Take My Wife by Colin Cotterill

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I have a wife.

I stand back and listen to the sounds of thousands of broken-hearted women hitting the ground at great speed. Self-defenestration, it’s called. Death by window jumping. A tragedy both of human life and of damage caused to ornamental borders as favoured by high-class condominium owners. But it had to be said. They wanted me to keep it quiet, ‘It will do your book sales no harm, no harm at all (wink) if they think you’re single.’ That’s what they told me. And it certainly worked for a while. Your interesting self in black and white loitering in the shadows of the book jacket. Your seductive words in a dimly lit bedroom with a lonely woman. A shared wry moment. A self-conscious pulse flutter. The languid lick of a finger to turn to the next experience. ‘More, Colin. More.’ Crocheted hearts arriving through the post. Complete strangers at book readings throwing their underwear onto the dais. (And not always short-sighted old gentlemen who didn’t realize the Laundromat was next door.) Last minute fleeing to the train station chased by flocks of wild, screaming, autograph-wielding, high-heel clopping, mascara-running, coronary-inducing book groupies. How could I give up all that?

I could empathize with poor Charlene Choi the Taiwanese pop singer who had to live a secret domestic life with husband-entertainer Ronald Cheng. Not only did she have to deny she was married to him, her agent had her give frequent press conferences saying they weren’t in any kind of relationship at all. The ignominy.

Press: ‘Who was that man in pyjamas getting the newspaper off your door step at six this morning, Charlene?’

Charlene: ‘Ah? Yeah? The police are on it. It seems some guy’s been going around dressed like that stealing celebrity newspapers….the pervert. I think myself lucky I wasn’t, you know, touched in any way.’

When Janet Jackson announced she was getting a divorce in 2000 it was the first anyone knew she was married which makes you wonder why she bothered to announce the divorce. We mega-celebrities are constantly forced to hide secrets from our personal lives. Nobody knew Roy Harold Scherer, Jr. aka Rock Hudson was gay (all right, I guess one or two of the fellahs did) until he died of AIDS in 1985. He kept that cheek turned for over twenty years in the profession. It’s called ‘keeping the mystique’ and it’s a sad commentary on the state of the general public that they want their stars available for erotic fantasies of their own without some third party butting in.

I spent the first 51 years of my life denying I was married but that was mostly because I wasn’t married. I was a confirmed bachelor. I went to the confirmation ceremony and everything. But there comes a time when the gay bachelor and the ladies man and the Casanova just turn into the poor old sods who haven’t been lucky enough to find a woman. This is followed by a rapid decline into codgerism and coothood. I was plucked from the white water of those rapids by my Jess. I was fortunate in many ways. Firstly, Jess had a thing about old white guys. She had photos of Bill Nighy and David Carradine on her fridge door even before I came along. Secondly, she didn’t want me for my money cause I didn’t have any. I was living on my teaching salary and royalties from three books published in Thailand (averaging twenty-four dollars every four months). Of course these were the days before I became “THE HOTTEST NEW WRITER TO HIT THE BOOKSHOPS SINCE WALTER KLOSSIT.” (Wimbledon Borough News, October 2004 edited by W.G. Klossit) but she wasn’t to know that.

Of course there’s a thirdly, and all the other numbersly. She’s given purpose to my exciting but pointless life. She’s given me a new best friend and a companion and all those other clichés that the Love Actually people exhausted in three different languages. She’s given me – in her own unique understated way – love…actually. And for that I thank her and I accept and share and return that love. I’m not about to deny she exists just so I can sell another half-million books. Screw that new swimming pool. Forget the four acre paintball course I’ve had my heart on. I have a wife and you can’t get better than that.

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