Saturday, February 11, 2006

A little something on the side

I wrote to Sheldon out of the blue, asking if he would like to come have a cup of coffee with me. He had taken the semester off, and from my own experience during the inter-semester breaks where I would get progressively more depressed, self medicating with red wine...

Days I sleep off nights of red wine
Nights I go out of my mind...

...I figured he could use some companionship right about now. He wrote back joyfully accepting.

"How did you know?"

"Oh I go pretty crazy when I have all this time on my hands. I figured you'd be going crazy too..."

"Yes. I was incredibly depressed. Took all that time off to write and then there were a hundred niggling little things that came up so I couldn't work. And then, I was not in the mood, frankly."

"You know what Julia Cameron says...writing is like any other job. It's not about being in the mood. It's about sitting down and doing it." (Fine advice from someone who always needs to be in the mood to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard!)

"Ye-e-e-s," he said doubtfully, his eyes shadowed. The coffee (or rather the non-fat milk he opted for) loosened his tongue. Things were not going well with his wife. They had drifted so far apart. Living separate lives. Nothing in common anymore. And the worst of it, she didn't know there was anything wrong.

"You ever thought of telling her?"

He smiled ruefully. Sheldon is English. Very much so. "No. That's not how it is with us. When I do choose to say something, there will be no going back. Then I'll pack up and leave."

Sheldon sighed as his eyes took on a faraway look. He was gazing out at the undulating landscape of more than 30 years of marriage. Craters lately, but there had once been lush rolling hills, green and verdant. There had been shy spring flowers, gaudy summer blossoms. There had been love.

"Every day, I think of leaving her. Every day. I stay for what was, rather than what is."

I knew he just needed to talk. Loosen some of that congealed feelings. Then he smiled, thanked me for caring enough to ask him out for coffee, and listening. We parted with promises of keeping in touch. I felt sorry for him. Endings were always sad.

A few weeks before I left Australia, Sheldon called me. He wanted to catch up. We met for a drink at uni and adjourned to a alfresco pub. I glanced furtively at this guy over my rather robust Cabernet Sauvignon. I had always thought he was rather attractive, but never had the fact been driven home to me so forcibly as it was now.

Gone was the cloud of depression. He exuded vitality, almost glowing.

"So what's new with you?" I ventured with a smile.

"The writing's coming along fine. I do about 1,000 words a day."

We talked about his writing for a while. Sheldon is one of the most talented writers I met at university. A cross between Peter Mayle, Laurie Lee and Gerald Durrell. He had the power to make me laugh and cry with a few well chosen words on paper. But somehow, whatever had brought about this change, it was not his writing. It seemed as if we were talking around things.

I asked about his wife and he told me the situation was about the same. They lived in separate houses because he told her he needed the peace and quiet to write. He went back on weekends to fix broken stuff. That had been the extent of their communication for a while. Yet surprisingly, he didn't seem to be very down about it. Curious. He asked me about how I got by between boyfriends. I laughed, saying there was much to occupy my time with. Work, friends and Cabernet Merlot.

"I've turned into quite a lush."

"I'll believe that when I see it."

"OK, but I have to say, I'm totally aware of what I do when I'm under the influence." I winked at him. "And I do it anyway."

"I'll bear that in mind."

Oh dear, it was getting hot in here. The wine, the lazy afternoon, the absence, temporarily, of all inhibitions. What the hell, I was leaving next week anyway.

As he dropped me off at uni, I leaned over and planted a kiss on his cheek.

"You're looking good Shel. Really good. So much better than when I saw you last. What gives?"

He grinned. "Things are going well with my writing. That... and I've been having an affair with a younger woman. No. I'm not going to tell you who it is. You know her. Now scoot. I have to get home."


goldennib said...

Fuck. Not what I was expecting. lol

goldennib said...

I'm just so stupid sometimes. I'm laughing myself silly right now.

Jenn said...

That was deliberate. Ahahahaha!