“Listen, Awo, I can explain.”
She looked up through the fog of her anger and pride, and realized the once rugged lines of her husband’s face had blurred since she had stopped seeing him, so focused was she on enhancing herself.
“Listen to what, Elorm? I can’t believe you. Did you forget? Have we not been planning this anniversary celebration for the past two weeks?”
“I said I could explain.” That familiar knife-like sharpness had found its way into his voice the way it did every time Awo tried to confront him with her temper and her incessant demands.
“Go ahead and explain then, I’d love to hear how I’m over-reacting and how there is a perfectly logical reason for why my feelings are not valid. Go on! I know what this is about. It’s not my fault I don’t make you feel like a ‘real man,’ that your male ego can’t take you being ‘Mr. Awo’-”
“I’m fed up of having these arguments with you. It’s like if I don’t act exactly the way you want, with everything according to your specifications, then you have one of these tantrums. And then come your excuses, and your promises- and I know we’re supposed to lean on each other but I’m tired Awo, and-“
His eyes narrowed. “Wait, what did you just say? Mr Awo? Do you really think this is what it’s about? If anyone here has an ego it’s you, my dear wife. You manipulate me with your tears, and you think you can back-pedal and blame our problems on me being a typical African man, on me being unavailable, too logical, on all manner of things! After the miscarriage, you said you didn’t want to try again because you couldn’t afford to give up on your career, and I supported you. I have always been your biggest fan. I would do anything for you, but it never seems like enough. Enough! It’s time you took responsibility for our problems and not just our triumphs.”
“You know what?” he added bitterly. “Don’t bother, I’m fed up of your hard-fragi, Jekyll and Hyde act. Keep your emotions and your selfishness too.” He turned towards the door.
She was so stunned by this monologue that all she could do was watch his retreating back, already missing the broad shoulders that had held her up like that brick wall to the cross, after long days in the kitchens, at times when it had seemed like her own spine had been turned into jelly. His harsh words hung in the space right above her head, like smoke refusing to disperse after a pot had been left too long on the fire.
“Elorm wait! Wait, please I didn’t mean to…”
He turned back with a look that belonged to a total stranger. He reached into his pocket and retrieved an envelope which he slid across the countertop. “I wish you had just listened. This time I really did have an explanation.”
He was gone. Awo continued to sit just like her mother had done years before. Her meal, ice-cold and long-forgotten, also sat before her, silently taunting her. Who said she was above mediocrity? She had failed. Once open, the envelope revealed just how her pride and her desire to control had helped to unravel her marriage. Two tickets for a luxury getaway to Thailand. She had been dying to visit and dropped hints at every opportunity. She got up and picked up her car keys and her white chef’s jacket. She attached the gold pin to her chest and smoothed it down. It declared in embossed capital letters, “Awo Ayi, Head Chef”. A long shift at the hotel awaited her.