Chapter 8: Turning Tables
Las Vegas, USA
“So, have you managed to find a memory you want to bring back to life?” Dr. Brown asked towards the end of our session.
“Dr. Brown, I feel as though you’re treating us like a couple of children you’re persuading to walk into a candy shop,” Mariam said.
Dr. Brown laughed and replied: “Even if that’s the case, what’s the problem with that, Mariam?”
In full seriousness, Mariam continued: “The problem is that this approach doesn’t work for two surgeons like us!”
“Maybe, but you have to give yourselves some space for less seriousness in your life together.”
I interrupted by standing up and handing him an envelope. “This is the memory we want to revive.”
As Dr. Brown took the envelope from me, I could see that Mariam was astonished and a little angry.
He opened the envelope and exclaimed: “An Adele concert?”
“Yes, doctor. This is the memory.”
“What’s the memory you shared at an Adele concert?” he asked, smiling.
“I was playing an Adele song when I proposed to Mariam. She almost choked that day.”
“Really? How did that happen?” he asked, still smiling.
I looked at Mariam, directing my speech at her. “Do you remember, Mariam?”
“Yes I do… I almost swallowed the ring my husband hid inside my coffee cup as a surprise.”
“Coffee cup!” Dr. Brown laughed. “That’s good. So now you should go and prepare yourselves for the Adele concert. It might just be the missing link.”
We were walking side by side on our way to the car when Mariam stopped and looked at me.
“You didn’t tell me about the concert.”
“I wanted to show it to Dr. Brown first to see if it matched his request.”
“And is it your decision alone to choose a memory and settle on it?”
“What’s wrong with that, Mariam? It’s a lovely memory. Neither of us can argue with that.”
“It’s not the memory that’s the problem, Yaser, it’s your approach.”
“What do you mean? Is it because I didn’t tell you about the concert?”
“Yes! Since when is traveling a decision for you to make on your own?” Mariam yelled.
“Since I found out that the concert happens to be on the day of our eighth wedding anniversary. I decided this would be my gift to you,” I said. “As well as wanting to find a memory, as Dr. Brown had asked.”
I hadn’t wanted to reveal to Mariam that the Adele concert was to be my gift to her, but as usual she had started a fight based on the tiniest of details and was trying to turn it into a much bigger problem.
She responded in a fidgety tone. “Didn’t it cross your mind that I might not have wanted to share that memory with Dr. Brown?”
This question irked me. “Is the memory of my proposal something you didn’t want to share with Dr. Brown? What other memories should we have shared, Mariam? Have you found any loving memories frozen in the pictures on Facebook or Instagram that our own memories can’t remember?”
“Is it me who erased those memories or is it your constant busyness and your failure to recognize my needs? You always blame me without paying any attention to your own actions. Remember when I wanted to choose a gift for myself on our third wedding anniversary but you insisted on a surprise, and it was a trip to Florida? As if I had any interest in going there at that time!”
“And what did you want? A shopping trip to Paris? Is that what you had in mind for our third anniversary?” I asked, feeling perplexed.
“You know the destination wasn’t the point. The issue is you always do whatever you want. You never ask me what I want.”
“How can you say that when I always try to give you everything you want, even my time?”
“What time are you talking about? The few hours you sit beside me on the couch when we watch TV?” she said mockingly.
“Regardless! That’s still my time.”
Mariam didn’t know that I spent that time with her because I chose to, not because I was obliged to. She hadn’t realized that our marriage had become a routine that we simply followed. We had both been raised with the pressure of getting married at a certain age and building a family, regardless of whether we wanted that or not. In our culture, if two people got to know and liked one another, they had to get married for everything else to fall into place. So we had married and then ended up at Dr. Brown’s to try to fix our relationship.
Mariam interrupted my thoughts. “Who says the Adele concert will help us revive the memory we had? And by the way, the song you played when you proposed to me isn’t even on the set list. All the songs will be from her most recent album.”
My eyes were fixed on the road, but when I heard her words, I pulled the car over once again. “What do you mean? What does the song have to do with anything?”
“Of course it does! Didn’t you choose to go to the concert because of the song, ‘My Same’, which didn’t even match the occasion in the first place? Isn’t that the memory you chose?”
“Yes, but my intention was to go there, hoping that her voice would stimulate the memory of the proposal,” I explained.
“So what’s the point if the memory could be revived without going all the way to the concert?”
“The concert is in Italy. It will be a great opportunity for us both to let go of some of our burdens and responsibilities.” I sighed heavily, feeling exasperated.
“I don’t think it’s necessary for us to go. The kids need us.”
“Don’t you think that every song could create a new memory for us? Let’s not waste this opportunity.”
“I’m not going to the concert and leaving the kids, Yaser. Discussion over!”
I remained silent. I couldn’t keep going with the argument. She always knew how to have the last word, and as long as the kids were in the middle my opinion was irrelevant.
I started to believe that my suggestion of going to the concert had been a mistake. I shouldn’t have booked the tickets. Maybe she was right and the kids needed her, but wasn’t saving our marriage also a pressing need? What was I supposed to do?
As Mariam stepped out of the car I told her I had some work to do at the hospital.
“Okay,” she said, shutting the door.
The moment I turned the steering wheel, I grabbed my phone. “Isabelle, I want you now!”
I pulled the car over so that it was tucked away from the main road, and spoke out every emotion of anger and love to Isabelle, who whispered back sensually from the other end of the line. As I listened to Isabelle’s arousing voice, I saw Mariam in front of me like a cracked mirror. The cracks kept appearing with every second I spent on the phone. My feelings grew more intense, and my heart was pounding with pleasure until I reached a point when I could no longer hear Isabelle or see the trees in front of me, yet I could still hear the cracks coming thick and fast. As I reached the moment of release and moaned out loud, the mirror smashed violently, shattering into pieces and leaving the image of Mariam far behind.
In the wake of the relaxation that followed this moment of heated desire, I stepped on every bit of that shattered mirror, hearing the sound of broken glass and seeing my own reflection in the shards: a distorted, out-of-proportion version of myself. I hung up the phone and took a long, deep breath.