For Myself, For My Husband, For Discarded Lovers Everywhere


Wednesday 30th November 2006

Advice to a Discarded Lover
by Fleur Adcock

Think, now: if you have found a dead bird,
not only dead, not only fallen,
but full of maggots: what do you feel –
more pity or more revulsion?

Pity is for the moment of death,
and the moments after. It changes
when decay comes, with the creeping stench
and the wriggling, munching scavengers.

Returning later, though, you will see
a shape of clean bone, a few feathers,
an inoffensive symbol of what
once lived. Nothing to make you shudder.

It is clear then. But perhaps you find
the analogy I have chosen
for our dead affair rather gruesome –
too unpleasant a comparison.

It is not accidental. In you
I see maggots close to the surface.
You are eaten up by self-pity,
crawling with unlovable pathos.

If I were to touch you I should feel
against my fingers fat, moist worm-skin.
Do not ask me for charity now:
go away until your bones are clean.

In the run-up to Christmas 2006, I think it’s fair to say I was a bit of a mess. I was separating from my husband, not because I hated him, but because I didn’t love him any more, not the way I should. We were sleeping in separate rooms by this point, although he hadn’t given up on the marriage they way I had.

Selfishly, I just wanted it all to be over, and for the rest of my life to start. I don’t know how I thought it would go – we had a son who was 5 at the time. Did I think my husband would just walk away and leave everything behind so my life could continue as before? Surely I didn’t? I remember feeling consumed with guilt, and wishing I could love him, because all our friends were mutual ones, and he had done nothing to deserve this. At the same time, his attempts at reconciliation appalled me.

I was hurting on the day I posted this, because the bloke I had been flirting with, Keith, had said he wouldn’t take anything any further with someone who was still married. Oh well.

Not that this would be the last I would hear from Keith, but don’t get too attached to him anyway, he really is only a bit-player in this drama.

So here I am, on the verge of a new life, but feeling stuck in the quicksand of the old still. Certain of what I didn’t want, but unsure of where to go from here, of what I was aiming for. Ready to love after feeling emotionally dead inside practically since the birth of my son. So excited for the future, but with fragile confidence and a head full of dreams.

The stage was set for the entrance of the sociopath, and I was the perfect victim.


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