Married golfer pays the price for straying from the fairway

There’s a good way and a bad way to deal with the frustration of a flattened marriage


Once upon a time there was a man who used to play golf in Bundoran. He did it for years, he and a few friends.

They would play two rounds, then drink pints and stay over in a hotel and go back to their families the following day. But eventually he got bored because the boys went through the same old chatter each week.

So one morning he was driving through Ballyshannon, and was so overcome by memories of his youth that he changed direction. As a boy, he had hitched lifts from Ballyshannon to west Donegal in search of adventures. “And it is never too late to begin again,” he told himself as he ignored the sign for Bundoran and headed on towards Ballybofey.

After an enjoyable and solitary day circling the mountains, he arrived in Dungloe where he found a small hotel by the coast. He checked into a double room and then ordered steak and chips in the restaurant.

In the bar, three young lorry drivers were shouting at football on the television, and a woman with brown eyes and a wedding ring was reading a book, alone at the window, with a brandy on the table beside her.

He drank whiskey and soda and kept an eye on the woman for about two hours. She was still there, still reading, and still drinking brandy when he fled alone to his room at nine o’clock, where he sat staring at himself in the mirror. He was devastated by his lack of courage.

But it’s reasonable to suppose that in the morning he would have felt happy. He had not cheated on his wife, though he would never tell her of how close he had come. All he did was go to Donegal and have a drink. There was nothing wrong with that.

Driving home through Glenties, he might have seen old women on their way to Mass and young girls in school uniforms waiting for a bus, but no one would have noticed him. Just like being a witness to the dawn of creation, he would have known that he was at the start of a new life.

His marriage had been flattened by decades of familiarity. Gone were the days when his wife would laugh like a child just because he smudged his chin with ice cream or forgot to button his fly when they were visiting his mother. The fizz had gone out of their lovemaking, and the drudgery of childrearing got the better of them, and eventually they took each other for granted.

One problem was his mother. Not the real woman, but the phantom mother that he carried inside himself all the time, even after she died.

Sometimes he could become paralysed with rage, just because his wife asked him to do something trivial, like put his clothes in the laundry basket.

And he wouldn’t do therapy; he said it was too expensive. So his wife just had to put up with him and his ghostly mammy. But even that didn’t drive them apart. And although their marriage was dull and lacked spontaneity, nevertheless that night in Donegal might have changed everything.

At least that’s what I would like to believe. I would like to believe that he went home and gazed at her with a new appreciation, and that they both might have looked into the coals of winter fires for many more years, even if they never quite realised why they were both so happy.

And every year they might have spent a week in Donegal together, and she might even have played a few rounds of golf with him, which would have made him laugh.

But such was not the case. On the night in question, he brought a large whiskey to his room, but forgot the soda. So he went back downstairs.

The lorry drivers had gone and he fell into conversation with the book lady and, as it happened, they both had the same enthusiasm for Love in the Time of Cholera, and he never returned to his own room again, until the early hours of the next day, to have a wash and shave and pack his bag.

He drove home and walked with determination into the kitchen to begin a lifetime of lies that only ended when he divorced, and ended up alone, in an apartment for which he paid through the nose during the boom, and is so small that as he says himself: “You couldn’t even swing a golf club in it.”

And now he’s in therapy.

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