by Dexter F. I. Joseph

“This is all your fault! I told you I hated that idea. You always take my words for a joke!” His voice blows loud, coagulable with ire which perfectly seethes through his furrowed brows. His eyes are carmine from disappointment. I have never seen him this livid, but then, while we’ve had our every-now-and-then couple squabbles in the past, neither of us have actually experienced this sort of loss. My heart is pained as his, but I cannot figure out why he puts the blames on me. Yet, he would not be calm enough to make us talk this through.

I exhale, exhausted, sweaty from having walked home as I’d lost my pause in the whole madness. I reek of nothing but anxiety, hurt and anger. His words hurt and all in all make it difficult to keep a straight face up. “Henry, listen—”

“Listening to you is what got us in this mess!” He roars again, cutting my words short, his voice even louder than before. The more he speaks, the more angered he gets, and the more unjustified I feel he becomes, and now, the more upset I get. He holds his head, breathing hard, like he struggles to stay calm and not spark his stutters. “I told you we should never have put all that money in something as useless as KV products. Nothing about them smelled genuine – not their words, not their ads, not their customer service, not their proposal.”

“Useless?” The pain surges through every vein in my system, and with it a blinding anger. The loss, his blaming words, and how alone that makes me feel in all this, cause my head to swell. I scream at the top of my voice, making it louder than the usual frail soprano I’d gotten accustomed to using when speaking to him or anyone. “How would I know they were frauds? Yes you didn’t like them, but you admitted their offer was glamorous. You permitted it. You hoped as I did that it worked out fine. What is wrong with you? You lost your job, the rent is almost due, the light bill is next Thursday, and just after that is Samuel’s school fee. I am now evil for trying to find a desperate solution for these family problems?”

I feel the hot tears flush down my cheeks just as my voice distorts. My insides boil with pain. Could he just stop? I am not in for it today, not now. Maybe he also isn’t, but then why won’t he…

“Oh, so now we blame this on me having no job anymore, right? You want to tow that line? Mock me?”

“I’m not mocking you!” I yell to the accusation, the temerity and crassness of it. I yell to the peak of my vocals. My insides turn, my chest burns so hot it hurts. I can feel my body quiver and my glare line on his as a gun whose muzzle has been squeezed for a victim’s kill. “What is wrong with you? How can you say this to me? For trying to help?”

“The moment you make a case by raising up the fact that any of this is to be blamed on me losing my job, you de facto insinuated that it is my fault that you gullibly bought into scammers who has just robbed us of everything. If at all I take blame in any of this, it is that I listened to you on any of this from the onset.”

The effervescence of his words tears through me like sharp steel that had spent days in a blacksmith’s forge. I yell after him as he storms out of the house, barging the door behind him, to my face.

Taking a sit, hands up my face and tears storming into them, I cry for lots of reasons. The deceit we’d just experienced, the sincerity in both our hearts for it, the honesty in my suggestion for all this, the hope I had, that I’d also instilled in him. The blame I got for trying to do something which would have helped him, and our home, had it not been a fraud. I cry, cursing underneath by breath those who’d done this to me, to us.

I sit alone an hour later in church – alone because he never returned home after leaving. He wouldn’t come for the evening service either, not with everything that had happened. Like he’d always say, he avoided church whenever furious, because somehow, the peace within these walls has a way of judging him more than he could bear. He believed it was best to prune himself than let God do it for him. It made lots of sense whenever he said, and maybe even now.

I try to focus, but nothing the pastor says sits well within the discomfort of my heart. We are ruined. I don’t deserve what he said to me, maybe not how he’d said it, because maybe he was right. Maybe it was my fault. Both our faults but, I was too desperate. He was always thinking, always unhappy being idle, always with hurt in his eyes since his sack. It hurt me because I love him. I brought the plans for him, for me. But I did bring it irrespective.

I sigh.

“Life is not always a smooth ride. If it is for you, then you’re lucky. But listen to what I feel the need to share with you about death and love,” the pastor says. I heave, trying one last time to pay attention, holding a pen not writing a thing in a book as white as the opposite of the state of my mind. He continues anyway, countenance humble as always, eyes touching every single one of us in the congregation of two dozen. “If you are married, it is a beautiful gift from God. If you are happily married, it means you in fact are truly married. But, life is short, too short to be frank.

“You both are likely young and imperfect, designed to aid each other, sometimes not on your imperfections but rather your perfections, to be better; for some, to be worse. Anyway, the point is, if you are married, happily, then to the best of your strength and will, enjoy him or her.

“Love them, cherish them, kiss them, remind them they’re an irreplaceable part of your life, give your life for them if necessary, all of it, while you still can. A day would come when you might want to do all these but he or she is gone. To a place you can’t follow or have them returned to you.

“Never waste your time arguing, fighting or staying away from each other because of work, business or vain misunderstandings. Eat him or her if you have to. Munch them even. Choke them with your love. One day, death would rob you of them or them of you.

“One day they’d be there. Then the next day you’d be alone, in that small house now echoing like it’s a valley. You’d call out to them over jokes from both your favourite TV show and they won’t respond, and you’d look over your side, to their favourite spot on that very chair you both share, to see if they’d fallen asleep already. Then you’d remember that they’ve been purchased by death weeks earlier.

“One day you’d walk into your room and compliment their usual perfume which fills the bedroom, telling them they arouse you to do the craziest things to them. But then you’d remember it’s just an old lingering scent of what was once their presence, which now is long gone.

“One day you’d wake from a nightmare, screaming, sweat trickling down your forehead, you’d cuddle them for comfort, letting their sweet words drown your fears. But then you’d realise it’s merely the old pillow you cling to, now cold and unused, owned by that love stolen from you at a time you can no longer recall.

“This is fate that awaits us all. Make beautiful memories now you can. It will at least keep you both alive and healthy, long enough till the day this curse called death comes knocking. Sure it’s blessing for the dead, the problems of life ends for them. But it is pain if you’re the one left behind – excruciating pain.”

I cannot move. I stare at my hand, holding a pen but my vision sees past it, into thoughts swirling on my mind. Memories. Memories I can’t remember. Memories that are dying. Memories I need to create. My chest thumps. Worry, anxiousness engulfs my mind. I shudder, holding onto my chest. Where is Henry? Where’s my husband?

I wait till the service ends, but my mind has left the church long before my body dawdles behind it. I call his line, it rings, but his voice doesn’t come till the ring ends. The time reads late. I worry. Strange how such positive message stirs such negative emotions within me.

“Mommy,” Samuel screams, runs into my arms as I walk in through the door. I force a smile to him, letting him close the door behind me.

“Where is daddy? Is he back?” I ask him, hoping for a yes. Definitely a yes or I’d lose my mind.

He nods. “He cooked me noodles.” Then he frowns. “He burnt the egg.” Then he smiles again, his teeth glitters under the white light of the house. “But he bought me ice cream and told me stories about King David.”

Rockets! My world falls into peace. The world war burning through my skull ceases. I hurry to the bedroom, slowly I open the door, and there he sits on the bed, his body stooped forward and face against the floor. I feel glad, but cannot explain why. So much madness in one day.

He looks up to see me. His eyes own a pain in it I cannot explain. Watching him rise, even for one who’s not working but always is outside trying to find a new job, I notice something I’ve missed for a while. He’s lost weight. His shirt seems bigger, and his face pallid. He looks drained, frustrated even.

I hurry to him, into his arm. I latch my arms around him and lock both with my hands. His warmth is drenched in sweat, yet a tint of his usual flavoured scent which soaks the room and bed whenever we lie together. I am not crying. But this is a lie please, not as he returns the embrace, tighter.

“I’m sorry.”

He keeps silent for a moment, and I fear my apology has met a brick wall still pained by a misapprehension of my intents, even as those intents had gotten us financially bankrupt. I try saying it again, but his voice cuts me short.

“I walked by St John’s Street after I left there. There was an accident. People died. A man had come to identify his wife’s corpse. His cry tore my heart as I watched him carry her in that gruesome pool of blood. But the pain was nothing compared to what a madman had screamed there before being chased away by the crowd. He’d said to the crying man, ‘Did you have beautiful memories with her, because she’ll never return?’ It seemed like he was speaking to me. I hurt so much.” His voice goes soft as his weight rests heavily on me. “I am the one who is sorry.”

To believe it is no different from the pastor’s teaching today. To believe this could be God’s words to us in the strangest of ways, through the strangest of means. To believe that this pain of loss opened my eyes to a bigger reality I have never thought of in such light.

He pulls me back. I am definitely not crying, but he wipes what is definitely not a tear off my eyes. He leans forward and kisses my forehead. I want to tell him that I love him. That he is what keeps me going, that he is my motivation, that I can’t do much without him. But now, I realise that saying it might just not be enough. I have memories to create. Starting now…

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