Sunday, January 29

Tim Dowling: my wife now has an office of her own, and I’m not welcome there | life and style


I am sitting in my office at the end of the garden when an email arrives from my wife, in the house. The subject line says: “You are invited to come and see my new chair.” The message itself has no content.

When the oldest one first suggested he might move out, my wife made plain her intentions to command a bedroom as an office. She’d been working at a table behind the living room door for several years, where she considered herself insufficiently cut off from the rest of us.

“What are you doing here?” she would say, turning from her computer, every time I walked in.

“It’s 7pm,” I would say. “I’m living my life, in the living room.”

“Sitting room.”

“I’m sitting my ass down, in the sitting room,” I’d say, turning on the TV.

“I’m still working.”

“I’ve got peanuts.”

I don’t know the average time it takes for a parent to transform a child’s bedroom into office space – both logistics and sentimentality must play a part – but on my wife’s behalf I would like to submit a bid for the world record: just under 14 hours.

It was about 5pm when we left the oldest one in his new flat and drove home, into the setting sun, in an empty van. Next morning I was woken up by the sound of furniture being dragged about, followed by hoovering. By the time I was dressed, my wife was nailing pictures to the wall.

“Where did this rug come from?” I said.

“I just need you to carry my table up,” she said, beaming. “And to put my day bed together.”

“Daybed?” I said.

“It’s in a box downstairs,” she said. Within the hour she had installed herself and let it be known that from now on access was by appointment only.

Standing up from my desk, I wonder if I need to print out the invitation to see the new chair. I also wonder if it’s really just an invitation to assemble the new chair. I cross the garden to the kitchen and head upstairs.

From the landing I can see the youngest one in his bedroom, working. The door beyond his is firmly shut. I open it. My wife looks up from her computer.

“Can I help you?” she says.

“I believe I’m expected,” I say.

“Look!” she says, pointing to the tubular steel chair, padded in some kind of fake leather. “Forty-five pounds!”

“Nice,” I say, thinking: no assembly required. “But it’s not really a desk chair.”

“I already have a desk chair,” she says. “That’s just for when people come up to see me. Not you.”

“That’s fine: I can always sit here,” I say, flopping on to the day bed.

“No,” she says. Light streams through the window.

“Comfortable,” I say, lying down. The day bed is where the oldest one will sleep if he ever comes home again.

“OK, you’re dismissed, thanks,” my wife says.

“This is a cool place to hang out in the afternoons,” I say, closing my eyes.

“Please,” she says. “I’m trying to work.”

“We’re all trying to work,” says the youngest one from next door.

“I also have work to do,” I say. “I could bring my laptop up here for a bit.”

“Get out,” my wife says.

I retreat to the kitchen and, eventually, back to my office shed, where I sit staring at a computer screen until the sun goes down and the heater clicks off.

I don’t begrudge my wife her new office, even if it’s bigger than mine, and nicer than mine, with a commanding view of the street, and its own bed. She deserves a room of her own. She has waited a long time for it. And she will never know that I sometimes go up and sit in there when she’s out, because I will be able to see her approaching from a long way off.

It’s past 6:30pm when I go in and pour myself a glass of wine, putting the last of the peanuts in a bowl. The sitting room, to my surprise, is dark and cold. The curtains have yet to be drawn. And in the spot where my wife had been hard at work every time I entered this room over the past two years, there are only a few boxes and part of a dusty drum kit.

I close the curtains, turn on a few lights, remove my shoes and sit down on the sofa. But before I turn on the TV, I sit in silence for a while, straining to hear my wife’s fingers tapping at her keyboard from her upstairs.


www.theguardian.com

Also Read  Daniel Radcliffe saw Sandra Bullock pelted with cheese

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *