There was this time, I was 11, maybe 12 years old and the class teacher made me sit with Yvonne. She was the smartest girl in class, and honestly, a bit dull. And judgmental. She would look at me the exact same way that every teacher did: with a worried shake of the head. ‘You can be better than this, Edgar.’ She had a way about her that suggested she had been told her whole life that she was destined for big things and she genuinely believed it. And so did most of the class. Why wouldn’t they? She’d topped the class since Pre-unit, I had been told. I had only been there two terms and so hadn’t seen her be the best at everything long enough to be convinced she was perfect. I had to sit with her so that her betterness could rub off on me.
Being in therapy is a bit like that. Except instead of Yvonne, looking at me funny because I handed in my exam script almost entirely blank, it’s this guy looking for all the cracks in my smile. This is my third visit. Anthony—that’s his name—thinks every human has both good and bad in them, and that the side that ends up dominant is the one that is nurtured by the environment. He asked me which side of myself I think has been nurtured more and I told him that I’m uncomfortable with the word ‘nurtured’; that I preferred ‘moulded’ as it implied less feeling. He nodded and wrote in his notepad.
Jasmine is crazy. Every day she is yelling at me and shushing the baby, and hovering around the house like an evil spirit, looking for something to scream about. I don’t know what happened to her. I think the baby brought out the worst in her. She used to love me as though she never imagined her existence without mine. I mean her voice was never soft and she was always a bit nuts, but it worked for me. Now, not so much.
Two days ago, I got home early and got into the house quietly. I heard her crying in our bedroom and the baby was quiet. I couldn’t deal with her tears just then. It had been a long day at work and I was tired. And I knew if I even went near her she would just start yelling at me. So I quietly went back out. I didn’t go anywhere exciting, just to a coffee shop in town. I ordered a coffee and a doughnut and used their WiFi. I admired the paintings on the wall and savoured the sounds of the world spinning, without me, it seemed. When I went back home at about 8 pm, Jasmine was about ready to fight me, talking about how I don’t care about her feelings and don’t want to deal with her shit even if that’s exactly what I signed up for. How I don’t make myself available to her, even though I’m there every damn day. She had heard me leave. I told her that maybe I can’t deal with her, took a 45-minute long shower, and went to bed. She was still up, in the living room, filling the space between us with a television show that she wasn’t even watching. I didn’t need to see her to know that she was crying. When I woke up the next morning she was gone, plus the baby, and I have no idea where she is right now, so I came to Anthony.
Anthony, for some reason, believes that my problems with Jasmine have something to do with my childhood relationships. He tore a page out of his notepad and handed it to me along with a pen and asked me to write to my mother, freely and about any memory that stands out. All I can think to write about is this one night, not long after you and Fred had started going out. You were the happiest I had seen you in a long time, and you had even started singing happy-sounding songs in place of the mournful tunes you kept at years after Dad had left. You wore the love-glow well. That night you were going to a concert with Fred and I wanted to come, too. I pleaded and pleaded, please don’t leave me behind, please let me go with you. You were clear that that night was about you and him and you tried to soothe me with promises of ‘us time’ soon. I remember standing at the window watching you walk to the car, your hand in his, throwing back your head as you laughed at something he said, and feeling for the first time that I didn’t belong with you anymore.
Not much changed after that. I can’t point out that night as life-altering or anything quite so dramatic. You married Fred soon after that and I struggled to adjust to my new school and to the likes of Yvonne. I still did the dishes every night until I moved out and you still watched soap operas before bed…although, I now realize, you didn’t come into the kitchen much anymore to ‘check whether I was doing them right’. Life went on.
I don’t know what this has to do with the fact that my wife has left me. I don’t know how it will help Anthony help me. But being here feels like the first day at a new school and finding everyone already dislikes you. Like sitting with the smartest girl in class and knowing she thinks you’re dumb. Like those seconds between the moment you ask a girl to go out with you and the moment she gives you an answer. Like the world just keeps on spinning and your life goes on without you.