I remember the pillow being wet.
It was the first night I slept in a different house to my daughter and I woke up on a wet pillow, because I’d been crying in my sleep.
She was two at the time and my wife decided we should have a trial separation. She wanted to see other men and bring them home so I agreed to sleep at a friend’s house and give her space.
She told me the men would arrive when our daughter had gone to bed and would leave before she got up – like that made it ok!
Her mum worked full time so I looked after our daughter in the day. And I drove home from my friend’s house every morning, crying all the way.
On the first morning my wife was still in bed. I sat on the bed with her and she told me it was still warm from a man she’d been sleeping with for some weeks. And he’d left before our daughter got up, so that was ok.
So now I knew the trial separation was real for, I spent the day numbly being the best dad I could, playing with my daughter, feeding her, changing her, bathing her, putting her to bed.
And then her mum came home with another man – a new one – and I drove off to my friend’s, away from my family, drank myself to sleep and woke up again on a wet pillow.
When I arrived home the new man’s motorbike was still there.
Our daughter wasn’t awake, so that was ok, and I took our loyal, happy dog for a short, distracted walk.
When I got back I surveyed the downstairs to find evidence of adultery. I pieced together a picture of the night before – the last CD played, the smoked joints in the ashtray, the two wine glasses together (one flirtatiously smudged with lipstick) – all enjoyed after our daughter went to bed, so that was ok!
And then she woke up and I took her downstairs. I loved her like we’d been apart forever and she had no idea how far I’d travelled emotionally since I put her to bed – she just opened her eyes and I was there again.
At some point she toddled herself upstairs and I found her heading along the long hall to open the bedroom door at the very end where her mother and lover were sleeping.
I sprinted silently to catch her, not wanting to disturb them and picked her up. She protested – ‘I wanna see mummy’. I made some lame excuse why she couldn’t see mummy – and I don’t know which was worse – knowing the real reason or lying to my daughter.
Then downstairs a phone rang. It was the lover’s mobile and the display said ‘home calling’. The man had a wife of his own and out of loyalty to my wife I wanted to protect them from being caught so I ran upstairs and slipped the phone through the door and whispered urgently – ‘the phone rang’.
I later found out they were having sex at the time – my wife told me – and I made a picture of it in my head that still exists in my memory 10 years later like I really saw it happening.
Not long after this he left on his motorbike and we never saw him again. And what hurt most was that my wife had told me the day before that her men would leave before our daughter got up – and she’d lied.
A few weeks later she left and filed for divorce on the grounds of MY unreasonable behaviour.
We’ve shared custody of our daughter since and I still cry sometimes when she’s away. And whenever her mum lies – it reminds me of this story.