Between him and her there weren’t the usual things that derailed people, uncoupled a couple. There weren’t infidelities or nasty, name-calling arguments. There were other issues. There was, foremost, her illness which, like an outbreak of poison ivy, or some skin disease, kept coming back. And no matter what, no matter what she did: yoga, eating well, some exercise, meditation, weekend spiritual retreats—her need for support from him, through recurring morning bouts of tears, or frightful attacks of utter panic, did not abate. And there was his own need for secrecy, privacy. His walled off world of emotions and ideas, why, these he had stopped sharing with her some time ago. Some time, ago, yes: for both of them. At one point, he recalled, later on, that one day he had brought home a blue-glazed Moroccan dish, a beautiful object just for her to hang upon the kitchen wall. As he unwrapped the newspaper around it and lay it at her place at the dinner table, she barely noticed, barely acknowledged it. That was a turning point.
Maybe two years later, he came home and she was lying in the backyard grass half-drunk listening to something, music or some spiritual recording, on her phone and earbuds. She hadn’t noticed him pulling in. They went out, as she had planned, and she told him about the time the block of cheese being grated was dropped onto her plate by the waiter when she had been to this restaurant before, some other time. Yes, it was an earnest but misguided effort on her part to appear perky and lively for him, though he witnessed that evening that she could well have been with anybody else. That was another turning point.
He did not, for his part, ever mention to her that prior the end, while they had gone on a weekend vacation together, that he had seen a woman—middle-aged and light on her feet—jogging on a dirt road near their hotel. She had, having finished her jog, reached into a weathered tin mailbox, smiled, and even said to him a simple, friendly ‘hello’. That unknown woman and her address from the mailbox he had kept in his mind for two years now and had wanted to write her a letter declaring how lovely and alive and fresh and especially kind she had appeared. But nobody really ever does such things. Only mad people. Wrong people. Disturbed people who do inappropriate things. So, he didn’t.