The compartment had emptied, and now, in relative tranquillity, I had time to think back over the last few hectic days. It seemed to me that in some ways my trip to London had been a disappointment. Not completely, but one vital factor stood out: there had been no discussion, no reconciliation, no possibility of revitalising a relationship which had run into choppy seas – rather like the ferry crossing I’d endured on the way over.
Earlier that year I’d separated from my wife. She needed space, she said, so I gave her space: I moved to Switzerland. Always the survivor, I landed on my feet, met some interesting people, and found myself living in an ancient wooden farmhouse south of Bern – with a distant view of the mountains. The summer had passed with plenty of fresh air and encouragement in coming to terms with what had happened. I wondered about the future, whether we’d ever get back together.
I would be staying in Switzerland over the winter, and as I’d set out initially with only summer clothes – I’d had no idea how long I’d be away – I was going to need something warmer. Another excuse for returning was that I’d booked my place on a Tai Ji workshop with a teacher who had inspired me a couple of years earlier.
I’d contacted my wife. She was fine about me staying in the London flat, but there was no way she was going to be there at the same time. Obviously, she needed a bit more space. So no chance of talking things through, of trying to heal the hurts of what had happened. But I could collect my winter clothes. The fewer the reminders of me, the better for her. This was another hint that the London part of my life was over.
I thought again about the Tai Ji workshop; it had given me new inspiration and a desire to do more in the future. The experience would stay with me for a long time. My mission to recover my spare clothes has also been successfully completed, and somewhere my case was also making the same journey as I was, traveling through the night, through unknown France. I was looking forward to resuming my rural and continually bizarre life in Switzerland.
I remembered being in the flat, not seen for five months. It had been somewhat disconcerting at first. It no longer felt like my flat even though the furniture was the same, the kitchen in its usual state, the familiar shampoo in the bathroom. But this territory was mine no longer. I would treat it as a kind of hotel but remain an outsider. And no wife to talk to, to catch up on the gossip, to tell about my adventures abroad. But as we’d reached a semi-hostile stale-mate, such a conversation would not be welcome. It’s hard breaking down barriers when you encounter passive resistance on the other side. And on my side, mixed feelings. Did I really want to perpetuate a crumbling marriage? Surely, if we got back together, then it was more than likely that the same undermining disputes would occur again, and we’d be no further on. Instead of wasting time like that, we’d be better off getting on with our separate lives. So I’d sat in the empty flat, gave a big sigh, found a wry smile, and got on with sorting out my jumpers, and preparing myself for the workshop.
I’d been hoping that my train journey back would be quiet and I’d be able to get some sleep, even have room to stretch out on a seat. But in those first few hours after Calais the carriage was stuffy and bulging with chatty French commuters going home to Lille, and I’d ended up sitting huddled in the corner. What a relief when they all got off some time after midnight. Calmer now – there aren’t many going all the way to Basel. With my head full of the unexpected events of the weekend, I’m drifting off to sleep, mirrored in my indecision by the frequent changes of direction the train makes as it ploughs through the darkness.
© Peter Young 2015