I was married to a man who was often away, and when home was rarely present. If we were ships passing it was on separate seas, in different time-zones, each oblivious for the most part to the other’s existence. He did not have to be elsewhere. He chose it. Things perceived caused an anger that became destructive – he had a need to apportion blame – and I’d grown not only used to my own company but happier with it.
On the occasions he and John met over the summer, he would hover at close distance as John worked hard on some manual task – fixing a fence, digging out rhododendron roots, hauling stones for a rockery I’d thought might be nice near my study window – and he would use his business suit as both excuse and weapon. He made jokes about unpaid labour, about those who command and those who serve. Inappropriate jokes, meanly delivered, which he’d then soften with the promise of a pint later at the pub.
“You make an unlikely couple,” John said to me once. I asked him, unnecessarily, to elaborate. But he merely shrugged, shook his head and didn’t mention it again.