Last Sunday I was sitting at my desk, pumping out a memo, when one of my workmates came up and showed me a piece of paper. Let’s call this workmate Workmate BMB for now (because he quite often buys me beer at the wet mess). On the piece of paper was a printout of two photographs.

“You see that?”, says Workmate BMB, showing me the photos. In the first photo there was a woman sitting down and the second was a group photo. “Yeah”, I replied – wondering who these people are.

“That’s my missus”

“Oh”, I said trying to get a better look at the woman in the first photo. I was about to ask to see the picture more closely when Workmate BMB continues,

“She left me. We are separated”

Now I wasn’t sure what the right way to deal with this situation was so I tried to play the middle ground between concerned and not prying. I know BMB fairly well, but we aren’t buddy buddy or anything. This is the first time I’d ever heard him talk about anything personal.

“When did that happen?”

“Three months ago. She’s in Country B now, she went back home”

Last week I drove from work to the airport with BMB and found out that he has only spent three days at home in three months. I didn’t think anything of it at the time – sometimes people work long stints. I talk about trying to get back to work as quickly as possible so I don’t have to spend time at home, but I’m too blind to see it when other people do the same thing. BMB has had his relationship fall apart and he has thrown himself into his work the same way I have done.

So we talked a bit about the separation, but not in great detail. It turns out that another relative went over to Country B for a family get together and sent the photos to him. I can’t imagine how that would feel, but I sure as hell knew why he printed the pictures out.

As our conversation was winding to a close BMB asked me what time I was going home. I had a bit of work on my plate so I said six – my normal knock off. It turns out his car had been taken off site and he needed a lift home.

So we agree to leave a little early and get back to work. At least BMB got back to work, instead I went for a drive around the pit to clear my head. I’ve had people at work talk to me about their marriage breakdowns before – it’s not all that uncommon in my line of work. However seeing somebody throw themselves into their work only to have the same issues catch up on them during office hours really troubled me – it was far too close to home. Every day it feels like there’s another message telling me to quit my job.

The drive home from work was awkward. We talked mainly about work issues, but the more BMB talked about work issues the more I knew he was thinking about his missus. He was fighting back the tears while talking about the issues with the new superintendant. I politely asked a few questions to work out what was going on in his head but to no avail. Eventually it was just two emotional cripples driving home from work trying to avoid the subject that binds them together.

We all need to come home sometime. BMB’s solution was to come home, go to the casino, get drunk and go fishing. My solution is to come home, cook with whisky, drink whisky and lie if anybody asks if I’m ok.

I need to help BMB, but I don’t know how. I need to help myself, but I don’t see the point.

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