It's Love Jim, But Not As We Know It. By Martin Friel.
Gordon and Evie had what would easily pass for a normal, modern-day relationship. They both worked, had two kids, went to the theatre, dinner parties and lived a life as full as possible. Unlike many modern couples however, they met when they were young and married within a year. By their early 20s they had a mortgage, two kids and all the worries and responsibility that come with that.
But they balanced it well the kids were polite, well-behaved and did well at school. Both Gordon and Evie excelled in their professions Gordon as a GP and Evie as a social worker. And they still found time to see those friends, to attend those dinner parties and see those plays. Through it all and through the years, they worked hard at maintaining the love that had brought them together in the first place but understandably, they had less and less time for romance, for sitting and talking, for looking at each other, for stopping. The love was still there but its expression had been buried by the kids, the careers and the community. And Gordon particularly missed that part of their lives. Evie did too, deep down, but day to day she was too preoccupied by getting the kids dressed and to school before getting herself to work and juggling the busy social calendar she was determined to have, to notice that Gordon wasnt as happy as hed once been.
Gordon did his share in the house and with the kids and he too enjoyed his career and the couples social life but for him, the priority, the thing he loved most, was Evie. He knew now, 12 years after they first met, he was down the list of priorities for Evie. But every now and then, he would see a flash in her, a moment of tenderness that told him she too remembered those early days when it was just them in Gordons small flat talking about what their future would look like and how rich their lives would be. Those days of hope and planning. Those days when he felt her love every day, when she showed she cared. Those days before she was too busy with life to notice Gordons quiet desperation for the love he once felt.
This is not an unusual set of circumstances. Look at any modern family and you will find, if not exact, similar situations. The pressures of modern life break the ties between couples who do still love each other, somewhere, but no longer have the time to show it. But something happened between Gordon and Evie to change all that, something that makes their story very, very different to the millions of others replicated like photocopies across this grey island. Such is the uniqueness of what happened between these two, that only Gordon can really tell us what happened. Besides, Evie is not in a position to do so.
Evie and I have been together for over 12 years now and I still love her as much as I did when we first met. But as you probably know yourself, life gets in the way of romance and as it develops, it leaves less and less room for couples, for those moments that make you stop and realise just how lucky you are.
To be honest, even though I saw her every day and we shared a bed, I missed Evie. Even when we made love, she seemed distracted, elsewhere. I missed those intense moments of intimacy that we once shared when it felt we were alone in the world: music playing softly in the background, feeling each others warmth, the sound of her breathing, the light tickle of it on my chest, the softness and firmness of her skin, feeling her smile as I ran my hand down her belly.
I love everything about our life our independence, our kids, our social life but I miss those moments of tenderness, when we seemed to melt into each other and nothing but that moment, those touches, mattered. I missed that most of all. But, you know, we grow older, more mature and realistic and day to day life gradually takes over unseen, like ivy. Before you know it, life has stifled what was so precious to you and is so all encompassing, that it seems it is impossible to go back to what it once was.
And so our relationship, which was once two people living in but not belonging to the rest of the world, was now so enmeshed with reality that it was a relationship in name and concept only. The kids, obviously, come first. I love them with all my heart and they were always part of the plan when Evie and I imagined our future but you never really appreciate just how much they are going to change your life until they have arrived. They are though, the most beautiful kids and, after Evie, the most precious things in my life.
Then theres work. I enjoy my job Im the local GP and it sounds clichéd but it really is rewarding. The local community relies on me to get them through the illnesses that we all experience. But it does take up a lot of my free time which I resent but you know, you have to make sacrifices to get on in life but I seem to be making more and more sacrifices for work as the years go by. I keep telling myself Im going to correct it but never seem to get round to it.
And our social life. Its great. We have a wide circle of friends who we see regularly whether that is at dinner parties or out at the theatre and again, that was part of the plan when we imagined our future to maintain a social life and not let the kids commandeer our lives. We both love it but its more time that Evie and I dont have together, alone.
Sometimes I think she doesnt need me anymore. She has her kids, her job and her friends and I seem to have slipped down the priority list. I think she takes me for granted but not in a bad way. Just that she knows Ill always be there and would never leave her so perhaps she doesnt feel the need to maintain that part of her life so much? I dont know but although Im with her every day, I miss her. I miss my wife. I miss my lover. I miss Evie.
Ironically, things started to get better when she took ill earlier on this year about six months ago. The doctors werent sure what it was but she was confined to bed, vomiting, high fever and delirium but there were brief moments of clarity. She had good days and bad but was almost totally helpless. She needed to be fed, needed a bedpan and needed to be washed. The doctors recommended she be taken in to care but I refused I wanted Evie at home where she belonged, where I could take care of her and as doctor myself, they were happy to let me do so.
She needed full time care so I took a sabbatical from work for six months. At first it was difficult taking care of her as we didnt know for sure what was wrong with her. The best me and the other doctors could come up with was that it was a virus, and they tried all sorts of antibiotics and suchlike to try to shift it but to no avail. So all I could do was help her eat, keep her clean and try to make her as comfortable as possible. It was hard work and painful to watch her like that but in a way it was nice because she needed me again. I was her only access to the outside world I would read the newspapers to her, put the TV and radio on for her depending on her mood and I was the one who fed her and kept her clean. She was helpless without me and I must confess it did feel good. I felt a little guilty about it but in the end theres nothing wrong with feeling proud that your wife needs you. It just felt so good to have my Evie back. I would hold her at night and although weak with sickness, I could feel her love coming through her body and into my arms. She needed me again and it felt good.
It was about two months into it that Evie started to emerge from her illness. She was able to sit up in bed, order food and choose for herself what she wanted to read, listen to or watch. He eyes became clearer, the vomiting had long since stopped and gradually, she was able to gather enough strength to get to the toilet herself and to shower.
She improved rapidly to everyones relief. The mystery illness that had held her in its grip for so long was finally lifting and with it, her spirits and strength lifted. As the days and weeks went by, Evie began to once again reassert her authority over the household and she was soon getting up to make sure the kids were ready for school and was even able to make their dinner when they got home. She also began to do some work from home, looking at the cases that would have been referred to her has she not been ill. Slowly but surely, the Evie that everyone loved, the one that juggled 101 different things at once, was on her way back. The only one who wasnt delighted was me. As her health improved, her need for me once again diminished. I was losing her all over again just as I had won her back.
Im not necessarily proud of what Ive done but Im not sorry that Ive done it. If looked at in the cold light of day, no court in the land would have sympathy for me but seen through the prism of our relationship, it makes sense. It does to me anyway. For too many years, everyone has had the Evie I want the kids, her job, her friends. Theyve all had her attention, devotion and love while I sat on the sidelines waiting for her to notice that I was still there. Those short months when she was ill, Evie was all mine and she needed me as I need her for the first time in years. I wont deny I enjoyed her illness. Not the fact that she suffered of course but the fact that once again it was just us in a room, music in the background, the touch of her skin against mine and her soft breathing. I need her to need me otherwise I just go through the motions. When she was sick, I felt alive again but as her health improved, I was increasingly shut out in favour of the rest of her life and once again I was in the shadows, waiting to be noticed.
Evie recently had a relapse. Shes bedridden again and once again she needs me. She needs me to bathe her, to tend to her every need and to feed her. But I took the decision for Evie to relapse. I took the decision to have her back so I dose her meals with medicines I take from work to keep her incapacitated. No-one questions her symptoms anymore she was ill before and no-one could diagnose her and they know I tend to her well. I was the one who nursed her out of it in the first place wasnt I? And anyway, they trust me. Im the local GP and everyone knows how much I love my Evie. I just dont think they realise how far I would go to have that love.
I know I cant keep this up indefinitely and that constant use of my medicines will do her more harm but I reckon that with periodic recoveries and lapses, I can at least have my Evie all to myself some of the time without causing too much damage. Ive reclaimed my wife and Ive reclaimed her on my terms. The rest of the world has had their time. Now its mine.
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