فصل 04

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فصل 04

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Chapter four

Break-up and breakdown: November 1989

With nothing to keep them in India any longer, di@k and Sally returned to England and moved back into their house in Cambridge. It was a big comfortable house on the edge of the city which they had bought many years earlier, and only used occasionally, for holidays; the rest of the time it had been rented to visiting professors from abroad. It was the nearest thing they had to a home - but still it felt unfamiliar, somehow temporary.

For a time di@k made an effort to re-adjust to life in Cambridge. They joined a film club, visited the theatre regularly, gave one or two small parties in an attempt to reestablish contact with old friends. di@k even had dinner in his old college once but found the social atmosphere so chilly, the conversation so boring and the food so indigestible that he decided not to repeat the experience. He even offered his services as a lecturer at evening classes in business administration - but there were no vacancies.

di@k quickly realised that he no longer felt at home in Britain. It was also clear to him that he had no real friends left in England and that his sense of purpose had been destroyed when he lost his job. He tried not to feel bitter, but it was difficult. Gradually he sank into an aimless existence, sleeping late, reading the newspapers till midday, then going down to the local pub for a few pints of beer and a sandwich.

For Sally, it was different. She fitted back into Britain as if she had never left it. She slipped effortlessly into a social life he had never shared anyway. She found part-time work in a local charity organisation. She had a role. He realised that she belonged here, whereas he did not - not any more.

They shared less and less. He broke off relations with his daughter Angie over an argument about how she should bring up her children. Angie and her husband believed in giving their children total freedom. This was not the way di@k had been brought up. Neither was it the way he had raised Angie herself. During a visit to their house, they argued and di@k stormed out of the house. He never visited them again.

He also argued with his son Simon about his wife Melanie. di@k could not stand Melanie and insulted her in front of Simon. Neither Simon nor Sally ever forgave him.

He had isolated himself from his wife and his children; now he felt isolated even from himself.

Sally spent more and more time out of the house; di@k spent more and more time in it. He began to drink heavily. Sally would return at five in the evening to find him drunk. She began to come back later, hoping to find him in bed. He usually was - snoring noisily.

They spoke little to each other and, when they did, it was only to talk about everyday practical matters - who would get petrol for the car, what they would buy at the supermarket, when the bills had to be paid, when the tax returns were due. It was only occasionally that di@k felt able to speak about his inner feelings of hopelessness and despair.

‘I know you think I’m exaggerating,’ he began, one Sunday morning over breakfast, ‘I know we’re well off, my pension is more than enough to live on, we don’t have to worry about money, we have a nice house, Cambridge is a dream city… I know all that. But can’t you understand that I have lost my sense of purpose?’

‘All I can say is that you’d better find another one then,’ Sally replied, not very sympathetically.

‘It’s easy enough for you to say that, but I can’t focus my mind any more. I feel as if I can’t do anything useful any more. No-one needs me any more. You’ve got your life. The kids have theirs - and anyway I’ve spoiled things there too. The company was my life. I don’t seem to be able to find anything else worthwhile to do.’

“Well, one thing you could certainly do is drink less. To be honest, I think you’re pathetic. You’re just wallowing in self-pity. Just think of all the other managers and executives who’ve lost their jobs and been thrown out on the street, with mortgages to pay, and their kids to bring up - and with no compensation at all. For Christ’s sake, di@k, stop feeling so sorry for yourself. Pull yourself together and find something to occupy your mind.’

This conversation was repeated, with variations, at intervals over the next few months. In July they went on holiday to Spain, but it was ruined by di@k’s drunken behaviour and Sally’s frozen silences. It was a depressing experience for both of them. The night after their return, their simmering rage against each other broke through the surface. di@k was opening a bottle of wine when it slipped from his hands and smashed on the kitchen floor. Their tension splintered along with the bottle.

‘You bloody drunk!’ screamed Sally. ‘Can’t you even open a bottle now? I don’t think I can stand this any more. You fall into bed stinking of drink. You can’t behave politely with anyone. Your children can’t stand you. And you lie around feeling sorry for yourself from morning till night. What are you for God’s sake? You make me sick. Sick, sick, sick… I’m going to bed. You can do what you like, you pathetic bastard, but don’t wake me up with your moaning!’

di@k smashed his glass against the wall, took the car keys and drove into town. After a few desperate drinks and dinner in the Riverside Restaurant, he began to feel that things were not so bad after all. Sally had exploded before. It was true that he was drinking a bit too much. He decided to cut down on drinking. Perhaps he should join a health club. Things could be put right between them. Sally was a good woman. She would understand him better if he made an effort. She would appreciate that. The alcohol made him feel optimistic.

He left the restaurant and stumbled unsteadily along the towpath next to the river. He recalled the days when he had walked here as an undergraduate. Who could have predicted what his life would become? He stood swaying for a moment on the river bank. A plane was passing over, high in the sky overhead. He raised his head to look at it, lost his balance, slipped and tumbled into the river.

A group of Japanese tourists pulled him out of the water. In fact, he had fallen in at a place where the water was only half a metre deep - but very muddy! He could not find his car keys. No taxi would agree to drive him home, so he had had to stagger the mile or so back home on foot, his wet, muddy clothes sticking uncomfortably to his skin. On arrival, he discovered that he had lost his house key too. Sally opened the door to find a stinking, muddy husband on the doorstep. She said nothing until the following morning.

‘I’m sorry di@k, but we can’t go on like this,’ she said at breakfast. ‘I’ve tried to be patient with you. I do understand that you’ve been injured by what’s happened. But I just can’t stand it any longer. I don’t recognise you any more. You’re not the man I married. You’ve become a total stranger. The only thing is for us to separate, at least for a time. Either you leave or I do. You decide. Please sleep in the guest bedroom tonight. I shall be out all day today. We’ll speak again tomorrow morning.’

But by the time di@k got out of bed the next morning it was eleven o’clock. Sally had gone out. He packed his clothes, some personal papers and his laptop computer into two cases. He called his sister Maureen in Reading to ask if he could stay for a day or two. He wrote a short note to Sally. Then he called a cab and left the house in Long Road. He knew he would never return to it.

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