(This is another in the Why You Should Never Live With… series. Unreliable Narrator here. Chick-Lit Heroine here. Cop From A Crime Novel here. Young Adult Protagonist here. Literary Fiction Hero here. Romantic Hero here. Historical Fiction Hero here.)
It’s morning. You turn over in bed, sunshine streaming through your tasteful curtains and hitting the antique crocheted bedspread which was made by your grandmother, who was a bit of a wild child in her day, before you knew her as the loving old lady who taught you that hope was eternal, despite the fact that she had buried two husbands and single-handedly brought the family jam-making empire through some war or other.
The bedroom door opens. Women’s Fiction Husband enters the room, carrying a breakfast tray.
Women’s Fiction Husband: Morning, love. How are you?
You: [yawning] Yeah, grand, thanks.
WFH: I mean, how are you really? You were tossing and turning in your sleep. Is everything all right with you? Go ahead, I’m listening.
You: [rubbing your eyes] Dude, I have literally just woken up. I haven’t a thought in my head right now.
WFH: Okay. I just wanted you to know I’m here for you.
You: I know. I know this, because we live in the same house.
WFH: By the way, I did all your laundry and made you a four-course breakfast and cleaned the entire kitchen afterwards. Did I mention I love you?
You: What the hell is going on with you?
WFH: What do you mean? Can’t a man do something nice for his wife?
You: After yesterday?
WFH: Why, what happened yesterday?
You: You left such a mess in the kitchen I was cleaning up for three hours. I don’t know how you managed it, when all you made was a cup of coffee. You didn’t return any of my calls during the day, and when you came home, you were surly and monosyllabic, refusing to tell me what was wrong. You shouted at me when I asked you to help with the washing up. An hour later, I discovered our house had been remortgaged, and we were bankrupt.
WFH: That’s true. I’m afraid I’m so stressed out over my non-specific job that I forget myself. I’m very ashamed of my awful behaviour and I’m sorry.
You: Oh my God, who even apologises like that?
WFH: Why, what’s wrong with it?
You: [sitting up angrily] It makes me feel like I haven’t even won the argument. You’re so hang-dog, it’s a hollow victory. I want you to fight back, damn it!
WFH: But I can’t. Not when what I did was so abjectly awful. I don’t know how you can forgive me, my behaviour has been so dreadful.
You: Jesus Christ.
WFH: You know, I’ve been seeing a therapist, and she says everything I do is very meaningful. Even the way I go to the toilet. Apparently it’s all down to my difficult relationship with my mother. I’m sorry for taking it out on you.
You: Sometimes I feel like I’m having conversations with you in my own head. It’s like I scripted them, and you’re not real at all.
WFH: I know the feeling.
You: That’s more like it!
WFH: No, I meant I know the feeling, because I empathise so completely and utterly with you. You are so wise and beautiful. I’m sorry I couldn’t see that yesterday.
You: You’re wrecking my head.
WFH: I’m sorry for that too.
You: Why can’t you be like the other guys?
WFH: Which other guys?
You: Other husbands we know. Those guys.
WFH: I don’t understand. I mean, I understand you, but I don’t understand these other men you’re speaking of. They’re beyond my understanding. Come to think of it, a lot of men are. I don’t even like football, and I hate going to the pub.
You: You know, lots of husbands do things which don’t mean anything at all. Like, they come home and just sit on the couch and scratch their backsides with vaguely content expressions on their faces. Sometimes they say things which have absolutely no bearing on the conversation up until that point. They tell a joke, or are narky, and it doesn’t mean anything. Does everything you do have to mean something?
WFH: I wonder the same myself. It’s a bit exhausting, responding to everything.
You: You could try being more spontaneous.
WFH: You mean by not answering every question you ask me in full, that sort of thing? Especially if it’s a five-part question the length of a full paragraph?
You: Yeah. But also, it might be nice to have some sort of happy medium between you not talking to me at all, and telling me every single thing that’s on your mind.
WFH: [sitting on the bed] Can I make a suggestion?
WFH: Could you maybe stop suspecting me of having an affair every time I’m a couple of hours late home from work?
You: Are you having an affair?
You: Okay, then. But to be fair, if everything you did was a bit less pointed I might become less suspicious in general.
WFH: [taking your hand in his] That would be great. Only if it’s okay with you, obviously.
You: You’re doing it again.
WFH: Sorry. I don’t mean to.
You: You’re literally the first person in fiction who didn’t mean to be meaningful.
WFH: I know. Between that and my non-specific job, it’s a wonder I don’t collapse under the stress.
You: Just be grateful you’re not the female protagonist in a literary fiction novel written by a man.
WFH: Why’s that?
You: Because then you’d REALLY have problems.
WFH: That is so true, oh wise and wondrous wife.
You: It’s the way I tell ’em. I know.
Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m off to find somebody realistically annoying to talk to. It might keep me young…