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Tim Dowling: Im away, so my wife has time to decide whether to leave me

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Shell have a chance to crunch the numbers and see it makes no financial sense to go

It is a Thursday afternoon and I am skiing. I feel a bit suspect being in the Alps without my wife or my children, but its a brief and exceedingly cheap break, with a party of five middle-aged people, mostly friends whose partners dont ski. The sun is out, theres plenty of snow and nobody who knows me in a professional capacity has any idea where I am.

On the chairlift I am telling my friend how the week before my wife said that she was going to leave me.

She hasnt gone, I say. She might have been joking, or she might have just forgotten. Im good either way.

We just realised we could never afford to get divorced, my friend says.

Exactly, I say. While Im away shell have a chance to crunch the numbers. Shell see it makes no financial sense.

On Friday the five of us ski together. Each of us, it transpires, acquired the skill under very different circumstances: some started early in life, some later; one learned in Scotland, another in Kashmir, on a mountain with no ski lifts.

When I was in high school my friend Petes mum belonged to this divorced peoples club that rented a house in Vermont every winter, I tell them. I used to go with them a lot. All those troubled children of divorce, I think. They could really ski.

Illustration
Illustration: Benoit Jacques for the Guardian

By Saturday afternoon I am myself skiing with adolescent abandon heedlessly, headlong, faster and faster. Occasionally I make the effort to remind myself how badly I would get hurt if I fell, but it doesnt slow me down.

I arrive home a few days later at lunchtime, battered but intact.

How was it? my wife says.

It was great! I say. I only nearly died once.

Sounds fun, she says.

Do you know that everyone elses partner makes them get extra insurance when they ski?

Dont be ridiculous, she says.

Thats what I said youd say.

I mean youre insured anyway, she says.

Im knackered, I say. Are we doing anything tonight?

No, she says. Im leaving in the morning.

What, again? I say.

Illustration
Illustration: Benoit Jacques for the Guardian

Im river walking, she says. My wife and her friends have been walking the length of the Thames, from the barrier to the source, every Wednesday for months. Now theyre doing the final stretch in one go, over three days and two nights.

Oh yeah, I say. Where is the source of the Thames, exactly?

It turns out to be a matter of some dispute, she says.

Now they tell you, I say.

While my wife is gone I attend to all the things she would normally take care of. The biggest burden, as always, is the yoke of administrative authority; it doesnt take long to start feeling underappreciated. My children are nowhere to be seen, and yet every time I enter a room its noticeably messier than the last time I visited. By Thursday Im lonely, bored and a little ashamed.

Early on Friday evening I receive a text from my wife that says, Could you pick me up from the tube? Am v nearly dead! Shortly after 7pm she shuffles across the road from the station and gingerly lowers herself into the passenger seat.

That was 45 miles in three days, she says, Im broken.

What was the source like? I say.

Its a pile of rocks in the middle of a fucking field, she says.

I didnt get a chance to get food, I say.

We can have a takeaway, she says.

Or we could go out, I say. She looks over at me with dark, unfocused eyes.

Im not going anywhere, she says.

Awwww, I say.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/feb/04/tim-dowling-wife-still-hasnt-left-me

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