Rock Paper Scissors – Marriage has never been so disturbing…or so compelling
My husband doesn’t recognize my face.
I feel him staring at me as I drive, and wonder what he sees. Nobody else looks familiar to him either, but it is still strange to think that the man I married wouldn’t be able to pick me out in a police lineup.
I know the expression his face is wearing without having to look. It’s the sulky, petulant, “I told you so” version, so I concentrate on the road instead. I need to. The snow is falling faster now, it’s like driving in a whiteout, and the windscreen wipers on my Morris Minor Traveller are struggling to cope. The car – like me – was made in 1978. If you look after things, they will last a lifetime, but I suspect my husband might like to trade us both in for a younger model. Adam has checked his seat belt a hundred times since we left home, and his hands are balled into conjoined fists on his lap. The journey from London up to Scotland should have taken no more than eight hours, but I daren’t drive any faster in this storm. Even though it’s starting to get dark, and it seems we might be lost in more ways than one.
Can a weekend away save a marriage? That’s what my husband said when the counselor suggested it. Every time his words replay in my mind, a new list of regrets writes itself inside my head. To have wasted so much of our lives by not really living them, makes me feel so sad. We weren’t always the people we are now, but our memories of the past can make liars of us all. That’s why I’m focusing on the future. Mine. Some days I still picture him in it, but there are moments when I imagine what it would be like to be on my own again. It isn’t what I want, but I do wonder whether it might be best for both of us. Time can change relationships like the sea reshapes the sand.
He said we should postpone this trip when we saw the weather warnings, but I couldn’t. We both know this weekend away is a last chance to fix things. Or at least to try. He hasn’t forgotten that.
It’s not my husband’s fault that he forgets who I am.
Adam has a neurological glitch called prosopagnosia, which means he cannot see distinguishing features on faces, including his own. He has walked past me on the street on more than one occasion, as though I were a stranger. The social anxiety it inevitably causes affects us both. Adam can be surrounded by friends at a party and still feel like he doesn’t know a single person in the room. So we spend a lot of time alone. Together but apart. Just us. Face blindness isn’t the only way my husband makes me feel invisible. He did not want children—always said that he couldn’t bear the thought of not recognizing their faces. He has lived with the condition his whole life, and I have lived with it since we met. Sometimes a curse can be a blessing.
My husband might not know my face, but there are other ways he has learned to recognize me: the smell of my perfume, the sound of my voice, the feel of my hand in his when he still used to hold it.
Marriages don’t fail, people do. I am not the woman he fell in love with all those years ago. I wonder whether he can tell how much older I look now? Or if he notices the infiltration of gray in my long blond hair? Forty might be the new thirty, but my skin is creased with wrinkles that were rarely caused by laughter. We used to have so much in common, sharing our secrets and dreams, not just a bed. We still finish each other’s sentences, but these days we get them wrong.
“I feel like we’re going in circles,” he mutters beneath his breath, and for a moment I’m not sure whether he’s referring to our marriage or my navigational skills. The ominous-looking slate sky seems to reflect his mood, and it’s the first time he’s spoken for several miles. Snow has settled on the road ahead, and the wind is picking up, but it’s still nothing compared with the storm brewing inside the car.