Slowly, my possessions emerge from the plastic crates in which I brought them here. It took a lot of trips to bring them all, multiple runs back and forth. It takes a lot of trips to decant them. Books. CDs. Films on DVD and, in the case of The Pillow Book, VHS. A lifetime’s worth of interest, art and culture. All so small.
One of the things about getting divorced is that it deprives you of a sense of meaning. Before the marriage, these fragments, taken together, added up to a self. After the marriage has broken, the equation no longer computes. Perhaps mathematics is a less useful metaphor than chemistry: the marriage a catalyst which fundamentally transforms the substance of one’s being. When the catalyst is exhausted, when it decays to nothing, what once was whole dissolves into its parts. The covalent bonds between the elements of who you were are broken.
This metaphor, too, is imperfect. I remember little from my GCSE chemistry lessons, but one thing that sticks in my mind about catalysts is that they are always, themselves, unchanged by the reaction they provoke. The marriage, however, did change. The evidence is there to see in the photos which I copied onto this computer on Thursday night, before my trip to Glasgow.
In the photos from New York and San Francisco, she smiles. Her eyes light up. Such hope. In the photos taken three years later, in the place that gave New York its name, she tries to smile, but her eyes are weighed down with the despair of a love in its death throes.
Yesterday I finished rereading Preacher. I read an entire issue of the London Review. I went to the library to update this blog, and, while there, was amazed to see they now have a fine selection of books by Joyce Carol Oates. I came home and ate pizza for tea. I settled down to watch Iron Man with my parents, on the big TV in the living room, only to find that Sky Movies had rescheduled it. I went upstairs and watched Withnail and I for half an hour, then changed my mind and watched Love is the Devil instead.
Not an epic day, but by no means a bad one. Before the marriage, probably a day with which I would have been as happy as my melancholy temper would allow. But now: all is changed. The centre around which all these things once cohered is no longer where it was. Because the centre of those fragments was me: and, all the time that we were together, my centre was migrating, imperceptibly, away from me, and toward her. And with her, for the time being at least, it still remains. And so now I wander, I read, I watch films, I rearrange the glass bead game of my mental life first one way, then another, everything enough to distract, to engage, to entertain: and all of it pointless.