Me: You have got to be kidding me! What am I? Meals on wheels?
Coq: You can't go empty handed. Sin for The Man. At least now he will have something nourishing in the house.
Macaron : And frankly the sunshine of your mere presence is unlikely to cut it
So off I went like little red riding hood with a basket of goodies on the front seat beside me. On my way, the big bad wolf called.
Foie Gras: So.....off to tend the invalid I hear
Me: How the *&%@ did you hear about that?
Foie Gras: YOU are going off to deliver TLC! Believe me word gets around!
Me: Did you just call to annoy me?
Foie Gras: Annoying you is never a 'just'. Did you remember to take your sledgehammer?
Cutting the line is so 'teenager'. But it's very satisfying.
The conversation had irritated me. Mostly because well, I was worried that Foie Gras might actually be right. The Man was incredibly attentive and sensitive about everything. Would I, as jaded as I am, be able to return the favour? Would he find me horrid? Would he decide that a woman who was incapable of delivering care to the ailing was not in fact the one for him?
The fact that I was worrying about these things only annoyed me further. What was I? 16 and looking for my one true love? I was a multi faceted grown woman, damnit! Nursing didn't need to be one of the things I was good at!
The Man was looking decidedly lugubrious but brightened in a very flattering manner at the sight of me and my basket of goodies, for which I got, and unashamedly took, full credit. Having set him up in the kitchen with a bowl of hot soup, I drifted into his bedroom only to discover rumpled sheets, a waste paper basket overflowing with tissues and an ensuite bathroom that looked like a tornado (albeit a nauseated one) had hit it.
Having ascertained that he did not in fact have fever, I suggested he shower. He agreed and I used the time to change his sheets and tidy up the room. He was terribly embarrassed, but while I don't do tender and considerate very well, I excel at being managing and bossy so...he was soon tucked up in bed and fast asleep. I then rolled up my sleeves and gave his bathroom a thorough wash and disinfect.
Afterwards, I sat by his bed and found myself watching him while he slept. It's possible I brushed his hair off his forehead. The moment rapidly went from warm and fluffy to brilliant panic. What was I doing?!?! I mean, The Man, was The Man, he had displayed remarkable tenacity and patience and tenderness and I had just washed his bathroom!!! There had been puke stains by the loo and I hadn't flinched. OMG!
I called Macaron.
Me: I am having a panic attack
Macaron: Why? Did he sneeze close to you?
Me: No. He is asleep. I....I.....I washed his bathroom. I scrubbed his toilet bowl. What the #&*%!
Macaron: (laughing merrily)
Me: Why do I call you?
Macaron: Bouche, I am sorry, but perhaps you should consider that you may actually, and I know this is not what you want to hear, but you might actually LOVE The Man.
Harsh, and definitely what I was afraid of. I mean not that toilet scrubbing equals love but...in a way, for me, it's a pretty strong indication.
On top of this thought, came another, what if all this was because I didn't want to die alone and be eaten by my dogs?
Seems a trifle random to you? Let's rewind a bit.
I was recently at a 'girls' night' with some friends. One of them was talking about her husband. He is neither beater nor cheater. He is simply not very interested in her and hasn't been for years. It wasn't the first time she had spoken about her marriage in a less than positive way but it was the first time that she ventured, tentatively and tearfully, the idea that perhaps she should leave him. Deciding I was not going to speak first and thereby elicit the 'Just because you gave up doesn't mean we should' death glare, I waited for the rest of the group to weigh in. And they did.
One said "All men are selfish". Another said "But isn't it true that he wanted you to lose weight? And you haven't, have you?" Yet another declared that it simply sounded like 'typical maleness' and that she should be 'grateful' since compared to men who cheat, beat their wives, didn't give their wives any money, insulted their wives in public and generally carried on like the fatherless; her husband was a prince.
Yet another asked "What do you want? To try and find someone else?"
Our friend with the problem didn't seem to know what she wanted. But I saw that she knew what she didn't want. She didn't want to be taken for granted, ignored and disrespected. She didn't want days when not a word was spoken, in a life in which her opinion was rarely solicited and her preferences almost never considered. Her heart was broken, and it was bitterness that wired her mouth shut.
And then someone said those words that always seem to seal the deal on conversations like this one - "Surely you don't want to end up alone?"
And my troubled friend said quietly "But I already am alone"
I ask you, is God saving a special place in heaven for all the martyred wives who gave up everything to stay with partners who viewed them as mere options?
The whole discussion left me feeling very low. I longed for the days of our youth when we told our friends "He doesn't deserve you! Dump him!" When we still believed that our friends deserved more than just "Yes but he isn't the worst man out there, so the question is – do you want to die alone?" I mean, hell, most of us will die alone anyway since statistically we stand to outlive our husbands!
I protested to one of those present during that conversation that I would never tell a woman to stay with a man she was unhappy. To which she replied "But you have money and a house. You are thin! You CAN find someone if you wanted to. She probably doesn't, and won't be able to, she will end up alone and her cats will eat her face".
Am beginning to think 'friends' is a rather overstated term for these people.
And I know, better than most, that children complicate things, make it virtually impossible to leave, because of course you don't want to hurt them, damage them or potentially ruin their lives; but as women, should we really be saying, to someone we can see is at the end of their tether – "Surely you don't want to be alone"? The terrible cliché of something is better than nothing. Stick it out no matter what. You are passed 40 so sitting around thinking how you won't be alone on your death bed (which is possibly another 40 years from now), is more important than being happy in the present, or being happy at all.
I had had every intention of proving that I didn't want or need a man. That I would be fine alone. That my so called potential for finding a mate wasn't what made me safe and happy, but my reliance on myself.
And then....The Man turned up. And now I wanted to be with someone. Was I now going to be the poster child for second chances? I can hear them now - "Oh how sweet! Bouche isn't going to die alone and be eaten by her mongrels! She has been rescued by....a man!"
Man: What's the matter?
Me : (jumping out of my skin) Oh! I didn't realize you were awake
Man: I need to pop to the bathroom. When I get back, will you tell me what's making you so cross?
I nod distractedly.
A few minutes later he emerges. His hand is cool when he takes mine. He looks suitably stunned.
Man: You washed my bathroom?!?!
Me: Oh for the love of goodness! It's not a big deal. And has NOTHING to do with dying alone and being eaten by the pack
Man: (laughing) What??
Me: I don't care about being lonely. I want to be with someone because they want to be with me, not because they are afraid that nobody will be there to call an ambulance if they trip over their oxygen tank
Man: I am not sure where any of that is coming from but if it's any consolation, there is nobody's oxygen tank I would rather trip over than yours
Me: That is shamelessly corny
Man: It's my fevered brain
I tell him I need to go. I don't really. But I am rattled and flight seems the best option.
Man: Thank you for coming. I am very grateful (he pauses) Are you going to blog about the fact that I am ill?
Man: A man needs a name!
Me: Oh you are obsessed!
Man: Only with you
Me: That's almost as bad as the one about my oxygen tank
Man: (laughing again) But, you love me anyway!
He is being light and funny but my face falls, and seeing my expression so does his.
What am I doing? Am I saying that I can't give our relationship a chance because I want to prove, in principle, that it is in fact possible to live alone?
Is there a special space in heaven for women who run away from love? Frankly, that sounds like the kind of place they might have in hell.
I clear my throat, and I say
"Yes. Yes I do".
My carefully planned exit goes out the window. I stay. We talk. Coq Au Vin really does make excellent chicken noodle soup.
The evening would have been an unqualified success. Only, as it turns out, what he had was definitely contagious.
See? Love really IS sickening.
*Misery by Stephen King. Read it. Or watch it. Read it is better.