The familiar yapping of the dog followed by the clicks at the gate roused him from the jet lag induced deep sleep. He reached out for his phone to check the time. It was a few minutes after 4 am.
Outside, he could hear his wife rebuking the dog for playfully jumping all over her. From her slurred words and the heavy thudding of her shoes, he could tell she was drunk. That was not unusual of her especially on weekends. But this was the morning of a Wednesday!
Finding him in bed temporarily sobered her up. It also made her crimson with anger that she unleashed a foul-mouthed tirade his way. Was this his plan to snoop on her? Why did he lie that he would return the following day only to sneak in on her? What did he expect to find? Had the other woman got tired of him that fast?
He struggled to stay calm. He had braced himself for a frosty return especially considering his icy departure two weeks earlier. A wish for his death preferably over the oceans to give the sharks a human snack was the last thing she said to him as he left for the airport.
The unorthodox farewell was mouthed moments after she had driven home from church. Her familiar quarrels had begun in the sitting room as she changed the radio from his preferred rock music channel to a gospel one. The quarrel graduated to insults as she took the staircase to the bedroom upstairs, her bible still on her left hand. He marveled, as he often did, at her uncanny ability to mix piety with crude profanities. She could dress for the church while hurling unprintable epithets. She bridged her fights with gospel tunes.
Five years into their marriage, her default setting had changed to a quarrelsome and brittle wife. She no longer needed a good reason to fight as what he sensed to be her deep-seated insecurities exploded in ridiculous and regular bouts. But he was not exactly innocent having been outed cheating or planning to on a number of occasions.
Although the trip in question was legitimately official, the destination was the home country of the woman who had emailed him her gratitude for a great night a few months earlier.
The evidence was on his Blackberry that he had left in the bedroom. Mrs had sneaked to the toilet with it and scrolled through for incriminating evidence in his emails, SMSs and pictures. He was so engrossed in the Easter Monday Premier League football game to see her emerge from the hideout, blue murder printed on her face.
The stinging slap and the flying bits and pieces of what used to be his phone that she had flung against the wall roused his attention.
When he returned from work the following day after weathering a long night and a morning of insults, tears and threats, he found his house literally ready for a new occupant. She had carted away his earthly possessions, curtains and all, save for a single empty bed, a stool and a plastic cup.
Time and a new house had reunited them. But it remained an eggshell marriage that was scarred by suspicions and affected more by tolerance than affection. His trip had stoked the cauldron of mistrust and despite repeated – and honest – assurances that he did not intend to see the other woman, his wife remained unconvinced.
It is this guilt that restrained him in his reactions on this morning. True, he had told her his arrival would be on Wednesday. But that was because of an unintended mistake rather than a deliberate plan to snoop on her. She turned a deaf ear to his explanations as she ranted about his conspiratorial mindset.
He gave up explaining and pretended to be asleep, but this only got her madder. She yanked off the blanket he was covering himself with. Robbed of the warmth, the morning cold left him shivering. But, hoping for a short-lived torment, he assumed the fetal position and attempted to brave the chill. His determination irritated her into rushing to the bathroom, grabbing a bucket of cold water and pouring its content on the bed!
Now that he was wet anyway and it was already dawn, he decided to take a shower. That would also give him a much-needed respite from his wife who was hell bent on a fight.
But she followed him to the bathroom while taunting him about being a coward who was scared of a woman. Resisting the temptation to do something stupid, he quickly turned the tap on and grabbed the soap. She switched off the bathroom light and heater.
Still, he was determined not to be provoked. He wrapped his lathery body in a towel and made for the guest bedroom’s shower. But she grabbed the towel to leave him animal nude and soapy. His exposure gave her reasons to ridicule his anatomy especially his private parts that she mocked as retarded. He smiled at the insult as he looked for another towel in the wardrobe.
She followed him with more taunts. Was he really a man or just a small boy who was being run in circles by a woman? Did he know how to spell f-i-g-h-t? She then jabbed her middle finger, with its long nail, quickly and painfully into his nostril.
He slapped her – once! It must have been something she was waiting for because she grabbed her car keys and headed for the gate in a deranged rush while vowing to teach him a lesson. She promised to expose him to the world for being a wife-beater. He was left transfixed at the spot where it had all happened, his mind dazed by the realisation that he, too, was now a perpetrator of domestic violence.
It was a painful reality. Growing up, he had witnessed his father terrorise his mother with occasional beatings and vile insults and promised himself never to lay his hands on a woman. He had struggled with this vow even when his wife slapped him on three different times. He had also dug deep into his cool well when she called his mother a harlot or on the several nights he found his clothes provocatively removed from the wardrobe and strewn along the corridor.
Privately, he mused at the irony of him being terrorised by his wife. She was a petite, lazy woman whose only known physical activity was lifting the spoon to her mouth. Yet he was gym enthusiast who loved weights. It made the idea of fighting her physically even the more unmanly.
True to her promise, the calls started coming in. His mother, voice heavy with disbelief, talked of betrayal by a son she had hoped had picked enough lessons on how not to treat women from her own mistreatment. The mother-in-law, ever polite, reminded him of civilised ways of solving disputes. His close friends were united in wonder at what had happened to his head.
The call that however rattled him most was from his dad. The chuckle in his voice welcoming the son to the world of “real men” left him reflecting at the apparent truism that he was, indeed, a chip off the old block. The single slap had effectively turned him into his father’s child.
But was he really a violent man?
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