Case Files - the Ghori Wife (working title)

My love is like sand that clings to my feet when I walk on the beach: it's cold, yet giving, conforming to my shape and then falling away, leaving irritating particles that must be brushed aside when dry.

Beginnings of a thousand novels, like case files of long-forgotten crimes never to be solved, clutter my shelves and our computer. I keep them buried, but at hand; perhaps one day something will spark and all will become clear.

I call the shelves mine, because my husband has no use for them. They hold things waiting for me, not us. I tell him how important it is to always have a "me" in my culture.

Mine, not his - his, not mine. What is his? Where is ours?

The cats are ours. He tells me his mother doesn't think we should live with cats.

"I think she wants to be the woman of this house," he says, his eyes twinkling while his face remains placid. He looks at me from an angle, waiting for response.

"Of course she does," I reply. You let her think she can be, I say to to him in my mind, and it's cruel and small of you. But also, it's in your culture to let her think so. This my research tells me, not you, my husband.

"Also you want to be the woman of this house." Now I can see his teeth just a little, which means he's very much enjoying this game.

"I AM the woman of this house." I do not rise from my chair to shout the words at him, though I barely stop myself.

But I don't want to be the woman of this house. I want to be an inhabitant, like the other inhabitants, who should all have equal say and responsibility for the household, equally unable to disregard it. Is it a flaw, then, that my design for this house has no woman in it?

My love is like the tiny slice of mandarin orange in my porcelain bowl, cool and sweet, escaped from the tin where it was contained, waiting for me to set it free and devour it. I drink green tea with jasmine petals he brought me from Asia, brewed in a stoneware cup handmade by me.

I love the tea because it's something my husband accidentally understood about me, and I pray that he might understand more in years to come. Intention is asking too much.

I love the cup because I made it with my hands, in a class my husband paid for after months of campaigning. The cup represents my quest to recapture things I loved before I challenged myself with this compromise of marriage.

The cup is very large and accommodating, colors blurring together across unclear lines, an idea mostly but not entirely formed.  This cup is a result of daring and incomplete knowledge, and too many constraints. This is how I've always thought of myself.

If I took just a little more time, I could have made it what I wanted.

Life has a schedule which must be kept, we're told, at all costs. No matter that life itself was thousands of years in the making, whittling rock into earth, bringing the water around to the right place, carving out a hole until someone found a use for the cave and sought to improve it, fitting it out with comfort and ease of use.

With enough time, all things are possible, but time is the one thing invariable. Time cannot be created, mass or hand-produced, grown, invented, or removed. It just is. Everything else has to be fit within it, somehow.

Why I'm still here - I tell my husband, myself, my world - is because there's still time. We can still fit in something else, or fit what we have in another way. It just takes more than me to move it, but there is time. God is time, the big clock.

My love is like the cat reaching up to me with one paw, balancing the other gently on my thigh. She speaks to me, and though the gesture is clearly a request, I don't know how to respond.

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