The bodegas and the lights on upper Broadway

In the Cavendish parking lot, I bumped into an acquaintance. I met her and her husband on a dive holiday a few years ago. Beautiful, passionate people, rich in a million ways. He was reading The Power of Now and talking about the mindblowing principles behind Burning Man. I can’t remember what she was reading but I remember that I was fascinated to listen to her. The last time I saw them they were waiting in a doorway for pizza takeaways in Kalk Bay. I remember they reminded me of some Paul Simon lyrics:

…but they ended up by sleeping in a doorway / by the bodegas and the lights on upper Broadway / wearing diamonds on the soles of their shoes…

She was coming into Cavendish with a friend; I was leaving with Kolya. We exchanged hello’s, stopped and paused in that awkward moment that you do when you know someone has something to say, but it’s beyond admissable to utter the obvious – There’s something you want to tell me – so you hunt for the words and they come out – What have you been up to?

Leaving her husband, as she put it. Interesting way of putting it, taking full responsibility like that, I thought. I know so many couples that split up, that separate, that try a trial separation, that break up (or break down), that get a divorce, whatever that is. I’m not sure I’ve met anyone that readily announces I’ve left him. But she did. And I couldn’t help feeling I knew that already, that I knew it all along, and although I could feel the pain and devastation of it shoring up behind her bright, coping, nothing’s-really -hit-yet smile (Paul Simon again – they say losing love is like a window in your heart/ everybody sees you’re blown apart/ everybody feels the wind blow).

The conversation went on longer than you’d usually chat in the Cavendish parking lot. I sensed her friend getting distant, leaning off towards coffee and magazines and a more comfortable place. I sensed the sudden loss of social boundaries that comes from relationship wreckage. I sensed she wanted to say more, hear more. Even though she was spilling all over the place with stuff to say.

“He’s a lovely guy, but I don’t want to be married to him anymore,” she said. “I don’t believe in marriage. I mean, I do believe in marriage. I believe in … a marriage of souls, of selves. Not marriage in the legal sense, the document. I always felt he rested on that legal document.”

I wonder about that mythical marriage of souls, of selves. I know the vision she sees and feels; she is not alone in intuiting that grand possibility of love writ meaningful. The ultimate, wondrous connection that welcomes us to a sense of being at home, being ourselves, being known and held and cherished. It’s a gorgeous, endless, inviting vision, and it’s been sold to our imaginations through poetry and music and romantic fiction and hollywood narratives and the million myths that feed us from our earliest days to our last. I just don’t think I’ve ever seen it in real life. In real life, I think, partners treat each other like cutlery. Something you hold firmly and use daily. Sometimes pointy, sometimes sharp, sometimes polished up when there are guests coming. Sometimes invisible in the daily wash and clatter of things. Maybe behind the prosaic drudgery of it all there’s a grand love story, but I really don’t know about that.

All around me, couples are disintegrating; the terrible statistics of modern Western divorce rates is playing out its predictable drama. Bags get packed, homes reallocated. Those that don’t have to draw battle lines around the children can count themselves lucky, but in the land of the dislocated, luck is a motley ticket to draw.

Away she goes, the inspirational acquaintance. On to better, brighter, more dazzling things and people. On to heal herself slowly in the calm, knowing hands of friends who have walked that path, who may walk it yet.


About Lisa

I live in South Africa with my husband and two small children, doing things, thinking about things and sometimes writing about them.
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