“Hello babe! What should I get you and the kids?”
I was driving along Ring Road when I pulled over at Palms Mall to call my wife. And asking her that question wasn’t alien to her. She knew the question, often times, was always borne out of guilt over something I had done to her.
But the long silence after the question was irritating to me. Most times when this happened, she always requested for a large size Domino Pizza and vanilla ice cream which we would eat late into the night, ironing out our misunderstandings while the kids fidgeted with the remains of the pizza. But that silence meant she wanted nothing.
“Are you there?” I asked again.
“Yes! I am” she replied and went silent again.
There was something astounding about Maryam. Unlike me, she didn’t always hold back her anger. She would go all round to vent her discomfort immediately she felt it. And she would do so in the most appalling way — no raising of her voice and no frowned face. She would just smile like whatever that was done to her never hurt her feelings.
“You don’t have to get us anything, Maleek! Just come home safely.” she furthered before ending the call.
As much as I wanted to assure myself that everything was okay, I couldn’t bring myself to that reality. I had never witnessed that side of her before. Even though she was always calm during our misunderstandings, she had never been that calm before. And that made feel uncomfortable. For the first time in a while, I was afraid of how our conversation that night would turn out to be.
I drove gently into the garage so as not to wake the kids up. It was late already, and on a normal Friday night, they would wait for my arrival and we would watch their favorite soap opera together before going to bed. But that evening, Maryam’s earlier discussion had tipped me off that the kids would go to bed early. And so did they.
I opened the wrought iron door gently, yet it made a loud clunky sound. She stood up from the sofa to help me with my backpack which she dropped afterwards on a cushion near her. And while I found a seat on the sofa, expecting my dinner, she handed me a cup of tea. I wasn’t surprised about the tea, it had rained earlier and her best instinct was to hand me something hot. Despite she was seated beside me, I took sips from the tea intermittently in other to avoid her stare that’s making me uncomfortable.
If there was something Maryam would always do during a time like this, it was to make me shudder with her silence, stares, and her occasional alluring smile.
“What is it that you have done again?”
“How’s your hand?” I asked while I tried to evade answering her question.
“I never told you that I hit my hand, so where is this show of care coming from?”
“Actually… I… I.. saw you hit your hand on the kitchen’s cabinet and…”
“so you know?” she cut me short, raising her voice. “and you cannot even say sorry?”
I lowered my gaze to avoid her rage and pity. It was then I took a conscious look at her left hand. It evidently looked swollen and bigger than the right one.
“What have you used to it?” I managed to asked while trying to hold her hands but she quickly withdrew.
“Just that? Are you indeed sorry?”
There were many things I had done to Maryam and none of them had got her outraged like this. It was clear now that what she was angry about was beyond that. She kept staring at me, but this time her alluring smile has faded. There were just blank stare and a frowned face.
“I’m truly sorry, babe! I am.”
“What are you sorry for exactly?” she adjusted her position to lean on me, “that I hit my hand on the kitchen cabinet and you feigned indifference or that you got promoted to be the Lead Designer at your company and you are not happy enough to share it with your family?”
“what exactly are you sorry for? Tell me!”
There was an embarrassing silence after she was done and the only voice interrupting our telepathy was the woman in the news.
“What other thing are you hiding from your wife?” she ended.
“Nothing… Nothing!” my response was quick.
“I knew that would be your response. Like always, whenever the question is asked. Yet, we unravel many secrets that you keep to yourself one after the other. I’m not even sure if we are married or I am the one married to you!”
Silence was the only way to give my head the time to process what she just said. Why was this coming from her at this time? Was she tired of the marriage? Or those words were just as neutral as they can be?
“You have known me to be this kind of person for as long as we have been friends. You’ve know me to be sociopa…”
“I’ve known you not to have empathy, even the littlest of it. I have known you to be secretive and it bothers me every time you can’t sleep at night because of some nightmares that you can’t share with me. And I have known you to be a staunch sociopath…”
“And stop trying to be compassionate with me because love does not change a sociopath!” I blurted out, interrupting her before she could complete her statement.
Her eyes changed instantaneously. Beads of tears rolled down her cheeks and made confluence at her chin. She receded into the chair adjacent to me and we fixed stares at each other for as long as I could remember. Occasionally, her sobs would interfere with the silence and I would watch her with so much empathy that I did not know how to show her.
“I’m sorry, babe!” I mumbled under my breath
“You don’t have to call me babe and there’s nothing for you to be sorry about!”
“I’m sorry because I shouldn’t have said those words!”
“I’m actually the one that’s a fool to believe love can change a sociopath. But you know what?”
She rose up from the chair and walked at me, then bent a millimeter to place a kiss on my lips.
“I love you Maleek, and I want you to know that I sincerely do. I am going to fix this tomorrow morning!” she whispered into my ear before ascending the stairs into the bedroom.
When I got into the bedroom, it was midnight already and she was fast asleep. I switched off her bed lamp, then placed a kiss on her left cheek.
“I love you too, Maryam!” I whispered into her ear while I stared at her face. It was obvious she didn’t deserve all of this emotional torture.
“We are going to survive this! Absolutely.” I proceeded into the bathroom to process of all these happenings under the shower, while as well trying not to drown in my own breath.
The following morning, Saturday, 12th October, 2039, I woke up to a tray of slices of bread, butter and a cup of tea. Beside the tray was an envelope. And in the envelope was the letter that changed my life forever.
The beginning read, “in other to teach you to be empathetic, you need to lose the most that you love.”