بخش 30

کتاب: ملت عشق / فصل 30

بخش 30

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  • زمان مطالعه 6 دقیقه
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Ella

NORTHAMPTON, MAY 31, 2008

“Better safe than sorry,” said the Web site. “Check his shirts for lipstick stains, see if he comes home smelling of unfamiliar perfumes.”

This was the first time Ella Rubinstein had taken an online test, titled “How to Tell If Your Husband Is Cheating on You!” Although she found the questions tacky, by now she knew that life itself could occasionally feel like one big cliché.

In spite of her final test score, Ella didn’t want to confront David on this matter. She still had not asked him where he’d been on the nights he hadn’t come home. These days she spent most of her time reading Sweet Blasphemy, using the novel as an excuse to cover up her silence. Her mind was so distracted that it was taking her longer than usual to finish the book. Still, she was enjoying the story, and with every new rule of Shams’s she mulled her life over.

When the children were around, she acted normal. They acted normal. However, the moment she and David were alone, she caught her husband looking at her curiously, as if wondering what kind of wife would avoid asking her husband where he’d spent the night. But the truth was that Ella didn’t want a piece of information she wouldn’t know how to handle. The less she knew about her husband’s flings, the less they would occupy her mind, she thought. It was true what they say about ignorance. It was bliss.

The only time that bliss had been disrupted was last Christmas, when a survey from a local hotel arrived in their mailbox, addressed directly to David. Customer service wanted to know whether he was happy with his stays. Ella left the letter on the table, on top of a pile of mail, and that evening she watched him take the letter out of the opened envelope and read it.

“Ah, a guest evaluation form! The last thing I needed,” David said, managing a half smile for her. “We held a dental conference there last year. They must have included all the participants on their customer list.”

She believed him. At least the part of her that didn’t like to rock the boat did. The other part of her was cynical and distrustful. It was that same part that the next day found the hotel’s number and dialed it, just to hear what she already knew: Neither this year nor the one before had they ever hosted a dental conference.

Deep inside, Ella blamed herself. She hadn’t aged well, and she’d gained considerable weight over the last six years. With every new pound, her s@xual drive had declined a bit further. The cooking classes rendered it more difficult to shed the extra pounds, though there were women in her group who cooked more often, and better, and still remained half her size.

When she looked back at her life, she realized that rebellion had never suited her. She had never smoked weed with boys behind closed doors, gotten kicked out of bars, used morning-after pills, thrown fits, or lied to her mother. Never cut class. Never had teen s@x. All around her, girls her age were having abortions or putting their out-of-wedlock babies up for adoption, while she observed their stories as though watching a TV program on famine in Ethiopia. It saddened Ella that such tragedies were unfolding in the world, but the truth was that she never saw herself as sharing the same universe with those unfortunate ones.

She had never been a party girl, not even as a teenager. She preferred to sit at home and read a good book on a Friday night rather than whoop it up with strangers at some wild party.

“Why can’t you be like Ella?” the mothers in the neighborhood asked their daughters. “See, she never gets herself in trouble.”

While their mothers adored her, the kids themselves saw her as a nerd with no sense of humor. No wonder she wasn’t very popular in high school. Once a classmate told her, “You know what your problem is? You take life so seriously. You’re fu@king boring!” She listened carefully and said she would think about that.

Even her hairstyle hadn’t changed much over the years—long, straight, honey-blond hair that she pulled into an unrelenting bun or braided down her back. She wore little makeup, just a touch of reddish brown lipstick and a moss green eyeliner, which according to her daughter did more to hide than to bring out the gray-blue of her eyes. In any event, she never managed to draw two perfectly curved lines with the eyeliner and often went out with the line on one eyelid looking thicker than that on the other.

Ella suspected that there must be something wrong with her. She was either too intrusive and pushy (with regard to Jeannette’s marriage plans) or too passive and docile (with regard to her husband’s flings). There was an Ella-the-control-freak and an Ella-the-hopelessly-meek. She could never tell which one was about to emerge, or when.

And then there was a third Ella, observing everything quietly, waiting for her time to come. It was this Ella who told her she was calm to the point of numbness but that underneath there was a strangled self, harboring a fast freshet of anger and rebellion. If she kept going like this, the third Ella warned, she was bound to explode someday. It was just a matter of time.

Contemplating these issues on the last day of May, Ella did something she hadn’t done in a long while. She prayed. She asked God to either provide her with a love that would absorb her whole being or else make her tough and careless enough not to mind the absence of love in her life.

“Whichever one You choose, please be quick,” she added as an afterthought. “You might have forgotten, but I’m already forty. And as You can see, I don’t carry my years well.”

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