CHAPTER 7

Posted: May 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

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CHAPTER 7

I don’t want to be married just to be married. I cant think of anything lonelier than spending the rest of my life with someone I can’t talk to, or worse, someone I can’t be silent with. – Mary Ann Shaffer

The drive in the car to the Vally’s house feels strange. It had been so long since we did anything like this together. The feeling could be described best as what it would feel like to revisit your old school as an adult. It is familiar, yet you are aware of how time has altered you both. The difference in the way things used to be felt magnified now, with this little act of driving together. This is something happy couples do all the time, and it was certainly the kind of things we did early on in our marriage. The memory of it made me uneasy. Driving with your spouse in a car on the way to a social party is not suppose to make a person nervous, but that is exactly what it was doing to me. Has it really been so long since we were happy? I wonder. The wheels had stopped turning in our marriage just after the miscarriage. When the friction began from the obvious strain we were both under, our social lives started to dwindle. We had turned down so many social invitations from friends, colleagues and even family, that they eventually stopped altogether. The thought of it fills me with guilt. I gripped the steering wheel tighter with my hands, thinking  about it. How did this happen to us, I wondered. Then remembered….Its all my fault.

Despite my anxiety about what has become of our marriage, being in the car together, is nostalgic. Driving together in the car used to be fun. Fishing trips, driving to Durban and even our crazy long haul to Cape Town had been full of great memories. We had talked all the way, about all sorts of things. Of course it wasn’t me doing most of the talking. I have never had a way with words, and even grasping for words now to fill the silence in the car increases my pulse rate. Communication is a skill I never really mastered yet there is so much I want to say, and need to say. Granted, our marriage is not as bad as it had been a year ago, but it’s far from the happiness we had before the miscarriage.

I turned in to the busy mall road, knowing the traffic would make our time together longer. Logically, the longer we are together, the greater the chances of me finding my   words are. I am usually so good at fixing things. It has always been my talent. Being able to know how things work, or why it isn’t working is my speciality. I was never scared of rolling up my sleeves and getting my hands dirty, especially when I knew how to fix something. Yet, my greatest challenge had been my marriage. It has been like a watch ticking out of cue and never being able to tell the time correctly. The problem is I don’t have  ‘communication’ in my toolbox. I think back to my childhood days of watching Mcguyver fix any situation with some putty, wire hangers, an alarm clock and household detergent. Maybe I missed the episode when his marriage fell apart.

I look at the address again, the Vallys house is just around the corner. Glancing at the time, I see that we are late. As I turn into the street we are met by rows of cars bordering the road. From the looks of it we may be the last to arrive. I look at Farnaz next to me in the passenger seat. She seems a million miles away, as she has been for so long. It wasn’t easy for her to move back to the place of her childhood, after marriage. Finding a new career and working so hard at it took up most of her time. We would often laugh together about the women and their prada bags and BMW’s. She tried to fit in and she did, superficially. We were enough for each other for so long, we didn’t care about anyone else. But now…that’s all changed. My heart tells me to reach over and touch her, my head knows better. I can predict her reaction. It could be anything from, the evil eye she does so well, or the cold shoulder that she has equally perfected. I do nothing. After parking we walk silently towards the house.

We are late, very late. The party is in full swing. Farnaz looks at me. Thankfully she is too nervous to be angry with me. I knew she would be nervous.

“You OK?” I ask. “er..Ya.” she says scanning the back yard. I follow her gaze. She is looking at the play area. It is full of children. We both look for a while till I feel a slap on my back. “heyyyy” comes a voice making its way around me. It’s a friend from University.”Salaams..” I search my brain for his name. “aah it hasn’t been THAT long” he teases. “it’s been about ten years” I say in my defense. The name comes back to me just as I find my manners and do introductions. “Farnaz, Moe Khan. Moe this is my wife, Farnaz” They both nod politely. “My wife Tasneem is over with the chicks” he gestures to a group of woman with his hand holding a can of coke.  “we live next door” he continues pointing to his right. There’s a short pause then Farnaz speaks, “I think I met your wife when I came to show the house”. Moe looks a bit confused. “Farnaz is in real estate” I offer. “aah you sold this one, nice job” he says nodding his head, “Houses here don’t come cheap” he said proudly.  Turning his attention to me he says, “Lose the vrou and come talk shop over here. Heard you at PBS now”, he pauses and turns in the direction of the men, “Reza over there used to work at PBS. Come over and I will introduce you” he says walking away to rejoin the group of men he pointed out. I look at Farnaz, “Go”, she says. “it’s fine…Ill mingle with the chicks” she says rolling her eyes. I laugh, Moe really isn’t her kind of person. “He’s not so bad” I say, wondering if that is true, I haven’t seen him for ten years. “Listen, whenever you ready to go, just tell me, okay?” I say. She nods. I linger with her for a little while. I can feel her uneasiness. “Lets get something to drink” I say. “You go” she says, “I’m going to find the Vallys” and she walks in the direction of the house.

When she disappears into the house, I join Moe and Reza. It isn’t long until we start comparing stories. Moe is the manager of Engineering design at an international company. Reza is climbing the corporate ladder. After some time some of the other men join in and the conversation turns to car engine mechanics. While most of the men are arguing the merits of torque vs Killowatts I wonder why words only fail me when I have to talk about life. I can speak at length about gears, propshafts and pistons; but when it comes to babies and life it’s like the connection between my brain and my mouth short circuits. I think back to a year ago and it fills me with guilt. I wish I had spoken to her all those days she tried to get me to talk. Instead I shut her out. I felt so guilty about the miscarriage. After all it was me that pushed her into getting pregnant. I felt helpless that there was nothing I could do to make things right. When Farnaz lay in hospital after the miscarriage it was the hardest thing to see. Although I wanted children desperately I wanted my wife more. When she returned home I couldn’t bare to face her knowing I was the cause of her physical pain. When I was told that a second miscarriage could possibly cause more harm to my wife, I was pained and angry and guilty. I never wanted to put her at risk, but instead of telling her, I took out my anger on her. She kept wanting to know how I felt and asking me to talk about the miscarriage. Why do woman want to talk and talk and talk. As if talking changes anything. The baby will still be gone. She would still be in pain, and I still would be helpless. I didn’t know how I felt, and I tried to sort out my feelings for so long. Anger, guilt and blame got mixed up and the more she asked about my feelings the more I pulled away. I didnt know how I felt. I was an Indian male, Kenam on top of that. I have two emotions, happy and angry. Sometimes things just are how they are and that’s it. But deep down I knew that talking about what happened was only going to make it real and I wasn’t ready for that. So I did what any self respecting man would do…pretended it never happened. Grown men don’t get sad. Grown men don’t talk about our feelings. My father certainly never did.

“Hey, Junks , you still supporting a losing team” I hear Moe ask,pulling me back to the conversation. Shit he is talking to me. I haven’t been called that in years. He is glaring at me, waiting for my answer. I hesitate, I haven’t been following the conversation. “Or did you finally decide to… walk alone” he jokes, referring to Liverpool foot ball club’s motto of ‘you’ll never walk alone’. A couple of guys laugh. Ahh they are talking football, I’ll go along, “We taking the FA cup this year, that’s for sure”, I say remembering that one of the best strikers in the world, is in the line up. Ignoring my answer someone seems more interested in my nickname and asks Moe. I laugh and tell him to explain when he respectfully directs them to me. Moe goes on to explain that I was the best Engineer student in the class at the time (I disagree politely) and that as a project in third year (I think it may have been second year), I used a whole lot of household ‘junk’ to “build a freakin’ miniture Hummer” – his own words. He continues to saying that the project was to build something from scratch that works and students made hand held fans, wind up toys and flashing lights, and… “Junks over here” he says slapping me on my back, for the second time, “walked in with a” – that word again – “Freaking miniture Hummer”. I think fondly back to those memories. I remember that the lecturer refused to believe I made it and made me take it apart and put it back together. Moe is rambling again and gesturing wildly with his can of coke, “He used shit like an old lawn mower and sewing machine pedals, even broken toasters, and junk” he laughed. “That thing was epic, I think the first year students named the hummer JUNK1 and the name stuck here to Hussain after that”. He finished his story proudly taking the last swig of his coke. It clearly impressed the group and I was given admiring glances. Reza , in particular was  clearly impressed and he began to ask about my work at PBS. The conversation took off again as we began swopping stories and he tells me about a hydraulic suspension that went wrong there years ago.

We talk over the conversation the other men seem to be having. I talk about the stuff that I have been working on, not details of course. I speak about the problems with materials and parts. I talk and talk. I haven’t been telling Farnaz much, not nearly as much as I would like to. Most days we just make idle conversation. It feels liberating to be able to talk about the difficulties and my achievements. Although I know she would share it and be supportive, sooner or later she may turn the conversation to our sore subject.

I seem to be getting along well with most of the men here. As long as you speak car, money or soccer – you okay. Thankfully I know a little bit on each subject to sustain any conversation. The host, Yusuf, is a sharp guy. I met his father also for a bit and got some valuable investment advice so I know where he gets it from. “Gold is gold” the old man told me.  “You can’t go wrong with that as an investment”, he said matter-of-factly. I nodded, as he went on, “Work as hard as you can, when you young”, was his advice as he went on to tell me about his business and the boom he experienced in his clothing stores during the 80’s. “After the China shops started popping up all over the place, and piracy killed the market, I knew it was time for a change”, he told me. I remember the stores, I think to myself. I would be dragged there by my parents for Eid shopping year after year. He said that he began buying property little by little, “Whatever I could spare went into buying new property” he remembered. “Alhamdulillah, By the time I was fifty”, he said proudly, “I was retired”. I nodded my head impressed. From what I hear, he retired as a multimillionaire.

As it goes with older folk, they love to give you advice, whether you ask for it or not. He goes on to say that he taught his only son the value of money early on. “He worked every holiday, and the lightie got paid. He even bought his first car himself. By the time he was qualified in IT he already owned property of his own”, the information surprises me. I assumed Yusuf was in business with his father, and his money was family money. The information is still sinking in when a little boy runs towards us in excitement and tugs at the old mans trouser. I thinks its his grand child, he calls him Nana. “Don’t give your lighties everything…” he begins his last piece of advice, “…make them work for it” he says as he turns his attention to the child at his knee. The little boy, his daughter’s son, has come with news he seemed to have overheard. “Nana, mummy said the broken tyre cake is on the road, and no one can eat it”.  The young boy says it in such a way, as if it makes perfect sense to him. His grandfather is amused. “Hmm. Really? I better go see what’s happening then”. The old man excuses himself politely as he goes to investigate the drama.

I lean back in my chair and take a look around me. The large group of men seem to be a good mix. The gentlemen on my right are all dressed in formal pants and golf shirts and are talking finance. I hear words like equities, market share, and diversification   spilling out of their conversation. Further on, a few younger men, more fashionably dressed have their eyes glued to their smart phones, tapping and swiping at it showing off their new gadgets. The soccer hooligans sporting their soccer tops and laughing rowdily, linger to my right. Not really wanting more conversation, I choose to stay where I am. I begin to wonder where Farnaz is and how she is getting along. It always seems more difficult for women to bond. Men can talk for hours about cars  without even knowing the other persons name and call them a friend, while woman will only call someone a friend if thy know about intimate details like their bra size and their grandmothers maiden name. She had a lot of close friends when she was at University but when we moved here she saw them less and less. I have been critical of her social skills and that hasn’t helped. I know she has been trying and my busybody sister in law has had a hand in it. As much as I would like for her to fit in, deep down I know, the fact that she doesn’t – is why I love her so much.

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