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The Madness of MokcikNab
Motives, movements and melodrama in the life of a thirty something mum.

Monday, December 06, 2004
The Unbearably Short Memories of Husbands

Somewhere in the middle of Milan Kundera's book, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, the main character, Tomas, bumps into one of the numerous women he had sex with. She reminded him of one particularly poetic encounter, when they made love during a storm. She thought it profound, for it touched her deeply (for want of a better expression). Tomas was bewildered, he on the other hand, could not remember it, or at least he could not remember it as the idyll she had enshrined it to be. They had shared a physical communion, and yet both had utterly different experiences.

One of the many reasons I love The Unbearable Lightness of Being is because Kundera was so knowing of how men and women navigate through relationships. I read it nearly fifteen years ago, and today I can recognize Tomas' emotional amnesia in my own husband. Incidents I had cherished as markers in our relationship, were but water through the sieve of his mind. For example, he couldn't remember going to Malaysia Hall the evening that I first saw him, neither did he remember owning the jacket that I painstakingly described ( I even told him the colour of the lining)

"You must have seen a different person", Saiffuddin insisted (I did not, because the person who told me his name had a clear view of his face; and so did I)
"You mean to tell me for all these years I have endured you, I had married the wrong man?", I wailed. He grinned, just moments before I kicked him in the shin.

When I was an overworked, underpaid journalist, I toiled for days at a stretch, and a weekend off was as valuable as parole. Once, when I had just returned from an assignment abroad, my Editor asked if I could hop on another flight to Sabah, to report on the total eclipse of the sun. It was a once in a lifetime thing, the celestial phenomenon wasn't about to happen in these parts for hundreds of years. But Saiffuddin hadn't seen me for a fortnight; so I said no. I called him up to whine about the missed opportunity, and he sent flowers to my desk, with a note : "thank you for giving up the sun and the moon for me".

Recently, when Adam was discussing total eclipses, I told him that I almost got to see one. My husband was like : "Haiyoh, why didn't you go? I certainly would". He had no recollection of sending me lilies. I have witnesses, if he thinks I'm delusional, witnesses who, from thenceforth, thought every husband ought to be imprinted in Saiffuddin's image. Like ISO certificates, such accolades should be revised yearly.

For some reason, women place so much importance in the history of their romance, and I for one, need exact dates. The seminal turn in my affair with Saiffuddin, when we crossed the line between having a fling and a life-time commitment, was during a massive argument. I had gone out with a male friend, and I was surprised when he reacted with possesiveness. We started fighting on Friday night, and he was still stewing in anger Saturday morning when he drove me to Malaysia Hall, where I was to attend a gathering. He parked his miserable yellow car in the backlot and turned to me, silent, petulant.

"He was just a friend, for God's sakes!" I said in exasperation,"And why should it matter to you anyway?"
"Because I love you", he gritted his teeth.

He left me at the steps of Malaysia Hall to ponder that outburst. That evening, I had to take the bus home, home to my own flat, and all the way I mulled over what he said and what I was going to do about it (remember, I was supossed to have that boyfriend in the UK). The bus, stopping at Richmond, picked up the din of footy fans, as it was the day of the Grand Finals, and Hawthorn had just been whipped by the Blues, Carlton. Young men in navy scarves and knitted hats cheered and sang songs, in anticipation of more celebration at the pubs. I sat among the revellers and thought of him, looked out the window at the fading light.There was no sound except his words, spat out in fury and admission. In the morning, I called him up and listened as he hoarsely apologised, and asked if he could still see me. I said yes, he came over and I was his.

A few weeks ago, I googled "AFL Grand Finals 1987" , because I wanted to know the date, driven no doubt by the strange genomes women have, that make them devise ways to drive their husbands crazy. Saiffuddin was reading the papers, I came up to him, smiling - which should have been ample warning.

"Do you remember the day we had that huge argument, and you said you loved me for the first time?", I asked, as sweetly as I could.

Saiffuddin gave me the same look as he would if Adam came up to him and said he crashed the car.

"We had lots of arguments, sayang", he explained, "so which one is this?"
I patiently went through the whole three days of dramatic events -dramatic to me at least- but he still had no idea what I was talking about.

"It was the day of the Grand Finals!", I cried.

"Ah yeah", a lightbulb went on, "Carlton won the game. I saw it at Jendul's place."

"You're not really my husband, are you?"

I have an explanation for this loss of memory. You see, early in his career, Saiffuddin had to work on oil rigs, and this man, this impostor, must have bumped him off there. My beloved Saiffuddin, the gentleman who gave me flowers, is now perhaps a bag of bones, bubbling beneath the South China Sea.

This theory, unfortunately, comes to nought because he remembers other stuff. It's an interesting look at how men and women perceive things because Saiffuddin can recall every single dress I have ever worn in the 17 years we were together. Even the ones I want to forget. Especially the ones I want to forget.

"Backless black Susann dress, first time we went to a proper restaurant. Short white halter neck, zip at the side, ballroom dancing at Blue Moon. Vinyl micro mini, hemline just below your bum. Red lace long dress, split on both sides, MCOBA dinner", he can just roll out all these cringe-inducing outfits right on top of his head. He can tell me in minute detail what the dress would do, when I cross my legs or walk or bend down. My closet and the upstairs landing is filled with boxes of his perverse mementoes, because I am absolutely forbidden from offloading them at a jumble sale. And it's not like I would ever, ever wear them again.

Saiffuddin who has been hovering around as I write this, is trying to distract me from telling you more. He has sms-ed me to please make him coffee. Coffee? I guess he forgot I'm not his secretary.


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