Home Life and Love Real Life. Some "soul mending" was in order. The problem for me was I couldn't just take off and "find myself".
I was a father to a small child who needed me. I was writing five days a week for SBS and couldn't survive without the money from that job and my overseas commissions. I had no savings. The house that my wife, Lara, and I had bought together in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney — a rambling two-bedroom weatherboard with a beautiful garden we'd planted and watched grow together while sipping tea on our balcony — had yet to be put on the market.
I was not a spiritual person. I abhorred religion and any kind of "alternative" therapy.
I was sick of medication. I had lost interest in music and movies. I no longer had the heart for books, having watched my marriage disintegrate while writing my first one. My options for soul mending were limited. Separated but still hookup each other, like many broken men do, I joined a dating site. I hadn't even owned a computer when I'd got married and had only ever heard of online dating through a friend from school who had tried it and had a few salacious experiences he liked to recount over a beer.
I checked out the available options on the net, was amazed at how many single, attractive women were on there, and put up a photo of my newly clean-shaven but horribly
Separated but still hookup each other face taken with my MacBook. Seeing myself on the screen took me aback. I was so drained of life and colour by everything that had happened, it was like I'd aged 20 years. I looked faintly like Michael Douglas — and not the young, handsome version.
Online, none of that mattered. Within hours I was making love to someone other than my wife for the first time in a decade: Maria, a fitness instructor with a bony frame and enormous fake breasts.
We had nothing in common besides an unspoken but urgent need to be with somebody. It wasn't in any way soul-mending, it wasn't even validating or particularly pleasurable — I was yearning for Lara — but it was a novelty and a distraction. After a few weeks of hooking up between her gym classes and crying myself to sleep when I got home, I broke it off.
She wanted a relationship. I was nowhere near ready for that with her or anyone. So I made my excuses and simply found other women with whom to go through the same heartless process of introduction, seduction and abandonment. The misery of it all hit me one night while I was with Carly, a girl with a dragon tattoo. A graphic and mother of two, she'd told me, flirtingly, before we met, "It's rather large — though not obvious — and very tasteful.
The most sensuous part of a woman's body. And she'd ruined it. On her bed in some McMansion suburb in outer Sydney, I was being eyeballed by a badly inked serpent. This wasn't my wife. This wasn't my life. But I wasn't dead, either.
And, for all I had just been through, that was something. Just when it was that I went from husband to playerI cannot say. The transition was not deliberate but it was pronounced. From being a devoted family man and father, in a few short months I had reprogrammed myself to become a pants man, a cad.
I still loved my wife and wanted to be with her more than anything else. I was a romantic: I still believed that Lara was The One. It was why we'd married so young and had a child together. But my pleas to her fell into a Grand Canyon of unanswered emails, while online — where as a friend-shy single father with equal custody I was spending the majority of my time — there were hundreds of desirable women who paid me attention, and were prepared to listen to my story, stroke my ego and do all the things Lara would not.
Fortuitously, the ones I met were as f They'd given up searching for their mythical Fitzwilliam Darcy and, short of full-blown intercourse, just wanted to hang out for a while and be told before they went to sleep that they were beautiful and tomorrow was another day. It was all so mutually convenient, if utterly barren.