Compared to our previous (two? three?) separations, this one was remarkably free of histrionics. Neither tears nor angry words clouded the final severing of ties, just a fug of inevitable and knowing sadness that surrounded us as we sat in the quiet Monday night pub and she said the words that despatched me to singledom. Her face normally carries a pale sheen of anxiety when she's about to break bad news; a patina of stress and bottled-up emotion laid over a foundation of worried sleep. Her skin looked healthy this time and there was a previously absent calm certainty in her voice that invested her words with weight and credibility.
After a mostly fun year of weekends and nights together, I'd suspected that the next step in our relationship would be make or break. By December, I predicted to myself, we would either be choosing curtains together in Peter Jones or individually working out whether to send each other Christmas cards. We'd not really talked much about the future, and I sensed a certain reluctance on her part to bring it up in conversation. In the end, my account in her ledger book slipped into overdraft. Despite my numerous and regular credits, I incurred a large debit by falling short against the unspecified measures she uses to size up husband and father material. Comparing our relationship with those of her friends she decided to write off the debt.
So, I'm a little sad and lonely again, albeit with the faintly amusing knowledge that we've split up several (three? four?) times before and I've passed through precisely this painful rebuilding process. That knowledge doesn't comfort me now, as we wordlessly pass by in the office, or as I scroll over her name in my phone book, but it anchors me to a certainty that I will be OK again soon. Time will heal me.