Fiction: “A Day in the Life of a Married Man”

15 March, 2022
Casablan­ca’s med­i­na seen from the Atlantic.

 

a short sto­ry excerpt­ed from:
Blood Feast, the Com­plete Sto­ries of Mali­ka Moustadraf
Trans­lat­ed by Alice Guthrie
The Fem­i­nist Press 2022
ISBN 9781952177897

 

Malika Moustadraf

 

Dull, dull, dull. The same thing hap­pens every day, in the same way and at the same time: I go to work, she goes into the kitchen, I come home at lunchtime, she pre­pares the meal, we eat in silence, we exchange a few words. The weath­er is sti­fling, the heat is unbear­able, and in win­ter, the weath­er is freez­ing, the cold is unbearable.

Blood Feast has just been pub­lished by The Fem­i­nist Press in the US.

I try to push her into con­ver­sa­tion, any old con­ver­sa­tion, just so long as we don’t stay silent. I fail, I try again, I fail, I go back to work, she goes back into her kitchen, wash­es dish­es, wipes down the stove, chats on the phone, runs up a bill that elec­tro­cutes me. At night she makes din­ner, we eat in silence, we exchange the same few words: the weath­er is sti­fling, the heat is unbear­able, or in the best case she might add a sen­tence or two, grum­bling about my moth­er, who vis­it­ed her, or about my sis­ters, or…or…

I bury my head in a news­pa­per. She watch­es TV, flick­ing through the chan­nels in obvi­ous irri­ta­tion. I ignore her. Raw­boned fash­ion mod­els, my God, don’t they eat? The out­fits they wear are so weird it’s like they’re from anoth­er plan­et. I sneak a look at my wife. She’s always munch­ing on some­thing or oth­er, chew­ing away. Thick folds of fat have clumped around her neck and her waist, but her legs are still as skin­ny as a goose’s. I take in the ter­rain of her body, the high­land peaks, the low­land val­leys. In this chang­ing land­scape, her back­side is still as flat a plain as ever. It all feels so repet­i­tive, I’m pin­ing for the days of our betrothal … Uff …

I feel this rou­tine chok­ing me, like a poi­son I’m tak­ing by the spoon­ful. It’s run­ning through my veins, slow­ly spread­ing around my body, par­a­lyz­ing me … it’s suf­fo­cat­ing me, and yet death nev­er comes. She osten­ta­tious­ly heaves her­self to her feet, goes into the bed­room. She calls to me in a voice she’s try­ing to make sound seduc­tive. I know what she wants. I ignore her. She repeats her call, try­ing and fail­ing to make her voice soft and ten­der. I pre­tend to be search­ing for some­thing, I don’t know exact­ly what. She is still call­ing for me.

Her tone this time is laced with men­ace .… I sur­ren­der my fate to Allah and reluc­tant­ly drag my body into the bed­room. I find her spread out on her back like a mangy dol­phin. Even the way we do this is dull … no excite­ment and noth­ing new, even in bed. The smell of onion and gar­lic mixed with cin­na­mon makes me feel like I’m sleep­ing inside a stew pot, or in a spice store, makes me com­plete­ly lose any desire I might have felt. I turn my back to her. I can guess the laun­dry list of Moroc­can swear words she must be rat­tling off inside her head. You try mak­ing a woman go hun­gry sex­u­al­ly! Just try depriv­ing her of her rights in bed—whatever the reason—and sud­den­ly her claws will come out. You’ll become an utter­ly loath­some per­son in her eyes, some­one who pro­vokes her fury on sight, who talks in a vapid way, with a repug­nant mus­tache and an irri­tat­ing moth­er and bit­ter spin­ster sis­ters who’ve made her life hell—she’ll turn you into a mon­strous freak devoid of one sin­gle com­mend­able fea­ture, and she’ll curse every­one who con­spired to “make the match and make the mar­riage.” A woman might let many things go unpun­ished, such as your emp­ty bank account or your lack of inter­est in buy­ing her a birth­day present—she’ll even take a smack across the face dealt in a moment of anger—but she will def­i­nite­ly not over­look being denied her rights in bed … Even if you set her up in the most lux­u­ri­ous vil­la and dressed her in the trendi­est styles and gift­ed her her body weight in gold, all that would count for noth­ing. She will seek out what­ev­er ways she can to make your life hell, no mat­ter what. The phrase “You’ve nev­er once bright­ened my day” will become her refrain, repeat­ed night and day in every rhythm and to every tune until you’re oblig­ed to grant her a divorce. And if she isn’t able to get by finan­cial­ly with­out you and is forced to stay with you for that rea­son, you can be sure that she’ll cheat on you with the per­son clos­est to you, per­haps your driver.

Some­thing else I want to whis­per in your ear: women are real­ly masochists by nature. Don’t let your mouth hang open like that. A woman loves an evening beat­ing from time to time, before she goes to sleep, and for you to pull her hair every once in a while—these cus­toms have been ingrained in women since the Stone Age. And when she com­plains  about  it  to  her  neigh­bor, don’t  you believe her cries of mis­ery. She’s just doing that to spite her neigh­bor, as an indi­rect way of telling her, “My hus­band hits me, there­fore he cares about me.”

The neigh­bor will purse her lips at this, out­raged and indig­nant, and goad her on to stand up to her hus­band, inform­ing her that only don­keys are still get­ting beat­en like that in this coun­try, and after­ward she’ll go home (the neigh­bor), and you can be sure she’ll cre­ate some prob­lem or oth­er, do what­ev­er it takes to pro­voke her hus­band and dri­ve him out of his mind, and she won’t let it go until she gets her evening dose and obtains the indis­putable proof she can offer the next day to her neigh­bor: that she too has a hus­band who cares about her.

Note: don’t try this pre­scrip­tion with all women. But that’s enough off-lim­its talk for one day.

 

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