The last beep sounded with resolution and the train doors shut, leaving an unfortunate batch of frenzied, rush-hour folks in interrupted momentum. I stood amidst a sea of businesspeople and others of that sort, who, fueled by workaholism, glanced at their watches every five seconds. A businessman myself, I recognize the type that thinks in schedules at least an hour ahead of the present. And shamefully, I must admit I used to fall under that category. Were it not for other pressing issues that long plagued the depths of my consciousness, I would, by habit, revert. I say by habit because it is not an innate thing for me; the rigid agendas; the mental organization; the brutish, dog-eat-dog world of business. I grew up in a rich family that poverty struck down. Subsequently, I immersed in the mentality that money is everything and money is life, without so much as a breathing minute from the inundation of directives from my mother and sister. They took it as their life missions to ensure my success in life (by their definition), to slap belittlement in the face.
Recently, belittlement returned the favor, when my late father’s second wife gluttonously decided to sell the apartment I lived in as a child. Inadvertent to the condescension, she sold the place at a whim to her crafty neighbor, who amidst every other insincere obsequious comment, threw in artful insults at the ignoramus. When my mother (my father’s third wife and the primary owner of the apartment) was informed of this transaction, she had a cow, contrary to the Buddhist principles she adhered to for most of her painful life. This contributed to the matters that so stubbornly loitered in my mind, alongside concerns of my failing business, and daily irritations issued by my shrewish wife.
The next train rumbled to a halt, accompanied by a fresh flourish of announcements and beeps over the public-address system, and I, in my preoccupations with the healthy concerns of a man in his mid-life crisis, was unwillingly ushered through the welcoming train doors. I felt a buzzing sensation in my pocket. In that moment, I confused that with the traveling tracks beneath my feet; and in the next, I knew it had to be Jo. Prompt as usual, the woman. I drew my phone out slowly, letting it ring several more times. I picked up; and I could already feel her impatience permeating through the phone and into my pores.
“Yes?” I barked.
“When are you coming home tonight – Are you coming home tonight?” Without so much as a “Hi”.
“Yes. Late. Save some food for me.”
“I asked you for the time,” she said.
“Then why didn’t you say so? I didn’t hear the word ‘time’ until you said it just now,” I said. Irking the dame was perhaps my only talent.
“It was implied – don’t argue with me, Henry. What time are you going to be back by?”
I paused to weigh my options. I could go home, face the roots of my cerebral burdens, assailing my ears by my mother’s enduring old gripes and newly developed grievances. Or I could eschew the emotional trip, my mother’s lamenting, and the extensive complaints of my wife.
“Well?” she demanded.
“I’ll be back by nine,” I said. She grunted in consent, and hung up. Querulous woman; the matron, of whom the most romantic thought I had in recent years entailed one form of escape or another.
She is all about facts – there is not a shred of true intellect in her linear brain – and I, all about causality. I strive for greatness, and she settles for mediocrity. Our marriage is free of respect or bonding traits, with the exception, perhaps, of pragmatism: divorce would be too tie-consuming for us, and too emotionally taxing for our children. Her simple mind cripples her from the ability to empathize with my seemingly futile struggle for distinction.
The voice over the public-address system heralded the train’s arrival at my stop. My mental commentaries were left interrupted, and I exited the train, with bitter-sweet thought of a whiskey and the pending admonishments of getting home late.