The top of the sky was bright purple, gradually turning a radiant orange the lower you looked.
The view of Kyrgyzstan from up on this mountain was always absolutely magnificent. I could clearly see the sun setting, as we are so high up that the clouds are below us. It made me feel like we are already in heaven, looking down at the world below us. All those people in the city have no idea how magical life can be out here, away from all the hustle and bustle.
I turned to look at my wife. She had her eyes closed, her face gleaming in the light and her headscarf flickering in the wind. She used to come here by herself before we met, but now we come here every day together.
I had married Ainura around four years ago. Our parents had arranged for us to meet. I was very excited to finally get to speak to her. The first time I saw her, I knew I had to have her. She was walking past my yurt one morning, coming back from one of her walks. Her face was radiant and she was almost skipping from her happiness. Her joyful spirit immediately attracted me to her.
This was such a contrast to my mother. Do not get me wrong, I love over everything! I would die for her. But she is a miserable old lady. Do not remember a time when she even said “I love you” to either me or my father. But Ainura and I would be different. I could picture it in my head, the both of us sitting down for breakfast, surrounded by at least four children, everyone smiling and loving each other.
But the picture-perfect future I imagined for us made me insanely nervous when asking for her hand in marriage. Our parents had arranged for us all to have dinner at their house. During that dinner, I had tried my hardest to make jokes, to flatter her. She kept laughing at all my stupid jokes, which just showed we shared the same sense of humour. And she had cooked all the food. And my parents loved her. There was no one more suited for me.
Then at some point, when she was talking to me about how she had made some carpet, the words, “marry me?” had jumped out of my mouth to interrupt her. Our parents let out sighs of joy and my mother clapped. But Ainura was silent, her face white and pale. Every millisecond she had not responded, the further and further my picture perfect dream was slipping out of my reach.
But in the end, though it took quite a while for her to say, she did accept. We had no time to dawdle and married within 3 months.
Before I knew it, we were already home at our yurt. I was so lost in my memories I had not realised we had already been heading home.
As soon as I walked in, my mother started asking us questions about our walk. I looked to Ainura to reply, but she said said nothing, just turned to give a helping hand to my mother with her cooking.
I turned to my father and my beautiful daughter, who were at the other side of the room playing with her hand made dolls. I sat to join them, had to kill time while the women made the food.
We sat down to have dinner. Ainura and my mum had cooked manty and borsok, with various salads. Of course Ainura poured all of us a cup of black tea with the food. After the dinner my parents left to their own yurt, but they would be back again in the morning. Ainura went off to clean all the dishes. I just lay on my back, next to our little Jamilya.
Jamilya, giggled while playing with her toys. Ainura had made all of her dolls from felt. How skilled my Ainura is.
As soon as she came back she put our little one to bed, made our bed, and we crawled in. We always slept half a meter apart. I think it is because we respect each others personal space. But at the same time, I feel as though Ainura has been a little distant lately. She has not been her cheerful self for the last couple of months. But then again, we are probably just at a stage of our marriage where we understand each others need for a good night’s rest.
I was laying in bed on my back, eyes closed, looking forward to tomorrow, another day with my lovely family. Just as I had been about to doze off, “Nurlan,” Ainura had broken the calm night silence.
“Hmm?” I had barely let out, almost asleep.
“I can’t do this anymore.”
“Do what, honey?” I half mumbled.
“All of this. I really need a change.”
“You’re just tired, Ainura. Everything will be great again tomorrow, you’ll see,” I said reassuringly in a very clear and calm voice. My dear Ainura must have been exhausted. And she must have agreed with me as she said nothing more.
The next morning, I woke up to the smell naan bread and a fresh kettle of tea outside. I thought about what Ainura said last night. Was she really sick of this place? I know she told me she had always dreamed of moving out of this village when she was younger. Is that what she meant? But why had she not hinted at this earlier?
I joined everyone outside, my mother, father, and daughter were all sat at the tables. Ainura poured everyone a cup of tea. I came to help her, and told her to sit. She did not thank me, nor did she give me a smile. She just kept looking down and sat down.
“So how did everyone sleep last night?” I asked.
My mother went on to describe her dream that Ainura and I had three more children, and they were sons. Her vivid description of our imaginary children went on for 20 minutes. Finally I looked to Ainura for her answer. But she would not look up at me. She just sat there, eating the bread with tea.
“Ainura?” I asked as softly as possible.
“Your sleep, how was it?”
“You obviously don’t remember our conversation,” she said coldly, still not looking at him.
My mother’s jaw dropped. “How dare you speak to your husband like that! Who do you think you are?” She exclaimed.
“No it’s fine mother,” I dismissed my mother. “What is wrong my dear?”
She finally looked up. She looked at my mother at the edge of the table, slowly moved her eyes to my father at the middle, quickly glanced at our daughter, then finally turned her head to her side to look into my eyes. The silence let the intensity grow.
Then in a sweet broken up voice she says, “I can not do this anymore.” She broke down in tears, hiding her face in her hands.
I was in shock. She cannot do what anymore? Was not everything going well? Has she not been enjoying our life as much as I have? Because we have been doing everything exactly the same ever since we got married.
I realised I had not moved a single muscle. I was still staring at Ainura. She had finally taken her hands off her face to reveal her red, puffy skin, her eyes begging for my response.
How am I supposed to react? What am I supposed to say? I moved my eyes to see how everyone else was reacting. My father looked very sympathetic. But my mother. Her face had turned tomato red. She was obviously not happy with Ainura’s dissatisfaction. She was standing, her hands were pressed against the table, elbows to the side. I felt as though she would jump up at Ainura.
Quick, I had to decide what to do. Should I just tell her everything will be fine, then go on with life? Or do I need t make a change? But what change?
Now the silence has gone on for too long and everyone is staring at me as though I have mental problems.
Ainura broke the silence by saying, “I feel like we are not doing anything. I think if we move and try something new, things could be much better?”
I guess we could move to a city, but is that really necessary?
Then Ainura explained, “You don’t have to do anything to exist, but you have to do something to be.” When she said this, I understood her. She wanted something new, she wanted to feel like she is doing something interesting and different. I think moving would definitely make her happier. And I did not want her to end up being as miserable as my mother, in this little village.
Finally, I opened mouth to say we are staying, but out came, “OK honey, let’s move, to a city”
Her mood changed to a complete new direction. She let out a yelp of excitement, jumped up and hugged me as tight as possible. My face could not help but smile from one ear to the other. My heart started pumping from all the joy I brought to her. She gave me a huge smooch and went to pick up Jamilya in excitement.
Another day at the office was done. I was sitting at the bar with my friend James. We had met at one of Ainura’s dinner parties, here in London. I don’t really know what we were talking about, his strong English accent could not be understood.
When James asked me how work was today, I started listing everyone I hate there, which was everyone I know in the office. Then to not look like a pessimistic shit, I said, “Except Alfie,” though I hate him too. He always stole my cigarette, and since he was my boss, well technically everyone there was my superior, I let him. But today he drew the line by taking my last cigarette. And I really needed that one. So actually, at this exact moment I hate him too. But I need to seem like I don’t hate absolutely everyone.
James laughed, “You must be having a bad day today.”
I took a second to think. Slowly I came to realise how disconnected I have been behaving today. I barely spoke to anyone in the office, I did not feel like having lunch, and I did everything other than my actual job at work. I didn’t even feel like having a cigarette on my way here.
But why do I feel this way? I took a moment to think. I feel weird. Different than usual. But I cannot pinpoint what I feel exactly.
Am I really mad at people at work? Maybe I am mad at Hugh because I overheard him telling Sophie that I am doing the reports only now. And I was doing it only late, but only because I was just doing what I was told. I had asked him last week if I should do it right away, but he said it was not important.
And now Sophie thinks I am the reason everything had to be delayed. That Hugh. He didn’t explain the whole story. And the way he said it made it sound like “Huh, I know it sucks, but not my fault, Nurlan’s fault.” That shitface.
Or, it could be my job itself. I only got this job as an office clerk through Ainura’s friend who used to work here too. And the job of office clerk was the only position that did not require a university degree. So I guess I’m stuck with this.
But actually, I think I felt fine after work. Maybe it is not that.
Maybe it is because Zoey has been talking about how great her relationship with her new boyfriend is. How good looking he is, how much fun they have, how good the sex is. And she is really gorgeous. And it does not help that James is also married. I mean, she is quite ugly, but she seems to really love him.
Only now I realised I had downed six beers while James was talking about whatever. I put more weight on my feet and my body automatically got up, waved James goodbye, and started walking home.
It is 10 p.m. and no one is home. Ainura must still be out with her friends. I made myself instant noodles for dinner.
Maybe it is not just one thing. Maybe it is everything here. I finally came to the realisation that everyday that I am here and not back home, the more I hate everything around me. Things that seemed fine the first couple of weeks are now simply unbearable. I need to talk to Ainura later on in the week. I need to see how she feels.
Now finally having decided on a plan, I decided to to sit in front of the TV till I would fall asleep. Around 2 a.m. I woke up and crawled into bed, as usual.
The morning came way too soon. I see Ainura passed out on the bed right next me. All she will do today is sleep, while I am off earning the money. Then all night she will be out again. But at least she is happy here. Anything to keep my love. And at least Jamilya lives with my parents and does not need to witness her mother in such a state.
“Morning,” Ainura smiles up at me with her eyes closed, as I get dressed for work.
“Good morning, honey,” I respond softly.
“You are coming home late tonight, right? You have that poker night thing, right?”
“Every Thursday you ask me the same thing, and every Thursday I respond yes,” I said, amused by her cute caring. I lean over her to give her a kiss but she rolls over.
“Well I am off to work then, have a good day honey!”
Work is boring as always. I do not actually have a bachelor’s degree so I do not have a proper job. All I do is help everyone around the office. Check what needs to be checked, tick what needs to be ticked, file what needs to be filed. But thank God for those cigarette breaks. I only took up smoking because here you only get breaks if it is for a smoke. Hated it at first, made me cough like crazy. But now I smoke like a chimney and love it.
Ainura and I had moved here two months ago. Her friend lives here so we stayed at hers with Jamilya for a while. Then Ainura really started getting along with everyone here. I think it is because people her age here still act childish and stay out all night. And I could not take care of Jamilya when Ainura was away. So we eventually decided that Ainura would be better off back in Kyrgyzstan with my parents.
This would not be permanent though. I know that Ainura is just going through a phase. I need to keep my strength just a little longer. Soon she will have enough of this irresponsible lifestyle, and we will move back to our village together. Or maybe we could compromise and move to Bishkek. Any how, I know soon she will have enough. Just all in her own time.
I see Hugh walking up towards me.
“Hey man, did you hear?” he asked me. He is never straight to the point. He always has to have a long dialogue.
“No I did not, tell me,” I said in monotone, already sick of his presence.
“Poker night is canceled tonight. Better call your wife and let her know,” he smiled as he walks away again.
Oh well, not such a big deal. I had been wanting to spend more time with Ainura anyways. Maybe I should surprise her? I could buy her a bouquet of roses to show my appreciation for her. Straight after work, I stopped by the local flower shop, bought one of the most expensive bouquets (but she is definitely worth it), and headed on home. It is only 6 p.m. so Ainura should still be home before going out.
I put my keys into the lock and turn to open the door. As I walked in, I felt the air have a different kind of feel to it. The apartment’s atmosphere was off, it did not feel clean, but felt really wrong. I could hear some kind of animal. Did Ainura buy a pet? Why did she not tell me?
I dropped my bag next to my shoes and waked slowly through the corridor towards the sounds coming from the living room. The closer I got, the more I realised it was not an animal, it was Ainura moaning. Maybe she was just pleasuring herself? I did not know she did that but it makes a lot of sense, considering how little we sleep together.
As I enter the living room, I realise she is still further away, in the bedroom. Maybe we will have some fun now, now the she is in the mood. I hold the roses tighter in my hand and stretch out the other to open the bedroom door.
I see, Ainura, on top of another man, completely naked, on our bed. Ainura realises, turns to me, jaw dropped. The man pushes her off him, grabs my blanket, covers himself. Ainura now on the floor, paralysed, staring back at me.
My whole body went weak. The roses dropped out of my hands to the ground. I turned around, walked as fast as possible, through the living room, through the corridor, down the building stairs and straight out of the building.
My whole body was numb. I could not think. Did that really just happen? Did my eyes deceive me? No. I saw what I saw. My heart stopped and I stood still. Tears started pouring out of my eyes all down my face. I could feel my shirt getting drenched. I continued walking.
How could Ainura do this to me? After everything I had done for her? I left my family for her. I moved to a new country for her. I sent my daughter away for her. I took a shitty job for her. And after all that, this is how she repays me?
How long has she been doing this? Every time I had chess club? Did she do this every time she went out with her friends as well? I started recalling all the times she did not come home during the night, and just showed up in the morning. She always claimed she stayed over at her friends because they live closer to the centre. But now? Now I am doubting everything. She has been going out ever since the second week we moved here. Has she been sleeping around since then?
I looked around and realised I had no idea where I was. I was in some random park I had never been to before. I sat down on one of the benches, pulled my legs up to my chest and leaned my head against my knees. Nothing makes sense.
I looked up and saw the street lights were all on. It was night. How long was I here. I barely had time to think. I took out my phone to check the time, and I see 14 missed calls from Ainura.
Ok, so what now? I could not sleep in the park. I used my GPS on my phone to find my way back. I stuck my key into the lock again, twist to open, and there sits Ainura, fully dressed, on the floor. Her whole face was puffy red, her eyes covered in smudged mascara.
“Thank God you came back home Nurlan!” she exclaimed. She jumped forward to hug me as tight as possible. She had not shown me this much love since I agreed to move out of our village. She sobbed all over my shoulder, explaining how sorry she was.
“I know I did wrong, I really did. I am a terrible person. But Nurlan, I cannot survive without you. You cannot leave me. I need you. What will happen to our little Jamilya? She will not be able to live without her mother. You need me. You both need me. Do not leave me.” Ainura then dropped down to her knees to beg.
“I will be a loving wife, Nurlan. I am a loving wife.”
I have never seen Ainura like this before. Ever since I met her, she has been a well composed person, saying everything she wants in a concise manner. And now she is blabbering on about what?
The way she now started kissing me, everything she was saying… does that not show at least the slightest bit of love she has for me? And now that she has finally realised what she has done, she will never do this to me again, that is for sure. Why should I leave the mother of my child when she is finally showing affection towards me? Leave my lovely Ainura?
But then again how can I be with someone who cheats on me? The only reason she is in any way regretful is because she is scared I will keep Jamilya away from her. And why should I not keep Jamilya away, after what she has been doing to me. That’s it, it is over between me and Ainura.
“Nurlan, honey, I truly really do love you,” Ainura whispered while giving him the cutest and most genuinely smile.
Fireworks exploded in my head. This was the first time Ainura said she loved me. I have been waiting for this moment ever since the first time a saw her. If she does finally realise her love for me, we can finally fulfil my picture of a perfect family. I looked her deep into he eyes and said, “I love you too, honey.”