Wait’s Weight

Woman on the Beach

Hope is blinding

Wytho has been waiting for this day for two years. Add 10 days to that is how long she has been married to the stranger whose promised arrival kept her up all night the night before. How does it feel to anticipate a loved one you barely know? This is what Wytho is coming to terms with.

She was nervous. Of course! In the celebration of a wedding, how much can you really learn about each other? During the three days of celebration, they were always surrounded by people, or separated. When they were alone together, they explored each other like teenagers acting out their sex ed class. Not that either was a virgin. Certainly not him. It was not an arranged marriage, but a chance meeting that lasted barely 48 hours, followed by international phone calls—no matter how long—is a poor substitute for holding hands and falling in love with the way the lips move when nervousness invades a smile. Besides, she is bad at phone chats; she hardly says more than two sentences at a time. She mostly listens. Which he must like, because he surely knows how to fill her ear with the sound of his voice. Sometimes she wonders if he would notice if she puts the phone down and walks away for half an hour. But she loves the sound of his voice. She loves imagining his breath down her neck as she holds the phone to her ear.

He hasn’t called but once in the last two weeks to give the details of his arrival. He is working long hours to afford the trip, he says, he barely has time to even shower between sleep and shifts. In the absence of the phone calls she is left counting the days wondering what sort of woman makes him happy. Is she that woman? When he finds out she prefers her rice a little hard, would he think she is a bad cook? Does he like his water chilled or ice cold? Would he take her to the movies, or says he didn’t leave America to come watch American movies in French. Even though she loves American movies, and imagines his face in every black face she sees on the screen. Especially faces she considers beautiful.

Nervousness was not all that new to Wytho Hanlogue. Fear was something else altogether. But since exactly a week ago, that is exactly what has saturated her mind and infiltrated her actions. In the last few days she finds herself prone to trembles for no apparent reason. That’s how she ended up dumping half a cup of salt in the meal two days ago. And she knew she was in trouble. Either way she was in trouble. She wouldn’t dare camouflage it—with sugar and more water–and serve it to her in-laws. Especially not to her father in-law. He is likely to throw the hot plate at her head. But there she was, 4pm fast approaching and her father in-law due home around 5pm. Dripping cold over hot sweat, she stopped panicking for a second, fished the chicken out of the sauce and rinsed it. She quickly made another sauce with the leftover tomato and onion—they were barely enough.

She got cussed out for serving a bad meal, reminded what their report to her husband was going to be… but at least only her little sister–who lives with her and helps her with her wifely duties to her in-laws–knew what had happened.

They say fruits do not fall too far from the tree. Is he prone to slaps and blows like his father? Just as hard to satisfy, quick to criticize and never appreciates? They have had few phone fights, but those don’t count. You can’t call it a fight when you don’t see blood spill over the eyes and veins popped; when you don’t see the fist clenched and muscles tense–he doesn’t slap you, punch you, kick you, bite you; when you don’t run to your family for fear that he might kill you, and they don’t bring you back for fear that they cannot afford you. Fights between husband and wife break bones, spill blood; if you are lucky it just leaves marks that last few days. All his does is raise his voice and warns her to respect his mother.

But that may soon change. In few hours he would be flesh and bones, could be kicks and blows. And she may be the punching bag. A month—the length of time he’s due to stay—is nothing when you have been waiting for two years to celebrate your honeymoon. But it can feel like a lifetime—you may not survive to see the end.

But there is something about love. It stands tall, over all other emotions, especially negative ones. When love enters the heart, the mind becomes a criminal with a long rap sheet, how can the body believe a single word he says. Wytho doesn’t know much about love, but she knows the butterfly in her chest that flutters whenever she thinks about her husband. She remembers his arms around her; how gently he held her, caressed her, kissed her, entered her during those ten days of love making. He says I love you, multiple times during a phone call. Even after an angry conversation on account of something his mother told him. She is not sure exactly what loving someone means, but she sees how men and women look at each other when they say it in the movies. She likes it. And perhaps that’s all love is, liking the feeling you get when you think of someone.

That is the thought that brought the cock crow this morning; that pulled Wytho out of bed, opens her windows to the morning dew. She looks back at the bed and thinks to herself, “tomorrow I will not be waking up alone. Maybe I will not wake up at all, not this early in the morning.… No, I should. Otherwise he may think I am lazy. Like his mother says. I must wake up early to get his shower ready and make breakfast.… Maybe he would insist I stayed in bed next to him. Should I say no, I have work to do, or linger in his arms?”

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