It was ten years ago almost to the day that my parents – separately, like some kind of metaphor – told me they were getting a divorce. It wasn’t a surprise, but it was an awful shock, if you know what I mean. I had been at university for a week and didn’t want to de-rail the night out we were about to go on, freshers’ t-shirts with pithy lines scrawled on them in permanent marker, so we went anyway; I made sure never to be alone, didn’t even go to the bar by myself. I was like that then; evasive, un-emotional. If I didn’t want to think about something I simply didn’t.
I always tell people – people that really want to talk about it, anyway – that having divorced parents makes your life worse. Not a lot – not in the league of having glandular fever, evidently – but a bit. Most of the time I hardly think about it, and my family life feels so normal that I forget I am in the divorced children camp – possibly because I got there as a young adult. And most of the time I can’t even imagine my parents together, remember the icy silences between them in our house.
But some of the time I think about it a lot. Now is one of those times, it being a significant anniversary. I think about it because I think the Billygean of autumn 2003 squandered what was a time for real emotional growth, by drinking too many alcopops, shopping and getting a third in her first year of university, leaving later Billygeans to pick up the slack – emotional and intellectual. I think about it when I’m feeling vulnerable, like tonight, when after a really good few weeks my vertigo (by far my most debilitating symptom: you try not being able to turn your head, let alone sit up) has returned; no matter how we look at it we can’t live on MindReader’s wage alone – the money is literally running out, I discovered to my horror tonight after I bought a coat – and well, you know, my health is unreliable and I can’t earn without health. And, of course, life is rubbish when you feel unwell all. the. time. Actually ALL THE EFFING TIME.
I have a lot of people in my life I tell this stuff to. My parents, separately. MindReader. My best friend in London. My best friend from Tamworth. My boss (strangely). My support network is extremely supportive. But in moments like this, I can’t help but contemplate if things would be any different if my parents still loved each other. Would we go there more for Sunday roasts, walking in on a shared moment of laughter in the kitchen, the windows steamed-up from cooking vegetables? Would I feel I could ask them to spot me £100 for the council tax instead of worrying about both of them having no savings, nothing spare; about as broke as I am? Or would it just be like a springboard, a foundation to which you can return – where the two people are who love you more than anybody else in the whole world. And while they still do individually, at times like this, I wish we could just be together.