Friday, August 10, 2018

Mission Accomplished

Another earthquake yesterday afternoon, this around 5.5 on the scale. The curious thing about yesterday's quake is that you could hear the sound of its occurrence in sequence, from house to house, from the end of the street, where my house is located, to the head of the street, rattling each front gate along the way as it proceeded. (Note that nearly every house here has a heavy iron front gate that either slides on a runner or swings on hinges). Whenever this happens, men shout and women and children scream and everyone rushes outside to see what they can see, which is nothing, of course. And happily so, too--for if there were damage to be seen, they had probably best not be outside to begin with! 

So, yesterday I had a lunch date with Louis, my ex-wife (though still not legally so). This actually turned into a dinner date, as she forgot about the appointment till late afternoon. If there is one thing I have learned about myself in this long life, it is that I am nearly perfectly forgettable. 

And as I stood talking to her in the mall before parting, it struck me that she was finally truly gone, that my self-imposed mission to help her along her way had been accomplished, and that I was suddenly in a place where I could experience, with immediacy, with finality, the fact that I am totally alone, that she's not coming home, that I shall see very little of her from this time forward, that silence is not temporary or odd, like an earthquake, but permanent and eternal. It is finished. 

You see, since Louis left, in January of this year, after a two year affair of which I had become only gradually aware, I had committed myself to being a positive influence in the course she had decided upon. I felt that I had done my part in the marriage as best as I was able, I had brought us here to Bali, had set up our household, taken care of and raised her son, Sasha, had seen him on his way back to America a couple of years ago, and had found myself, at last, poor in both health and finances. What had I left to offer but for love? 

And what is marital love other than devotion, regardless of whether devotion is received in kind? 

I was determined to help and also to protect, because I know all too well that Louis is not a stable person. When you live long enough with a woman who suffers from bipolar disorder and know first hand the terror of dealing with an attempted suicide, you understand that you can never relax, you can never be careless. You take into account at all times what might happen (because it has already happened). You stand guard, on yourself and on her. You stand between yourself and otherwise normal, allowable emotions such as anger and remonstrance.  

It seemed that there could hardly have been a more dangerous scenario Louis could have gotten herself into than becoming involved in the stress of an extramarital affair, and with a married man at that, for particular to the disorder itself is the inability to deal with stress in a healthy manner. I committed myself to helping, counseling, advising, encouraging, because I was concerned about her safety, I worried about what she might do. And because I love her. 

I have found myself in the odd situation over the last eight months of refereeing her difficulties with her boyfriend, of befriending him such that he may trust in my good intentions, and in my neutrality, and such that he may benefit from my experience, of talking to them separately and together and of appearing before her friends and peers, our old acquaintances, to reassure that all is well, to deter any unkind judgement that might occur if I seemed broken or angry or anguished. 

This is love: to insist on the happiness of the one you love. 

And so, as I say, it is also, ultimately, isolation. What does the soldier do when the mission is done? What does the general do when the war is over? I see them now beginning to come together, beginning to adjust and commit and become one, whose counsel, from here forth, will be conducted, and rightly so, among themselves. She speaks now of seeing me again in November, and of eventually moving to Holland or Spain. Frantic, tearful calls in the middle of the night will become fewer, and then none. New alliances will be formed, new support systems. What we were will be no longer applicable except as an element of memory.  

The course of love is rocky at  best, and even more so when both parties are coming straight out of a previous marriage, hers of 11 years, his of 40. Indeed, the course of my relationship with Louis was rocky from early on, and love soon changed, as love does, to conform to circumstance and situation. It became what it needed to be, rather than what I may have wanted it to be. 

But I see myself soon removed, and standing alone where we left off--that peak, that end to which we climbed. And indeed we climbed to reach an end, and face now nothing but sky and the old horizons of the past. There alone stand I, with suddenly nothing more to attain. I breathe the restful, untouched air, yet tremble at the vast emptiness all around. 

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