Those days were the best. It was perfect in every sense. Most importantly, we felt the same way. No matter where we went, he would caress my toes on every chance he got. I could still feel that tingling sensation that it brings. Those were the days. I clearly remember how I couldn't look him in his eyes for long. The love it showed was overwhelming. It used to make me feel like this is more than I deserve. It almost made me feel guilty.
Seven years of marriage and a son who is now five, it all seems like another lifetime. We're not even the same people. I'm not the same person. I wonder how my son feels about all this. I know he deserves more attention and pampering from both of us.
All I want is to give him a good upbringing. I just want to take care of the two men in my life. I just want them to acknowledge the food I prepare for them, waking up so early in the morning and putting all the love in it.
I'm working three jobs a day. I'm a mother, a wife, and a programmer. I don't fancy jewelry, perfumes, clothes, or anything that a woman of my age would like to have. All I need is my husband to look into my eyes like he used to. I just want my son to come home excited to tell us how wonderful his day was. And that's my perfect world.
"Irene, can we take a coffee break?" asked Laila. She's my long time friend from schooldays. Its her who got me this job a few years ago. She's 34 and still single.
"Sure," I replied. Nowadays its not easy to catch up on everything that happens on a conversation. Laila is someone who is fond of talking. She keeps babbling away on how free life is when you look at it the right way. I listen to her, don't pay too much attention though. The work I do at my office is also not something I appreciate. Although the midmorning break that I usually have with Laila is something that keeps me going. No one understands me like her.
"You know, you were the smartest girl I have known," said Laila sipping her coffee. This is how it always starts. The next ten minutes she will try to motivate me. Then she will try to remind me of the influence I have on my son. Then she will tell me romance can't always last forever, but there is always one more exciting chapter waiting for us. At the end, she will talk about those wonderful days at school. That's the part I wish I could skip to. I can listen to it every day. It makes me feel like reliving those days again and again. "What's the matter? You look more beat than usual?"
"Maybe that's because I'm slapped around by him."
"What?" She asked. That was not supposed to be said aloud. She persuaded me to clear my mind. I finally had to open up to her.
"Laila, Mark is not the man he used to be. He comes home very late. Leaves for work early. He doesn't speak to me or our son. It's been like this for a while. He just comes home and goes to bed. Sometimes I confront him. When he won't speak I grab him. Everytime I do that he beats me up." I could see the shock in Laila's face. There are not many times you will find her lost for words. "Look, I don't mean to alarm you. I don't intend to speak ill of Mark either. Its just a phase some people go through in marriage. I'm sure..."
"Irene, stop!" She interrupted. "I know you're going through a lot. I'm more concerned about your child than anything else, now. Why don't you have one more session with Dr Richard?"
Here we go. Every time a couple has a problem it has become a norm to attend a counselling session. Dr Richard is also a man. If Laila can't understand me, if none of them understand that I'm being victimised here, then what's the point? Mark would keep silent throughout the appointment like usual. Dr Richard asks me to take medication and take a break from work if required. Its such a man's world that even women don't back each other.
For someone like Laila who doesn't believe in marriage to not back me despite knowing me my whole life makes me doubt whether its my fault. Is it really that wrong to wish for those wonderful days when we were in love? If so, that is my only sin. Honestly, I don't even remember what love is anymore. I keep asking Mark that how did we even fall in love. It now seems like we are two entirely different beings now. I wonder were we always like that.
I never can say no to Laila. I gave in to her request and agreed to meet Dr Richard. Maybe this session will be different. You never know. That night I told Mark about the session that I have booked. He didn't respond. But I'm sure he will come. At least for our son, he will. He was always a good father. I'm sure he too wants to reach out.
The next day despite waking up early Mark was nowhere to be seen. Even on a Sunday, it seems he's busy. The session was at noon. I had breakfast with my son. Then I prepared lunch. Nancy, the next door girl who babysits my son, came by 11. So I thought about walking to the clinic rather than driving. Its only four blocks away.
"What's so good about iOS? Android is so much fun," said Dr Richard. That's his way of getting me started. I laughed.
"Not today, doctor."
"O come on! What else should we talk about then? Shall we start on atheism? I'm after all that doctor who rests on Monday instead of Sunday." I smiled and shrug my shoulders. "Tell me, honey. Let me know what's troubling you."
"Well, doc. I think we should wait for Mark for a few minutes. Let's see if he will be here. It concerns both of us."
"Irene, wake up." I felt strange when he said that. "Wake yourself from the inside out." My head was wobbly. Those words went right through me. "Relax! Take a sip of water." I did as I was told. I want to obey him. Then he asked me to lay on the couch. He asked me to touch my subconscious. It was all so captivating. My mind was breaking out. The rushes I felt lifted me as far as the ceiling. I saw flashes of life flickering as fast as a meteoroid. "What happened to you recently? What? Say it aloud, but to yourself."
"Mark died from a plane crash." I'm shocked. Was that me?
"Reality, my child. That's your reality. Now you keep that fresh. Accept it and grieve."