I can feel her yearning and pain coming together, heading towards desperation. It makes an ache in me. Her question was a shock, a product of escalating stress; goodness knows how she could behave if things worsened.
She probably feels she’s running out of time, and maybe that’s true.
There’s no way I can respond without thinking this over. Admiration and concern: just asking me must have taken great courage. She’s sat there vulnerable, tense, legs all tangled, hands knotted hard in her lap. So much hangs on my decision and waiting for it must be torture.
I want to help her so much: ease the pain and return her to the strong and confident person she normally seems, or is that just a professional act? I admire that person, though I’m a little in awe.
What do I need to think about? She’s … I’m … wrong: start again.
OK, the possible outcomes of this question – she, he or they – don’t even exist and may never but they’re the most important thing in this. Yes, correct: hang on to that and I’ll get the rest right.
What was that neuroscience thing I read the other day? – decisions are made long before we actually think consciously about them.
OK, OK, maybe I’ve already decided but … shit, what a way for this to happen!
My training says children need two loving parents or parental substitutes to look after them – that’s best because two can’t be democratic when decision-making. The child sees both people having to resolve conflicts, work at conciliation, cooperation, negotiation … parents modelling interpersonal problem-solving.
One parent is a tyranny and can produce ghastly messes – look at me. No way am I going to let that happen again. On top of that, no child or children of mine are going to grow up without me present every day to help them grow, to guide them, to make sure they know how important, how loved and cherished they are.
That means this woman and I would have to act like we were married. We could live separately in the same house? … no that’s madness. What if she brought a boyfriend home? what if she married him and he wanted them to move to another country? … what if…?
Right, not separately then, we’d have to live completely as partners. She’s seven years older than me, problem? no.
Do I really want to help her that much? Yes. Could I love her? Yes I really could, crikey I know enough arranged marriages that work. We’d struggle a bit; for all her pragmatism and common sense, she’s short on spontaneity and mischief; there’s a lack of fun. She’s a bit overbearing and combative at times – that worries me. I’m afraid I’d give in too often just to avoid it.
Over the two years we’ve worked together she’s found the way I bypass difficulties, by ignoring them, very irritating. I’m also chaotic and don’t plan ahead. I don’t manage money well – at all, I fail to notice when stuff needs doing – and often leave things even if I do see them.
Could she live with me? I’d be hard work but right now she’d probably agree to anything I suggest. She’s already offered to have sex if I want it that way – rather than a donation.
So, there are conditions that will need to be discussed … negotiated. That in itself will reveal how we’ll work together. She’s pale, face frozen in rigid anticipation. I look into her dilated pupils. Do I really want to help her out this much? Still yes. This is the first time I’ve seen her vulnerable side and I really like it: it changes so much.
We’ll have to work at this, but with children as our guiding stars: we will.
I touch her hand.
“Yes. Yes we can do this: let’s talk.”
©Gary Bonn, 2020