I start my search logically, at ‘our place’. Are we really one of those couples that has a ‘place’? We did meet here, get engaged here, never tired of its beauty on our Sunday walks here. For an instant, my body thinks it’s home. Milliseconds of comfort before quickened breaths create plumes in the chill, with the realisation I’m sans something very important; like my handbag or my phone. Of course it’s neither. It’s worse. I’m only half of a whole.
I’ve been a wife for longer than I haven’t. So I should just . . . know where he is. Shouldn’t I have some God-given power to guide me down frosty footpaths, over ancient bridges and through thickets to where he is? He’s no longer in my spousal range. He’s taken our combined strength with him. I should have known him better.
I walk, imbalanced, to her. She’s consistent, almost glittering in winter sun. Always there through the decades, always strong for us. The abbey. Our shared love. As majestic today as she has ever been. Her archways like open mouths, yawning me in. Her tactile walls holding a million stories, ours too. Her stony skin a rainbow of eyelid-greens, vein-blues and bruise-indigos. Her missing parts are her beauty. How can people call her ‘the ruins’? We are not ruins with our missing parts. If he still loves her, can’t he still love me? I am majestic too, despite the new chasm on my body. Flat space with a higgledy, pink, train track scar, reminding us both where my architecture once stood proud before the weather changed.
He promised he loved me anyway, promised he was fine. But his drawbridge went up. He loved me from a safe distance. It was just a bag of fat covered in skin with a teat. But I’m grieving its absence. One now, where there should be two. Is my pain just as much his pain?
It’s the first time I’ve been to the abbey without him, my other missing part. I stand. We talk. I tell her he went for a walk. She nods and tilts sympathetically.
We both know he isn’t coming back.