He was surprised to wake up with her hand draped against his chest. He could not remember the last time that there had been any post-sleep contact between the two of them. They slept in the same bed, as they had for the past twenty years, with an invisible wall between them. Occasionally a renegade foot or hand would stray into opposition territory. Sleepy recoil usually followed. Perhaps it was the discomfort that had awoken him. Her arm felt alien. Heavy. Sweaty. He wanted her to move but was reluctant to wake this most fragile of sleepers. He enjoyed this brief period of peace. There was no pressure to retort or respond to the quips of another. Tranquillity reigned. But that arm! It was a weight on his chest. He had to take the risk. He bent his spine and sunk his back deep into the mattress. This created a small space between arm and chest. In one movement, he rolled to his left side and tried to wriggle under her arm. His manoeuvre was too swift and poorly rehearsed and he ended up on the floor. He found the carpeted ground not entirely uncomfortable. The carpet was made from sea grass and had been specially woven and imported from Panama. Last year he and his wife had argued at great length over the price. In his sleepy state he quietly thanked her for her ability to discern quality carpets. He extended his hand over the bed and pulled his pillows on to the ground. Sleep at last!
It was not that she was unhappy - far from it -but Adaobi had started questioning her own sanity. On the face of it life was grand. She had been married for eight years and had three lovely children that she adored. Her husband, Chike, had a big job in the city that paid big bucks so they could afford the big mortgage repayments on their big house. Big deal. Life had become a series of chores. She wondered, with increasing regularity, how the path from graduating top of her Stanford business class had led to a beautifully finished oak and granite kitchen. Her aspiring whirlwind career had been replaced by the quotidian beats of suburban life. Still there were many people in worse positions she thought. Mustn't grumble. Mustn't grouse. If only Chike spent more time at home maybe she would have someone to talk to. Maybe if she took a part time job. Maybe when the kids grow up. Maybe if her damn friends didn’t spend the whole day complaining about their bloody husbands. Maybe if she stopped getting these fucking headaches. Maybe…….
The sound of tyres on gravel cut short her mental meanderings. Chike was home and his food was not yet ready. He would not be happy today.
She couldn't recall the last time she had looked forward to a date with such fervour. Maybe it was his inimitable charm. Perhaps it was his endearing elusiveness and apparent worldliness . He travelled all the time and they had postponed this date many times. They had met cordially enough but an exchange of emails and text messages followed, each slightly bolder and braver than the last. After a month, it had become very clear exactly what they wanted to do to each other and the number of times they wanted to do it. She arrived at San Lorenzo's a few minutes after seven and was ushered to a discreet table in the corner. In spite of their electronic courtship, they had actually only seen each other a few times. He was more handsome and charming than she remembered and the dinner was a rousing success. She talked about Venice and DaVinci. He talked about Inarritu and India. They found common ground. He dropped her off at her place and she invited him in for a night cap. The sexual tension of a compatible couple is a terrific thing. They were tearing each other's clothes off before the key was in the lock. The sex was furtive and forceful but no less gratifying. They crumpled into a sweaty heap and slept the sleep of long-time lovers. She woke earlier than he and silently marvelled at his naked body. She betrayed her instincts and started playfully thinking of their next date and beyond. Had she had sex too soon? Were here emails too brazen? What would he think of her? Her eyes fixed on his hands and her dawn light reverie was cruelly ended. She cursed herself for not noticing before. How could she have been so blind? She averted her gaze to the ceiling but her eyes forcefully returned to the single, solitary digit on his left hand. The fresh imprint of a wedding ring was unmistakable…..
Marriage was once sacred. Now they tell us that 1 in 3 marriages will end in divorce. I met a man the other day who was on his 3rd marriage - at the age of 40. Where does it start going wrong? When do people stop trying for each other or making the effort? When do the early joys and euphoria of being part of a collective start turning into a dull routine? When does marriage start becoming so unbearable that you can no longer stand the sight of the person sitting across the breakfast table? When do you stop eating breakfast together? When do dinners start going cold as a wife waits for a husband who is 'working late'?
They cease to be marriages. They become mirages. They mask the pain and the suffering of people who have long since stopped trying or giving a shit. If you are married and you are reading this, never stop trying. The day that your 100% slips to 98% is the day that you start creating a mirage. Do not become a statistic. Yes it can be tough. You will peak and you will trough. But do not treat every dip like a knockout blow. Always find commonality in the things that you enjoy and never forget the reasons you started loving your partner. Indeed, find even newer reasons to love them everyday and I promise you that you will be together until the Reaper parts you.