harold said.

“Because I am happy you found out. It must be such a relief for you. But also for us. It explains so much.”

“But Janice.. it means you and me…. us..  there is no….”

“I still love you, Harold.I always loved you even when you pushed me away.” She stepped forward as if to hug him.

“Janice…Don’t you understand.. If I am gay that won’t change. I don’t feel like being intimate with you.” He stepped out of her reach again.

“Oh, of course..” She said. Her eyes showed hurt. She was still moving towards him, but slower now.

“When I am gay  I love men, not women.. Janice. You are a woman.“ He said

“Oh.” Janice’s eyes filled with sudden tears. She stopped right there..

“I am sorry.” Harold imagined the second domino toppling.

“But what about us? I can’t live with someone who doesn’t want to be close with me, Harold. We share a bed..A double sleeper. We share a house. We have kids. A life.A married life.”

“I know..We might have to sleep in separate beds..” Another domino fell over.. the next one would follow suit.

“For how long? And what are we going to tell our family? Our friends?” She started to cry,

“I don’t know, really. I had hoped it would go much slower than this.”

“I can’t live like this, Harold. I can’t live with a man who doesn’t want to be with me. Who doesn’t love me.”

“I know.”

“You know? It sounds like you planned it all. Like it was all part of a scheme you set in motion. The ruin of our life.My life.” She started to cry more and become angry.

“I did not plan this.. although.. I felt one thing would lead to another.” Harold said.

“You ruined my life.  You ruined the  lives of our kids, Harold.  What are you going to tell them?  Daddy loves men, not mam?” she laughed sarcastically, “You ruined everything..  Years ago. You could have told me earlier. Why now? Why so late? ” She ran out of the room sobbing. He could hear her footsteps on the stairs fading away.

Harold walked over to the window and went over the what had happened in his head. He looked into the dark garden of their suburban house with three storeys, two children, three cats and one dog.  Their car was parked in front and his motorcycle parked in the alley at the back. He had only considered being gay: he felt a vague attraction to men, but he actually couldn’t say if that was the truth of it.

Whenever he looked at other people. men or women, he felt nothing. A dead feeling possessed him.  It was what he meant to find out to therapy. When Janice had cried he had just felt distant and cold, like when someone in the papers or on television was crying. He sympathised, but he no longer felt that pain in his heart, like a hand squeezing it hard,  when Janice was sad. He felt sorry for her, but no longer sorry enough to stay with her. He felt like a different person had taken possession of him, but he knew it was just himself, but differently: colder.

He wondered what would happen if he found out he wasn’t gay at all, but just repressing his feelings because that was the only way he could deal with her. He knew he was sure he would not want to go back into a relationship with her. Any relationship for that matter.

He knew that was probably going to change at some later date for he had two friends who had been divorced and had felt exactly the same. Perhaps that is how you dealt with a divorce, only he needed another excuse, a bad excuse.  He could also have said he did not love her and wanted a divorce.

Perhaps that was all that had been needed.

Losing feathers

Losing Feathers
Losing Feathers

I imagined a tree.

When it was young it grew rapidly into a tall tree with a wide trunk, thick bark and so many luscious dark-green leaves that our whole family could sit in its shade when the sun was at it’s most merciless during the heat of the summers day.

I imagined the tree.

When it started to loose the first leaf nobody noticed, because there were so many green ones and that one red-yellow leaf that floated to the ground at dusk, went unseen and was perhaps trod upon by one of our daughters during a game of tag or when flying a kite.

I imagined the tree.

When I was  in my long dark green gown with my red-brown hair being tugged by the wind, during the first storm of our fall and a cloud of red and yellow leaves – all so sudden dead –  was released and carried away just before the rain arrived.

I imagined that tree..

When it was old and gnarled and the limbs were like fingers on a hand grasping upwards as the frozen image of  the hand of a drowning swimmer reaching out in desperation or a skeletal hand pushing through the soil of a graveyard. The last of the leaves had long gone.

I imagine our tree.

When, the next year, after the snow has melted, trees would blossom again and cloak themselves in their emerald versatility, but ours will be like a bird that lost it’s feathers and shows only the withered frame of a creature that would never fly again. With each incident and each conflict another feather would be plucked from it’s body until that moment came that we both did not care about that stab in the heart when yet another moment in life  made us drift apart further.

That was our tree:the only tree we had together.

Signs of life: the last voyage

The last voyage
The last voyage

She caught my attention because she was so there: standing tall with her arms folded in front of her chest and her defiant gaze that seemed to say to everyone around her: ‘I dare you, I dare you  to say something about it, I  dare you to assume; dare to conclude, to judge’.

He was wearing shades, a black jacket on blue jeans and a big brown leather bag that made him lean sideways.  He was next to her, but also behind her at the same time. Like he neither wanted to be next to her nor following her, while she didn’t want him to be either and certainly not in front of her. So she paced with long steps to keep ahead of him and he had to keep up dragging his heavy load. A reluctant chase.

Suddenly she halted a few meters further on the platform, making him stop as well after a minimum exchange of words. The bag thudded on the concrete. I  imagined it  to be bursting with voluminous books containing hundreds of pages made out of frail paper filled with miniscule lines. Like a pocket bible. Books filled with all the words they would ever need, but would never say to each other if they could help it. Words that would no longer see the light of day.

He turned towards a bicycle shop that was at one side of the raised platform and a few meters lower. He lifted the shades to put them on the top of his head and then put his hands in his pockets to stare at the rows upon rows of cycles inside the shop.

She looked the other way, with her back to the shop and staring at nothing in particular because she was mostly focused on looking away from him. Her arms were still folded in front of her chest.

When the train stopped she moved towards the doors  without giving him one look. He put on his shades, lifted the bag and followed her. When the doors opened they both stepped inside at the same time. Just before she was inside she stopped for a brief moment and gave me this intense gaze. There was a bit of defiance in it, but also – deeper – a sense of resignation. A resignation about  having to put up with someone you want to be miles away from, but you had to be with for this one trip. Just for this one last trip.