When Mark first left I bought "Wintering" by Kate Moses and sobbed over every word of the first chapter. A fictional account of the end of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes relationship, the fact that it is so beautifully written is enough to make you cry. Even without relating to every word to the degree that you end up putting the book in the freezer until you’ve got your strength back…
"She slaps the paint up the wall, evens it under the stroke of the brush. It takes mere moments for her to realize she’ll never get anywhere like this: the shabby unpainted room yawns away. she dips the brush again. Their fish mouths gulp at the surface. Assia rocks on her bulb, her rooty filaments clumped and dirty. He’s spilling his milt into her, filling her little cup with it. It’s all so dirty- the hairs will never come out of this paint. Sylvia could pluck at the sticky walls forever. She drops the eyelashing brush on the newspaper and searches the floor for the drip pan and the roller. She’s gagging on the fumes. She want’s to retch. She can’t clear the particulate out of your throat. If it weren’t for the children she wouldn’t have to see him at all. No- not this way. It’s unspeakable. It opens a hole, gaping at the edge: Where would she be without her children? And that ideas’s frightening twin, a tiny figure escaping across a crater: not seeing him."
Three months ago I couldn’t read it. I had no perspective wider than my own grief, though like Sylvia, I was consumed by domestic detail to the point of frenzy, trying to numb my hysteria with the stench of polish and lemons and lavender nurtured by a heart that failed to nurture what mattered most.
Housework as an opiate.
And like her, sometimes sheer horror caught me unawares and left me grasping for air in a house that wanted to suffocate me. Burying my head in my two year olds little chest and hoping the scent of his baby soft skin would soothe me. Not seeing him. No not that. Not that.
But that was then. Now he is gone. If not in person, then in spirit. He isn’t who he was. His voice is different. And the words that come mumbling out have been fed into him by a woman plainly desperate to eradicate who he was. It hurts and yet most of me feels no pain at all. For this is what he has chosen- a woman who has two children of seven and nine she does not see. A woman who doesn’t hold her babies dear.
To most peoples bewilderment the scabs on my heart are for him. Not for me. I’m worth more than a bucketful of tears for a man who cannot see that a woman who chooses not to love her children can only ever love herself. A man not willing, no– too stupid, to recognise that the way we choose to love our children is at the very heart of who we are.
Being a mommy is the very essence of who I am and if that means I’m drowning in it, then so be it. Finley matters more…
I stopped crying days ago. Not since I tried and really rather dramatically failed to put a plastic shed together in the garden and found myself sobbing in the arms of a neighbour, have I come undone. I like my shiny happy new life. I like the gaps where he used to be. The sense of absolute possibility trembling under my skin.
I’m strangely happy and he knows. I see it in his shifty gaze. The one that drinks me in, in all my contented glory. No longer required to comfort me with lies, but continuing to do so all the same.
So she can have him.
The chances of finding me with my head in my (currently utterly filthy) oven are getting slimmer by the day. As are my hips.
I’m letting myself be. Poor, poor darling, Sylvia Plath.