I’ve cried exactly four times ever since I got married four years ago.
The first time I cried was in 2018. Our marriage was barely a year old. I came back from work one evening and saw my husband sleeping at the center of the hall. He was still in his work attire and his shirt was neatly tucked in. Just when I was about to tap him to wake up, I saw a bottle of alcohol on the center table. It was half empty.
I asked myself, “Did he drink this alcohol?” To get an answer to this question, I lowered my head and smelled his breath. “Wow, since when did this man start drinking alcohol?” I slapped his thighs and asked him to wake up. He opened his eyes but couldn’t lift his head up. I said, “What happened to you? Why are you drinking?”
He raised his eyes up to look at my face and then shut them again. I tapped him to wake up. I asked the same question again. His voice was blurry. The words didn’t come out right. I heard something like, “They hired me.” I asked, “They hired you? Which company? And when did you decide to change jobs?” He lifted his voice so I could hear him clearly. He said, “I said they fired me.” “Are you serious? I asked. “What did you do for them to fire you?” He couldn’t talk clearly. Alcohol steals your voice too. I didn’t know. I helped him to change into normal clothing. I gave him food to eat and I helped him to bed. I was deeply asleep when I heard someone sobbing. I woke up to see my husband at the corner of the bed crying.”
“Now tell me. Why did they fire you?” He said, “It’s about the same issue I told you about last year.” I said, “I thought that issue was settled?” He answered, “We all thought the same way too until the directors came in today with the verdict. All the three of us involved with the issue got sacked.” I got closer to him in the corner. I wrapped my hands around him and said, ‘It’s not the end of the world. We’ll get another job very soon. Take heart.”
My husband wasn’t the same person again. I came from work one day and he was seated at the hall with his cheek buried in his palm. Thinking. I greeted him but he didn’t respond. I went to the bedroom and started changing over. I was there when I heard him shouting, “Who is there? Come out before I attack. I have a knife in my hands.” My husband didn’t see me entering the room because he was far lost in thought. I said, “It’s me.” Before I knew it I was crying. He asked, “When did you get in that I didn’t see you?” I couldn’t answer. I just kept crying. He came to hold me. He asked, “Hey what’s wrong with you? You lost your job too?” I said, “I’m losing you and that hurts. How did you not see me coming in?”
The second time I cried was a year later when my parents called to ask me what my husband was doing with his life. I asked them, “What do you mean?” My dad answered, “He hasn’t worked for over a year. How is he able to look after you and the child?” My mom continued, “I know he’s the reason why you are not able to give us money monthly like you used to. I’m worried that you’re the one taking care of him. Can’t he do anything with his hands to help apart from relying on your income? It’s been over a year already. What is he waiting for?” I told them, “He has been trying. I live with him so I see his effort every day. He doesn’t sleep. Very soon he’ll get something doing.” My dad retorted, “He should find something to do with his hands before it’s too late. You can’t carry the ship alone.”
That day on my way back home I cried. Even when I tried to cease the tears, it kept flowing. It’s not easy living with a man who tries his best every day and yet gets nothing out of it. It’s more difficult when the outside world comes in, trying to judge. Trying to tell you what to do as if you don’t know what to do. The most difficult part is when those people are your own parents. I went home and told him, “Let’s stop waiting for someone to employ you. There’s something you can do for yourself. Come up with what you’ll like to do on your own so we join forces together and get it for you.”
The third time I cried was in 2020, during the peak of the pandemic. When I asked my husband what he could do for himself he told me, “We live closer to the university. I can operate a stationery shop. We can get three or four computers so we can add printing services to it. If we get the money, we can also buy two photocopier machines. You know these students. They are always doing photocopies. When we put these three services together and run them, we can make some money. Even when I get a job later, we can hire someone to run it for us.”
It was a great idea so I went into my savings account and took whatever I could find in there. It wasn’t enough so I applied for a loan so we could get things going as quickly as possible. We hired a shop close by. Got all the equipment we needed. Painted the place and raised signboards. Just a week into the operation, schools were closed down due to Covid. Later, the whole country was shut down as a result of the pandemic. My husband said, “It looks like the world is against our happiness. It just doesn’t want us to have a breathing space.” When I opened my mouth to speak, I got choked with tears. I was shaking. For weeks I had panic attacks. I wasn’t sick but I was sick. My husband didn’t sleep. He didn’t let me see his tears but the look of his eyes each morning gave him away. You could see he had been crying. It’s hard to have no job and still be in debt.
My husband was raised to be a man—he was told a man takes care of his family so living in a house where his wife takes care of the family made him feel not a man enough. He looked frustrated often especially when he has to come to me and ask for money. Money to barb his hair or money to get blade sticks to shave his beard. He didn’t know how to live off a woman but I told him, “I’m not complaining. There is debt to pay, I’m paying it. There are bills to pay, I’m paying it. I’m always grateful that my job can support us in these hard times. Just relax. After the flood comes the rainbow. We will be fine.”
He wasn’t fine. He developed a temper out of his frustrations. He started screaming at me when he didn’t need to scream. He got angry over little things. I understood him so I tried to do some things that will set him free. So instead of waiting for him to come and ask for money to buy a shaving stick, I gave him a monthly allowance from my salary. I didn’t wait until the bill comes. I paid without him seeing that we owed.
During the pandemic when we were grappling with how to pay our debt, I found out that I was pregnant. Our second child. That should have made me happy but instead, it got me confused. “Should I tell him? Or I should just get rid of it and pretend nothing happened?” It took me weeks before I finally got the courage to tell him. His eyes shone brighter. All of a sudden there was joy in his demeanor. He said, ”Look at the time God chose to bless us.” He smiled. That was his first smile over two years. That put me at ease. I said, “Blessing huh?… Blessing in the midst of thorns. We’ll take it like that.”
My husband started hiding from the world. He stopped going to church because his friends would see him. Whiles his friends drove beautiful cars and have families that looked well-fed, he was living off his wife’s struggle. He didn’t go out often unless it was very important. He stayed home, cooking with me and cleaning after us. When My pregnancy was around seven months, He told me not to touch anything in the house. He said, “That’s why I’m here. Rest. I will fix it.” By the time I will return from work, dinner is served. Our child was bathed and put to sleep. He pitied me for the struggle but I assured him I was fine.
That brings me to the fourth time I cried. That was a couple of weeks ago. I was sitting in the hall watching my husband changing the diapers of our eight-month baby. I don’t know where the tears came from. It just happened spontaneously. I got up from the hall and went into the bedroom. I buried my head between the pillows and cried more. I heard him calling my name but I didn’t respond. I continued crying until I felt I’d cried my best of tears. These tears were not like the first three tears I spoke about. Those ones came from pain and frustration. This one was tears of joy and contentment.
The joy of having a husband who actually sees me and sees my need for help and is actually there to help. What amount of money can buy such a husband? I’ve had money before. I’ve lived a life that didn’t have troubles but none brought me the kind of happiness my husband brings into my life. No, it’s not about being unemployed. Life is better now than it used to be. It got better when schools reopened. We went back to the stationary business with the little we had left. We’ve been able to pay our debt and my husband is back into the corporate world earning a bigger salary than he used to. The stationery business is doing very well now. It’s become our bonus. The third stream of income. The income you sleep and wake up to see under your pillow. We don’t have to do a lot now. We’ve hired people to take care of everything.
My husband is no longer hiding. He shaves his beard without thinking of where the next blade stick will come from. He’s back to being his own man again but this time with icing at the tip. I don’t question his motives because he’s like an open book. I don’t call and ask him, “Where are you?” Because he’s always there with me and the kids. My kids don’t go around looking for playmates because they have a big one in the house. When they want a horse, he bends for them to sit on him. When they want to hear a goat bleat, he turns into a goat and bleat cheerfully to their hearing. When they cry at dawn, he wakes up to care for them before I even know what is going on.
What amount of money will a woman have in her bank account to be able to afford this kind of helpmate? So I’ve learned this…Our sufferings are made bearable when the reason for our suffering is someone who deserves every bit of our sweat. Today, if I have to go through all that again for him, I will do it without blinking. I will do it without thinking of what my parents or friends or the world will say. I will do it because I know he will do the same for me when it’s my turn. I’m sure he’ll do the same for me because he had lived each day proving to me that he’s the rock I can lean on and wipe my tears. In bad times he’s the rock. In good times he’s the mirror—the mirror I stand in front of to fix my hair and do my makeup. Because what will a woman do when life is good? She can only makeup and meet the world with a beautiful smile.