It has now been a week since my wife and I last spoke to each other. On the ground, this means that she addresses me through other people while I ignore her. What I describe as good old-fashioned stiff upper lip, she calls a petulant sulk. No matter. Normally, cutting off conversation has its benefits, but on this occasion, I’m less sure of its impact. Neither of us remembers what led to the stalemate, but we’ve resisted moves to a reconciliation.
Some things are, admittedly, childish. Who is to turn off the bedroom light at night, for instance? I won’t do it unless I’m asked, and my wife won’t do it till she’s told. The fight for the AC remote is equally indecisive. Neither will request it as the room turns increasingly chilly at night, nor will we — dreadful thought — share the duvet, so by the morning, we wake up not having slept at all for the light and the cold.
Being in a bad mood, therefore, my wife employs underhand means to benefit from the situation. She takes out clothes from my cupboard to give away for charity knowing I cannot voice my disapproval. I reclaim them when she leaves the room, only to find them in a pile on the floor a while later. Except a few that I manage to secrete away into her winter cupboard where she won’t know to look, they now have new owners. She helps herself to money from my bedside drawer without bothering to inform me of such withdrawals, leave alone ask my permission, and since she knows all my hiding places, I find myself helpless — and penniless — in the bargain. She has the cook make the most awful vegetables for lunch — yesterday, it was brinjal, bitter gourd and moringa.
The good thing is, she can’t tick me off for not eating them, and I’m no longer anxious about raiding the fridge for things I prefer, instead of fearing a talking-to. She makes a show of liking the vegetables, but I see her eyeing my chicken. Fortunately for me, unfortunately for her, we don’t exchange our plates or our helpings. That peculiar sound you hear is my wife choking on her drumsticks.
She has her revenge by purloining my car and driver — but has nowhere to go. Not that I mind — I have nowhere to go either. She goes to the market anyway, with money she’s pinched from my newest secret hiding place. She comes back with ingredients for a “healthy” cake — an oxymoron — but I don’t even have to decline it. Who wants zucchini kneaded into flour and concealed under chocolate icing? I ignore it, just as she ignores the confection I make with lots of cream and oodles of alcohol. My unhealthy is way tastier than her healthy.
She makes a point to occupy my place at the dining table; I help myself to her pot of tea. She grabs the newspapers in the morning; I cut out the edits. She allows my washed laundry to remain un-ironed; I put her washed laundry back in the washing machine. She scrolls through my phone messages, mocking my colleagues; I scroll through her phone messages, mocking her friends. At our current impasse, we might as well be talking.