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— I’m tired… — this was the short answer to the question of why they were separating…

 

I am a curious person, not in the sense that I like to stick my nose in other people’s business, I simply try to know as much as I possibly can about people’s relationships. I am always a supporter of conversation and because I also have a propensity for listening that woman opened up to me like a book. There was no Anna Karenina’s exaggerated passion in her story. It was more a sorrowful story, about how, in our everyday lives, we lose the most definitive of human sentiments. We waited till the coffee was ready. Each one of us picked up a paper cup, full of four hundred calorie coffee, and began to look for a table. We took a small table near a window.  I love windows, one day when I own a house, it’ll be one with big windows, full of sunlight.

 

I’m looking at her, she’s pretty, even now with fifty-six years engraved on her face.

 

–   This is good coffee, – I say. I don’t mean it, I just say it to start a conversation.

–   Yes, it really is good,– she confirms, it’s obvious that she’s enjoying her coffee; – I like the strong smell of coffee at Starbucks, I don’t like to drink coffee anywhere else.

–    Smell isn’t important, for me taste is important։ I like homemade coffee prepared in a jazzve, you can’t find that in Canada.

 

I thought to myself. «This woman will never understand what jazzve coffee is and why it tastes better. Evidently it wasn’t even worth telling her that in Europe they call that type of coffee Turkish, though it comes from Arabic countries. And that I call this coffee exclusively homemade or black coffee and that I get terribly irritated when someone offers me Turkish coffee, because I’m Armenian.» Apparently my silence lasted a long while. She lifted her eyebrow, maybe to get my attention, and began to speak.

 

– I think, actually, I’m sure, that now, at the very least, I deserve to live for myself. It’s been almost 23 years that I have been circling around him as if he were the center of the earth.

 

When we got married, he was already very mature and he had his own conception of how a family should work. I didn’t have my own thoughts on the subject, maybe I was too young or foolish, or perhaps I just wasn’t ready for marriage. So, I accepted his conception as if it were my own, and we lived happily that way. He was the center of the universe, while the kids and I were only appendages, sometimes needed, other times absolutely unnecessary. It was a constant concern of mine that it always be clean, that the kids sit quietly while he worked, that on his days off no one disturb his sleep until noon, and that his work and coworkers and family and comfort not turn into a mess.

 

His greatest concern at that time was what to get me for Christmas and Mother’s day. Over the years even his presents lost their originality and became so commonplace that I thought, «My god, is he capable of surprising me with anything? When exactly did he get so grey?» Over the years I felt an apparent need to make some adjustments in our everyday life. I tried to carry them out unnoticed, so he wouldn’t be offended.  My husband simply didn’t accept it, and we turned against each other.

 

The insults grew deeper every day… I thought to myself, «why so that I always have obligations and he has wishes only. Everything with him depends on the wish, either wants it or doesn’t. They say it’s compromise that preserves a family, why was it so one-sided in my case?

 

The years were passing, slowly we lost the ties between us. More and more often we were communicating through the kids. That’s quite possibly the greatest menacing danger to a marriage, that you don’t feel in the beginning, and when you finally  acknowledge it, it’s too late. And then one day all of a sudden it pierces your ear, «tell your mother…», you hear in response to the cry, «tell your father…» It is then that you clearly acknowledge that it seems like only yesterday you belonged to each other, and now you belong to your children, which is not so bad, if, of course, there is no desire to bring back the former state of affairs. I had that desire…

 

Every time, when he situated himself comfortably on the couch, watching TV and becoming irritated by the slightest noise of the children playing, I hated him. That hatred was so strong, that it caused pain in my chest.  I remember very well, how one day I woke up in our bed next to a stranger.  Our bed of twelve years… hiding my tears, I locked myself in the bathroom so the children wouldn’t see me. I was choking…

 

I thought to myself, this too will pass, next Mother’s day, when I receive the next bouquet of roses, the which are pledge of his waning love and attention. If you only knew how much he was falling out of favor with me with every one of his bouquets of roses.

 

My jaw had dropped in amazement and remained that way till the end of the story. I don’t know what she would have thought if she saw the expression on my face. I was lucky that she was exceedingly carried away with her own thoughts, continually  striving to formulate them.  I was trying to fish her words from the air, so that nothing would be left out, I wanted to understand how family relations were in this progressive country.

 

–  The kids were getting older, I didn’t allow myself to change the steady pace of their lives to put my situation in order. And despite all this, according to statistics, our average and happy Canadian family was experiencing apparent progress. Unfortunately, my husband’s viewpoint didn’t particularly differ from the universal mentality. He had bought the best car but continued to complain that his friend’s car was better. He also bought a car for our son, like any exemplary father.  Our daughter’s tuition was paid for by the State Educational Foundation, and he didn’t have any concerns with this regard. Each one of us had our room and our computer, the kitchen was armed with the newest equipment «specially for me,» as if to remind me of my place. VHS was changed to DVD and we bought a new TV every year, the screen of which grew with each purchase, then it began to flatten out until finally it became a home theater.  He would enjoy absolute pleasure watching a series of sports matches on that TV.

 

If you asked him, he would probably say, «what else does she want, I work, I earn a living, and what does she do?» And, you know, he would be right, another person might have been happy by his side, just not me. I would dream of travelling and watch the Discovery channel for hours, dreaming that one day I would see those marvels with my own eyes. When we were young I still had hope that we would travel together, and he would always find any reason     to refuse.  I understood that those things didn’t interest him. I couldn’t travel alone, and if I took the kids with me he wouldn’t be able to buy a new TV every year.

 

I sat, quietly looking at her, she continued:

 

–  The only thing I don’t regret is that my children grew up in a family full of values, having both parents around, my husband and I had equal influence in their upbringing. Now they are mature adults, they understand everything and don’t blame anyone for having a sad childhood. I’ve seen the suffering that children of a divorced couple endure, and the things they lose as a result.  I wouldn’t have wanted my children to have to pass through all that hardship.

 

Simply put, my marriage was 23 long years of suffering, repression of the self  for the sake of my children’s happiness. They have their own lives now, I think it’s time I had my own as well.

 

She looks at my face inquisitively. I’m quiet, I don’t know what else to say, what right do I have to say anything. I’m also divorced, because I thought I deserved more. I couldn’t even endure two years, while seated in front of me is a proud woman, who protected her children’s inner tranquility for twenty three years and raised them in a stable family environment.

 

–   You have the right, of course you do.

–   For 23 years I was the principle performer in the presentation on «familial harmony,» while in my soul I added a new chapter to the book on «family hell» each day.

 

With these words she finished her story and quickly moved to the series of questions of the work placement agency so that she could start working again after 21 years.

 

After that day, I thought of her story continually for more than a month. I could not seem to comprehend the border between love and hate. I don’t think she understood it either.  I made futile attempts to understand where in their lives they had lost the feeling of love for each other.  I thought to myself, that it was lost somewhere between 24 and 28 inches of TV screen. Yes, I was being sarcastic. I was saddened, it was proof that they had lost it and it did not really matter at which point. There is no longer a way to return, nor will there be.  After the sounding of the gavel in the courtroom, one person or the other, whoever gets lucky, will receive half of the savings of the last three to five years, their lawyers fees partially compensated, and an insignificant amount of monetary aid, because no sum can compensate for lost time and neither will the years of suffering be erased. Then one thought will torment both of them, why did it all turn out the way it did. Of course, the question of who is to blame will also remain unanswered. And it will be even more hurtful when one day it becomes clear that the furniture was to blame, it simply wasn’t arranged correctly, or the gas stove because it was time to replace it, or, as it happened in my case, because someone really loved to have an apple with their morning coffee.

 

March 1, 2006 (Oakville, Canada)

Author Zara Nelson Sargsyan

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