Nothing (A short story by Michaela Moye)


By Michaela Moye

Sometimes I think that maybe I gave up too soon on him; that I should have stayed, totally confused and most certainly unloved, by him. I feel that patience is a virtue I refused to purchase.

I wipe away another tear and study his stubborn back. He is curled in the bed, foetal – the way he always sleeps, shutting me out. He is pretending to be asleep. I know he is awake. I know that his eyes are open. I know they will be that way until early morning when he will swing his long, thin legs over the bed and heave himself up. He will walk over to the couch by the window where he finds me every morning, and he will kiss me but we will not speak. He will walk away to the en-suite bathroom, naked – he always sleeps naked – and I will listen to the sound of his morning ablutions, all the while, silently smoking a cigarette, much to his displeasure. Much of what I say and do leave him disappointed but I believe that I gave up trying to please him when I realized that so much truth had been withheld from me – by him – this man that I live with.

This man that I live with but know absolutely nothing about; Even when we first married, when we ought to have been in the euphoria that engulfs all newlyweds, we seemed tired all the time. Nothing seemed funny, so I stopped speaking. We had three conversations on our honeymoon: one was of the state of the suite – he complained about the fragrant pillows; that they would get his nose stuffy. I told him he could take them off the bed. “That’s not the point!” he had insisted. “Mmhm,” I had replied, stepping out of my dress. He stopped complaining as I brushed my small breasts against his chest. He always stopped complaining when I gave my peace offerings.  I don’t remember the second conversation, but I remember the last one.

A breeze had been gathering speed outside and the clouds, as if cued on Hollywood timing, broke over the Zanzibari island, just as I began to raise my voice, losing my patience. “You’re on your honeymoon,” I said, lighting a cigarette, and stretching out on the bed. “Tell her to stop calling you. It’s pathetic.” He stood there looking at me, not entirely surprised that I knew. I continued, my voice frosting over and dropping in volume, “Does she even know that you refuse to acknowledge the fact that you slept with her at some point in time to me? That’s how I know it is true – because you refuse to acknowledge it, or even deny it. I’m not stupid. I love you, and so I’m married to you. But I’m not stupid. Tell her to stop calling.” “I’m not talking about this,” he finally said, sitting beside me on the edge of the bed and drawing me close. “Of course you’re not talking about it. You never talk about her,” I answered, reaching over to stub out my cigarette. He said nothing. And so did I.

There was no need to talk, really. Often I would be found sitting at the water’s edge, the salty foam wrapping itself around my ankles. Whenever he saw me, he would wave and slowly stroll to me, smelling slightly of sweat and me. We would sit close to each other and hold hands and I would be dying to know what he was thinking. But he never said and I never asked. It appeared though that our unspoken words fuelled our passions. Even when the honeymoon was over, we spent every weekend locked in our house, wrapped around each other, sated, not speaking.

But one day the comfortable silence became stifling tension, because his phone still rang a lot. Most times he would pick up and say nothing. Before we were married, I told myself that I understood why the dark, silent type would be appealing – not only to me; and when he wouldn’t talk about it, I didn’t insist enough. I didn’t want a confession that much. Early one evening, as I cooked him dinner, a strange thing happened. My husband’s other woman rang our doorbell. I didn’t know what she looked like, but as soon she spoke, I recognized her voice. She delivered her message and left. I remember that I felt sorry for her. She didn’t look much younger than me. She had bags around her eyes. She wore no makeup and she looked like she had been crying.

“I’ve finally placed a face to the voice,” I said as soon as my husband got home. He said nothing. “Say something,” I screamed as the mug of hot coffee crashed against the wall just behind his head. “He is six years old!” I howled, my insides twisting because I now knew why she had kept calling during our honeymoon. I cried until I fell asleep on the couch. When I woke up, I pulled out my secret stash of cigarettes and smoked them one after the other. I could hear him coughing in our bedroom but I didn’t care.

I found him sitting up on our bed. “In the six years we’ve been married, you couldn’t find the right time to let me know.” I spat out as I sat down beside him, the reek of tobacco ruining the purity of our marital bed. “Do I have to be worried about any others?” He shook his head. “I meant children,” I snapped. “I know about the other women.” I sat there, arms crossed, no longer crying. “No,” he said, “I have just the one.” I knew that would be the best I would get.

Now he’s putting on his clothes, stepping into his trousers, his back to me. I want to go to him and place my face on his bare back and let my tears wash away the cement that is hardening on the walls we are building. But I don’t – because my tears have never made a difference to him; a perfunctory kiss and a soothing back rub that will inadvertently lead to sex – but we will not talk. And I have tired of sex with him. I fear for him, and the other women, but I love myself more and will not sleep with him any longer.

He steps out of the front door no doubt pulling it closed ever so gently behind him. When I hear his car engine rev, I heave a sigh of relief. I wash and dress. I pack my bags and place them in my car. And then I sit back at the window, waiting for when he returns and I will tell him that I’m leaving him. I know what the scene will be like. I will weep as though my heart is breaking. He will kiss me. He will not ask me why, and he will not ask me to stay. He will hold me close, trembling just a little bit, luxuriating in all this unhappiness and not knowing it. He will drive me to the hotel where I will sleep that night. He will help me with my bags. He will kiss me again and he will drive off. But he won’t say he’s sorry, because he believes he has done nothing.

And that is exactly the trouble between us – nothing.


First published in The Sun Newspaper, May 15, 2011


6 Comments Add yours

  1. Yagkong says:

    I see you…

  2. El-Jefe says:

    *clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap* *

  3. El-Jefe says:

    *stands up….clap clap clap clapclap clap clap clapclap clap clap clap

  4. Randy says:

    wow!!! great one,very explicit.

  5. mariam says:

    i could make out a scene out of this…….and the goose-bumps won’t stop popping!!!!beautifully put together.

  6. A brilliant piece. Attention-grabbing!

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