They called it marriage. He called it the mutually binding contract of prolonged torture. He regretted his verbal agreement, "I do," constantly especially when he looked upon his mad Medusa. She was the biggest conundrum of life, sweet one moment and raging the next, most of the time from reasons completely out of his grasp. It was always much worse when it was what she named that time of the month. He awaited it like it was Judgment Day, because he was always on the hot seat then.
More than one morning had this happened; the mad woman stormed through the bathroom door and into their bedroom. The man was suffering from weekend syndrome, which made him undergo his usual transformation of a horse into a sloth. She threw a garment over his sleeping face, it was cotton and rather smelly—his pair of checkered boxers.
"How many times have I told you to put your underwear into the laundry basket?" said the furious wife. "Wake up you stupid fat pig."
The man brushed his boxers off his face and grunted. He raised his eyelids lazily and glanced over her. The plump, frizzy-haired woman had a bathing towel wrapped over her wrinkled, freckled, graying body. "Go take a look in the dumb mirror," said he. Then, he rolled off to his side and fumbled with his blanket before dozing off.
Nag, grumble, nag— it was the only thing she did, or wanted to do. Initially he appreciated it, liked it even. She cares for me, he thought, proud of the jewel he found. Now her nagging sounded like a metal teaspoon that clinked next to his ear incessantly. That wasn't the end of it, sometimes her complaints would escalate to painful levels; she could sound just like a wailing banshee. "Shut up," he would tell her angrily, but only to regret it when her volume rose to that of a loud steam engine. The woman's voice was too detrimental to his delicate aged ears.
"The laundry bin is right next to the floor. Are you blind?" said the wife.
The man pulled down the sheets that covered him and glanced at her again. He pondered over the question, his gaze remaining fixed on her. "I completely was," he replied. He looked at her blurrily, wondering why he never decided to untie that unfortunate accidental knot.
His wife crossed her arms and shot him an accusing glare. "You have to pick our kid up from tuition in two hours."
Our kid! How could he have forgotten? She was the blood-boiling imp that served as the shackle of his unsuccessful marriage. His contract with his wife had already lasted for twenty years; unsurprisingly, many quarrels and fights had cropped up. One time, yet another not-so-silent earthquake had shaken the dead of the night, waking the child. "I will divorce you!" the wife shouted. He didn't notice the flower pot that was flying straight at him until the very last moment. The man dodged it quickly; the woman was excessively violent—she almost killed him!
The couple was certain that divorce papers would be filed the very next morning. They were seated on the separate ends of their long sofa, pouting, frowning and fuming, exhausted from the battle. Their five-year old daughter came up to them, her nose red and tears streaking down her pink cheeks. She looked at them with her lovely brown, large eyes and a pout that made the man's heart tighten. "Papa's going to leave mama?" she said, hugging Mr. Teddy tightly.
It was a reflex; a parental thing. All parents had to console their children. "Oh no darling," said the man, "Papa is always going to be with mama." That was it—the final seal on the fate that the pair never wanted to be trapped in.
How quickly children grew was frightening. At least I have my daughter, she makes this all worthwhile, the man once thought. He used to call her his cute little princess. She would show him the rough colorful sketches of castles and ponies that she drew, and never failed to give him an unusual piece of artwork every father's day.
"Daddy, I want that pink doll!" said she at the age of seven. The child ran up to the shelf and picked up the packaged doll. "Please daddy?" She flashed a toothless grin. The man bought her so many things, anything for his princess.
At some point of his life, the man was demoted to the lowly position of his daughter's grumpy guard. Previously, he liked to think of himself as her knightly warrior. He never figured out when it happened, but her thirteenth birthday would have been a close guess. That was when those annoying hormones started kicking in and going out of control. Many times had she swung her moods against her father, giving reasons as mind-blogging as her mother's.
"I hate you," said the daughter one Friday night. He demanded that she returned home from her friend's party early, otherwise she would have stayed past midnight.
She walked into her room, refusing to look at him. "Stop treating me like a child!" she yelled, her face turning red with anger, before slamming the heavy door.
The man frowned while looking at the door that shut his daughter away. "You're only thirteen," said he. Then, he took a deep breath, adjusted his round spectacles, and turned to his heavy load of paperwork. "Teenagers." She was starting to resemble her crazed mother. Curse his luck.
So he lived his long marriage in daily agony, sandwiched between the dramas of the two witches that he couldn't control. Life was a pain, since he cohabitated with the people that hated him the most. It was like living in the icy arctic; most of the time alone and freezing, but wary of camouflaged polar bears that might startle him with a jump before eating him.
It was another Monday morning, and the house was having its usual bout of morning blues… or chaos.
"Put your socks into the laundry basket!" yelled the wife, throwing the odorous garment onto him.
His daughter stormed into the room. "Dad, where did you leave my pencil box?"
The man groaned. "I never took it." He scrunched up his nose, and then pulled the sock away from his face.
"Are you ignoring me?" said the wife, her hands on her hips and her face contorted into a scowl.
"Can you help me find it? I need it for school," said the daughter. "Also I think that my allowance is too little."
The man sat up and shifted his gaze to and fro the two 'ladies'. Their hair was still messy, not yet combed and neatened. They looked at him with fiery accusatory glares, and they were waving their hands around, trying to get his attention; their mouths were moving, but only incomprehensible words flew at him. He sighed as he placed his hands on his forehead and closed his eyes, trying to shut out the noise.
"Are you listening?" said the witches in unison, their voices sharp.
The man nodded, though he really wasn't listening at all. "Sorry," he mumbled reluctantly, hoping that they would stop blaming him for whatever he did wrong. He got out of bed languidly and stumbled past the two shrieking females and into the bathroom, shutting the wooden door behind him. There was a quick bang on the door and a few more shouts, before they gave up and walked away. Finally, some silence. He looked into the mirror and saw the dark circles under his eyes. Mornings used to be calmer.
"I'm heading out," said the man. He straightened his tie, feeling a sense of melancholic nostalgia—his wife straightened his tie for him in the past. The woman was reading the newspapers, munching on a piece of butter toast. She gave him a flimsy wave, not even bothering to look into his eye. His daughter didn't even respond. She simply shrugged, and continued texting with her mobile phone. The man turned away from them, slipped on his shoes, and grabbed his suitcase. He walked out of the house, not receiving a single 'goodbye' from either of his family.
Work used to be a chore, but now it was a dreary kind of peace. The papers piled up next to him and he ploughed through them willingly, getting lost in the momentum of it. It was also a necessity— money always made the women happy. And happy women meant less trouble, so he tried to earn more money.
"So how's life?" said good ol' friend Tom. The men had their daily chat at Starbucks every lunch break.
The man shrugged, and took a sip from his cup. "Nothing eventful—rose amongst the thorns as always."
"Daughter can't stand parents?" said Tom, giving the man a knowing look. "Don't worry they grow to become more sensible."
"I'm not talking about my daughter."
Tom laughed. "No offense, but I wouldn't exactly call your wife a rose."
"None taken, but I was talking about myself," said the man, his expression dead serious.
Tom coughed, and then stirred his iced mocha latte with his straw. "I… wouldn't call you a rose either," he said, "speaking of wives, my son is getting married next month."
The man raised a brow. "Really? He must be a very happy lad now then."
"He can't wait for it," said Tom.
The man gave a quick thought to his marriage. Back then, he saw it as the happiest day of his life too. His wife was actually beautiful twenty-years ago, with apple-colored cheeks and long smooth undamaged hair. She didn't seem so bad, her personality was quite nice. So he joyfully walked up to the altar, and signed himself up for the worst thing he could. What a mistake. Women changed so drastically.
"You should tell your son to just say no to the marriage," said the man, sighing. "Run away from the altar, and refuse to agree."
Tom frowned. "That's a terrible thing to say."
"Oh come on, you understand, you've been complaining about your wife ever since you got married."
The friend leaned back, and nodded. "But the lad has got to learn."
"That's true; it's just this stupid thing that all men do when they're young," said the man.
Tom looked down at his coffee cup. "Should've just said no huh?"
"Yep," the man replied, "should've said no."
The man sat in the café with his friend. They were both silent, taking momentary sips from their coffee cups. He pondered over his fate, and wondered how he managed to get himself caught in the net of marriage. Oddly, the horrible times with his wife allowed him to relate with Tom's experiences. Perhaps his fate was simply an inevitably destiny, something that every grown man had to go through. Still, he wished that he had been smarter, and fled when he could have. Instead, he nodded his head stupidly and stepped into the lioness's den.