‘Would you really leave your husband here on his own?’
At the time she asked, we were sitting at the entrance of the school waiting for our children to come out, and I wasn’t even sure I knew her name. That’s how well I didn’t know her. I was wearing a denim skirt and a cotton shirt I’d pulled off the sewing machine earlier that day. I hadn’t finished it, not properly, and a loose thread was tickling the top of my arm. I was wearing the blue leather sandals I bought at Grundy’s on Rundle Street on a trip to Adelaide three, maybe four years, ago. I like those sandals. They are soft around my foot and easy to wear.
The polish on my toenails had started to disintegrate. I’ve never had an actual pedicure, I just slap a bit of colour on my nails from time to time, scratching whatever is left of the last coat off before I do. Standing in a crowd here I’m often embarrassed when I look down and see the state of my feet compared to everyone else’s. I think that will be different when I’ve moved back to Adelaide. I don’t remember ever being embarrassed by poorly polished toenails when I lived there.
Not that anyone has ever said anything. No one would be rude enough to comment on my ageing, drying feet, would they? But more than once, more than twice, people I barely even know have asked me about moving back to Australia and leaving my husband behind. I won’t say it isn’t something to worry about. I mean relationships do need nurturing if they are to flourish. But really? I wonder. Would you really ask an almost-stranger that?
It happened when we moved here too. People making comments about the dent we would put in our mortgage, about the cars we would drive, the early retirement we would take. I was astonished by it the first time that it happened. In my mind I had always seen myself leaving Adelaide. We had already moved a little bit and travelled a lot. Living overseas with my children was something I always wanted to do. But person after person after person made comment (passing or otherwise) about the financial motivations of our move. So weird.
Certainly, it’s not something I ever envisaged. That I would live in one country and the mister would live in another. But it’s just how things have panned out. Temporarily at least. The lads and I – for reasons various and multiple, individual and intertwined – are better off living in Australia, and the mister’s employment situation means he can’t leave here. Not yet. It will resolve itself. He will find a job. But all the same and nonetheless, we will live apart.
None of my friends, no one who knows me, seems to be concerned about the state of my marriage. Like I say, I’m not sure it’s the most fabulous way to nurture a relationship, live half a world apart. But it is what it is and we aren’t where we aren’t, and step by step it will work itself out. And in the meantime, I am off to have a pedicure. Find out what it is that I’ve been missing all these years.