All the radio announcers keep yammering on about is how beautiful the weekend was, a real extended summer with record-breaking temperatures and searing sunshine. Of course it happens on the weekend I’m in Scotland, and of course as I get ready for this Monday, it’s pissing buckets outside.
I eye myself in the hallway mirror and give myself a discerning once-over. I’m wearing a suit today, steel grey, light grey shirt underneath, no tie. Last week was all about making the students feel comfortable—I was in dress shirts and jeans, T-shirts and trousers, but this week is about cracking down. Some of the students in my classes are my age, so I’ve got to at least look like I mean business, even though I’ve got dog hair on my shoulders.
My gaze travels to Winter sitting on the floor by the couch, thumping his tail when we make eye contact, and back to the mirror. He’s calm for now, but when I leave I know he’s going to treat my flat like a gymnasium. Thank god for Shelly, my dog walker. She was watching him over the weekend too and fusses over him like an unruly child.
I smooth my hair back and peer at the grey strands at my temples. I’m wearing it fairly short these days. Thankfully I’ve put all my weight back on, so I don’t look like the weakling I did before. I’ve been at the gym most mornings, working hard all summer to get back into shape, and it’s finally paying off. After the accident and my consequent meltdown (or, as my old job called it before they let me go, my “mental diversion,” as if what happened to me could be so neatly explained, like a detour on the road), I wasn’t eating. I wasn’t living. It wasn’t until I found the courage to see a doctor, to get help and finally stay with it, that I crawled out of the ashes.
I’d like to say it all feels like a blur to me, the years at the bottom of the spiral, the world around me bleak, guilt and hatred sticking to me like tar. But I remember it all vividly. In horrible, exquisite detail. Maybe that’s my punishment, my shackles for my crimes.
I knew that falling in love was a crime.
I deserve all the punishment I can get.
And what’s worst of all is how on some nights, the darkest ones when I feel how alone I really am, how badly my choices have tipped the world on its axis, I think about her.
I think about her.
I think about the reason my judgement became skewed, the reason why I chose my own personal happiness over my family’s. I think about the first time I really fell in love. It wasn’t a stumble into comfort and complacency, like it had been with Miranda. It was cliff-jumping without a parachute, bungee jumping with no cord. I knew, I knew, the moment I laid my eyes on Natasha, that I was gone and there wasn’t a single thing to hold me in place.
You’d think that memories of love would feel just like the real thing, but these memories never feel anything like love. Love is good. Love is kind. Patient. Pure.
So they say.
Our love was a mistake from the start. A beautiful, life-rendering mistake.
Even if I did let myself remember—feel—what it was like to look into her eyes, to hear those words she once so softly whispered, it would do me no good. That love destroyed so much. It destroyed me and I let it willingly tear me apart. And then I destroyed every last good thing in my life.
Memories of love are a poison.
My therapist told me that I have to embrace it. Acknowledge that people fall in love all the time with people they aren’t supposed to, that I was swept away and lost control for once in my life, and no matter what, I can’t blame myself for Miranda and Hamish’s death. It was bad timing. It was an accident. People get divorced every day and it doesn’t end that way.