New Zealand Listener

The Man I Should Have Married

I can’t remember when the man who is now my husband first told me he loved me. Was it when we drank cocktails at that windowless bar with the old train seats you could turn to face in either direction? We tried to go back once, but it had been replaced with a hardware store; we priced a set of outdoor furniture and bought some new wire for the clothesline to stop the superking sheets from dragging on the lawn. Or did he tell me he loved me when I came to stay at his flat for the first time, when he was still living in Gore, within walking distance of the giant fibreglass trout and two doors down from his mother? She could see when he opened his bedroom curtains in the morning; sometimes she waved and held up her overweight dachshund, or shook a jar of Nescafé and mimed sipping from a cup. She still did Christopher’s washing for him, but only because there was no machine in his flat and it just made more sense than taking it to the laundromat where anybody’s lint and hair and dead skin could end up on your tea towels. A push-up bra of mine found its way into the basket once, and she returned it washed and folded with the hooks done up. It lay on top of the pressed shirts and jeans, a pair of Christopher’s socks tucked into each cup. Was that when he said it? One morning in Gore, when we lay in his chilly bedroom beneath the poster of Abbie Cornish in Candy? I used to stare at Abbie Cornish when I couldn’t sleep. I knew I could never be her, with her collarbone and her upper lip. Even when I closed my eyes, she was still there.

One weekend, Christopher took me to the Goregenheim – yes,

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