Forty-five, fat in a short, roly-poly kind of way. Greying, middle-aged hairstyle. A loving and formidable mother to her school-age children. She’d had an interesting life. Rode a motorbike with her boyfriend (now husband) on the hippy trail from Calais to Singapore in the 1970s, passing through the Soviet Union, Afghanistan and Bangladesh on the way. She showed us a photo of them on the bike in outback Pakistan. Yowzah! She was well hot, dressed in skimpy shorts and a sleeveless shirt. He was tall, hairy and clad in leather, a sombre intelligence emanating from his craggy features. She was my former colleague. A few of us got together at her house for a reunion.
She lived with her family on a sprawling bush property outside the city in a large, custom designed timber house. They had a lady who came around once a week to help clean and they had a contract with a company that cleaned the pool and cleared the fire break. It was far more than us low-level functionaries could afford on our own – clearly hubbie was on the shit. Good for him.
The man himself met us at the door. For a moment I was startled and couldn’t guess who he might be. Richard Gere? The new Bond? He was an architect but he looked more like a TV architect. Six foot four, movie star grey hair and serious, unlined, tanned features. He’d not yet shrunk with age and he showed the build and confident gait of a keen athlete. He wore fashionable, neat casual attire that was probably as dressed-down as he ever got.
The movie star greeted us warmly, chatted for long enough to be polite and then retired to his study. We spoke about our plans for the new year.
“I’m not working,” said the roly poly wife. “I’ve always worked full time, since the kids were both at school. Then I studied full time for a year.” That last was supposed to be for a change of career and a move to more family-friendly hours. “I’ve done nothing but look after everyone else since I was a teenager. It’s time I had some time for me.”
“What are you going to do?” asked a person who was female and therefore permitted to inquire.
“Oh, do some art, catch up on some reading,” she said. “I might go on a few trips. Just the girls. Get away from all this.” She gestured vaguely to the giant basket of laundry but not to the opulent house in which it sat.
At lunch hubbie returned. He interacted with his wife’s acquaintances with the wit and grace of a character played by Gregory Peck. His wife would snipe at him from time to time: It wouldn’t hurt you to help carry a plate, would it, love? Amazing you deigned to join us for once – the tennis boys will think you’ve been hit by a bus. Oh yes, he works too much – got your priorities sorted, haven’t you dear? The movie star did not react or show any sign of having heard.
The next time our group got together, roly poly wife was missing. A woman broke the sad news to me gently, like I might fall down in a faint from shock. They’d divorced. It was very sad. She’s struggling at the moment. She’ll take time to get back on her feet.
If I were curdled milk I’d at least pretend to be yogurt.
Further reading: Why I Am Not Married