Why He Stayed (HOW Story 8)

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It all began with this widely popular short story series:

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Story 8Why He Stayed

“I have a slightly different perspective from my wife,” Jacob had said as he and Deanna sat opposite the talk show host. “I don’t think a belief in God and understanding the sacredness of the marriage bond can prevent major problems in life or marriage. Problems, whether relatively insignificant or monumental, are natural parts of life; so no one is exempt from them.”

Jacob had sensed Deanna tense up at his words, so he put his hand on hers and squeezed affectionately. “So in that respect,” he continued, “marriage can be viewed as hard work. Thus, both points of view have validity. It just boils down to how each married couple or relationship expert defines ‘hard work.’”

He looked at his wife compassionately and smiled. “I do, however, mirror my wife’s sentiments in that a couple’s lack of faith or trivializing the importance of marriage can exacerbate existing problems,” he said, feeling the heat of the lamps blazing on them.

“But I don’t believe divorce is necessarily a symptom of that,” he added, turning his attention back to the host while still holding Deanna’s hand. “Divorce in itself isn’t a sign of anything except that a marriage has ended. It is in answering the question Why? that we determine whether or not a deeper, preventable problem existed,” he explained. “Because, in practical reality, it is possible that the marriage ended simply because the man and woman were not compatible, or because one spouse was abusive or because they were both a harm to each other.”

When Jacob and Deanna had stopped by his aunt’s house to pick up their sons after leaving the television studio Sunday morning, Deanna stayed in the car. She sat taut in the passenger seat with her arms folded over her chest and her body pushed against the door, her head turned stiffly away from him, looking out the window. Jacob walked up the pathway leading to the front door, the rage in his chest simmering only slightly as the side of his face throbbed in pain as it recovered from the sting of Deanna’s slap.

“A real man never hits a woman.” Throughout Jacob’s youth, the oft-repeated words of his father remained etched in his mind, and by adulthood they had settled firmly in his heart. Before he was Muslim, it had been a source of pride for Jacob that he had never lifted a hand toward a woman, even if the extent of their relationship was only a drunken one-night stand. But there had been one girlfriend with whom it took all his will power not to strike.

Like Deanna, this girlfriend would slap, hit, punch, and kick him whenever it suited her; and during arguments she would throw anything from a wooden coat hanger to a steel iron. Once, when he had not ducked his head fast enough during his girlfriend’s fit of anger, the side of his forehead was sliced so deeply that it required six stitches and left a scar that remained till today. After that incident, Jacob experienced so much anxiety in his girlfriend’s presence that he’d do all he could to appease her and acquiesce to whatever she wanted so that he could avoid another explosive episode. But it was to no avail. His breaking point was when she wrapped her thin fingers around his neck and nearly choked the life out of him because, despite his massive strength, he’d stood in a confused stupor, unwilling to lift his hands to even ward off the attack.

No more, he’d said to himself that day so many years ago. Then he walked out of that woman’s life and never looked back.

Younus’s innocent chatter and Thawab’s childish enthusiasm upon seeing their father at the door sapped the last bit of simmering rage from Jacob’s chest. His sons made all the pain and heartache worth it.

There had been many times over the years that Jacob contemplated divorce, but he couldn’t stomach the idea of his sons having a broken home. But as a wide smile spread on Jacob’s face as he held Thawab’s hand and listened to Younus describe his victories on the Wii, he wondered if he was giving his sons a broken father instead.

***

“Can you believe that?” Deanna’s face was contorted in disgust as she gestured a hand toward the video from where she sat on her couch with her legs tucked under her. Because the show was recorded and aired two weeks ago, Deanna was able to obtain a DVD of the interview from the television station. “It’s so disrespectful.”

Juwayriah frowned thoughtfully as she lifted a shoulder in a shrug from where she sat next to Deanna a Wednesday afternoon. “It’s actually not that bad, Deeja. The way you made it sound…” She coughed laughter. “…I thought the brother cursed you out on the air or something.” She shrugged again. “Chill. It’s not a big deal.”

“Are you joking?” Deanna glowered at Juwayriah. “It would’ve been better if he had cursed me out. Then at least it would be clear who’s in the wrong here. But with the underhanded way he attacked me, he made me look like some ignorant, emotional idiot. And I’m the marriage expert, not him. So it’s my reputation on the line.”

“To be honest, Deeja,” Juwayriah said, “I think you’re overreacting. He made some good points, mashaAllah.”

“So you’re siding with him?” Deanna’s eyes widened in hurt and offense. “I thought we were friends.”

“We are, girl,” Juwayriah said. “And I definitely don’t agree with what he did. But all I’m saying is it’s not as bad as you think. People won’t see it as him undermining you.” She grunted humorously. “If anything, they’ll admire you more for being married to someone who thinks differently yet you’re still able to be a power couple, mashaAllah.”

A smile twitched at Deanna’s lips despite the taut frown on her face. “You think so?”

“Girl, yes.”

“But don’t you think it’s bad da’wah?” Deanna said, a shadow of disappointment on her face. “As Muslims, we’re supposed to be the example.”

Juwayriah furrowed her brows. “What do you mean?”

“Jacob sat there and basically told the world that Islam doesn’t solve all your problems.”

Juwayriah shrugged nonchalantly. “It doesn’t.”

Deanna narrowed her eyes in shock. “Please tell me you’re joking.”

“Girl, Muslims have problems like everybody else.”

“No they don’t.”

Juwayriah’s expression was of amusement. “Please tell me you’re joking.”

“If we’re no different from anybody else, then what’s the point of being Muslim?”

“I didn’t say we’re no different. I said we have problems too.”

“That’s an oxymoron, girl.” Deanna snapped her hand at the wrist and rolled her eyes, dismissing her friend’s words. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Muslims believe in Allah properly and acknowledge all His messengers,” Juwayriah said. “That’s the only difference between a Muslim and anyone else.”

“But that belief makes you a better person,” Deanna said. “If it doesn’t, then you’re not really Muslim.”

“Islam might make you a better person, Deeja. But it doesn’t make you a perfect person. People have problems, no matter what their religion is.” Juwayriah contorted her face in annoyance. “That’s all I’m saying.”

Deanna looked at her friend pointedly. “So you’re telling me you have the same problems you had before you reverted?”

“I didn’t convert to Islam,” Juwayriah said. “My parents did.” She waved her hand. “And even if I was a revert, what problems I still have is irrelevant.”

“If you really accepted Islam, then you wouldn’t have those same problems.”

“You know what I like most about Islam?” Juwayriah asked rhetorically. “The promise of mercy and forgiveness. And the way I see it, if we didn’t have problems, then we wouldn’t need Allah’s forgiveness.”

“I’m not talking about sins,” Deanna said. “I’m talking about serious problems like depression, suicide, and bad marriages. Real Muslims don’t have problems like that.”

An amused grin lingered on Juwayriah’s face as she glanced at her wristwatch and stood. “Girl, I have to go,” she said. “But I think you should talk to Jacob if what he did is bothering you so much.”

“I already talked to him.” Deanna grunted. “But you know how men are. They can’t take advice from anyone except another man.”

“Mm hm,” Juwayriah said, nodding emphatically as she walked toward the front door. “That is so true.”

“But I tell you what always works.” A mischievous grin creased one corner of Deanna’s mouth as she got up and walked to the foyer where Juwayriah was putting on her shoes. “Sex deprivation.”

Juwayriah tossed her head back in laughter then lifted a hand to Deanna, who lifted her own so they could slap hands. “Don’t I know it,” Juwayriah said, laughter in her voice. “That’s how you beat them lightly.”

Deanna twisted her lips to the side thoughtfully. “I don’t know about the lightly part,” she said, humor in her tone. “When I deny him, I do it hard.”

Juwayriah shook her head, smiling reflectively. “I hear you. That’s definitely their kryptonite.”

“And after that trick he pulled during our interview,” Deanna said, “I’m going to have to step up my game. I usually give him sex every night.” She grunted, indignant. “But desperate times require desperate measures.”

“Good luck with that,” Juwayriah said, laughter in her voice. “’Cause I’m not even going to lie. I need it as much as my husband does, so…” A playful smirk formed on her face as she purposely left her thoughts unfinished.

Deanna laughed. “I know what you mean. But when he thinks he can disrespect me like that…” She huffed. “…I can do without. Trust me.”

“All right, girl,” Juwayriah said, her tone exhausted as she drew Deanna into a quick hug. “Let me go pick up these kids before the school starts blowing up my phone.”

“Thanks for stopping by,” Deanna said as she released Juwayriah’s embrace. “It’s good to have someone I can come to for advice.” Deanna sighed as she reached past Juwayriah and opened the front door. “I’m usually talking to people like Aliyah all day.”

Juwayriah rolled her eyes to the ceiling and shook her head. “I already told you about that girl, didn’t I? It’s nice you want to be a good Samaritan and all, but she’s not on your level.”

“I know,” Deanna said, sighing, a sad smile on her face. “It’s just that I feel so sorry for her. When we met in college, she was so depressed after her family disowned her.”

“Well, she’s a grown woman now,” Juwayriah said. “She can survive without you.”

“I feel obligated to help her.”

“Help her what?” Juwayriah twisted her face in disapproval. “You got too many things going for you to waste your time with someone like her.” She stepped onto the front porch and glanced back to narrow her eyes at Deanna. “You know what I say about single and divorced women.”

A humorous smile formed on Deanna’s face. “Yes, I do.”

“Drop them, girl. All of them.” Juwayriah lifted a hand in a wave as she walked away from the house, her back to Deanna. “They can never be your friends.”

As-salaamu’alaikum, girl,” Deanna called out, laughter in her voice as Juwayriah approached her car.

Wa’alaiku-mus-salaam, ukhti,” Juwayriah called back in response as she opened the driver’s side door. “Insha’Allah, I’ll see you soon.”

***

Aliyah’s heart dropped as she pulled the bundle of postcards from the manila envelope that was in her mailbox after returning from work Wednesday evening. Her name and address were written on the envelope in familiar bubbly handwriting, but there was no return address. Her head throbbed in time with the pounding in her chest as she steadied her breathing. With trembling hands, she put the postcards back into the envelope then walked toward the stairs leading to her apartment.

Her hands were still shaky when she slipped the key into the lock and pushed open her front door. She mindlessly muttered the prophetic supplication for entering the home as she closed the door behind her and locked it. She walked over to the couch and let it receive the force of her body weight as she fell against it.

Though there was a small voice in her head telling her not to, Aliyah removed the bundle from the envelope again and yanked off the rubber band. Like a poker player examining a deck of cards, she spread the postcards into a fan in front of her. Then pressing her lips together to gather the nerve, she randomly pulled at the postcards one at a time and scanned the short, heartfelt words she had written to her mother, father, and siblings over the years.

Cassie, Aliyah wrote to her eldest sister Cassandra, remember when we went to the state fair and you won that ugly teddy bear? When I saw this picture of a raggedy bear, I laughed and remembered how mad you were when they handed you that beat-up prize after you won all those games! LOL. Missing you loads. XOXO Ally.

Aliyah sat for a full hour sifting through the cards and reading each one as she got choked up, but she fought the tears.

You should pray, said a voice in Aliyah’s head.

Aliyah set the fan of postcards on the couch and dragged herself to the hall bathroom for wudhoo’. Aliyah’s mind kept wandering as she rubbed water on her hands, face, and arms during the ritual ablution in preparation for formal prayer.

Minutes later Aliyah stood in the living room with her hands folded over her chest, her body facing the holy city of Makkah. “Alhamdulillaahi rabbil’aalameen,” Aliyah muttered what meant, All praise is due to God, the Creator, Owner, and Manager of the worlds.

Daddy, remember when you and I would go to church together when no one else felt like going? I can’t thank you enough for making me put God before everything. I don’t know why, but when I saw this picture of the Taj Mahal, I thought of the time you told me, “Ally, sweetheart, God is GREAT!” I love you, Daddy. I miss you sooooooo much. With my warmest love and prayers. Your “little girl”, Ally.

…Eeyaaka na’budu wa iyaaka nasta’een.” [O Allah!] You Alone do we worship, and to You Alone do we turn for help and assistance.

Happy birthday, Mommy! I think this picture of a cake made out of cucumbers, carrots, peppers, and spinach says it all. I admit, I still indulge a bit J, but underneath all these bulky, strange-looking clothes, I’m still (as you would say) “giving men a heart attack!” LOL. I wish I could give you a BIG HUG right now. Thanks for being the best Mom ever. Still striving to be half the woman you are…

Aliyah’s shoulders shook and tears filled her eyes. She felt utterly helpless in showing proper gratitude for all the blessings in her life—and in showing sustained fortitude in traversing the severe trials that her religious path had brought her.

“Ehdi nas siraatal mus taqeem…” Guide us on the Straight Path… the path of those who have earned Your favor, not [the path] of those who have earned Your wrath, nor of those who have gone astray.

…I miss you guys! I hope to see you all soon. Love, Ally.

***

Thursday morning Jacob sat in his car in the driveway of his home and called in sick at the time he normally left for work. After exchanging a few words of apology to Dr. Warren and listening to her concerned voice tell him to get better soon, he ended the call. He stared thoughtfully out the driver’s side window before turning the key in the ignition and entering into the car’s navigation system the address he’d found online the night before.

It probably wasn’t a good idea to make the one and a half-hour drive to the next city without calling first. But he had no idea what he would say to the receptionist when the young man answered. Jacob was having a hard time articulating to himself exactly what he needed right then, but there remained within him an overwhelming urgency that this couldn’t wait another day.

Jacob connected his iPod cord to the auxiliary port and tapped the Qur’an icon after powering on the device. He imagined he’d probably need some upbeat music to keep him awake during the drive back home, but right then, he needed to hear the empowering Words of Allah. After selecting the option for Arabic recitation followed by English translation, Jacob glanced in his rearview mirror and pulled out of his driveway as the soothing recitation of Surah Al-Hashr filled the car.

“…And be not like those who forgot Allah, and He caused them to forget their own selves,” the measured, deep voice of the translator said. “Those are the defiantly disobedient. Not equal are the dwellers of the Fire and the dwellers of Paradise. It is the dwellers of Paradise who will be successful.”

“O Allah,” Jacob whispered in prayer, “give me patience during this difficulty, protect me from being amongst those who forget You, and, O Allah, write me down amongst the successful.”

“Had we sent down this Qur’an on a mountain, you would certainly have seen it humbling itself and cleaving asunder for fear of Allah…”

As his car crawled along the interstate in rush-hour traffic, Jacob remembered reading the Qur’an for the first time as a Christian. It had been like the sudden awakening of a spirit that had lain dormant inside him for too long. Jacob had no idea what he’d expected, but it definitely wasn’t what he experienced. He’d always been somewhat of a skeptic, especially regarding things that could not be easily proven with tangible evidence. But his skepticism was often tempered in religious matters. When doubts had clouded his mind about the veracity of Jesus being both God and the son of God, there was a sense of reluctance in speaking his thoughts out loud. Even as he’d drifted from religiosity itself, there remained within him the tacit acceptance that human intellect did not have the capacity to comprehend the infinite power, wisdom, and reality of God…

“…He is Allah, other than Whom none has the right to be worshipped except Him, the All-Knower of the unseen and the seen. He is the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful…”

Deanna was probably right, Jacob reflected. If he understood and practiced Islam as he should, perhaps he wouldn’t be so racked with confusion and despondency right then. There were times that he was left in awe of his wife’s spirit. Where she got the motivation to keep smiling and moving forward even in the dimmest of circumstances he couldn’t fathom. Other than dealing with Jacob himself, nothing seemed to unnerve her or cause her to waver.

Maybe she’ll be better off without me, Jacob thought sadly.

“…[He is] the King, the Holy, the One free from all defects, the Giver of security, the Watcher over His creatures, the All-Mighty, the Compeller, the Supreme…”

Jacob flinched, anger stabbing his chest as he recalled Deanna slapping him after the television interview. It wasn’t the first time that she’d attacked him, but for some reason, this time, he found it difficult to suppress the simultaneous feelings of shame, guilt, and resentment. He clenched his jaw in indignant satisfaction as he imagined striking her back. But he quickly stopped himself. A real man never hits a woman.

“…Glory be to Allah! [High is He] above all that they attribute to Him.”

***

“…So I just really need some time alone now,” Aliyah said as she stood in the doorway of her home late Thursday evening. She frowned apologetically and averted her gaze from the look of shock and offense on Deanna’s face. “It’s nothing personal, Deeja,” Aliyah said. “I just have a lot going on right now, and I can’t handle anything else.”

“But I’m your best friend, Ally-pooh,” Deanna said, her high-pitched chipper voice only thinly masking her annoyance as she stood on the welcome mat outside Aliyah’s door. “I’m here for you.”

“I know you are, Deeja.” Aliyah sighed as she met Deanna’s gaze. “It’s just that we don’t always understand each other. Sometimes I feel like all I do is annoy you.”

“You are annoying.” Deanna’s tone was soft and empathetic. “But I still care about you. You had me worried sick when I didn’t hear from you.”

“I’m fine, Deeja,” Aliyah said, her voice clipped. It was difficult to withstand Deanna’s underhanded insults right then. “Really.”

“What are you so uptight about?” Deanna said, the compassion gone from her voice. “All I ever do is try to help you.”

“I know,” Aliyah nodded apologetically. “And I thank you for that. But, honestly, I don’t think we’re good for each other. I stress you out. You stress me out. I really don’t see what either of us is gaining from this friendship.”

“Blessings from Allah.” Deanna spoke as if this should be obvious to Aliyah. “And that’s enough for me.”

“Then we can get blessings from afar,” Aliyah said. “Keep me in your prayers, and I’ll keep you in mine insha’Allah. But there are no hard feelings on my part. I just don’t think I’m getting a lot of blessings if I cringe every time I see your name on my phone. It’s like I already know what’s coming, and I can’t take it anymore. I have enough problems as it is, so—”

“Yes, you do,” Deanna said flippantly.

“—it’s best if we just part ways.”

“What does that even mean?” Deanna lifted her upper lip in a sneer.

Aliyah willed herself to maintain her composure. Instead of responding directly, she smiled and started to close the door as she said, “Allah will make that clear to you, Deeja. As-salaamu’alaikum wa-rahmatullaah.”

***

Jacob stepped off the elevator and walked toward the office suite bearing the name plaque “Dr. Melanie Goldstein, M.D. Office of Psychiatry.” His eyes lingered on the name for a brief moment before he turned the door handle and stepped inside.

“Do you have an appointment?” said the young man who Jacob assumed was the Fredrick McDaniel listed as the receptionist and office assistant on the website.

“No, but I—”

“I’m sorry sir,” Fredrick said. “But Dr. Goldstein doesn’t take walk-ins.” He tapped something into the computer then glanced at Jacob. “But we have an opening next Friday at ten o’clock. Does that work for you?”

“I’m actually an old friend,” Jacob said, his voice sounding awkward and unconvincing even to his own ears. “And I was in the neighborhood, so I just wanted to say hello.” Jacob forced a close-lipped smile. “Can you tell her Jacob Bivens is here?”

Fredrick regarded Jacob skeptically before pushing back his chair and walking through a door in the back. Jacob glanced around him and noticed several people seated in the waiting area of chairs bound together in single rows. Some of them looked up at him suspiciously then resumed reading their magazines, playing with their hands, or staring at the walls.

“Tiger!”

Jacob turned and saw Melanie holding the door open leading to what he assumed was her office. She was just as he remembered her, except that she had put on some weight, there were laugh lines next to her eyes, and her freckles seemed a bit faded.

“Hey, Annie,” he said, exhaustion disrupting the playfulness in his voice as he used the nickname he had given her because of her resemblance to the character in the Annie movie. He walked toward the door, a hesitant smile on his face. “I hope this is not a bad time.”

Fredrick settled back in his seat and eyed Melanie and Jacob curiously before resuming typing on the computer.

“As I always say,” Melanie said, humor in her tone.

“Every time is a bad time,” Jacob said in unison with her, unable to keep from laughing as he nodded, recalling her wicked sense of humor. “But it’s up to us to change that.”

The door closed behind them as he followed Melanie to the end of the hall. She stopped in front of an open door and gestured for Jacob to come inside. He stepped beyond the threshold and nodded approvingly at the large, spacious office bearing framed degrees and certificates, inspirational quotes, and paintings.

He gestured his head toward an acrylic painting of what looked like the lower half of a table with a girl sitting and eating. “I see you still like mystery.”

“I have you to thank for that,” she joked.

Jacob coughed laughter, but he got choked up instead. It still pained him that he had convinced Melanie to abort their child while they were an official couple in high school. Though he’d heard that she had three children now, he couldn’t help wondering if the wound he’d inflicted would ever heal.

“Come here,” she said affectionately as she pulled Jacob into an embrace.

He immediately lifted his hands as if in surrender in an effort to avoid participating in the hug. “I’m sorry. I…” he said, unsure how to explain his awkward predicament.

Melanie jerked her body away from him and brought a hand to her mouth. “Oh my God, Jacob. I totally forgot. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” he said, chuckling self-consciously. “It happens all the time.”

“That must be so annoying though,” she said sympathetically as she sat down on the long leather couch in front of her desk.

“I fear it annoys other people more than me,” he said, a tinge of sad humor in his tone.

“Well, they’ll just have to get over it then, won’t they?” she said. “Living according to what you believe is more important than sparing people’s feelings.” Her words immediately reminded Jacob of having said something similar when they were in high school and Melanie’s parents objected to their relationship because he wasn’t Jewish. But Jacob had always suspected that their objection was due more to him not being White.

Seconds passed in awkward silence until Melanie patted the space on the sofa next to her. “Sit down. Tell me what’s bothering you.”

An embarrassed smile formed on his face as he sat down on the couch as far from Melanie as possible. “How do you know something’s bothering me?”

“You live in another city, Tiger. And you’re not the type of person to just stop by and say hello. I haven’t seen you in over ten years.” She rolled her eyes good-naturedly. “Besides, I know you. Don’t forget that.”

“Don’t you have an appointment or something?”

“Yes,” she said. “In twenty minutes, but I canceled them. I told them to reschedule.”

Jacob’s eyes widened apologetically. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…”

“Every time is a bad time, Tiger.” She gave him a friendly tightlipped smile.

“Oh… well… thanks.”

“Congratulations, by the way,” Melanie said.

Jacob creased his forehead. “For what?”

“For being an inspiration to so many people.”

“An inspiration?” Jacob said as if waiting for the punch line.

“Your marriage workshops, your interviews, your—”

“You’ve seen some of my interviews?” Jacob couldn’t conceal the surprise in his voice.

“No,” Melanie said. “I’ve seen all of them. I follow you on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And,” she said, raising a forefinger, “I get Google alerts for your name.”

“Are you serious?” He coughed laughter. “That’s insane.”

She shrugged. “Maybe. Maybe not. But I call it caring about what’s going on with you.”

Jacob nodded. Though he hadn’t gone as far as to follow Melanie on all her social networks, he did follow her on Twitter and occasionally Google her name when his curiosity got the better of him, so he couldn’t blame her.

“I really like that last interview you did,” she said. “The one with you and your wife. I’m really glad you made those points. The truth is, I get really annoyed when experts insult each other.” She groaned and rolled her eyes to the ceiling. “And using religion to justify your opinion? I think that’s my number one pet peeve in this field.”

“So it happens in your religious community too?”

“Are you kidding me?” Melanie looked pointedly at him. “Show me a religious community it doesn’t happen in.”

Jacob nodded thoughtfully. “I thought it was mainly Muslims doing that.”

Melanie laughed. “Please don’t tell me you’re falling for the Islamophobic propaganda. Like you said, everybody has problems.”

Jacob laughed in agreement. “You have a point.”

“Soooo….” Melanie said, her voice teetering between cautious and serious. “…let me be really honest with you. My wild guess is that there’s a lot of trouble in the waters of your marriage, and you want my professional perspective.”

Jacob grunted, surprised that it was still easy for him to be frank and honest with Melanie. “To put it lightly,” he said, agreeing. But Jacob didn’t mention that he’d chosen Melanie also because she was the only person he trusted to not misconstrue his and Deanna’s marital struggles as some proof that Muslims weren’t upstanding citizens, or to surreptitiously leak their marriage problems to the public. He and Deanna were well respected in both secular and Islamic circles, and he didn’t want to take the chance that anyone would betray their confidentiality in an effort to ruin that respectable image. Unfortunately, the Muslim experts he knew had lives too deeply intertwined with his and Deanna’s to trust their impartiality.

“In that last interview,” Melanie said, shaking her head, “your wife looked like she was about to spit bullets when you gave a point of view different from hers. I felt like the only thing keeping those bullets in her mouth was that frozen smile on her face.” She shook her head again. “And all I could think was, poor Jacob. He must be going through a lot.”

“Well…” he said uncomfortably, “I wouldn’t put it like that.”

“I don’t mean that judgmentally,” she said sincerely. “Many of us are going through a lot, Tiger. I filed for divorce twice then backed out both times. So you’re not getting any judgments from me. I might need to find a marriage counselor myself.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

She waved her hand dismissively. “Don’t be. It’s not your fault.”

Silence filled the space between them for some time.

Jacob glanced at the clock on the wall. “Melanie,” he said with a sigh, “I’m not even sure it was a good idea to come here, so I should probably just go.”

“Okay, sure,” she said, her tone unconvincing. “But let me say something first.”

Jacob was silent as he gave a hesitant nod.

“Remember how I used to say you need to get in touch with your feelings more?”

A smile crawled on his face. “Yes, I do.”

“Well, that’s my advice. You avoid things too much, and you try too hard to put a positive spin on everything.” She raised her hand as if anticipating a rebuttal. “I’m not saying you should think negatively of your marriage. All I’m saying is, being positive is only good when you’re honest with yourself about the whole picture. You have to take a long, hard look at the good and the bad, and the positive and the negative. Otherwise, you’re not being positive or optimistic. You’re being willfully blind. It’s like putting on blinders after you’ve already seen what’s in front of you, then wondering what you keep bumping into and why you keep getting hurt.”

On the drive back home, the bass of music thumped in his car speakers, and Jacob kept replaying Melanie’s advice in his head. You have to take a long, hard look at the good and the bad, and the positive and the negative. As he tried to think of the bad circumstances in his life in a concrete way, his mind kept warding off the thoughts as if in self-protection.

Yes, Deanna had an explosive temper at times, but Jacob wasn’t an angel himself. How then could he fault his wife for being flawed? Jacob’s occasional frustration notwithstanding, her actions weren’t hurting anyone. Deanna herself always tried to focus on the positive. How then could he allow himself to do anything differently?

***

Deeja Marriage Guru: You know someone’s Islam is a front when they line their pockets with your sadaqah, pretend to be needy so you’ll help them get a job, and then drop you when they feel they can’t use you anymore. #TiredOftheBS #ImTooThrough

Juwayriah bint Abdullah and 29 others like this. 14 comments.

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