I saw him on the town road driving towards me and rather than our grinning windscreen greetings, it was a terse raised hand from me and a concerned look from him. How I would love to smash that windscreen, must have flashed my eyes, seeing his knowledge that I was beyond cajoling now, or lies.
You know it is over when he stops enticing you
on midnight adventures and day time rain time trysts; when he begins to wife
you and you oblige. You know it is over when you make him toast in the morning
instead of cooking him kangaroo meat in a cave at midnight. You know it is over when he
provides just enough goodness for his pass card to embark on his next adventure
My phone rang as I pulled into Crypt’s house. No Caller ID. I switched it off and then Crypt opened his front door and said, how you going Sarah?. Aussie’s birthday ey? Party, party! Do you want a beer? It’s cheap beer. Just shit beer really but something to get started on.
I’ve dug her up an orchid for her birthday, I said. I think it will take. They’re amazing.
I showed him the orchid, sprouting long, crimson stalks in an old tin stock pot I’d found in the Creepy House. I’d cut some flowers too and wrapped them in wet tissue, alfoil and wreathed them in a copy of the Weekly.
That’s impressive, better than my effort, he
said. I just bought her a pile of sausages. Crypt's night shifts usually involve
cleaning the blood and bits of bone off the floors, the walls and sometimes even
the ceilings, when the arterial sprays hit the light fittings of the surgery room at
You know it’s over when you can’t stop thinking about the night your lover's last lover was the usher and his wife took the stage alone and her father had just died. The white orchid in the usher’s dark hair. His wife's red lips stretched into what was supposed to be a stagey hilarity. Project that voice, actor. Put on that mask, usher, and usher us through the night. Go on. Both of you. Break a leg.
Both women looked terrified.
Crypt’s house is immaculate; shabby fibro chic. Now that he has a Kindle he reads three novels a week. He has printed out the periodic table and pinned it up in the kitchen. Most days on my commute, as I shoulder through the door with my back pack full of work clothes, a lap top and a dog, Crypt is asleep, or trying to sleep, or recovering from lack of sleep. But this day he was a bit spiky after a week of night shifts. Someone knocked at the door.
Who the fuck is that? shouted Crypt, throwing open the door. Who the fuck is knocking on my door?
I already knew who it was. I saw his car through the torn lace curtains, parked across Crypt’s driveway, and then I heard his voice, asking for me.
Well I dunno, said Crypt. Who are you anyway? And Sarah? How did you know she is here? Sarah! He turned to me. Do you wish me to let this gentleman onto the premises?
Of course, I said. Come in.
He looked sunburned and intense. He didn’t really smile and that thing he normally does with his eyes when he sees me wasn’t there. I assumed he was reflecting the same lack in mine.
Sit down, sit down, said Crypt. Do you want a
beer? It’s not that great but it’s a beer. Crypt slammed down a can in front of him.
He nodded and sat down. He said,
I tried to ring you, just then, from a pay phone. My phone has died a terrible death …
You know it’s over when you block his calls, messages and face time on your phone. You know it’s over when you resign from your secret internetty game with your secret internetty name - he changes his name according to whomever he plays with - and then you delete the app. You know it’s over when he is still too wary, secretive and careful, even in the face of losing you forever, to acknowledge this fact, to ask in Crypt’s presence: why did you block my calls and cut contact with me a week ago? What happened?
Because if he had asked me that, Crypt may have well put up his palms, backed away and left us at the little laminex kitchen table to let us talk some truths. Crypt may have gone outside to gaze over the verge action of the debacle’d meth house next door, or at my orchid in a tin pot, or decide that it was bin day even though it was a Saturday.
But my visitor didn’t ask me that. He is just a man who has affairs.
Truth is no option for the romantic strayer, and so the three of us sat around the table, drank beer and talked about toe tags, the day’s sailing, fish paintings and science fiction. I was aware of his discomfort and thought, his discomfort is not a single fucking stitch on the tumult I’ve worn the last four years. Pain expressed repeatedly by me and ticked off on his mental clipboard.
No Action Required.
You know it’s over when you realise the futility of explaining why this unequal relationship succours your damaged self and dismantles your true one. He hasn’t listened to you, he never will. Explain yourself woman. Again. Enough. You know it’s over when you recall his complaints about his previous mistress’s bleak, black heart. You always thought you were better than her and now you’ve become that same bleak, sad heart. A once-wild soul, black-mantled by secrecy. And that there will be another soul after you. There probably already is. You’re just not that special, Miss Sarah.
I was feeling restless. Finally I stood, exhausted with the hopping between chit chat pleasantries around Crypt’s kitchen table and the cool narrative going on in my head.
I’m off to Aussie’s place, I said, putting on my coat. I want to help her set up.
Yes, said my visitor, standing. I should get going too.
I’ll see you over there later, said Crypt to me. Are you taking her the orchids?
I turned. Goodbye, I said to him.
I felt a small twinge of … something, when I saw his beer can ringed neatly with indents from his thumb nail. I hadn’t noticed he was doing that.
See you, he said.
I was out the door, collecting up the tin pot and the Weekly-wrapped corsage, and I was down the street, stalking along with the pot on my hip, holding it like a baby or maybe a washing basket. I was angry but I didn’t use the pot to break his windscreen. I didn’t feel so wronged after all. I just felt a million different furies spawning from an ancient hurt. I heard his car start and rumble along the road behind me, slowing as he reached me. This was where he would stop and say, can we talk now? But Aussie’s house was right there and I crossed the neighbour’s lawn to get to her driveway. I didn’t look to the road as I waved the spray of orchids at him, waving him away, and so he drove away.
What was all that about? Crypt asked me later and so I told him.
I call him Crypt here, not because he cleans blood and bone fragments off walls for a job but because he is really, really good at cryptic crosswords. He just has that kind of brain. Later he sent me this message:
I couldn't remember your friend’s name so I called him Rockmelon to place him in my mental catalogue. I got it later: Cantaloupe.
Can’t elope. Can't. Elope.