I wrote this one some months ago, it was just waiting for a final tidy up. I think that'll do.Feathers and Leaves
When we broke up, I needed to get away. A trip to Switzerland, neutral territory, was easy to book and just about affordable. The cleanliness and order of Zurich was a good contrast to the messiness of a relationship gone awry. Or of any relationship at any stage, really. At least mine.
When I first met Kath, there was confusion. She liked me, but she was hesitant. She believed in complete equality, yet she seemed keen for me to woo her. She said I gave out mixed signals too. Still, our attraction easily stepped over these minor obstacles.
When we moved in together, there was disorder. Logistics of shared living, cupboard space and kitchen habits, and so many things we called 'temporary' that remained unchanged for months – from the old sideboard neither of us liked, to her having the side of the bed closer to the window. We swore we'd swap places now and again.
Even our attempts to conceive were messy at first, and I’d smirk about 'trying for a baby' being a euphemism for sex. But when it didn't happen, the mirth disappeared, and schedules began. And then doctors, and tests. And then I learned that I would never father children. I suggested adoption, but Kath still wanted to give birth, perhaps a sperm donor. I felt betrayed, she gets to have a biological kid and I don't?
My hotel room had no such complications. The shutters were remote controlled, the end of the toilet roll nearly folded into a triangle, and cleaning happened only every other day. The staff were courteous and smart, but had surprisingly little knowledge about the city.
Our reconciliation was erratic and incomplete. We put off the decision about children for a year, but a space was born and grew, sometimes coming in unannounced and lying in the bed between us at night. We didn't make it for another year, and never revisited the question of children, although it lurked in the background after its bedtime. And then, after nearly two years together, we parted, without much drama or shouting.
I left the hotel and went for a walk. The River Limmat was too clean for a big city. Looking down from the coasting swans, I could see through the clear water to the stones on the riverbed as a big fish swam lazily by. I didn't spot a single piece of rubbish anywhere, not a plastic wrapper or even a floating cigarette butt. It felt unrealistic.
Then, in a swirl of the river by the bank I saw debris floating. Nothing's perfect, I thought with satisfaction as I approached. I was mistaken. It wasn't rubbish at all – only brown leaves and white feathers on the water. Maybe I could have a clean break from Kath, I thought suddenly. Maybe the mess is the illusion. We gave it a go, we loved, but it didn't work out. But there's no poison, no hatred, no dirt, it’s only feathers and leaves.