Just back from a farmers’ market where I met my friend Char for brunch. The sun out and brilliant on the watery green fields and arum lilies pushing up in ditches. Char in a royal blue scarf and cape. She dropped a bombshell on me as I was eating a brioche with quince jam and sipping rooibos tea. by announcing that she might have sold her house. I was caught off guard and dismayed. Not just because I like having my friends live a street away but because Char needs to put down roots — she is a charming intelligent graceful transient and as we age, the gipsy roaming loses its appeal. Well so I think. She moves from city to country and back again, from village to village, making friends and losing them, single and creating beauty as she goes but at the price of stability and intimacy.
We wrangled a little and I made her cry, then we kissed and made up. Next to the restaurant there was a large barn with a pregnant black sow and we went to admire the pig snuffling in clean straw. Country life is full of farmyard delights, for those who like farmyards.
Another bombshell when I got home and found that an intruder had broken into the garage where we keep our deep freeze and emptied it of frozen food supplies. This doesn’t just affect us but all those we help to feed. And I dislike knowing the intruder came onto the property in daylight with my housemate sleeping indoors. But nobody was hurt and perhaps his or her need was greater than ours.
And then another bombshell. In April I wrote about the flamboyantly alcoholic Frieda and her long-suffering husband. She went off to rehab, left after a few days and carried on drinking. She had a bad fall or two, was seen in town berating shopkeepers with a lopsided bandage around her head. She arrived drunk at the fineral of Lizzie S who died a teetotaller at 98 years of age after a blameless but very annoying life. Frieda sang rude words to the hymns and kept swearing at the preacher under her breath until her husband bodily dragged her out. He was shaking like a leaf and close to tears. Everyone thought this very funny: all stories about absurd abusive drunks take on a certain entertaining quality, especially when the loud obnoxious drunk has a meek and ineffectual husband in tow. I had been expecting to hear that Frieda was facing another health crisis or had been arrested. I have phoned and left messages two or three times, but did not expect to hear from her. Recovering types are anathema to drunks.
On Wednesday night, with a storm breaking over the village and gale-force winds tearing down from the north, the long-suffering husband took out and loaded a shotgun, climbed the stairs to his study and blew out his brains. A twist nobody expected, least of all Frieda. Everyone is very shocked and nobody knows what to say. We all knew he was lonely and heartbroken and at the end of his tether. Nobody went near the house because of the drunken termagant. Everyone was scornful of him for not leaving her. People said he should stand up to her or give her an ultimatum.
Suicide is not only an act of desperation but deeply hostile, a way of leaving behind a burning question and accusation even without any suicide note. It is sometimes called the ultimate revenge.
The house is silent and blinds are drawn. The husband’s little dogs have been taken away and destroyed. There is no news about Frieda, but it is not hard to guess what she must be going through. If she is conscious of what is there to be endured.
In my mind’s eye, I keep seeing ripples spreading out in a dark pond, the way in which alcoholism poisons so many lives, casts its shadow in so many places.