Vengeance? No – I don’t feel vengeful, or even that angry. Except with myself, though that is more irritation than real anger. Mostly I just feel sad. Incredibly sad, and, I suppose sorry for myself. And, if I am honest, more than a touch of incredulity. How did we get here? Why didn’t I see it coming? But then – I was never really that clever.
When did it start? Ah, only she knows that. And him of course – we mustn’t forget him.
All I knew was when she told me. And I was shocked. I mean, absolutely. I had no idea. Talk about a bolt out of the blue. It was the last thing I expected. I said earlier that I wasn’t really that clever. Oh, I excelled at school, but I sort of bumbled along in real life; as if all that academic learning meant nothing in the world of emotions – anger and love and jealousy and hatred. And when I met her – Joy – it was as if that name encapsulated everything I was feeling. It was beyond happiness, it was better than anything I could have imagined, and most of all it seemed so right.
But now it is wrong. All wrong. In fact, everything is wrong. Her telling me she is having an affair is wrong. In fact, the word affair itself is wrong. It is far worse than that. She told me she is in love with him. And she didn’t even soften the blow by saying she still loved me. In fact, she told me directly that she didn’t love me anymore. She hadn’t loved me for a long time, since the baby was born in fact. Two years. Our little girl is two years old. So – if she didn’t love me how come she had still made love with me. But no – those thoughts came later – much later.
The strongest emotion I recall was simply disbelief. You know that feeling you have on waking when you aren’t sure if you are still asleep and everything is whirling around in your head as you try to shake the dream away. That was how I felt.
I was disoriented, my stomach churned over and over, I desperately wanted to vomit, I felt a terrible rush of imminent diarrhoea, I was dizzy and I just wanted to escape. I ran out of the house and away, just running, running, running – until I ran out of roads to run down, and out of breath. I slumped against a wall and tried to recall what she had said.
That was my immediate reaction. And now, two weeks later, it is just sadness. I have moved into the small bedroom – the one I had painstakingly decorated as a nursery for our little girl, her cot now in Joy’s, our old, bedroom. I have taken to laying awake all evening, all night sometimes, listening to Leonard Cohen “One of us cannot be wrong” and Dylan “It’s all over now, baby blue.” Wallowing in self-pity, replaying the words she said and the words I should have said – but couldn’t find at the time.
And, of course it didn’t end there. It never does I suppose. I offered forgiveness, I said that if she would stop seeing him then we could start over. I would never mention it again. You know – all that sloppy bollocks.
I was quite pathetic. I still am. She is leaving with him at the end of the week. I gave her the choice you see, I said she had to choose. And she has.
Last night I asked her why. Not why she had slept with him, not why she was leaving me for him. But why she had stopped loving me, why that had opened up a space in her heart. You see, even now I can’t quite believe in any real wrongdoing on her part. It must have been my fault, or at least, I must have been complicit in some way.
And she took the opportunity to wound me even more. The truth is always hard to take, especially when it comes from the one you still love. She said I had always intimidated her. From the beginning really, she had always felt somehow inferior to me, to my knowledge, to my confident social skills.
“I felt stupid” Joy said “next to you. You always knew what to say, you were witty where I was dull. I felt everyone looked down on me, that they somehow thought I was the lucky one to have you as a husband. Other women can be very catty and I felt they were sneering, or laughing even, behind my back. I began to hate you, and maybe for the very same reasons I had fallen for you.”
She went on “I just needed to prove to myself that I was somebody, someone in my own right, not just your wife. I felt I was on a treadmill, staying at home with the baby, washing, cleaning the house, cooking endless dinners. That wasn’t how I imagined my life would end up. And so – I began to hate you. With a vengeance. And every time we had friends round and they laughed at your stupid jokes the dagger went in a bit deeper. Every time you discussed Politics or Religion or Art, I despised your cleverness even more.
“I never had opinions you see” she continued. “I was just normal, a bit of a dunce at school, I never sought the limelight. And I could never talk. Not like you could anyway. So, I plotted my revenge. Well not revenge really – but in a way it was getting back at you. At first it was just for the excitement, the thrill of doing it behind your back. Every time we did it I felt I was getting my own back on you somehow. And you had no idea, did you? That was the best part. My ideal form of vengeance. And stupidly I thought I could get away with it.”
“But of course, the longer it went on the more I fell in love with him.” Joy shrugged. “And now it’s all gone too far, and I can’t give him up. Besides it will have all been for nothing if I go back to you now, won’t it?”
What did I think when she told me all this? I really don’t know, too early to take it all in. And though I have no feelings now except sadness, at least I am beginning to understand what vengeance is all about.