Patrick crouched down outside the door, defeated. He was not a man who cried, but the anger had tugged at his core until a silent, unknown part of him dislodged and spilled out in an embarrassment of sobs. Hunched forward, rocking on his haunches, he succumbed to the tears he had tried hard to stop fromcoming. Why had he kicked the door? He’d come here with good intentions: to talk, sit down like a reasonable man, make it right with Mary. He knew he was wrong, knew things could not go on like this. He had rehearsed the sequence of supplication, earnest declaration of change, and grateful relief to be given another chance. Yes, the divorce was now final, but papers are just that. Could a piece of paper dictate the stirrings of a heart? Could the simple stroke of a pen render love obsolete?
He didn’t think so. He knew his wife well, better than anybody. He was certain that if he saw her he’d be able to talk his way back into her affections, make her see that he really knew how wrong he’d been. She’d see in his eyes that he wanted to make things right, wanted to leave all of the old ways behind this time. He would come back to his family. A fresh beginning awaited them all in this dreary old house. He would paint it, fix it up; maybe even buy the new lounge suite Mary always wanted with the money he’d save. Everything could be remade anew.
But Mary wouldn’t open the door. There he was, at the threshold of a new life. She had it within her power to open up, invite him back in to find a new rhythm, but she had refused. He knew instantly, from the hollow reverberation of his voice into the unfamiliar emptiness that was his house, that something big had shifted within her. He knew she was inside, could sense her, smell her; but there was something between them not even his sweetest pleas could soften. From outside the door he saw no movement. Her silence, her not even bothering to chase him away, was more ominous than any threat or argument she could spew.
There had, of course, been lots of talks during the separation. He understood that her leaving was necessary, respected it even. He had been wrong. Repeatedly. Driven by a subterranean force he barely understood himself, he had hurt and humiliated her beyond the bounds of even his scant personal code.
Early in life he had decided that morality was a ruse inflicted by those in charge – and it mattered little what they held sway over – to stay in charge. Rules, whether they were the laws of the country or the sacred covenant of marriage, were to be obeyed only to avoid punishment. Flouting rules and getting away with it, stirred in him a defiant pleasure. He took a perverse pride in his ability to belch a fearless “fuck you” into the face of the establishment. Sometimes that face was Mary’s. If he were to sit down and think about it, he might have found that beside that impulse to defy, there was also an inner voice so faint it was almost inaudible. If he’d been able to hear that voice, kept still enough to heed it, he would have found in his nature a simple moral code waiting to be lived: do unto others, protect the weak, grab joy where it’s offered and give it in return. But life had deafened this voice.
He’d heard its echo when they’d met. He recalled seeing Mary that first time. Him, walking through a soft drizzle to his aunt’s house, where the family was gathering for Sunday tea, soaked by a sudden cloudburst, just a few steps away from her door. Rain had built up from a trickle to a sluice and icy sheets sliced into him, filling his eyes and slanting the houses crouched in his vision. He reached the veranda of his aunt’s house, head down.
Tell us: Do you think Mary was right not to open the door for Patrick? Why/Why not?