At a Loss
The man had a considerate wife, a son who lived with his ex-wife in a different city, and an irregular job he had been doing for some time now. It was perfect when he got home on Friday for his wife had done shopping and was already at home cooking his favorite dish. He liked eating till he was full and he usually ate his meals in a hurry. From time to time his wife would stop him and say: Eat slowly, man, nobody is taking away your food.

This made him think of his mother and how she praised him for eating fast by saying: Son, eating fast in times of adversity is heroic and commendable in you. You wouldn’t have any problems if you were a soldier. He used to even compete with his brothers on who could eat their food the fastest. People admired his regular white teeth and he had now a good reason to be kind to his teeth by swallowing his food. But then he remembered a woman saying: if I want to find out how good a man is in bed I will eat with him first and if he eats his food in a hurry I’ll keep away from him.

As he finished his dinner he knew his wife would say again: don’t worry I’ll do the dishes. He would then move his swollen frame with difficulty, go upstairs to his room and switch on his digital and analogue equipment. He had at least two or three TVs in his room in addition to his many computers and other devices. His wife sometimes complained that this was the reason for the high electricity bill. But he was now tired and it was only a matter of minutes before he fell asleep in his armchair for a while. By the time he went to bed his wife would be fast asleep. He would then take a book or two with him in the hopes of reading for a while but seldom stayed awake. Within a couple of minutes he was dead to the world.

He always ate the same food, drank the same drinks and wore the same clothes. They lived in a terraced house. He started his work in the afternoons or in the evenings but sometimes he even worked on Friday evenings and Saturdays. On Monday mornings he would repeat to his wife. "Well, another week, another shower, another day of making the beds, drinking coffee, working, shopping and watching TV. How long do you think this is going to continue?"

Occasionally when he came back home late, before turning the key in the door he would feel a shudder: "This evening everything will be different. Nobody will be at home to wait for me. There will be no food, no tea, no TV." But when he opened the door he found everything was the same.

After changing into his casual clothes would go up to his wife and say, "Thank God you are still alive!" He would then sigh and say, "You know if I can’t find peace at work I hope I can find peace with you as my partner in my own home. But if only I could ignore the terrible neighbors!"

The following Saturday he had to work again. He came back home completely exhausted. His wife had prepared his favorite dish. She felt sorry for him and knew he depended on her so much. Unlike him, he did not change into his casual clothes, but sat down in his underwear to eat. He dug in as usual but was unable to hide his unease. It was obvious that there was something troubling him. What was it, his wife thought? She was surprised at how slowly he ate. They were in the dining room but his gaze was fixed on the street outside. He raised his head every time someone passed by, as if he was expecting someone. He then saw a man stop a woman and get into an argument. Suddenly the man took off a shoe and started hitting the woman on her head. The woman fell down unconscious.

He suddenly got up and stormed out of the house. His wife ran after him shouting, "Come back! You can’t go out like that in your underwear!". But it was too late. He was looking everywhere but the woman and the man were gone. People on the street looked at him oddly, asking , "Have you lost something, sir?" He answered, "Yes, I saw a man hitting a woman with his shoes. Where have they gone?" A man hitting a woman with his shoes on the street? People laughed. His wife shouted to him to come inside but he didn’t move. She dragged him inside saying, "You're making a fool of yourself!" But he answered, "I saw a man hitting a poor woman with his shoes. Wonder where they went to. You know, it isn’t much fun to be a poor woman in this damned place."

Bremen, 28 May 2008