I sit down on the chair outside and put my head in my hands, they are trembling. My breath is fast and uneven. I am ashamed of the feeling that is bubbling inside me. Relief. Part of me feels a sense of relief. It rises from the depths of my being and threatens to engulf me.
I want to laugh out loud but I stop myself. After thirty five years I am about to be set free. We can finally both be at peace. He can be rid of the tubes and machines that keep him tied to this world and I can be rid of the chains that bind me to this life devoid of love, passion or even compassion.
I feel a hand on my shoulder and I look up to see one of the nurses standing next to me.
The nurse shakes her head and says they are doing their best. She asks me if I would like some water or a cup of tea. I realise that my throat is dry and nod to her. Water would be lovely. She tells me she will be back in a jiffy. “Jiffy” I wonder where the word even comes from.
I watch her as she hurries off, a pretty little thing with a trim figure and a head of almost jet black hair tied into a tight little bun at the nape of her neck. My husband would have approved. It appears that the same sweet words and roguish smile that I fell so hard for were bestowed on any passable looking female that crossed his path.
I have asked myself over and over again why I stayed and the answer has always been the same. Whatever he is, he has always been a good father. We both love the boys and however we might have felt about each other, we wanted to give them a stable home. I think we tolerated each other at best. Somewhere in my mind I felt I was doing the right thing by keeping the family together.
A long time ago I tried to tell him that I wanted to leave, that things weren’t working out. He didn’t shout at me or even raise his voice but he told me he would never let me take the children away from him. There was a coldness in him I had never seen before and it was frightening. No one in his family had been divorced and we were not going to be the first.
I think I convinced myself that somewhere deep down he still loved me and this was his way of getting me to stay. I knew it wasn’t true but I never brought it up again.
I became immune to the late nights and the smell of perfume on his shirts but it was the way he flaunted it that I found hard to swallow. That and the way he found pleasure in putting me down at every conceivable opportunity. I was his verbal punching bag.
He made sure he never said anything in front of the children. We had an image to maintain.
So I stayed for the sake of my sons and when they were older, I just accepted that this was my lot in life.
I have always looked with envy at couples walking past in the street holding hands, laughing with one another. I see them exchanging a quick embrace, a passionate kiss and I wonder how it must feel to be loved and cherished. Maybe now I can.
The nurse is back and she offers me a plastic cup filled to the brim with water. I spill some on my hand when I take it from her. The water is cold and refreshing and I gulp it down in one go.
The doctor comes out of the room and looks around. He sees me and I stand up, my legs feel wobbly. The verdict is about to be given.
He takes my hand and smiles at me.
“We’ve managed to stabilise your husband for the time being but we will have to monitor him closely for the next twenty four hours, I’m afraid he’s not out of the woods yet.”
I slump back in the chair and the tears start rolling down my cheeks. They think I am overcome with relief. The nurse kneels down next to me and strokes my back.
“There, there, it’s alright now”, she says in almost a whisper.
I wipe my face and stand up. The nurse offers to walk me to the room. Right now I just want to be alone.
There are two other nurses fixing the sheets on the bed so I wait by the door while they finish. They usher me in and smile at me as they leave. I try to smile back.
I walk towards the bed. He is lying there at the mercy of the machines around him, his face is obscured by the tubes.
I get down on the floor on all fours and look under the bed. The book has been kicked further under so I reach across and retrieve it. I hold the side of the bed and stand up. The chair has been moved to one side and I drag it back to his bedside.
I want him to open his eyes one more time and look at me, to see that I am still here. I want him to know that when he’s gone I’m going to be just fine. It’s a waiting game now and I have all the time in the world.
I sit down and make myself comfortable. It’s dark outside but the lights from the other buildings are twinkling. I open the book and find the page I was on and start reading silently. The boys should be here soon.
Nadia Kabir Barb is a long standing columnist for the Star Magazine (The Daily Star Newspaper, Bangladesh) with her column ‘Straight Talk’. A British Bangladeshi mother of three living in London, she draws inspiration from her multicultural background and her articles range from social and political issues to humorous and often irreverent observations of life in general.