I’d sent across an email an hour or two before the message came through.
Mine contained lines from Yeats — The Second Coming — copied in context from someone else. My message was as if to say, yes, perhaps the falcon cannot hear the falconner, but none of us can hear anything over this cacophany of self-pity.
I was talking, rather non-partisanly, about politics. The statement was melodramatic, but at it’s core, rather ambivalent. It was something that might’ve been funny in another life.
The reply was non-sequential and fell outside of the political context — it was a group-email; recipients bcc’d; carbon copy to his wife. Judging by the wife’s email address, she had changed her last name since the time when I had known her. It was funny and strange to me that he would be with a same-last-named woman — but that perception was wholly mine and came from having known him in a previous lifetime and therefore having known his previous wife.
It was not a judgment of women who changed their names. After all, I had once been such a wife.
Attached to the message: Pictures of his beautiful new daughter on the chest of her mother who was his wife who had changed her name to be the same as his.
It seemed audacious; dangerous giving me his wife’s email address. If I were a different kind of person, at a moment’s notice, I could simply hand over buckets of damning correspondence, demonstrating the timing of what he’d said and when and how. It seemed strange that someone would — consciously or not — trust me so much; that someone would hand me the images of his beautiful daughter together with the contact information for his same-named wife all at one go.
That it would come in an hour or two after my Yeats email, no less.
It seemed heavy that he was perhaps inadvertently asking me to be the steward of these fragile things.
I forwarded the message to a friend, without further explanation.
At the risk of sounding like a therapist, how do you feel? my friend asked.
I told her I didn’t know; I said some things in block capitals. Because I didn’t; because I felt a blocky way. I felt a lot of expected things, and then more, strange and unexpected things — the strangest of them being sadness and relief.
I expected to be happy — which I was. I felt a peculiar kind of pride, and gladness — as if I had something to do with that success of his!
But then I felt ashamed that I was awash in a wave of relief! Relief that my name was still the same as my father’s — the name that my father had chosen, and the name that I had fought to win back. The name that, according to the probably fake heraldry chart in my parents’ powder room meant upward. That motto had always sort-of amused and inspired me — the aspirational nature of the thing had had a tongue-in-cheekiness about it that made me feel like we were all in on a private familial joke.
Relief that I could be happy for him; proud of him.
And then I felt sad about the ways in which the world had changed; sad that my heart was and might always be a tiny bit sore over the things that were not; would never be; could never have been.
Did the muscle-memory of having loved someone ever fade? Did being a steward of fragile hearts ever feel less dangerous?
And so on. And so forth.