I get back from leave and the whole world has imploded. Lara is waving her hands about like a mad woman.
That’s a bit dramatic, I say.
Not really. Amanda didn’t get a rose last night on The Bachelor and you guys are separated. You can’t separate! You are a real life Brangelina. What hope do any of us have now?
Oh come on, I’m hardly Angelina. For starters I weigh more than a thimble. Plus, I’m not collecting children from around the world.
Fair point, but you will be if you keep losing weight like you have been. How much now?
Ummm, I don’t know…maybe 13 kilos?
She raises her left eyebrow and throws me a straight mouthed, head tipped to the side judgement.
Hey, don’t look at me like that! Even the thought of food makes me feel sick. I’m basically living on Anzac biscuits and mint ice cream right now. There is an upside — the weight loss is handy for when I start dating again.
She’s not buying it and if she starts to tut tut I am out.
Come on, there has to be one benefit from all of this sadness, I persuade.
Speaking of dating…
I don’t think you’re ready for the big wide world.
What d’you mean?
Just that men are dicks and you are quite naive. I worry for you.
Tim walks into the lunch room, a chocolate bar wedged into his mouth. What are you worried about? He mumbles.
I was just telling Brooke that she has no idea what dating is like.
Oh yeah, you’re gonna get eaten alive!
Thanks guys, awesome pep talk. I’m feeling really good about life right now.
Hey, I have an idea. I have a friend. Can I give him your number? Tim’s eyes are glistening at the thought.
Come on. He’s a decent guy. He’s not your type but he’ll be a good starting point, just someone to have fun with.
No way. And anyway, how do you know what my type is?
He pauses. Let’s begin with someone batting for the right team hey? A chuckle escapes his lips.
Good to see we are setting the bar high. I join in with shock laced laughter.
What’s the harm? Just meet him for coffee. Tomorrow?
I don’t think so.
You’re not thinking clearly.
I never said I was, I retort, the linoleum screeching underneath the chair as I rise from the table.
Later that afternoon I skulk into Tim’s office.
He looks up from his laptop. Sorry?
I said ok.
Cool! I’ll text him.
I make a quick exit before he sees the heat blooming across my cheeks.
Here are some of the unhelpful things people said to me after G-Day:
- You’ve had a good run. You both have great jobs, you’ve travelled the world, your kids are beautiful. No one can escape bad stuff in life, it was your time.
- You must be relieved he’s gay. At least you know you’ll never be replaced and your kids won’t have another mother.
- The cheating is kind of understandable given the circumstances. He had to try it out to know for sure I guess.
- That must be some consolation that he’s gay. At least he didn’t leave you for a younger model. You know what I mean. There’s no one you have to compare yourself to.
- Well you don’t have the right parts. There’s nothing you can do about it.
- It’s hard to be mad at him for being courageous and deciding to live his true life. Better now than later, when you’re old and have less chance of meeting someone else. He’s done you a favour.
Each time, my eyes grew wide and my finger tips tingled. I wanted to scratch the eyes out of every person who supplied me with a version of “the hurt must be less because he is gay”. How the fuck would they know?
Betrayal, rejection, and shame are universal, whatever the cause.
And the real twist of the knife was that some thought I deserved this. That I deserved to have my everything crushed into fine powder and snorted up the nose of life because I was lucky/hard working/bred attractive children by some weird genetic fluke.
Someone needs a lesson on empathy, and this time, it’s not me.
I cross the road, the wind fans my curly red hair over my face and breathes life into my scarf. Perhaps it’s trying to choke me to save me the humiliation of my first date since the year 2000? I’m too busy escaping myself to catch a sneaky look before I hear my name.
He’s sitting on the back of the bench seat outside the espresso bar. My first thought is, why isn’t he sitting on the seat? Or even any seat? There’s plenty of seats.
I’m being petty.
I reach out and shake his hand. I chide myself - it’s not a bloody business meeting Brooke.
Shall we go inside?
What would you like?
Peppermint tea please.
You don’t want a coffee?
I don’t drink coffee.
Neither do I. I don’t like any hot drinks.
I laugh, why did you invite me for coffee then?
It’s just what people say.
Ok, I concede. He orders at the counter: a tea and a lemonade.
Forty-two minutes of nervous rambling, shuffling my bag from one knee to another, loosening my scarf only to tighten it again, and the date is over. Phew.
He walks me down the street to my car and I hug him with the frame of a champion ballroom dancer.
I’ll never see this guy again.
It’s a cold evening. The chill can be felt through the glass of the French doors leading to the back patio. I am shovelling the Coco Pops into my mouth before the milk turns them to mush. Cereal for dinner is another luxury of divorce.
His message illuminates the grey stone bench.
Hi, it’s Greg. Would you like to meet up again?
I look at my reflection in the glass – PJ bottoms, my ex’s grey t-shirt, a milk drip on my chin. Oh god, I’m in danger of becoming a spinster and I’m too much of a coward to swipe right on Tinder. Maybe Lara and Tim are right – start safe.
Hi, when were you thinking?
Should I have waited an hour – or a day – to reply? I am not unaware of the communication rules that are designed to maximise my desirability. But to be honest, I can’t be bothered maximising anything. I’ll take mild interest at this point.
Is tomorrow too soon? He asks.
How about tonight? I proffer.
A few minutes go by. Note to self - at least wait one hour next time.
Sounds good. I’ll bring dinner. Say 7?
Ok, see you soon.
I might need your address too.
Shit! He’s actually coming. I invited him here. To the house. Our house.
I look at the clock – he’ll be here in an hour. Where do I begin?
Do I start with a shower? Scrub my skin into a warm pinky hue and shave what hasn’t already been waxed.
Or do I take the family portraits and wedding photos off the walls? Would that be weird if I left them? ‘Hey, fancy a pash? And don’t mind my ex smiling down at you.’ Right, I’m definitely removing those first.
What will I wear? The air is frigid, even with the ducted air running all night. A slinky number is out of the question yet I don’t want to appear like Fort Knox either. I go for a v-neck dress with long sleeves and a pair of stockings. Hopefully I’ve struck the balance between ‘whoomp there it is’ and ‘classy woman seeks discreet lover’.
I hear the rap on the front door as I slide the stocking up over my right knee.
We’ll soon find out which one of those it is: perhaps a bit of column A and a bit of column B. If I’m lucky.
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