Flash Fiction: The Stranger in My House
There’s a stranger in my house. He takes that little space next to my room and sleeps on a sofa bed. It’s a mutual understanding that he pays the bills in return for his stay in my house.
At the end of the month, I give him the bills and he settles them, no matter how much. Then he gives me back the receipts. I need proof of payment because deep inside me, I don’t trust him with money. I have a strong suspicion that he gambles during the nights that he does not come home to his little spot in my house. I also know that he has a falling out with his wife because of his endless philandering.
I do not know where he goes or what he does whenever he’s out of my house. And I don’t dare ask.
Those questions have hurt me enough. Those are the questions I have asked my husband, "Where did you spend the night? How come you did not call? Where were you the last three days?”
The answers have been lies, but the lies do not hurt as much as, “You do not have the right to ask me where I go or what I do?”
“I do not have the right?” I agonized. Thank you for making it clear to me that you do not consider me your wife anymore, I thought.
I have realized then that pain can numb the heart to indifference.
I call the stranger in my house ‘my boarder’ because he sometimes eats his meals at home, sometimes he dines with me. He must think he is doing me a favor but, truth be told, I hate sitting opposite him at dinner. We eat in silence. Sometimes, when it becomes too unbearable, I take my plate to my room and eat alone.
I remember the happier days with my husband. We use to eat together, and we talk. But now, I eat alone and it hurts.
These days, I am able to tell if my boarder has money or not. When he has some cash, I don’t see him for days. Perhaps he goes gambling or gallivanting with his women, who knows? When the money is gone, he’s home sleeping on the sofa the whole day.
I avoid him as much as I can. I keep to my room when he is around. I would give anything to kick him out of my house but he pays the bills and it helps.
When I am sick and he knows it, he pops his head into my room and asks, “Can I get you anything?”
Often, I ask him to buy some stuff for me and I give him money but I don’t expect to get them right away. Usually, he brings them the next day. It is a miracle when I get the items that same day. He gives me the receipt. Sometimes I owe him more and he says, “It’s alright, it’s not that much.”
My boarder comes and goes. He likes that freedom. No wife to ask his whereabouts, no wife to report to, no wife to nag him, no wife to support financially and emotionally.
I learned a few things from my boarder. He has taught me not to have any expectations from a husband who does not respect my rights as a wife and as a woman. He has made me realize that my husband has never really loved me enough to respect me, to be faithful, to be sensitive to my needs, and to grow old with me.
In his own little way, the stranger in my house makes a good friend. I cannot trust him with my life, though I’d like to believe that I can depend on him, not always, but perhaps when it really counts. One thing I am sure of, he is not a good husband.
I should know. I am his wife.
© 2015 Norma