Yesterday I went to my best friend of nearly 35 years parents’ house for a ‘goodbye’ do (she’s moving to the depths of beautiful Cornwall in a few weeks). We met in our first year of upper school in 1983, and we have been friends ever since. I felt quite tearful when I went to the house where I’d spent so many of my teenage years; there were so many memories – of sleepovers, laughter, wedding days, winding up her older brother by waving our bras outside his window (using a hockey stick) and writing endless letters to each other after I’d moved away in 1984. It’s a friendship that’s endured and imperceptibly changed shape as we’ve matured. We’ve seen each other through teenage crushes, boyfriends, husbands, babies and growing children. I love her daughters like they’re my own and I know she’ll always be there for my kids too. What’s lovely is that our oldest daughters are now good friends too. We’ve lived thousands of miles apart and just down the road from each other, but she’s always been there for me and I’ve always been there for her too. I’m not worried about her moving away – I know we’ll always be friends and I know there will be many more memories made in Cornwall – but it has made be slightly cross with myself for not seeing more of her whilst she was on my bloody doorstep.
The other thing that made yesterday quite emotional was another photograph. For some reason every photograph sent to or taken by Youngest Son’s phone gets automatically downloaded onto my phone. Usually this isn’t a problem, I just get loads of insane selfies and quite an interesting glimpse into what he actually gets up to at school, but yesterday a photograph from E appeared in my pictures. It wasn’t a picture of him or P, it was a picture of a view, taken from his hotel. The picture was of the kids’ old school (now pretty much a building site – its being redeveloped into Condo blocks) and in the background was the building that we used to live in. It was an unremarkable picture of condo blocks, building site and buses and yet it was like a kick in the stomach. I knew E and P were in Singapore, and I thought I’d accepted that and got my head round it. But seeing a picture, seeing proof of the fact that he was there with her and was literally overlooking the ashes of such precious memories to me, was desperately and deeply hurtful. I was so cross with myself for feeeling upset. I don’t want him back. I don’t love him. P is welcome to him. But, for some, completely irrational, reason, it really upset me. How I felt also took me by surprise because it’s been a good few months since I’ve been reduced to tears about what E has done (even his wedding photograph didn’t bother me too much emotionally). I thought I’d accepted it. I thought I’d come to terms with it. Yesterday showed how close to the surface the pain still is.
This picture made me see that, for E, there is probably no memory of or with me that he values. When I was out there with the kids last year, I couldn’t bear to walk up the road we’d lived in, let alone take a photograph of it. I’ve never been the cheating partner, but I know I have enough of a sense of decency that if I was to take the person I’d cheated on to the place I’d lived in with my ex, that I wouldn’t be revelling in the memory of my previous life there. The thing is, Singapore is a small place, and it’s inevitable that they will go to places that we went. I know the kids would be interested in seeing a picture of their old school and where they used to live (which is why he sent it). E also probably had no idea that I’d see the picture. But that isn’t what hurt. What really stung was that he’d chosen a hotel in the heart of where we used to live (next to a building that we used to see from our balcony) and he has gone there without a shred of regret for what he’s done and how much he’s hurt me. It’s not that he’s left, it’s not even that he’s there with her, it’s that he has no respect for me or the time we spent there together.
I’m guessing his next stop is Bintan – a little Indonesian island just off the coast of Singapore. We loved Bintan, we went there for day trips, we took the kids for long weekends, we took family there when they visited us, we stayed there when the kids and I went to see E during his year alone in Singapore, I even took the kids there last year for old times’ sake. I shouldn’t be surprised by this – he’s been there with O too. When we went in 2013, he’d booked somewhere that he told me he’d discovered when visiting with a male friend (and how they’d nearly missed the ferry home because they were drinking cocktails on the beach). I went and sat at that beach bar with him and chatted with the barman who’d served him that day. I’m guessing that it wasn’t a male friend he’d been there with – when I was on his laptop, I’d found loads of pictures of him and O, cuddled up together on the ferry on the way there. I’m guessing that the cocktails were with her and (humiliatingly) that the barman, having now met both of us, was very discreet. I’m not sure how P will feel about being the third woman he’s taken there, but I think you’ll forgive me when I say that I’m finding it hard to care how she feels.
The thing is that it’s incredibly hard to make yourself feel what you know logically. I was talking to another friend, a lady who has experienced a similar betrayal to me, at my friend’s house yesterday and she was saying exactly the same thing – it’s all very well knowing that he’s wrong, that you’re better off without him and that karma might even do its thing eventually, but that doesn’t help, it doesn’t stop you feeling hurt and pain at unexpected reminders of the betrayal. The worse thing is the knowledge that E is not worth me feeling so hurt over. He didn’t deserve my love before and he certainly doesn’t deserve my tears now. However, whilst I know that logically, the part of me that’s hurt just wants to curl up in a ball and cry.
When I got back from my friend’s goodbye do, I gave the kids ‘zero fucks food’ (Doritos, chocolate, a can of coke each) with which they were delighted, I then curled up on the sofa, wrapped myself in a blanket, and watched The Fall – a drama about a charming serial killer whose wife had no idea what he was doing – which made me feel miles better about not spotting E’s lies. I mean, I know E had a ‘type’, but at least he wasn’t out strangling his Russian students behind my back.
I’m glad to say that today feels much calmer. I’m in the study working (I have the accounts, the blog and the Shaman article to work on), Oldest Daughter is intermittently texting me, Youngest Daughter is chatting to friends online and I can hear laughter (and the odd shriek) coming from her room, Oldest Son is pottering about on the piano and Youngest Son is playing Fortnite on the XBox, in the living room. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the music playing in the kitchen is battling Oldest Son for dominance in the noise stakes (Oldest Son is winning, with close competition from Youngest Son, whose game seems to involve intermittent, excited, shouting). Now yesterday is over and the shock of the picture has sunk in, I’m feeling calmer and able to be grateful that days like yesterday are a rarity, not the norm. In a funny sort of way, it’s made me realise how far I’ve come.
I might just watch The Fall again tonight though – it’s definitely helping me to count my blessings…