Several weeks ago, I was having a quick cup of coffee at a quaint little Chinese coffee-shop, somewhere in a quaint little town called Bahau. Next to my table sat a threesome; presumably a husband, a wife and their teenage daughter. Since the marble-top tables were placed close to each other, I could not help but overhear odd snippets from their conversation.
“That’s one cool guy, sitting over there. He looks extremely fit, doesn’t he?” said the wife, referring to a hunk who sat by himself all the way across the coffee-shop floor from them. “He looks like he could be a commando” she continued.
“Hmmm, I wonder what he does for a living?” asked the daughter.
“Judging from the way he’s built, he probably is a commando” replied the father, obviously wanting to add some sort of contribution to the conversation.
“Yeah! But doesn’t he just look so delicious?!” remarked the daughter.
“That he does! But not too long ago, would you believe that people used to say things like that about me, too –” offered the father, half-jesting and half-reminiscing.
“But that was a lifetime ago, dear” the wife interjected, dismissing his claim to fame.
Undeterred, and still eager to add humour to the proceedings, the father quipped “– but I guess when people see me now, they just go ‘Hey! Isn’t that one of the Teletubbies?'”, half expecting his family to at least laugh a little at his attempt at self-effacing humour.
Instead, he was rewarded with a stern “Don’t you know that to liken you to one of the Teletubbies would be a compliment?”
I had heard enough. Though there was a great big smile on the husband face, unless I had gone totally blind, there was no mistaking the disappointment in his eyes. I paid for my half-finished coffee and walked off.
Must the familiarity that comes with the years of marriage breed such callousness in a spouse? I should certainly hope not – notwithstanding that time has fashioned me to be as jaded and cynical as I am. Turning my ignition key, I glanced at the poor husband once again.
Suddenly he wasn’t so pathetic anymore. Recalling the brave smile on his face, I was humbled by the thought that he was indeed a tougher and more valorous man than I could ever hope to be. How could anyone take that kind of punishment and still go on? I could learn a thing or two from that man.