Do other people leave for nowhere? Do they want to? – Lucy thought. It felt nothing short of a life’s biggest mystery, not least because none of the couples in her and Rob’s circle had had broken marriages. That is not to say her friends never sounded discontent with the state of their affairs – piles of despair would pour out on Lucy’s ears (still hearing perfectly, thank you very much) during their regular gatherings – but those verbal dissatisfactions never evolve into any action. When everyone was younger, yes – dozens of years ago – but at her age, people insisted on sticking together. Whether this was true or a result of her tired imagination, Lucy didn’t want to investigate – what would be the point? There was only so much a brain and a heart could process at any given time after decades of wearing and tearing by ways of relentless subjections to inner punches and self-indulgencies. Nobody possessed the energy any more, nobody less so than Lucy.
Using the inexplicably long queue to the ladies’ room on the second floor in Selfridges as the perfectly isolated moment to reflect once more, Lucy rehearsed what she could say to Robert and when. Different ways, different tones of voice. She wondered if he would assume she was having an affair, as both had previously agreed that people usually break up because they’d met someone else. This was not the case and she would have to explain it to him. Though what she was leaving him FOR, she couldn’t quite see either. The feeling of unbearable exhaustion from life as she knew and lived, the life Robert shared with her, had descended on Lucy and wouldn’t budge. Just before her turn to the ladies’, the weariness took over and she sat on the ground like a teenager with her knees pulled up in front of her, closed her eyes and ignored the invasive noises of the hurrying shoppers who had no idea.
If they had children, would she approach this differently? Most people, she knew, did. Originally, it had been Robert’s decision to not have any, though he didn’t have to work hard to convince her. Lucy didn’t warm to children easily, which of course they always felt in her presence, perceptive little bastards. Every time she and Rob checked in on their childless life, they reaffirmed each other it had been the right decision. Now, however, if he knew what she was planning, would he have changed his mind? It is wrong to stay together for the sake of the children, everyone says that, don’t they… yet children, and theirs would have been ridiculously grown up by now, are known to play the glue more often than not.
Lucy got up and re-joined the queue to the ladies’, putting herself at the end of it once more, by now quite desperate for the loo. Rob was not going to be pleased about this wait. She pictured him, an unfocused shopper, standing absentmindedly in the crockery department where she’d just left him, gazing slightly upwards rather than at the fine dinner plates, with Lucy’s handbag on his shoulder, which was rather sweet. She did appreciate that he never protested to holding her purse when she needed her hands free. With feminism and emancipation on the rise, it probably wasn’t a big deal for the kids of today, she thought, but back in her youth, something this insignificant could threaten one’s masculinity. Not Rob’s though, he wasn’t too invested in the commonly acceptable male-female dynamics. She would miss that.
As she would miss the time when he had the effect of admiration on her. So long ago. Where and why it had gone, she felt none the wiser. Nothing about being with Robert seemed to bring comfort. Even comfort failed to bring comfort. Daily conversations and discussions bore the opposite effect on the two of them: where a massive empty hole expanded at the end of her road, he would sound convinced they were finally reaching peace and mutual understanding. Bless his clueless heart.
As she washed her hands, Lucy didn’t look in the mirror and instead kept her eyes on the grey bubbled water, the result of the dirt accumulated throughout the morning, as the unnaturally fragrant soap coated her fingers with a sharp smell and pleasantly cleaned them.