The Morning After

  • 23 Dec - 29 Dec, 2017
  • Ayesha Adil
  • Fiction

The next morning was not a pleasant one. I called in sick; I didn’t have a lot of work load that day anyway. Besides, after Fawad’s declaration the night before, I was too upset and weepy and considered myself incapable of being productive anytime soon.

I felt teaching is even more theatrical and emotional than acting. A teacher, like an actor, cannot hide anything from her spectators. Considering the mood I was in, I was certain to break down in front of my students. I would rather not take that chance. I needed some private time to make sense of things and realise where they were headed.

Would I have to resign? What will I tell my parents? A little voice inside me believed that they would be happy. I mean, it is universal accomplishment when a man is doing well. However, unfortunately a woman hardly gets any applause or validation for her hard work. She is a man’s property, to be treated as he pleased.

I know I sound harsh and maybe even extreme but I was disappointed in Fawad. How could he expect me to drop everything at a whim? I know his career is important but I have my worth, too. What I wanted should at least matter a little to him.

I was moving around in my pajamas, moping and weeping out of Fawad’s sight. I had prepared his breakfast and was just finishing up packing his midday sandwich when he walked in. He looked so handsome in his coat and tie. He was my back, my spine and yet I had to be strong on this point. I knew I was right. I knew that in a few months, he would regret this decision. They all do, but only when it is too late for them to turn back. Most people sell their property, leave their jobs, drop out of college for the great move but even then they cannot return.

I also knew that if I held him back I would be the bad guy. I would be the wife who didn’t support her husband. And how could I not support him now? Moving away? A promotion? I could hear them say, “What a strange woman! Most women would die for this kind of opportunity. How can she not want to move abroad? Her husband has such a secure job. How selfish!”

But I wasn’t “most women.” I had priorities. My students needed me. I needed my parents. How could I just leave my own country? And, above all, how could Fawad expect me to?

“Aren’t you going to work today? Are you all right?” Fawad inquired, seeming genuinely concerned. Then he suddenly looked very apologetic when the reason behind my absenteeism struck him.

Why did he have to tell the entire world so soon? He could’ve waited till we figured things out. Why was he being a typical male?

“I’m not feeling well. It is a lighter day and I deserve a day off.” I replied, meekly. I could not give him the satisfaction to sympathise with me. I was too angry with him to give him any other explanation.

I kept his lunch beside his breakfast and headed to the bathroom. But not before telling him to close the main gate behind himself. “It’ll take a while.”

In the safety of the bathroom, I let my pent up tears loose.

It was a flood of tears I could not stop.

Fawad shouted a good bye as he left.

I felt very alone.

I came out with tears streaming down my eyes and a heavy heart. Many would say that I was making this an ego issue, but I wasn’t. I really believed that this move would not be healthy for us. It would not lead to the apparent emotional happiness or a better life style that a future abroad seems to promise.

Fawad would spend a great amount of time commuting back and forth from work. The terrible winters in that part of the world would not help the situation. I would be alone for the better part of the day or stay slightly preoccupied with senseless, odd jobs.

We would have no social life. There would be very little to keep us engaged, after the initial sight-seeing and shopping.

“But you will have each other,” a little voice at the back of my head reminded me.

That would be enough; I knew that to be true. But I also knew, for certain, that Fawad would grow tired of Britain very soon.

It’s not even about Britain; it’s about giving up your identity and adopting someone else’s. Neither of us had that in our personas. We could not be happy living artificially.

After the initial “glamour” of picket-white fences and window-seaters, we would both be forced into becoming someone else and how would we tackle an entirely new identity?

It’s not about good money either. Fawad and I were making a good, composite income. Living in England would be expensive on its own. Saving the same amount of money that we save here after all that exhaustion and hard work would make this immense sacrifice meaningless.

I was adamant not to give in. I had a huge task before me. I stopped crying; telling myself to face the reality. I told myself to let go of my emotions and be practical instead.

If Fawad is stubborn enough to go, maybe we could make it work despite our distances? I could visit during my holidays. And keeping home here would mean that this would not turn into a permanent move. Fawad could experience life abroad comfortably, knowing full well that I am here waiting for him.

“But what if…” echoed the pessimist in me. I silenced that voice inside my head. I was too tired to dwell on the negative aspects of this arrangement just yet.

It is the beginning of December. If Fawad is scheduled to move right away, then I could accompany him. I would help him set up his new house and come back in time for school in January. My family and work would keep me busy till May and then I could join Fawad again during the summer holidays.

I liked the sound of this. In fact, I began to feel much better post this calculation in my head. I could feel the plight of all women in the world who had to live away from their husbands for many years at a stretch. Most of them had no other choice. And here I was rejecting this so-called, “chance of a life-time.” I couldn’t spend too long on this thought. I had things to do.

I began to wait for Fawad to come home and started to prepare dinner; chicken korma with naan, another one of his favourites.

I could feel my subconscience giving me a tug occasionally. How am I comfortable in letting him go so far off when I worry about him so much?

An intelligent voice piped from within, “A woman, despite being a mother, wife, daughter or sister is a human being first.” Was I doing this to make a point? I wasn’t. I was doing what I thought was right.

The door opened and Fawad walked in. He stood before me with a twinkle in his eyes and a smile that was warm and engaging.

I had punished him enough. I smiled back, warmly.

“You look happy,” I said. I was honestly happy to see him happy.

“I am,” he said, somewhat relieved.

“Because you have accepted the job?” I couldn’t help being sardonic.

“No, because I rejected it.”

“What? Why?” I couldn’t hide my amazement.

“I’ll tell you. Let’s sit down first. We have a lot of catching up to do. It seems as if I haven’t met you in a year!”

Fawad held my hands in his and sat me down on the sofa. I could feel a rainbow bursting, with colours in background.

And that’s a wrap

For a few seconds, I couldn’t believe my ears.

Guilt washed over me like a wave. I was convinced that Fawad had rejected the offer because of me.

But then again, I also knew he wouldn’t do it only because of me. My “literary imagination”, as he called it, wouldn’t make him take it so far. He was a practical man. He wouldn’t miss a golden opportunity like this at any cost. I mean, if he was willing to leave me here alone because of it only yesterday, he wouldn’t say no to it without legitimate reasons.

Or did this mean that Pakistan meant too much to him? Has he realised how much he would miss his homeland? I didn’t think this was it either.

However, the more I wanted to know, the more he evaded the question.

“Tell me Fawad, why didn’t you accept it?” I asked for the hundredth time.

“I didn’t. Isn’t that enough?’ and he laughed it off again.

We went on with our routine. I was trying to keep a close eye on Fawad to detect any signs of regret, hurt or even anger, but I could see none.

When we finally wrapped up the evening to sleep, he stepped out of the room and called his parents to tell them about his change of plans, that he wasn’t taking the offer after all. I could hear his mumbled voice but couldn’t tell what he was saying.

He wouldn’t put the blame on me I was sure, but he was probably telling them the real reason.

Why was he keeping it from me? I wondered the reason behind his secrecy.

Maybe he also felt bad for putting me through that entire heart ache and ultimately realised that it was a terrible idea. And now he was feeling bad for not thinking it through properly and leaving such a huge dent in our marriage. Certainly both of us have the right to act upon our wishes, but down the road we are bound to remember abandoning each other at a time when we needed to be together the most. We had let our petty egos win. We had prioritised our careers before our bond. We were ready to let each other go and that was one fact neither of us would ever forget.

Whatever the reason, I knew Fawad would tell me eventually. Ironically, I knew him too well; we could finish each other’s sentences, read each other’s thoughts, to say the least. We knew one another inside and out but when a push came to shove, we didn’t have each other’s back. That hurt me the most.

At this point, rationalisation kicked in as I told myself that we didn’t do it to hurt one another; we did it for each other’s good.

In the end I probably got what I wanted, but did he?

The morning was its usual self. We kind of kept out of the other’s path. Were we both guilty of defying the basic law of marriage; that we were two souls in one body, two minds in one soul, one soul and one direction?

Regardless, we had already been to metaphoric hell and back within the span of 24 hours.

But you know how a day has so many possibilities. It refreshes the most tired of minds and exhausted of spirits. The day brings back the metaphoric dead to life. It was the day that brightened our spirits.

“At what time will you get home tonight, Fawad? I thought we might go out for some ice-cream!”

“I’d be home by six-ish. The boss won’t have any extra work for me.”

Did he sound dejected?

“Fawad, when will you tell me what happened? Did the boss say something to tick you off? You were so set on taking that promotion. What happened to that?”

“It’s not such a big deal, Saima. It wasn’t right for me. I don’t think I understood what the job entailed properly. We jump on the bandwagon the minute we hear the word “abroad”. We hardly think twice. And then we begin fantasising all the so-called great possibilities….”

He stopped midway.

He was running late and so was I.

“We will continue this conversation later.” And with that he began to get his stuff to leave for work. I was left in limbo. As I engrossed myself in performing the duties of a teacher, I almost missed a rather long message from Fawad, sent around midday. It read something like this:

“My dearest Saima, (Was he writing a letter to me now? I couldn’t help but chuckle. My Mr Darcy, all over again!)

I know the last two days had been tough for you. They were tough for me too. Let’s just say that we were both on an emotional roller coaster that we could kill to get off from.

Fawad was so good at expressing himself. I envied him for that. It took me years living with him to reach that level of expression. I could hardly voice what I felt fluently. Writing it was better. I see now that my dear husband is not too bad at it either.

Who was right or wrong is not significant. In fact, I want to forget about it. It was a bad dream and I don’t want us to think of it again.

I owe you an explanation. I didn’t take that offer ultimately because it wasn’t right for me career-wise. I was being demoted, sent off to train juniors. Can you believe it? They too wanted me to be a teacher, something you have wanted me to be for a long time now.

There’s nothing wrong with being a teacher but a “promotion” is supposed to be an upward move, not the other way around. Plus, I would lose the professional standing that I already have here had I taken that position.

I should’ve clarified the job description with my boss before forcing down my childish insistence and stubbornness on you. But in my defense, I was so insistent because I wanted to make a future for us, even if that meant dislodging us from our present heaven. (A sad emoticon)

My only regret is the pain I caused you, for it is the pain I caused us.

My boss is pretty ticked. They had me cut in stone so to speak and my refusal has put them off guard. They might end up sending me for a few weeks, so you stay prepared for that. I may move back and forth to meet their requirements. I hope we will be able to work something out if it comes to that? I realise the wisdom of your words now and your hesitation to make the move in the first place. We are grounded here and we should appreciate what we have...”

His message ended a little abruptly. I sensed that he had written it during his lunch time.

It explained a lot of things. I was glad he didn’t bring up the “dent” which we have ignored so far but will eventually have to address, but for now, I didn’t have the nerve to bring it up and neither did he.

He didn’t sound happy regarding the dealings with his boss. This much I noticed. Something might come up in the future and I promised myself that if it did, I would be more supportive and less determined to have things executed my way. All’s well that ends well. I hoped fervently.

I replied to Fawad’s text, “Don’t forget! Ice-cream tonight!” (A smiley) •