When I look back on that time, it’s like a chapter from some far-fetched novel; the type of novel my mother warned me never to read. She knew me well, you see, and knew the temptations rippling through my body. Temptations, desires and dreams that were incompatible with the reality you would have offered.
I think you loved me, but I’m not sure. You certainly desired me. That alone was not enough. I know I am desired, but in those days, it was by foolish ham-fisted boys, and men who should have been wise enough to know I would never settle for them.
You were not ham-fisted. You were wise. But then you were not a man. At first you behaved like one. Did you know that? The application of make-up, that want to see me as a prize, part of your collection, a trophy to flaunt.
A cheap toy.
It disgusted me, and yet, it was at that point I knew the prize was no longer what mattered to you. I had won because I would not allow you to ‘collect’ me. Once the artifice melted, you became mine.
I heard afterwards that you were a widow again. At the time, I wondered if I should attend the funeral, or at least write a note expressing my condolences, but I was pre-occupied with another by then, and had convinced myself that your life did not concern me. But on the day of the funeral, I thought about you, and I mused on the peculiarities of your collection.
I remembered your palms smoothing their way down my back, the way you ordered me not to face you as if you were disgusted by this girl that lay with you. I remembered your fingertips on my neck and a slow, slow, slight increase of pressure before you gave a breathy sigh and rolled away. This may seem ridiculous, but for a faint second I was afraid of you.
Last week, in Diagon Alley, I thought I saw you. Arm-in-arm with a man, your husky laugh scratching the air. I was with my children, treating them to ice cream, and ducked behind the menu because I didn’t want you to see me like that.
I’m still not sure it was you because, strange as it sounds, I do not remember you ever laughing. I have such strong recall of those four days, but although we were together, and although we ate, drank, and chatted about everything we could think of, we did not laugh, did we? At least, we did not laugh with happiness. It was all a game, I think.
I don’t want to be reminded of that time. I am happy, far happier than I know I have the right to be – given my past – and I truly love my husband. But sometimes when I look around my house, when I hear squabbles like duck squawks turn into full-blow rage between three fiery children, I wish for that four-day idyll.
The place where desire was everything.
Although, in the end, Sesen, it was not, and never could be real.
That woman in Diagon Alley, the one who looked so much like you, she laughed and was happy. So, I hope it was you, for I would hate to remember you as thwarted.