Chapter 3: Mr. Macho Uncut (Unpaid)

Ahmad ran his fingers through his soaked hair. His entire body was drenched in sweat and his muscles were aching from all the exertion.

This feels so good – just what I needed after all that commotion.

He positioned his body for another round of kettlebell swings. He looked at his form out of the corner of his eye in the wall-to-wall gym mirror. It was perfect and ready for another intense workout.

All he needed was something to make him feel successful again and an extreme exercise routine always did the trick. The high of challenging his body gave him an extra boost, and when he pushed himself to beat his last record, it provided an unexplainable feeling of accomplishment – like he could win at anything.

He was driven to succeed. His father pressed him since he was ten years old to aim high and work for every penny he earned. Crying for help was not an option. His dad taught him to push himself hard, and when that wasn’t good enough, the solution was to push himself even more.

In general, he was good at whatever he put his mind to and he personally craved to achieve promising results. He didn’t always have to be on top, but he needed to feel successful at whatever he decided to invest his energy and time into. Most people saw his good work ethic and praised his attempts to do well for himself – except his wife.

What’s up with her? She’s never satisfied, always complaining about something or in one of her moods.

Ahmad felt his stress levels lowering as he swung the kettlebell. He was frustrated with his marriage, but he didn’t know how to change things. He found himself working extra hours or hanging out at the gym more frequently because he couldn’t stand going home and being around Sarah’s negative vibe.

It wasn’t always like this. He put his kettlebell down to take a water break.

When he first married Sarah, his heart was on his sleeve. It was exciting to select his partner for life. He wanted to fall in love, provide for his wife, grow old together, and be religious partners. He liked Sarah’s unique ambition and her sharp mind. It’s why he married her.

After giving birth to their second child, Sarah changed. She was no longer fun to be around. She complained a lot about taking care of the children along with the stress of her job. When she finally decided to stop working, Ahmad was pleased. He thought that this would be the answer to her unhappiness.

But it wasn’t – it was merely the beginning. Even though he was working more hours to support them, Sarah never seemed satisfied with the choices that he was making. She chastised him for any little mistake he made.

He did forget about a few key appointments, like their five year anniversary, but it was only because he was pushing himself at work. He didn’t have a choice. It was his responsibility to provide and he took it seriously. He couldn’t bear the thought of letting his family down and he wanted to give them whatever he could afford.

He knew that Sarah was making sacrifices too, and he appreciated her dedication towards raising the children, but he hoped that she would notice his dedication towards being the sole provider. His job wasn’t easy and he felt the pressure to perform at work. His career field was getting more competitive and impressing his boss was tough.

All he wanted was someone who would acknowledge him and admire him, as well as appreciate his efforts. He needed to feel like he was coming home to his biggest fan, not another uptight boss. Her negativity and disapproving looks drove him away. He couldn’t stand her attitude anymore but he didn’t know how to tell her what he was really thinking without blowing up. She never asked anyway. Maybe she didn’t care.

One thing was for sure. He cared about her deeply, and he wanted things to be different for the two of them, but it was beyond him how things could possibly change for the better.

 

***

 

Sarah lay in bed waiting for Ahmad to return home. She couldn’t sleep knowing that he was away from her. She did worry about him.

She loved him too, but it was a strange type of love. It wasn’t what she expected love for a husband to be like. It was an unusual sensation of longing to stay with someone, but it was constantly being polluted with an unsettling feeling of disappointment and intrusive doubts.

She heard Ahmad pull up to the driveway and the car engine turn off. She waited as he slowly made his way up the stairs and gently opened the bedroom door. She said nothing to him and remained motionless as he undressed and slipped into bed.

She could smell the sweat on him. He was quite stinky.

“Don’t you want to take a shower?” she suggested, breaking the silence.

“No,” he replied with his back turned to her.

“How can you go to sleep like that? It’s gross.” she added, hoping that he would agree.

“I’ll just sleep on the couch if it bothers you so much. I’ve got to get to work early tomorrow and I don’t want to think about it right now.” He rose to leave.

Sarah didn’t want him to go, but she couldn’t find the words to express how she felt. She wished that he would understand her better. She needed him to be more attentive to her desires – to be able to read her.

“I called Mrs. Bradley for an appointment tomorrow,” she blurted out. She wanted him to know that she was trying to make things work. She only desired to talk about their relationship for the sake of improving it. She hoped that he would do the same.

Ahmad let out a grunt. He hated going to those sessions. They were absolute torture. They often ended with him being blamed for their marriage problems.

“Can we talk about this later? I’ve got work tomorrow.” He hurried out of bed and left her stranded in the bedroom.

Sarah felt a stab of pain in her heart. She was lonely. She turned her face towards the qibla and prayed that Allah would come to her aid. Saving her marriage seemed to be doomed, but hopefully the next counseling appointment would create an unforgettable opening.

 

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