So where was I? Ah, yes: I've just been taken to Paris.
We were lovers, long ago. Fresh from our teens and brimming with expectations – of life; of ourselves.
It was perfect: both beautiful and bittersweet, because we knew that it was what it was, and that it could not last in that form. Temperamentally we were a fitting match and our souls loved one another too - possibly aided, rather than hindered, by our mutual love for lean young men with vertiginous cheek bones.
He was the person I had to ‘phone on the morning of my marriage to the Bim. To make sure that he was okay. To make sure that I had his blessing, however painful it was to him that he was losing me in some way.
I think that you’re doing the right thing, he said. Which was kind, given that he had met the Bim only once and probably found the whole thing incomprehensible. But he knew the journey which had brought me to that place. He knew that I needed to have my chance, a shot, at the ordinary. For it is the ordinary we mostly wish for, I understand now. We simply wish to accomplish the ordinary in our own unique, extra-ordinary ways.
Marriage? I needed, given my parents’ so-called failure, to tick that box and make it my own.
Children? Well, there was a slim chance – I had to try.
He understood that. And that was what he managed to convey, during the course of our wedding-morning conversation.
At the wedding itself I remember little of him except for a shot of his face through some leaves, thoughtful and alone before the main celebrations got under way, and then, much later, that he became very, very drunk. If it had been the other way round, I would have been very drunk, too.
The Bim years, the first Anna-mouse years, I barely saw him. He absented himself from my den of domesticity in a way which I found painful. I challenged him on it, once, after a glass or two, taking a late train back to Kent from my beloved London. He was astonished by my sense of abandonment and finally stopped me dead by saying Anything Livvy Unwin chooses to do has always, and always will be, fine by me. I heard the love, and shut up to await the future.
The future came. And so it was, a few days after the Bim moved out, that I found myself on the platform of Kent Town’s railway station, unable to move for tears.
Can you talk? I texted, out of the blue. Because I knew, although we had spoken barely a handful of times over the past five years, that if he could, he would.
Give me 5 mins, came the reply.
I wept-talked for ages. He listened with all his heart. I felt it, and my heart became lighter to sense his, still beating for me all these years down the line.
So, where exactly are you on the platform, did you say? he asked me gently, in a strangely even voice, during one of my more strangled outbursts.
It was only much later that day, when my equanimity had been restored and I could raise the odd laugh, that I realised the image of me sobbing in despair on a railway station platform had got the better of his fiercely literary imagination, and he had had to take a moment to reassure himself that I was not about to do an Anna Karenina.
Perhaps that's why he suggested Paris.
We need to go away, he said towards the end of the conversation, when I had assumed a modicum of his calm. The odd meal is not enough. We need longer together to make up the years. My treat - a weekend – Paris?
Which is how I was reminded that there is nothing, really nothing, like a friend wholeheartedly flying the flag for you, on those bloody, corpse-strewn days when you can’t even make it to the flagpole.