We all need someone to talk to sometimes. I really don’t think he intended to talk to me at all, though. He was five minutes late for a recurring meeting. I didn’t think much of it as I was engrossed in what I was supposed to be doing when he arrived. He apologized profusely, while I waved his apology away. No big deal – seriously.
I went back to work. I could sense him pacing back and forth behind me at the other end of the room. Then he approached me and apologized again, saying he’d been going through a really difficult time lately. I looked up. Was it problems at work? No.
I don’t know him well at all, so I was stumped. From the little I do know, I would describe him as a light-hearted, happy-go-lucky sort of personality. A perennial joke-cracker who never fails to crack up at his own jokes. I would describe him as a Nigerian movie addict. Ever since he found out I was Nigerian, he has never failed to try and regale me with quotes from some of his favorite Nigerian actors. Depending on my mood and the activity I’m engaged in at the time, I might just smile politely and get on with things, or laugh. Sometimes, I just need to really focus, though, and during these times, he tends to fade obligingly into the background.
Apart from his work, I couldn’t think of anything else to probe on, so I decided to let him spill the beans if and when he was ready. I was wary of learning to much, too, I have to admit, as I’m learning that I can’t possibly be the world’s problem-solver.
He finally explained (after struggling for several moments to get the words out) that he was having relationship troubles. Now, why hadn’t I thought of that?? I had to admit that he wasn’t himself at all. He was all somber and fidgety.
He’d been separated for the last five years, he explained. His wife was apparently having affairs and he relocated from one country to another to try and leave the whole ordeal behind. He felt like he was really handling things well, but each time she got in touch with him for something, he would sink into a depressed state.
Of course I could relate. It was still strange for me to hear this, though – him being a member of the opposite sex and all. I was used to hearing this sort of thing from women, but never had from a guy before now.
He apologized again, saying he just wouldn’t be able to work that day. I waved his apology away again.
‘It’s really, really tough,’ he said.
‘It is,’ I agreed. ‘It’s like being on a roller-coaster.’
‘Yes! You’re up, then you’re down. And sometimes, you feel like you’re going mad.’
‘That, too,’ I said. ‘There are good days and bad days. But one day, you wake up and you find that things are suddenly better. You’ll be fine.’
He whipped out his phone, toyed with it for a second, and then showed me a picture. ‘That’s my daughter.’
Aww. Cute, chubby little thing.
He showed me another picture. ‘This is my wife.’
Ohhh … pretty lady. Why does this happen? Too bad.
And poor, poor guy! To still refer to her so readily and easily as his wife, and to still have her picture just a click away after five good years …
He still loves her, I thought to myself. He may not want to admit it, or he may not even realize it, but he does.
I wondered if there was any hope for them. I hoped so.
He didn’t get any work done that day. I remembered when I didn’t get any work done for months, and assured him that it was perfectly okay.
A couple of days later, the same recurring meeting. He bounded into the room energetically and got to work. No one would have believed that just two days earlier, he was pretty much a broken man. I secretly marveled. He cracked his corny jokes again. He described a scene from the latest Nigerian movie he’d watched, laughing out loud. I smiled.
‘Today’s a good day, I can see,’ I said. ‘Good for you.’
‘Yeah,’ he replied wryly. ‘I’m in remission.’
We both laughed.
I got back to work, thinking: How apt! ‘In remission.’
Reading up on the phrase just now, someone described being in remission as follows:
“… the absence of disease activity … It implies that there is a potential chance for recurrence (relapse), but doesn’t tell anything about the chances of this occurring. … Depending on the disease process, in some cases when the patient has been ‘in remission’ long enough, then we would start to talk about ‘cure.’ This is a difficult term to use when speaking of cancer [or of a broken heart/the hurt that marital betrayal leaves behind (my insertion!)], however, because of our inability to very accurately predict if cancer will come back or not in any given individual. So … it doesn’t strictly mean that [the individual] doesn’t have the cancer anymore, it may just mean that it is so little that we can’t detect it, or it is not ‘active.’”
Hmm! Couldn’t have said it better myself.
I can confidently say that I, personally, am ‘cured.’ I use the term as cautiously as it is used in the above quote, though. The 'cancer' is no longer active, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t probably lurking around somewhere, and that it’s impossible for it to one day throw me for a loop. I can confidently say that it’s gotten down to undetectable levels, but that's not quite the same as a 'real' cure.
When you know you have a chronic illness, you don’t take health for granted, no matter how healthy you feel. I would say that divorce is a lot like a chronic illness: It has to be managed.