Diamonds, doppelgängers and decisions
Making big decisions isn't easy. When confronted with someone telling a story like mine, what was my brain trying to tell me?
Note for long-time readers! We’re jumping forwards to 2007. I know. I was inspired to write this very morning and I hope you enjoy this piece. Thanks for reading, Ann xx.
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The grey paper of the Saturday Guardian feels hot. I look up, check who’s seeing me. My eyes, the tilt of my shoulders towards the fake-wood formica.
The flat is quiet. I hear my toddler chattering to herself in her bedroom, one wall away.
My husband is in his little music room at the end of the corridor of our flat, headphones plugged into his computer, his guitars, his new synth, door tight shut.
I blink quickly, take a little breath. Steady my stomach.
The woman writes. He was a rebound. Seemed a nice guy after her bad breakup. They got pregnant. And now and now and now. She is stuck. This man. This life.
He’s not the worst but good god he’s not great. Not right. Just all wrong.
She knows what she wants to do. Needs to do.
Sitting next to the stacks of waxy pictures, stained-wood toys, last week’s paper and lunch leftovers, I feel as though I’m reading my story.
She’s not my first doppelgänger. When my baby was six months old, exhausted and grateful even newer mums kept thanking me for sharing my story at breast feeding workshops. Folding at the launderette or walking the corridors of East Dulwich Cottage Hospital, I’d thank these women, promise it wasn’t me, I was glad someone had helped. It felt odd but nice, connecting with this other-me. Someone who, unlike me, was helping more people, newer mums.
Resting my left hand on the table, drumming my fingers quietly on the plastic, onetwothreefouronetwothreefouronetwothreefour, white gold, my three diamond engagement ring still conspicuously adult on my left hand. It was my mum’s ring, my favourite ring of hers, I loved it from the moment she bought it when I was 12, a whole day spent in small local jewellers, replacing everything we lost in a premeditated burglary.
When he told me he hadn’t bought a ring, I hoped my mum would have something I could pilfer. As long as I really wanted it, she said, I could have it. And I love this ring, its clear cold simplicity. Every time the light catches it, I feel that at least one part of me is an adult.
But I can’t keep myself from her story, the woman in the paper. She’s stuck. She knows she needs to leave. End the relationship. Separating her child and her partner seems too cruel, too much. How can she cause so much pain, just because she is unhappy?
The spider in the top highest part of my chest stretches and digs in its legs, its hooks.
My breath shortens. I close my eyes and kaleidoscopes pull me forwards away a different universe in under a second, darkest black and spiralling bright lights every colour of the rainbow spiralling downdownaround towards me pulling me into the colours.
I remember to breathe. Force my eyes open to the dishes, the toys, the mess. The paper.
At work I google ‘how to make decisions’, ‘how do you know you’re making the right decision’.
Knots grow faster, I close the tab and read one, two, three American craft blogs to calm my stomach, the noise and swim in my head. I’ll knit him a hat, sew her a little cat, try making hand soap from leftover bar soap! Yes!
Calm now, I smile and sip my tea. I pick up the stack of pale-blue questionnaires and rank them numerically, I look at my ring. I see it. On my finger. One band. Three diamonds, hundreds of cuts and every colour of the world.
Ignoring the rats, at the bottom of the stairs and next to this week’s flytipping, I empty the weekend paper into the recycling bin.
Ann’s Newsletter is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.