The bedroom was dark except for the chink of light coming from under the door. She could not sleep. The sheets felt stale and tangled as she tossed and turned in bed. Her body felt tired, her head ached. But her mind kept swirling the same few thoughts in circles.
She felt irritated by the light under the door; Salim was in the hall scribbling away. What he was writing she didn't know. He never let her see.
"Please give me my privacy.", he would say curtly. Yet of course he would leave the journals containing his writing all over the house and she would have to tidy up after him.
Why couldn't he get his act together?, Why after all this time?
She would give him the divorce papers in the morning and it would scare him straight into coming out with whatever he was hiding or…he would sign it and then -
She was 40 years old. She did not know what she was going to do next. Her father was the only one in her family who knew. He would not understand her problem; he had told her that God hates divorces.
"Stay with him Zoya, this divorce…..it's a permanent solution for what could be a temporary problem. Speak to him try to mend this…"
"Your place is by your husband!".
She had wanted to shake him, make him understand, make him see….
She just imagined herself arriving at the doorstep of her family home in Tirunelveli in a few days. Beyond that she did not know.
She was going to be the source of all the whispers and gossip at any social gathering.
But she had to. She had no choice. His behavior had left her no choice.
As she lay in bed she felt suffocated, she felt like screaming.
And still what was it? What was his problem? The long drives, coming home at midnight or later….was he doing something illegal?
She was older now may be she wasn't enough for him. Was he cheating on her? But that didn't explain getting suspended from work, the liquor on his breath- the fights they had had over that! And his sullenness his lack of appetite his refusal to take care of himself, to take a bath, to eat. Men don't behave like that when they are cheating do they?
Was he depressed? If so what was causing his depression?
Then the thought that made her chill with fear.
Was she the reason? Was she what was pulling him down? His burden?
She felt the tears hot in her eyes.
So many questions yet no answers he wouldn't talk to her. He wouldn't talk…
Atleast they had not had a baby. That was one thing they had done right. Not brought a child into all this.
She did not sleep all night and neither did her husband writing in the hall.
As it was dawning she got out of bed and walked upto the window. Outside it was quiet. The sky was still and empty. The pink sun was rising on the horizon. There was not a thought in her head.
Salim entered the bedroom. He was startled to see her awake.
Oh! You are up already?
She nodded and with dry mouth went over to the cupboard were she had kept the divorce papers.
Salim started dressing for work. He wore the same clothes he had worn yesterday. He had not taken a bath.
Zoya opened her cupboard door. As she did so she glanced out of the corner of her eye at her husband standing in front of the dressers' mirror.
He was staring into it and the expression in his bloodshot eyes was one of absolute sorrow. She had seen an expression like that only once before on a man's face. It had been the way her father had looked at her mother's funeral.
And then she realized he was staring at her in the mirror. The realization shocked her so much that she forgot herself and stared directly at him.
As soon as she did so her husband recoiled from the mirror and looked away. He refused to meet her gaze.
But she had seen it. She had caught him in his sorrow. And just before he looked away she had seen something else; the look of abject relief on his face when he had realized that she had caught him.
Salim finished dressing up; he put on his belt. After that he lingered for just a second in an uncertain manner while Zoya continued to stare at the mirror.
He then mumbled a goodbye and left.
Zoya did not move until she heard Salim close the door behind him. She then pulled out the divorce papers, took them to the window and threw them out.
She walked into the hall and sat down at the dining table where Salim had been writing the night before. And then she began reading the journals that Salim had been leaving out for her.