It was the rainstorms that would bring it on. At first, anyway. You know, those heavy rains we began to get in the latter stages of the greenhouse effect, before the temperatures stabilised again? Apocalyptic sheets of water descending in cloudbursts which could flood entire cities in an hour or two.
I’d find myself feeling nervous and irritable for days before one of them, and then when the rain actually came I’d howl and leap about for joy – release! It seemed completely beyond my control.
So, as I say, it was the rain that started it.
Before long it wasn’t enough to strip off and run out into the rain, dancing and capering like a goat. I had to do something when the moment of release came.
Sex with my wife, with a student – anyone, virtually – that was the kind of thing I was looking for. But you can’t really set that up so easily in advance, be ready to go when the first drops start to fall.
On one occasion I got into a fight with a man in the street. Just walked up and slapped his face, like a kind of surrealist outrage. He ran away, but soon a crowd gathered and I fought with them, too. It was a kind of madness – a cyclical pattern I’d got myself trapped in.
So it’s wrong to think it was all Celeste’s fault. True, she had her depressions, her suicidal outbursts, but I had my manic fugues, too.
Until one day I got really drunk at a bar before the promised thunderstorm, and woke to find myself manacled in a cell. Apparently I’d gone prancing around the city stark naked, begging the lightning to make an end of me, and slashing with a steak knife at anyone who came near me.
They had to sedate me, and I ended up in a clinic under heavy medication for three or four months, while they gradually began to piece my mind back together.
When I got out, I was a wiser, sadder man. Or so I told myself. I loved my wife, and I was going to stand by her – no more excitement, no more release. Just steady dripping drizzle, no more paroxysms of rain.
And so it went for a year or two. Until, inevitably, it started up again. I’d get more and more enthusiastic about the things I was studying, learning – about the brilliance of certain young colleagues or students. And then would come the crash. Every time it seemed like the last time I could go through this process. I felt so wounded, damaged, diminished – nothing in me stayed unscarred by this brutal regimen.
In the end it came down to a simple choice. Live my life as a series of cresting highs and abominable lows, or dull myself down to one monotone level of grudging domesticity. Each time I chose the latter alternative. Each time I lapsed, through neglect or bravado, as the months went by, and persuaded myself I could lower the drug dosage and still function as a person.
Because I never really made the choice at all, I see that now.
Our unspoken fear, the whole time, was that our cycles would coincide some day. She’d go off the edge when I was at the height of one of my furies. Then who knew what might happen? Neither one of us would be in a state to safeguard the other. We kept open house for all the students in the college in hopes of avoiding that.
But inevitably guests go home, however much you press them to stay. The time comes when you’re alone together, and you look at each other, and you realise that you hardly recognise this person opposite you.
If you ever really knew them in the first place, that is.