MEMOIR ENTRY 25
Scrubbing the floors. It’s something I’ve done so many times that I put no thought to it. Sometimes, I drift away, thinking about Tade or my mother and when I come to myself, I look down and see that the floors are clean. Routine has become my life; it drains my ambitions, my drive, my dreams flushed down the drain-pipe. Some days I feel cheated. I could have worked, earned a living, and had a career. What is the point of getting a degree, if it only serves as a mantelpiece decoration? Other days, I don’t even think it would have made any difference. I resent Tade on days like today, when my melancholy rises to the surface and smothers my optimism. I also resent my mother for tying me so securely to her apron strings that even with children, I still dance to her subtly suggested whims. I resent the fact that Irene will hate me for being a poor role model and rebel. I resent that I mop floors for a living, a glorified janitor masquerading as a housewife, never thinking for or about myself.
Tade can sense my despair, on those days when he is human and wants to play house. He tries in his little way to pull me away from the brink; save this farce we call a marriage. But our emotions have hit a plateau. I can’t bring myself to hate him yet I can’t rise above my disgust for his cowardice and jealousy. He can’t bring himself to forgive my past slights yet he is too selfish and petty to let me go. We repel each other but we’re moored together by our seed. We travel on different roads to the same destination and pretend we walk the same path. We’ve changed so much from the teenagers we used to be, it’s a wonder anyone still recognizes us.
My bed is cold in spite of the two warm bodies that absently struggle for the blanket. He doesn’t touch me anymore. He gives me my due, but we can both tell it’s a chore for him. I touch roughened sheets and remember when we slept from exhaustion not as an escape. He keeps a calendar of my monthly visitor and uses excuses on me that I should use on him. But some days when he thinks I am not looking, he ogles me with barely slaked lust. But I am not naïve, I know of his string of lovers, each one younger than the last, all waiting for the day he grows tired of me and replaces my bed with theirs.
Last night he had a nightmare, I shouldn’t have heard but with all my worries I never sleep anymore and he talks in his sleep. He was sobbing, begging me to forgive him and not emasculate him anymore. He gripped the pillow close to him so hard his knuckles grew pale. He was afraid of me; something about how I accepted his demands and molded myself into his desires terrified him. He begged me not to die and leave him alone. He didn’t know how to handle children and was terrified that he wouldn’t do a good job with Irene. I could have let it go on but seeing Tade terrified scared me so I pretended to lie down and rolled into him. He woke with a start and wiped the sweat off his brow. He stole a side glance to see if I was awake and when he was sure I wasn’t, he stalked away to get a stiff drink. I just lay there, stiff as a board, wishing I was still oblivious of how much I terrified the man who was supposed to love me. It wasn’t something I’d expected from him. I hadn’t carefully wrought a plot to harm him, never tried to manipulate him to my will. He returned a while later, his breath reeking of alcohol and climbed into bed. He pulled my hand over his heart and held it there till he was asleep, murmuring drunken promises that fade by the dawn. The strain on my arm kept me awake but I didn’t have the heart to pull away.
Here I am, on my knees, senselessly scrubbing floors and wondering how a submissive housewife is supposed to find hope in a loveless marriage, comfort in drudgery, inspiration in her despair and maybe the push to change her marriage. But all that goes through my mind is this, Most marriages fail, because the partners die trying to save it.