Nonso hissed with irritation when she saw the shredded pieces of toothpicks on the tiled floor. Why does he have to actually eat the toothpicks…and then spit them out? Just thinking about the grossness of it made her shudder. It was bad enough that her husband, Nnamdi had discovered an additional function for toothpicks – apparently, just picking his teeth with them wasn’t enough – but why couldn’t he just throw the pieces away when he was done? She sighed and walked towards the room to change out of her work clothes, kicking off her shoes at the door. Her shoulders ached from sitting at a table all day and she swung her work bag off her shoulder and dumped it on the floor as she walked into their bedroom. She usually felt relaxed whenever she was in their bedroom – two bare, white canvas paintings adorned the soft-grey colored middle wall, and the two leaf-gold side walls accentuated the brown velvet detailing on the king-size bed. The discreet striped pattern on the bench perfectly matched the accent pillows, and white flowers on the tall nightstands complemented the wall paintings. She had pored over countless interior décor websites and painstakingly picked out every single item. Nnamdi had laughed at her single mindedness and insisted playfully, with a twinkle in his eye, that ‘all they needed was a comfortable bed’, but she had been determined to create the perfect home for their new life together.
Perfect home, perfect marriage…perfect life.
That was what she had expected, but what had she got? Perfect home, yes. Perfect marriage? Not by a long shot. Things had gotten marginally better since that morning two weeks ago when Nnamdi had unexpectedly surprised her with early-morning love-making…they had both been late to work and she spent the whole day in a fog of happiness. She had thought that bubble would last, but it hadn’t. Life had intruded again, like an unwelcome guest at an invitation-only party. She heard the sound of the shower behind the closed bathroom door and wearily sank down on the bench.
She had thought that Nnamdi would finally come around and try to heal the wound that hurt the most – his absence during the most devastating experience of her life. There were other things that bothered her – their lack of intimacy, his unwillingness to help around the house – but none of them could compare to the feeling of abandonment…aloneness that she had felt. They had planned for children, had expected them even, and the miscarriage was a huge shock. It had come out of left field and had literally crippled Nonso. Her days blended endlessly into one gray blob and her spirits had been crushed. I could have handled it better if he had been there. It wasn’t just his physical absence that hurt, but he seemed emotionally distant as well. She had grieved for months but he seemed to move on quickly, wanting them to try again after only a few weeks. Didn’t he understand what she had been through? She had lost a child, for goodness sake! She couldn’t just move on like nothing had happened…but more than that, she was afraid. She was afraid of getting pregnant again. What if she had another miscarriage? No. She couldn’t, wouldn’t go through that kind of pain again. A secret visit to her OB/GYN had taken care of it and she only felt a slight twinge of guilt when Nnamdi wondered why it was taking so long. Just then, the bathroom door opened and interrupted her trip down memory lane.
She stared at Nnamdi and hoped her guilt wasn’t emblazoned on her face.
“Hey, baby. I didn’t hear you come in.” Nnamdi responded with a smile as he toweled himself dry.
“Yeah, you were in the shower, so you wouldn’t have.”
Nnamdi looked at his wife and wondered what she had been thinking about before he opened the door. She looked so vulnerable…wounded, almost – he wanted to ask, but he hesitated. Again. He had found himself doing that more often in recent days. Things had improved for a few days, but had gradually deteriorated again and he had run out of options. Lord, how do I reach my wife? There had to be a way. Sometimes, he felt like she was waiting for him to say or do something, but what? Every time he asked her what was wrong, she would smile slightly and give her stock answer “Nothing. I’m fine.” Unsatisfied with that answer, he would press her but she wouldn’t budge. “Really, baby. I’m good.” Well, what was he supposed to do if she couldn’t, or wouldn’t open up to him? He wasn’t a mind reader. Suddenly frustrated, he abruptly turned and walked back through the bathroom to the closet.
Nonso caught the subtle shift in her husband’s mood and wasn’t sure what to make of it. Shouldn’t she be the one that was upset? Coming home after a long day at work to sweep up shredded toothpicks and watch her husband blithely go through life without acknowledging his role in the pain still etched so deeply inside her. She knew she should just let it go and move on, but she didn’t know how. As if on cue, Sandra’s words floated through her mind.
“Nonso, one thing marriage has taught me is that your spouse won’t always react to things the same way you do. They probably won’t even react the way you want them to, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care. Don’t hold this thing against him forever. Communicate with your husband, Nonso. Talk to him…don’t lock him out in silence. Tell him how much it still hurts you and then ask God for the grace to release him. This bitterness could end up costing you your marriage, and it doesn’t have to.”
Tell him how much it still hurts…Nonso sighed. Opening up to her husband wasn’t as easy as it used to be, but she wanted to try. One more time. Her marriage was worth that, at least. Nonso tried to compose herself while she waited for Nnamdi to come back into the bedroom. Unaccountably nervous, she mentally ran through the conversation. How should she start? She would take him by the hand and pull him towards the bench where she now sat. Baby, there’s something I’d like to discuss with you…
“Why don’t you put your shoes away when you take them off, instead of leaving them lying around? It’s a bit untidy, you know. Just makes everywhere look messy.” Nnamdi’s cold voice snapped Nonso out of her mental rehearsal.
He was holding up the shoes she had kicked off at the door and looking at her as if she had committed some egregious crime. Nonso’s first reaction was disbelief. Untidy? He was calling her untidy? Someone who actually chewed up toothpicks and left them lying all over the floor was calling her untidy? Anger crept in then. She shook her head and opened her mouth to respond.
Pick your battles, Nonso. Not everything is worth fighting about.
This time, the voice wasn’t Sandra’s. She knew whose it was and she resisted at first. Why should she be the one to always hold her tongue? He said and did things to hurt her all the time! If he didn’t listen to God, why should she?
Anger rests in the bosom of fools, but a soft answer turns away wrath. Speak softly, and speak gently.
With an effort, she bit back her scathing reply and looked at her husband. He had seemed to be in a good mood when she came back, but something had upset him. She knew he wasn’t really worried about her shoes and as he stood there with the offending objects in his hands and a wounded look in his eyes, Nonso suddenly realized something. He had hidden it well. So well that it had taken her months to finally see the truth. Her husband was hurting. Just as much as she was, or maybe more. Here she was, stuck grieving for the past but her husband was grieving for the present – for they life they could have, but didn’t. For the love she so deliberately held back from him. Her heart softened, and she walked towards him. He looked at her warily as she approached. Father, help me make this right.
“I’m sorry about the shoes”, she said softly as she took them from his hands and threw them back on the floor. He would have spoken then, but she put her fingers over his mouth.
“Forget the shoes” she said softly. “I’ll put them away later. Come and sit down. I’d like to tell you something.”
Nonso leaned into her husband as they sat, and finally let him into the dark recesses of her heart. She felt relieved as she finally laid her soul bare and shed the resentment she had been carrying. As his arms encircled her, the words behind her wall of silence came pouring out. A peculiar warmth trickled down her face and it was then she realized that her husband was crying. The room was quiet, save for the sound of his sobbing and her heart flooded with compassion. His tears spoke volumes…much more than words ever could. She knew then that he had mourned their child as deeply as she had – just in a different way. They still had a lot to talk about and the road ahead would be long and filled with bumps, but for now she was content. Safe, in her husband’s arms…she was content.
Thanks for reading! What do you think about Nonso and Nnamd's relationship? How should Nonso have handled her hurt over Nnamdi's behavior? I would really love to hear your thoughts.