“It wasn’t running away; I was coming home. I was happy, for the briefest period in my long miserable life and all seemed perfect. That’s the thing with perfection though, it’s just a myth. Last night I was in Rome and it was beautiful,” I said wistfully.
“You and your dreams.” Sarosh wasn’t impressed. “You can’t live inside your head forever.”
“As much as I hate to agree with you, I know you’re right,” I admitted.
“Then why do you do this? First, it was Egypt and now it’s Rome.”
“You won’t understand, my dear,” I said. “How many places have you visited in your lifetime?”
“A handful, I suppose,” she said and looked at me questioningly.
“I’ve never left this town in my entire life. At first, I was too young then I was too busy and now, I can’t,” I said, looking pointedly at my wheelchair. It was resting beside our bed.
“You know that wheelchair isn’t the reason why you can’t visit Rome,” she said. “That’s all in your head. If you truly want to you can go anywhere in the world.”
“You never let me pity myself.” This time my smile reached my eyes. That was so like Sarosh. She hated it if I victimized myself because of my disability. She always said that I could still do anything I put my mind to and she was right. The trouble was I had gotten so used to people looking at me sympathetically that I had started to believe I was less than them, less than normal. Of course, it was all in my head. As much as I liked to blame my wheelchair it had nothing to do with my lack of mobility. There were other problems, my social anxiety for one and let’s not disregard my OCD. I didn’t know how to live a fuller life, where I could go out, or take vacations. Those things weren’t for me. My books and my dreams were the only way I could travel.
“Why do you do that to yourself. If you want to visit Rome so badly, I can take you,” she said.
“I know, it’s not about Rome,” I replied.
“True, but Rome is a beautiful place. I think it’d be the best place for our first vacation together. What do you say?” She asked, hoping I’d say yes.
“Travel to the other side of the world? No thank you.” There was no way I could ever do something as adventurous as that. What if our plane crashed? What if I got sick and couldn’t get help in time? What if our hotel room wasn’t clean enough? What if the food tasted awful? There was simply too much to think about and that was why travel was out of the question for me. “But no one is stopping you. You should visit Rome sometime. I’ve only read good things about it.”
“Without you? That would be no fun,” she said with a small smile.
“You can go with your girlfriends. I thought all women love that,” I said, encouraging her. She had been my support system for so long that I had begun to take her presence in my life for granted. She should live her life to the fullest even if my phobias prevented me to do so.
“What girlfriends?” She asked bitterly.
That’s when I noticed how long it had been since she went out or one of her friends came over to our house. It broke my heart to realize that I had been so focused on my problems that I had never given her’s a single thought. What she wanted, no, what she needed was to have a life of her own. A life that didn’t require her to take care of her crippled husband day and night.
“What about Jane?” I asked. If I remembered correctly, she was Sarosh’s best friend and had been for many years.
“She moved to London three years ago. Don’t you remember?”
I hadn’t but I wasn’t going to admit that. When was the last time I paid any attention to my wife and her feelings? To be honest, at that moment I was hating myself. There I was drowning in self-pity while my wife did everything for me without even pointing it out. I realized how much I had been holding her back and decided that something needed to change.
“Tell me more about your dream?” She asked cheerfully. I felt that she was trying to change the topic before her thoughts turned dark. She must know what an ungrateful man I was.
“Oh, the dream was beautiful. We were in Rome and everything was perfect. I can always walk in my dreams. Probably, why I love my dreams more than reality. But none of that. Let’s talk about you,” I said, willing myself to stay positive and not let my thoughts wander towards the things that bothered me. It was true that my life wasn’t perfect but whose was? Sarosh’s life was worse than me. At least, it felt that way when I thought about her instead of myself.
The next day, I looked up Jane. Sarosh had gone out shopping and it was a perfect opportunity for me to set up a surprise for her. I had always liked Jane. Of all of her friends, she was the most genuine and loving woman. We talked for a while and when I explained to her what I was planning she supported my idea wholeheartedly. After that, I booked a one-way ticket to London for Sarosh. Jane and I had decided that Sarosh could visit her first. Stay in London for a week or so and then the two of them would go to Rome together. I’d see it through my wife’s eyes. She could take pictures and write about all the amazing places I wanted to see but couldn’t.
After making all the arrangements I felt good. In ten years of marriage, this was probably the first time I had done something for her. I was sure this would make her happy but I was wrong. It turned out that once again I was thinking about myself and not her.
“When have I ever wanted to travel?” She asked me, annoyed that I had made all these plans without even consulting her. “It’s your dream. You’re the one who has always wanted to see Rome and Egypt and what not! Not me, I don’t want to travel. I don’t even think I’d like it much. What made you do such a thing?”
“I thought you felt stuck with me. We were talking last night about Rome and you looked sad.” I honestly had no idea what I did wrong.
“I was sad for you, you idiot,” she said exasperated. “It kills me to see you like this. It breaks my heart when you underestimate all the things you can do.”
That’s when it dawned on me, my wife thought of me as much as I thought of myself. I fell a little more in love with her. We ended up taking that vacation together, first London then, Rome and it was better than any dream.
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