It rained profusely that evening, as she rushed out of the subway station and on to the silver concrete. She battled against the wind with a bag of groceries in hand, looking right while crossing the street. Having lived in the same neighborhood since her childhood, she knew better than to wait for the traffic light to change before crossing. To a stranger this mash of cars and pedestrians would seem frightfully chaotic, but to the residents it was the only way they lived their lives. With no umbrella to protect her, she trembled under the sobbing skies. A lover of winter, she waited each year in earnest for the clouds to merge so she could immerse herself in their sorrows. Their greying color drew a much needed smile across her face, as she savored every chilling moment under the heavy rains.
He watched her clutch her black coat and walk with precision towards their apartment building; a blurred image through the rain smeared glass, yet her smile was almost visible. Their six-month old was fussing in his arms, as he attempted to sooth her with a softly hummed tune. She craved her mother’s touch, this much he understood, but he still tried to calm her as best he could. The baby had mostly been in his care for the past four months, nevertheless it was still she whom she yearned for every hour in every day. The key turned in the door. She is finally home. But he remained in his place, baby held tightly, eyes fixed on the street.
She wrapped her arms around his waist and pressed her body against his to warm herself. She is my caregiver, she is my rock, she is my backbone, she is my angel, he thought. I should be out there in this cold shivering and struggling to provide, instead I’m safe behind these walls, protected for harm and safe from the winter winds while she plunges through the streets every morning and returns weary every night. And still she smiles.
“Got my paycheck today,” she said.
“I went to the supermarket, bought all the essentials and a large jar of Nutella.”
He turned to face her and said. “You shouldn’t have done that.”
“I wanted to. It’s a treat for both of us. And there’s still plenty of money to pay the rent and utilities and cover the month’s expenses. We’re good.”
“I’m going to find a job.”
“I’ve been sending out resumes and…”
He tried to explain, but she placed her hand on his lips. “Not another word on the subject. You’re a good man. With or without a job.”
Her words were not a comfort, but a burden. They had promised to be equals, to support one another, to provide for their family together. An agreement they had both upheld, until he found himself helpless, until he became a liability, or so he felt. For almost a year he had stayed at home, jobless, carving through their savings until they dwindled to nothing, forcing her to return to her job earlier than planned. He had denied her this time with her first child, yet she still viewed him as a good man, a man worthy of her sacrifice, a man worthy of her.