I can only see myself in my wife’s eyes. You can call that love or trust but it only works when my gaze is returned, when I realize I’m not just a loving and trusting man, but one who’s loved and trusted - and not for what I appear to be, but for what I am. Recently Betts began looking away.

The fault between us was mine. Without her gaze I forgot myself. I forgot what she even looked like. My wife. Like you, I was haunted by an absence, even if she was always there waiting. I know it’s just a look, but believe me when I say it’s the same. It almost would’ve been easier if she’d left altogether.

Now I could take Sally and Bobby up in each arm and squeeze the life out of them - I could crush them it hurts so much - but the love in their eyes, while equally meaningful, is unconditional. They’re still kids. Betty’s gaze is something else entirely. It’s a look I only get when we’ve reached an understanding, which, unspoken or not, always feels like an agreement, an “I do” or affirmation repeated back and forth and back and forth.

I know this may not help. Maybe that girl saw something in you that wasn’t there. Maybe that’s what haunts you, an absence you never knew you had. I can’t say. And I know it’s no comfort, but I doubt you’ll ever get her off your mind. A woman haunts you forever.

When your gaze is returned as Betts does mine, the women or demons or spectres haunting you won’t go away. They won’t stop hurting. It’s just easier to shoulder the weight together. The best you can find is new ghosts to replace them.