It’s after midnight. Sleep is an out and out impossibility. Okha still isn’t home. I feel deeply let down by her, somehow expecting that my need to gather the four of us and bind ourselves together tightly would be her need too. Her coping strategy involves copious alcohol, the solace of the boy from the date and the familiar routine of frustrating even the smallest expectations of her. It’s the perfect teenage storm. I am totally broken. The dawning realisation that I am loosing my oldest daughter to her own life, wherever that will take her is confirmed. It is inevitable and right that children break from their parents, but it is brutal tonight.
Sentencing will be in three weeks. It is nothing short of a gift from the Gods and very unusual. The judge didn’t even request bail. He has seen these men day in, day out and tried his best to end it for them. He has seen the statement from the tax expert, reviewed all the evidence, thrown the case out, been overturned, and given instructions to the jury which, had they followed them, could not have resulted in a conviction. Now he does the last thing he can do and sends them home for three weeks. I am pathetically grateful, and yet I can’t seem to look at Rob or hold him enough to even begin to fill the chasm that has opened in my chest.
Sleeping seems like an utter waste of the time we have left and in any case my body is systematically ridding itself of the entire contents of my stomach. We cling together all night. Although I know that he is not dead, I am suddenly acutely aware of the fact that one day he will die, or I will and I am utterly certain that I will not be able to bear it. Love is a sadistic joke entailing inevitable pain in direct proportion to the strength of the love. It is unbearable. I can think of half a dozen of my friends who would probably be quite glad to get rid of their husbands for the next decade – an hours supervised visit twice a month would suit them fine, but for us it is a torture. I know that I am somewhat of a freak of nature and perhaps this will sound smug, but you see, I have been madly and ever more deeply in love with my husband since I met him fifteen years ago.
I have a sudden crazed thought that we could escape – swim across the channel and melt into the continent, go anywhere, do anything to survive, just so long as we could all stay together. Rob laughs when I suggest it. He’d never run away from anything anyway. I feel as if I have gone totally mad. This is beyond surreal.
I wait until it is just decent to start calling people. I dread telling the awful news, but I can’t contain it anymore either. I know these will be grim calls to receive, but I don’t care. I can barely speak when I call my parents. I just cry down the phone at them. My Dad offers to drive over, my mum does the only thing she can do and says how sorry she is. The love and pain in her voice envelps me for a moment. She stays on the phone until there isn’t any point because neither of us can say anything. I keep on making the horrid calls out of respect for all the people who have been there all the way through this, and in the vain hope that it will help to talk. It doesn’t.
People are so very kind. Over the coming weeks they offer everything from financial help and holiday homes to healing herbs and oil, to free ballet lessons and perhaps best of all tea and chats. People offer their time, their ears and their prayers. I feel held by this outpouring of concern and love. Over the next few days little care packages begin to arrive, it is humbling and the best possible medicine, and yet everywhere that Rob goes he finds me collapsed over on the floor: a puddle of dispairing wife. I can’t eat, I haven’t slept, I have a period from hell, my back aches, I’m exhausted and utterly dejected, added to which I’m ruining the small amount of time we have left.
Rob makes the call to his mum. She lives alone since Rob’s dad went out for a walk and had a sudden fatal heart attack two years ago. She has never recovered from this loss; further proof that the deeper the love the more cruel the separation. I understand her pain more profoundly that ever before. She is unbelievably stoic. It is unlikely that she will ever see Rob again as a free man, and this must be a cruel blow to her, but she tries to comfort him, tells him how much he is loved and only has thoughts for him. As he puts the phone down deep sobs escape him and he weeps briefly into my shoulder. It is the first and only time he falters.
I start to make the international calls and reach my dear friend in Ibiza, a proper German hippy who lived under a fig tree for two years and has accumulated more life experience in her little finger than I have in my whole body. She has luxuriant leg hair not seen anywhere in the civilised world since the 70’s. She is fabulous. I deliver the news for what feels like the hundredth time. “Oh Fuck!” she correctly exclaims…then a long pause before she follows this up with, “Well Josels, Robbie’s gonna love it, I tell you that for free! He’s gonna have his own little monastery going on there in his cell.” She stops me in my tracks. She continues. “Yes Josels, you know, we talk about these things sometimes and he told me that if he had not had you guys in his life he would have gone off to the Himalayas or something to sit in a cave, and Josels these Himalaya retreat thingies can last for years you know, so really he is getting the best of all worlds – you, and the monastery all in one!” It’s outrageous what she is saying, but it is completely true.
Suddenly everything shifts. It is like a lightbulb turning on in the pitiful darkness that has engulfed me. If ever there was a man well suited to life in a cell it is Rob. He has been doing meditation every day for as long as I can remember: He has to drag himself off that cushion in the morning. He loves yoga and reading and sitting – all things you can do in a cell. This might not be what we want, but perhaps it could be what we need?