I knew, of course,
Of course i knew.
It wasn't that i was looking for "substantiating evidence" that would put me "beyond reasonable doubt", or anything like that.
Substantiating evidence was the very last thing i wanted to find.
And i'd been nursing that reasonable doubt for so long it was beginning to feel like my invisible friend, come back from childhood to hang out with me again.
No. All i wanted to find, all i was looking for, was what we were doing on Sunday afternoon. I had all this work that i needed to get done on a bunch of contracts, and i needed to know if i could get the work done then, or if we were committed to some thing that she'd told me about and that i'd forgotten.
So, without thinking, i go to her handbag to check her daily planner.
We are, after all, a couple. We share everything. Our lives are open books to each other. I've kissed her anus and she's licked my balls. We have nothing to hide from each other.
I pull out her daily planner, the one where she notes and records everything from the dates and times of nephews' concert recitals and her shiftwork at the clinic, down to her ovulation readings and our "instances of intercourse".
She likes to be organised. She doesn't want to miss a concert recital, a shift, or a period.
I flip to this week - she has, of course, a ribbon to mark her place in the year - and i check Sunday. It's clear.
I'm about to close the planner, put it back in her bag, go back to my life, when i notice the capital letters "IOI" carefully inscribed against Monday night, encased in a neat little rectangle.
Monday night is her Gym night. She always comes home sweaty, always has a shower before bed.
We never have an Instance of Intercourse on a Monday night.
Yet there it is.
Substantiating evidence, beyond reasonable doubt.
Simon and Sarah.
Simon and Sarah.
We go together like sticky and date, like butter and scotch.
We are a unit. A single entity.
I look at the photo of us she has in a magnetic frame, stuck on the fridge. A friend took it one time we were at the beach. I'm shirtless and she's in a bandeau and sarong, but the photo is from the shoulders up, so we look naked. She calls it our Honeymoon sex tape photo.
I look into the eyes of the me in the photo.
You poor bastard, i say to that version of me. But that version of me wants nothing to do with the problems of this version of me. I'm fine, dude, that past version of me says. You're the poor bastard. Later today, past version of me swaggers, i'm getting a blow job on the beach. You, you'll be packing your bags and phoning college mates for a place to stay the night.
He's right, of course, past version of me.
I open the fridge and get out a can. I might as well drink, i figure. Being a little drunk might make the whole thing a little bit easier to get through.
I'm three cans down when she arrives home.
She walks in and sees the planner on the bench.
She looks at me. She knows that i know.
She puts the shopping bag on the bench, on top of the planner, and slips her purse into her open handbag.
If only she'd taken the handbag shopping with her.
'I wanted to know if we were doing anything Sunday,' i offer.
'I needed to be me again,' she says, without preamble. 'It's not that you were smothering me or anything like that, i just needed to have some space where i was just myself.'
There are so many things i can't say at this point.
I can't ask if she's been using protection with her new man, or do i need to get myself checked.
I can't ask her if he's a better lover (i see her naked, her breasts bouncing, her cheeks hot, her eyes closed as she comes) than me.
I can't ask her if there was something that i did that was so wrong that it brought this about, so that i'll know, for next time, next girl.
I can't ask her if anything.
We've discussed her exes. We've talked about them all, gone over their good and bad points, the things they did that spoiled it all, so obvious now. In hindsight. I always assumed that i would be her last, that i would be immune to making one of those obvious mistakes.
Love makes you stupid, though, and mistakes are easier to make when you're stupid.
'Shall i leave tonight,' i ask, 'or can i sleep here, on the couch, until i get myself organised tomorrow?'
She reaches out a hand, but it doesn't connect.
'You don't have to leave now,' she says, but i realise then that i have to.
I put down my can. I walk to my study, start stuffing papers into my heavy-duty, overnight briefcase.
She's followed me, stands at the door.
'I'll get the rest of my stuff tomorrow,' i say, picking off a shelf the framed photo of me as a kid. One day, i'd hoped to have another photo in a frame to put alongside that one, a photo of a kid who looked just like me, but with her auburn hair and green eyes.
I put the photo in my briefcase along with the other things i've picked up, mostly at random.
'You can stay the night, you know,' she says, quietly.
I've just lost a son. I want nothing else but to get the hell out of there.
'I'll see you tomorrow,' i say as i walk to the back door.
'You don't have to be like this,' she says.
I don't know what she means.
I don't know how she can say that.
I don't know who she is anymore.
A line down the middle of the page.
The car is mine, that's beyond dispute.
I've been helping her with the payments on the flat, but i figure that money's just plain gone.
Seven years' worth of mortgage payments.
It feels beneath my dignity to quibble over the small matter of forty or fifty thousand dollars.
But i know i've been robbed.
The sex was OK, but it wasn't worth a grand a month.
Her cooking was average at best, and i seemed to be the one who always did the laundry.
Even her companionship didn't justify the price-tag. She wasn't very bright, and her conversational powers were limited to organising from week to week what we were going to do with all my money and all her time.
'Do you want to meet him?' she asks, her finger twirling her hair absently.
I can't believe the question. I don't bother with an answer.
'You'd like him,' she goes on, clearly besotted. 'He's a lot like you.'
But obviously better than me. In at least one way.
I wonder what that way is.
I'd give anything to know. It's cost my fifty grand so far; i wonder how much more it'll cost.
'So,' i go on, 'Who gets the friends?'
'You don't have any friends,' she says, without meaning to hurt. 'I have friends, and they all think a lot of you, but i don't think they'll want to be exclusively your friends from now on.'
All those picnics and dinner parties, pretending to be interested in their home renovations, work problems, trips overseas.
'You work too hard to have friends,' she says, like it makes things better. I wonder if this is what that the new man has over me. Friends. Time.
I look down at the piece of A4. Our lives divided up on a sheet of clay and cellulose, 210mm by 297.
'That's that, then,' i say, and stand up.
'One last thing, if you want it,' she says.
It's awkward, of course.
But we'd always discussed this. Lying together in the us before now, listening to the traffic on the road below late at night, or the rain on the window, or the people downstairs fighting.
The worst possible thing: not knowing it would be our last time.
This is to honour those discussions.
But it's still awkward.
When i come out of the bathroom she's already naked, standing like an anatomy model, ankles together, shoulders back.
I'm unbuttoning and unzipping my chinos. I take them off and fold them, but i don't put them in the en suite where i would have put them two days ago. I place them on the chair. The chair where in the past i've sat while she's ridden me, yelping and moaning, and to hell with the neighbours.
I take off my Y-fronts. I wonder if he's bigger than me.
'Shall i wear a condom?'
She looks like she's making a calculation. I decide, based on what that calculation means, that i'm going to wear a condom regardless of what she says.
'It's probably best,' she says, but i've already taken one out of the bedside table.
Must remember to take those with me, i think to myself. Right after this.
She steps into me, and we embrace. My cock, which has no sense of the situation, stiffens, nuzzles against her fuzz.
We don't kiss, which makes it seem worse than it is.
She drops her eyes and points to the chair. I move my clothes onto the bed, rip open the condom wrapper and roll it on.
I sit on the chair and she sits on me, steadying herself with one hand, just the fingertips.
I shuffle forward, we get the angles right, and i slide in. Just the tip. Just the first two or three inches, the way she likes it.
She pushes down. I push up.
She makes the same groans. Her boobs bounce the same way.
Her sides feel the same. Her back warm satin.
Everything is the same. Nothing is the same.
I finish, and that's it. The last time. We're over.
She hasn't come, and i don't care.
She stands up off of me. I squeeze off the condom. Tie it and drop it in the bin in the en suite on my way to the toilet.
I feel like i'm marking my territory with the slimy rubber thing, but i know it'll be gone five minutes after i leave, dumped in the kitchen rubbish bin with the vegetable peels and the empty cans.
She's already dressed in her jeans and T-shirt when i come back from cleaning myself up.
I dress, and then we stand there.
'Well,' she says. 'So you'll be along on Sunday to pick up the rest of your stuff?'
'Yeah. Sunday's still free?'
'I could check my planner,' she says. Almost smiles. Sees i'm not at the look-back-and-laugh-at-all-this stage yet and doesn't.
For an awful moment i think she's going to shake my hand.
'Bye, then,' she says.
'He won't be here Sunday, will he?'
She shakes her head.
Before i know it, i'm outside.
The sunshine mocks me.
Cars mock me.
Couples walking dogs mock me.
At my college mate's place, his TV mocks me.
I drink, to try to forget about the mocking, but the alcohol just gives me headaches.
On Sunday, Sarah is over me.
She no longer cares.
She doesn't ask how i am, or how i'm going, or how i'm getting by.
She asks, at the end, as i lift the last box, if i have everything.
How can she not realise that i have nothing?
Who the hell is she now?
Where has she gone?
I saw them together, actually. At the Races. Sipping flutes.
I assume it was him. It was only a few months later.
He was my height, but balding a bit at the back.
Bulbous, drinker's nose, like W. C. Fields.
She had a belly bump.
I didn't care.