SUNDAY, June 13 – My bedsprings creaked as a result of all my tossing and turning, and I woke up to find myself in a state of extreme confusion. Under the shower I rinsed away my nocturnal fatigue, ran a towel over my face, and looked in the mirror. Then it became clear.
It’s so simple, flirting with single colleagues and mothers in the schoolyard, and sampling various other romantic possibilities. It’s satisfying, enjoyable, sexy, and good for your ego. But God almighty, how do you keep it up? How do you combine it with work. With children? And why? What’s the object of the exercise?
In her book You Can Call me Anytime, author and widow Karin Kuiper says that the patience of the people around you usually lasts about six months. They figure that the period of mourning ought to be over, and before long the potential partners descend on you like flies on molasses. And she’s right. I’ve seen it happen. And while it’s fun, in the long term it doesn’t get you anywhere.
This is something I realized during a long telephone conversation with C. I’d been corresponding with her for some time by email. She’s a recent divorcee with two daughters. At the moment they live in France, but they’ll soon be moving to Amsterdam. This morning was the first time we’d spoken to each other. It’s clear that we have a number of things in common, but we have more to offer each other than consolation. We are genuinely interested in each other, and this morning under the shower I was conscious of a kind of turning point in my present life: one step back in superficiality in exchange for one step forward towards potential love
19.30 – Damn it, stomach ache. I mustn’t let on. Stomach ache due to nerves, but I see to it that my face is all smiles. Again and again I emphasize how jealous I am and what a lucky dog he is to be able to go on the trip. He just nods.
The youngest son is going on a class trip.
Not a day trip to an amusement park, but three days in Brussels, for Space Camp to learn what it’s like to be an astronaut. The high point is the micro-gravity experience: the sense of being weightless. That’s what he’s really looking forward to. Just as I’m looking forward to the moment when I can put my arms around him again. Damn it! Why am I so worried? He wants to go, he’s enthusiastic, he’s going to be away three nights and he’s excited that he’ll be sharing a room with two of his best friends. So what’s the problem?
I pace back and forth holding the letter from school, with the list of things he’s supposed to take along and another list with the things he’s not allowed to bring. Sleeping bag, pillowcase, mattress sheet, shoes with white soles, three pairs of underpants plus one extra, socks, three T shirts and an extra pair of pants go into the sports bag. In his backpack he’ll have his Dutch passport, a copy of his insurance card, and twenty euros for the souvenir shop. Cell phones are taboo, but they’ve made an exception for Eamonn.
He’s raring to go. But I’m not. I remember how he came home holding the letter in which the space camp was announced. He was simply wild about the idea. Jenn and I exchanged glances, thinking how big our little guy was getting. We had all sorts of plans for those three days. We would have no problem finding an address for Sander for three days.
In the week after her death Eamonn announced that he would definitely not be going. He didn’t feel like going anymore and he couldn’t bear the thought of being away from home for even one night. Far away from me. I said: we’ll see how you feel when the time comes.
And now that the time has come, I’m grateful and deliriously happy that he’s looking forward to the trip. Which is why I have a stomach ache.