It looks like we have some explaining to do.

Eighteen months ago, with the girls out of home and on their feet, and recognising that the marriage had long been a joint venture without passion or significant goodwill, now having little purpose, really being nothing more than a straitjacket housing the two of them, the Boyettes separated. It was mostly Dan’s idea. Eileen didn’t give a shit. This was her firmly stated opinion, except when she was drunk. Which perhaps occurred more often, and occasionally on weeknights, but not anything to worry about.

Dan’s dream was to escape, to root around in the neglected parts of himself, to renew the old Boyette singular and whole and fully-formed, to abscond from the decades of being a husband, one half of a financial and parental partnership. He took leave, bought an old ute and threw a swag in the back, headed up to New South Wales and the Blue Mountains, where he spent a night by a river in a camping ground, whistling and chirping to himself as he built a fire from foraged wood, then doused it and shivered in his tent for six hours. The next day he checked into a hotel and headed down Katoomba St, playing chess with strangers and drinking too much coffee. He did the same thing the next day, and the next, waking up with night sweats wondering where the hell he was and what he had done. In the morning he went out and gazed at the Three Sisters. He bought a guidebook and walked a lot of bush, saw a lot of nature, returned to the town and gabbled at the tourists and townspeople. A chess player sold him some mushies and he tried the camping ground again, watching great creatures roar out of the fire, leering and spitting at him. He roared and spat back, dancing around them, cheering as the ranger vanquished them with buckets from the river, meekly submitting to a scolding and accepting the several cups of tea and a blanket as it all came crashing down on him. When he recovered he drove to Sydney, traded in the ute for a new Peugeot and meandered back along the southern coast to Melbourne.

It was six in the evening on a Saturday, three weeks to the day, Eileen pouring herself a tonic with long fingers of gin when he apologetically let himself in, she shivering at the key in the lock and straightening her back. He said I hope you don’t mind if I… and she shrugged, she asked what did you find? and he frowned, what do you mean? She shook her head, lifting the remote and flicking on the evening news. He shuffled into one of the kids' bedrooms and began to unpack and that was that. He didn’t think to ask what she’d been up to and she didn’t say much to him at all for a while. They threw themselves into work, she as a partner in a small architecture firm working mostly from home these days, he a top figure in a company that built and managed nursing homes. It went on this way, Dan usually working late or eating out. Once he came home tipsy, Eileen was already drunk and he ended up in the conjugal bed again; a week and barely any discussion later it happened again, this time the two of them draining a few bottles of wine as he cooked dinner and they watched telly together. In the morning Dan woke first and Eileen watched him getting dressed out of one eye, then declared I’m going to my sister’s and he didn’t see her for a month. Within a day of her return, she had maneuvered him out of the house. He took a few essentials to a motel a couple of suburbs away. They met for breakfast or lunch on neutral ground most weekends, and talked about how busy they were.

Joseph | 8 Oct 2010

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