It’s the same scene today as it is every morning: my husband amuses himself with the stock market, the children get dressed for school, I toss up breakfast and the sun streams through the open window.
I am in a state of constant dissatisfaction. Frenzy. Turmoil. I walk around with the same unanswered questions.
We want our partner to remain the person we met at the altar, as if we could stop time.
I want my husband to remain that person who smeared vermilion in the parting of my hair, as if I could stop time.
Nothing remains the way it is, in the early days, when a couple is still a mystery to one other. Keeping the spark alive after twenty years of marriage seems like a complete impossibility to me.
Some days I’m frantic with anxiety—what kills a relationship? Is it a lack of challenge? Monotony? Would I be able to manage myself and my children if my husband died? Would I remarry? Who would take charge of my children if I died? Would they be left to fend for themselves? Would my husband remarry? Would my children be in safe hands then?
The more questions I attempt to answer, the more questions appear before me. It’s like I’m hopping mad on a hamster wheel, prancing around in circles, never arriving anywhere.
Whoever says love is enough is lying through their teeth. It isn’t and it never has been.
I get into the shower and burst into tears. I wash off the day. I rinse off every trace of the day, knowing well the next day is going to be exactly like today.
During these twenty years of my marriage, I have indulged in every pleasure a woman can have: the birth of my beautiful children, holding hands with my husband and gazing at sunsets in Santorini, hurling snowballs at him in Kashmir, making merry, wearing the best diamond jewelry that money can buy…
But, truth be told, we have become estranged from each other over the years. We have fallen into a routine. A routine so hauntingly familiar, it feels like a second layer of skin.
My husband and I have nothing of consequence to share with one another. And when the silence stretches a lifetime between us, he invariably asks me for a bowl of fox nuts. I know, small talk is the only way he knows to tell me he loves me, it is the only way he knows to mend everything that is broken between us.
I emerge from the kitchen and place the sizzling bowl of freshly roasted fox nuts before him. I half smile, and caution him to eat carefully. I take refuge in the present moment and savor it all I can. I ask him if he needs a second helping, knowing fully well he doesn’t—it is the only way I know to tell him I love him and mend everything that is broken between us.
But then we have survived so many storms. So I compile a list of things to focus on when I find myself unable to cope with maudlin nights and empty days:
Watch the sun sink
Look up at the sky
Take as many as three hot showers
Wash the dishes
Do more of Taekwondo
Chant Om until it fills every cell in my body with peace and calm
Treat myself to cheese fondue
Read more stories to my children, particularly those stories that have a lesson for adults as well.
I step into the hot shower. For the third time. My husband is yelling again. He jiggles the doorknob. We are getting late for the midnight show at Moviemax. I tell him I’ll be out in ten minutes. I step out of the shower, pat my skin dry, slather on plenty of Jasmine and Patchouli moisturizer, slip on yet another luxury garment.
Porcelain skin, crimson lips, Fendi shirtdress. I’m good to go.
But then it occurs to me that we never take any risks at all. We go to the same theater, we eat in the same restaurant, or we order the same takeout. And when we meet friends, we engage in that same neurotic small talk about kids, weather, weight, in-laws and sundry.
I wonder if there is anything wrong with monotony or routine! I wonder if we are all pretending to be happy and fulfilled. It’s like we grow up, we get married, we raise kids, we fit the mould, we die.
But then nobody can remain happy all the time.
I have been ruminating about the past a lot lately—not from a macabre fascination of the rosy days gone by, but because I have been attending a lot of weddings lately. Is it possible to turn over a new leaf and begin again? I muse over the idea with girlish delight.
But then the old ennui returns.
Somedays I am so solitary, I forget I am married. I immerse myself in gardening. Maybe working on the little things as passionately as we can is how we stay sane when our world is crumbling. If I get bored of gardening, I retreat to my balcony and gaze at the untiring spider weaving its web beneath the wicker chair. I have an epiphany: like the spider, I too can weave new paths. I too can spin new webs of love, hope, adventure and desire. I too will ensnare him, inject him with new found love, rendering him immobile, leaving no scope for escape.