By Olubunmi Familoni

One’s wife is in her corner of the bed crying, has been carrying on a decent production of sniffles and waterworks for about seven minutes or thereabouts. Most of the performance is to draw the attention of the man to a certain predicament of hers, the source of which would have to be peeled out of her with some effort which would involve anything from a steady stream of irritating questioning along the lines of “What is wrong?/What is the matter?” (or other variations of such enquiries of a tedious nature) to physical contact, this is usually within the range of a fond pat on the head, the sort of which one would give to a well-behaved tammy cat, to a good old straight-to-the-point shag-up.

The progression of the thing goes thus: of course it starts without the knowledge of the poor husband fellow, who would now be left with the unpleasant task of extracting information and clearing up the ensuing mess, a process not very dissimilar to carrying out an enema. Anyhow, for the first two minutes of this episode, which is actually in its fifth minute since the first three had gone on successfully without the notice of the dear hubby; so those first two minutes in which it is registered that there is going to be a presentation from the one-woman drama troupe, the husband puts on his own mask and feigns ignorance of any notice that it is curtain-up beside him; he carries on more earnestly than ever with whatever he had been doing, which is usually nothing that serious and hence does not require the amount of sincerity of enthusiasm he happens to have suddenly invested in it — an activity which could be anything from re-reading the day’s or yesterday’s papers, to watching something valueless on TV, to pressing his phone for no apparent reason, or even just staring intensely through the ceiling in the hope of being single and free and young again, in that order. But then, one can’t play that ignoring card for long or you’d ultimately be playing yourself, considering you’d have to live in the same house with this thespian for as long as death (thankfully) did both of you apart, never mind your daily fancies of running away with the Calabar one you have on a pretty payroll out there who’d rather run headlong into a brick wall than run anywhere with a half-minute man whose staff she’s only enduring being on because of the fat salary.

It’s the thing about being in a marriage: you have nowhere else to turn to; so in such situations you just prepare to face it, of course with the the artificial reaction of perfect shock, as if you have never seen her cry and seeing her do it now has your heart in pieces on the floor. You don’t know or even care much what the matter is, but the tone of your “What is the matter?” has to convey an acknowledgement that whatever the matter is, this bout of crying must be on your account, credited fully to you — YOU are The Matter and nothing else matters. With your pre-emptive guilt established you can now go into reproducing this eternal question in as many versions as you can think up, because you’ll never obtain whatever the matter is from just four or five flippant attempts at questioning. So you begin the “What’s the matter, what’s wrong, what happened, what, why, where, when. . .” When all that fails, as it would, begin to produce the answers yourself, of course still in the form of interrogation: Is it your mom? Dad? My mom? Sisters? The driver? Your boss? The time of the month?. . . Just be careful that in your enthusiasm/frustration you do not drop some confession of something smelly you’ve kept perfectly hidden away, like “Is it the text on my phone?. . .” You’d end up having to explain why ‘Mechanic’ is sending you kisses; or worse, “Is it those nudes?. . . It’s not what it looks like. . . Not that I know what it looks like, it’s. . . They were sent to the wrong phone.” Just keep it sweet and controlled, and evenly paced between questions so that you can keep your emotions from reddening quickly from mere irritation to a nice round anger from which things would spiral out of control in a very cinematic way.

Of course, no progress will ever be made. It’s like interrogating a blind deaf mute who was the only witness at the scene of a crime.

When it has been established that all else has failed, turn on the charm and lay hands and the good old wand on her; that always does the magic and works wonders; raises ‘Lazarus’ and stops the flow of water from the eyes and all of that truck. After all these miracles have been wrought and the service is over, a certain curiosity arises from the ensuing post-coital boredom and you pose the big question again, but this time more confident of not upsetting any apple carts; of course a confidence stemming from performing the successful miracle of laying the rod and parting the seas like a proper prophet of old. “So what was the matter?” you ask, uninterested. Well, you expect a good, solid tirade that should lull you to sleep, but all you get is one word: “Nothing.”

That is what the matter always is: nothing.

It’s like being in a traffic jam for hours and upon making it to the front of the line finding that the cause of the snarl-up was thin air. Nothing.

 

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