THIS ( LOV­ING) LIFE

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Viewpoints - FRANCES MEREDITH

YEARS ago I trav­elled to Syd­ney for the wed­ding cel­e­bra­tions of an old flame. Our re­la­tion­ship had be­gun in Perth, when he was mar­ried to an older wo­man.

At the time my flat­mate and I, be­ing very young and a bit silly, had de­bated whether she was in fact his mother, so much older did she ap­pear to be.

I, in turn, was much younger than the man and pretty much at risk, as they say to­day.

The only thing he fled from, in my chaotic life, were my other lovers, who, es­pe­cially in the early days, some­times chanced across us at in­op­por­tune times.

He did not com­plain but fleet­ingly, aware, of course, of his own com­pro­mises.

He held my hand and my heart on many oc­ca­sions when I scooted or slid into trou­ble. At one point of cri­sis I thought be­ing with him would solve my prob­lems, but he was still mar­ried, and I ended up look­ing af­ter my­self.

By the time he was di­vorced from his first wife, I was mar­ried. He didn’t come to my wed­ding and, as I re­call, gave no ex­pla­na­tion or apol­ogy, but we car­ried on our li­ai­son, some­what less lust­fully than be­fore, it’s true, but with con­sid­er­able grace and care. And he sent me an in­vi­ta­tion to his sec­ond wed­ding. And so there we were on a hired ferry, cut­ting through the sparkling wa­ters of Syd­ney Har­bour on an au­tumn day, swill­ing cham­pagne, scoff­ing prof­iteroles, hear­ing the civilised sounds of a cham­ber quar­tet swirling about us.

My hus­band, less than en­am­oured with my con­tin­ued li­ai­son, had de­clined to come with me, and I knew few of the guests.

I was in­tro­duced to a man of my own age who, quite frankly, was some­one to swoon over.

He took an un­usual in­ter­est in me, an un­known girl from Ade­laide, I thought, and be­ing a gal from the un­fash­ion­able south, I could not but re­spond to his at­ten­tions. He was a friend of the bride and I reckon he was an old

this­life@ theaus­tralian. com. au For This Life guide­lines go to www. theaus­tralian. com. au/ lifestyle flame of hers, flirt­ing with a wo­man he knew to be an old flame of the groom. The groom took me away to in­tro­duce me to some­one else and, in do­ing so, by way of ex­pla­na­tion, said: ‘‘ And this is the wo­man I should have mar­ried.’’

Some years later my hus­band and I sep­a­rated. For some­one who had not been keen on mar­riage in my early days, I was un­ex­pect­edly dev­as­tated and went to stay with a friend in Syd­ney for a few days, where I saw my old flame. Sit­ting in an El­iz­a­beth Street cafe later, he told me, with­out any dis­cus­sion or sug­ges­tion, that he couldn’t leave his fam­ily. There were too many fi­nan­cial im­pli­ca­tions.

I was sur­prised, em­bar­rassed and sad. seemed an odd rea­son to me.

You see, I think he loved me. Still does, prob­a­bly. Some­where in the criss­cross­ing of our re­la­tion­ship over the years, mar­riage missed out.

But that’s not all there is. The next time I am in Syd­ney, I reckon an­other ferry ride, just him and me, would be the go.

It

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