She laughed. All my life I had tried to be funny, and nobody laughed. Now I told the truth and everything I said was amusing.
"All these women keep ringing up. Single ones."
"Why don't you try going out with one of them?" said Georgie.
"There's always a reason why they're still single."
"Nonsense. They're lovely girls. Clever, pretty, successful, nice, good cooks--what more d'you want?"
"They aren't you."
I knew at once that I'd overstepped the invisible line that had to exist between us.
"Oh, Benedick, you are sweet. You never said anything as nice to me when we were married."
"We're still married."
A large part of my wife's attraction is that she treats my sex as though we're children to be managed. She used to enjoy this. Then she had Cosmo and Flora.
"You should be out there, enjoying your freedom."
I knew this was true. In fact my first reaction when she left me was a kind of elation. If you've been with the same person for most of your adult life, you can't help feeling curious. All those girls you haven't slept with, the parties you haven't gone to, the offers you've turned down.
A year ago, my new situation had seemed like a sort of holiday. Furious, but elated, I raced about going to films and plays and parties as if released from bondage. I had kept my wedding ring on, largely because it had become too tight to remove, but I was free. I would stand in front of the mirror, with the theme tunes to the James Bond movies playing very loud, drawing an imaginary gun from a holster. I could go to the gym, travel the world, buy designer clothes, have affairs--
It took about three months for this tawdry fantasy to come crashing down. Most of the people I knew were just as I was--exhausted, poor, harassed, and prematurely aged by parenthood. The unmarried looked better but behaved worse. Everyone who was still single came trailing a history of romantic disappointment. In my twenties parties had been casual, raucous, bring-a-bottle events. Now, as forty approached, there was champagne, cocaine, and utter desperation. I was actually frightened by the intensity with which I was pursued. One woman I had hardly even spoken to came up to me and said, "don't want a relationship. Let's just fuck."
I stopped going out, but not before my name and number had been entered in too many address books. Now Georgina had joined in the game of pairing me off. "What about Amelia de Monde?"
"You must be joking. The last thing I want is another divorcee. Or another hack, for that matter."
My wife ignored this. Just before she left me, she had been writing a column about her life, in which I had featured largely as a neurotic layabout who spent all our money on absurdities and left her to cope with the ensuing disaster. It was hugely popular--thousands of women apparently wrote to say their own lives were just the same. No, I did not want Amelia de Monde.
Excerpted from In a Dark Wood by Amanda Craig Copyright 2002 by Amanda Craig. Excerpted by permission of Nan A. Talese, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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