It was a mild Fall afternoon. The sky was clear and the sunlight was pouring into a medium sized office with floor length windows at 86 Nutt Road in Phoenixville, PA. My office was minimally decorated with some artificial plants. There was a three seater sofa and two single seaters arranged rectangularly without a table in between.The desk was pushed way back to the wall by the entrance with my credentials displayed on it. There was nothing in the office that betrayed confidentiality. I opened the door to greet my last patient, Alina Kumar for her first therapy session. She entered the office quickly, seated herself on the couch and began speaking right away.
"When he told me, in late December, I sat transfixed, listening with rapt attention to his brand new love story of heart meeting heart, mind meeting mind, soul meeting soul and the imminent meeting of bodies, in the idyllic continent, far away from me, his petite, unendowed, average wife! I could not move as I wanted to hear more and more about this amazing union of oneness, even as I felt the crushing of my soul and the poisoning of my blood. I took all of it in as I love good stories.
"To my surprise, I found myself liking my husband's goddess. He made me believe that she has been abundantly endowed with all that is impressive in a person; beauty, brains, sterling accomplishments and a winsome personality.When I looked her up on social media I could see why my husband fell for her. She seemed to be the kind of person people flock to.
"In my eyes, my husband is good looking, smart, fiercely independent and successful. He is a self made man. I like that about him the most. He loves with passion and can hate with disdain. He attracts people with his wit and altruism. Though it may sound strange, he can be merciless and avenging. God help those who try to tame his free spirit!
"In his eyes we are Jack Sprats, which was not funny but maddenning. It is true that he wouldn't have done what I did after the bombshell disclosure. He wouldn't have become the unwitting co-creator of my romantic saga, forgetting himself, forgetting everyone else in his life. He wouldn't have read copiously and shared frantically all about love,marriage and relationships with me. He wouldn't make any crazy attempts to win me back. But I did."
Palpable shame quietly engulfed the room.
"So, when he came to break off our three decade knot, all he could do was to thank me for helping them mould their union perfectly. He heartlessly disclosed that I enabled them to find answers to their unsolvable problems. He confided that they read my mails to him, together. That enraged me as I felt betrayed and cheated all over again. I couldn't contain myself. I dumped my hot ashes on him complacently as I felt I was plundered from something sacred. How dare he do this? The letters were meant for us, not for them! I felt like serving his head on a platter to the hungry tigers in the zoo! That was my intellectual property! That was my copyrighted work!"
There was an exhausted silence after the long outpour. Alina wandered off somewhere. I sat quietly, waiting for her to resume.
"You know, I regret being a Robin Hood. How could I not have known? I had completely tuned out that he had repeatedly shoved me off with one excuse after another, as long as I can remember. It had slipped my mind that he never connected emotionally with me all those years. So, when he physically moved out after our children graduated from college, he could dampen my earnest chase with that 'I have moved on' insistence. He reiterated that he waited for a lot of things to happen before he could tell me the truth. He had assumed that I could not live without him. It didn't feel good to hear that. It hurt my pride. He said he knew instinctively that someday he would find his serendipity. When he did, he would not let her go. He said he won. I say we lost. We selfishly hurt our children by staying in a marriage that was half-hearted, one sided and so volatile.
"But I want you to know, Nabila, I married with feelings and a dream about having a marriage that people admire without envy, even though it was an arranged marriage. The matchmaker who was a trusted face in both our families, could confidently entice me with a well-spun tale of mutual happiness and compatibility So, when I first beheld him I agreed to this arrangement thoughtlessly, as I arrogantly believed that we would get along. That was a mistake."
So said Alina, sitting on the couch, closest to me and sizing me up, eager to be heard, eager to be understood. I spoke for the first time in the session.
"What would you like from our journey together?"
"Kindness," Alina blurted out without batting an eyelid.
It was time for us to wrap up. Her forty-five minutes were up ten minutes ago.
When she left, scheduling another session at the same time on the same day the following week, I summed us up. We had legerity. I liked the narrator and analyst in her. She would like the listener and the sapiosexual in me. We are a good fit. I believe I can help her. I,too, was once scorched. In that moment of seeking and giving kindness, in our first meeting, I already felt the pang of our separation. There would come a time when Alina would not need my support and service anymore. She will heal and move on. And then we will become memories in each other's lives in the distant future.
Nabila Murshed is a psychotherapist in private practice in the USA.