BOXING HELENA

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My husband did everything for us. He cooked, he packed the car for all our breaks, booked our holidays, filled our car with diesel even though he had a driving ban due to his epilepsy. He paid every bill, fixed the broken things and never failed to make me a cup of tea every single morning of our marriage.

After acclimatizing to this many years later I said to him “ You have rendered me an incapable human being, I’m pretty useless; it’s Stockholm syndrome”. “ No, it’s ‘Boxing Helena’ (dodgy 90s soft porn disguised as an actual film about an obsessive surgeon who slowly removes his girlfriend limbs one by one) he would say. “It’s so you can never leave me”.

All the same, ten years later I am unable to tie my own shoelaces.

I once gave a thirty minute lecture/rant (depending on which of my students you are talking to) on the epic simile In ‘Paradise Lost’, but I couldn’t tell you how to blanche a tomato. Although I suspect the fact that I can do the former might suggest I can do the latter.

These first few weeks were fraught with practical problems for me. I couldn’t get the internet to work, the washing machine packed up, car insurance ran out as did money and I had absolutely no idea what to do. The thing is you can get someone in to replace/ fix all these things but you have to pay them and they won’t make you a cup of tea afterwards, kiss you and massage your feet. I know this for a fact, I’ve asked.

I watched the horrified faces of our friends when the answer to: Where do you keep your MOT certificate? Or- When is bin day? -Was always the same: James used to do that. I realised then that it was all down to me and I shuddered at the thought of it. I never wanted any of this. I don’t really want to know where my MOT certificate is and what a luxury not ever having to worry about bins and so many other things. It really is what sharing your life with another person is, although perhaps a little unbalanced in this particular marriage.

I now find I can’t reach stuff, literally. I do then realise , much as I’m loathed to I must get on with it. I must accept my crocked new life.

And so with this in mind I one day decide to do a Sainsbury’s shop.

The glory of the internet age is that all our tastes are saved, mapped and analyzed; I have been to Majestic and Nespresso who both tell me what wine and coffee I like to drink, alarming and amazing all at the same time but pretty useful if someone dies and you are left with the jigsaw puzzle of ‘Saved Favourites’ on your Sainsbury’s account.

The first time I logged on I wept, there they were as a single list. All that I needed to recreate the tastes of our life.

Except I don’t know which ingredients go with which or how much or when or what ras el hanoutl is! So there it is like some sort of malicious jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing; it slowly occurs to me that the missing piece is James.

For Harry

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