11. The Marriage Despite Itself

WHEN PABLO AND SASKIA decided to separate, it had seemed so simple, and in fact for a long time nothing fundamental seemed to have changed. Pablo continued to sleep on his cot in the study of the house they’d bought with his inheritance money. He ran a Mexican restaurant, where for years he'd lingered every night for an extra couple of hours after the last customer had gone, telling himself he was catching up on paperwork when all he was really doing was drinking and listening to the guitar music of Antonio Bribiesca, whose music Saskia considered maudlin. This habit continued. He was usually drunk as he drove home but he knew the back streets. He tried to be quiet when he got home but most nights managed to bump into something, waking Saskia enough for her to get up to go to the bathroom, giving him a wordless glare as she shuffled past him. This didn't change either. He usually awoke mid-morning, the house empty, Saskia at her clerical job and Angela at school. Most of the time he woke feeling foggy-headed, but rarely outright hungover. And so things continued in this vein for a few months, long enough for Pablo to somehow begin believing that this was the way things would always be - not great, admittedly, but not bad. They fought less. Summer arrived early, with its balmy nights made for staying up even later. Business at the restaurant was terrible as always, but Pablo hired a new waitress who was flirtatious to a fault, which pepped up his spirits on an almost daily basis. For the first time in - how long? too long - Pablo felt a tingle of libido, which he mistook for hope. Saskia announced she’d hired an agent to sell the house. She said Angela’s schoolwork was suffering, that Angela needed stability, not a father who stumbles home drunk in the middle of the night and sleeps til lunchtime. Stability and a better school became her catchcry for a time. Despite this storm, weeks passed, and it soon assumed the dimensions of an aberration. Auction day came and the house wasn't sold, so the house was put up for private sale at an inflated price and life continued as before. The new year began at school and, despite Saskia's insistence, Angela refused to change schools. She was 16, it was hard to force her to do anything. Autumn gave way to winter, and still there were no buyers for the house. Angela dropped out of school and moved in with her new boyfriend, a musician called Wolfie. Pablo came home drunk one night and found Saskia smoking in the darkness, sipping on red wine. She cried on his shoulder. Again, the same tingle of libido, which Pablo once again mistook for hope.