"Little Pink Box" Part Two
Kareem's mother showed Juwan a natural remedy for treating the underlying emotional conditions that contributed to her weight gain, and it was working. The pounds were shedding off and she wasn’t taking any medication, drinking any special tea, or even following a formal diet or workout regimen. Even Kareem told her that she was looking hotter a few times, but she knew that he was lying because he felt guilty for making her self-esteem plummet in the first place. Plus, Juwan knew his family was giving him a hard time for being cruel with her.
One morning, Juwan woke up after Kareem, oddly enough. He had been staying home without any scheduled MRI's, and while it was a huge source of stress on Juwan, she tried to be patient. She brought him every meal to his designated spot on the couch, as he sat sprawled over the micro suede cushions and compulsively indulged in movie after movie on his laptop. He didn’t do much of anything else, every single day and every single night. She knew that much of what Kareem was watching was R or even X-rated, because he would not let her watch along with him. He said that he knew she would give him a hard time about the nudity and/or sex, and he was right. Juwan was becoming more and more jealous by the day. She didn’t understand why nobody around her—not her husband or even his family—thought it was a big deal that he was constantly bombarding his eyes with female nudity, without even making an attempt at lowering his gaze. Kareem’s father only dodged the issue when it was finally brought up by Juwan's own family. Instead, he told Juwan that she needed to focus on herself and not her husband—that she should dress more modestly with her hijab and stop wearing mascara outside of the home. That Juwan should stop rushing through prayers and should read more Quran.
Sometimes, she contented herself by cuddling up beside Kareem and watching various shows that she had herself become introduced to by her husband—she loved Heros, and some show about two nerds with a beautiful female neighbor. Kareem said that she reminded him of one of the ugly geeks next door that was lucky enough to somehow wind up landing a relationship with his hot babe of a neighbor (who, he said, reminded him of himself).
Most of the time, Kareem was like a zombie in the house, and Juwan was happier with him being a zombie than being the monster that he was when he lost his temper, so for the most part, she stopped bothering him. She knew exactly how he liked to drink his soda, and even though she didn’t believe in buying soda for numerous reasons (ranging from guilt for supporting Israel’s economy to the countless health issues soda raises), she brought him glass after glass with exactly the right amount of ice in it, all the time. He could down a couple liters in a day when he felt like it.
He usually woke up every morning to find coffee ready, mixed with one of his sappy, yummy, sugary creamers like Irish crème or butterscotch. On most days, Juwan would make a semi-creative breakfast and then wake him up just in time to find the table set with the food hot and ready (although, usually, he would just yell at her and roll over, sleeping again until the food got cold…or get up and go to his place on the couch and wait for her to move the food there for him to eat in solitude with his movie). Juwan made sure to rush to the laundry room and throw clean towels from the linen closet into the dryer for five minutes right before he got out of the shower every day. That way, Kareem could indulge in that wonderful feeling of fluffy warmth after moving the shower curtain aside and stepping out into the icy cold bathroom. She was still trying.
This morning, though, when she woke up, he was already dressed in his usual tattered jeans and Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirt. He sat above Juwan and began rambling excitedly about how delicious the grapefruit they purchased during their last shopping trip was. She sat up, yawned, and rubbed her eyes as he leaped off the bed and ran out of the room.
He came back a few moments later and presented his wife with a bowl that had one half of a juicy, fresh, cold grapefruit in it. He handed Juwan a spoon. He had worked to carve the pieces of grapefruit out of the shell without disrupting the surface, so it still looked intact. But in actuality, every single time she dipped her spoon into the juicy fruit, it scooped up a perfectly cut, refreshing piece of grapefruit that Kareem had made sure to soak in honey for a few minutes prior to feeding her. It was just the perfect balance between sweet and sour and it made her taste buds sing in delight. She couldn’t have been more pleased.
Juwan's marriage was not at all turning out how she had expected. All the two did, day after day, was mope around their little apartment. He watched TV; sometimes she did too. Sometimes she didn’t clean. But they always ate. The only times they left the house were to go see his family, or if Juwan's little sister needed her for something. Or, Juwan left the house when he wanted his friends to spend the night, or she stayed home alone when he left to go hang out with his friends for a day or two.
But, as she ate this cold, delicious piece of fruit—feeling so flattered that he would go so far as to prepare breakfast for her before she woke up—she didn’t care about any of that.
“I wanted to eat it with you,” he said sheepishly, explaining that the romantic idea had occurred to him to eat a half and give his wife the other half, “but I couldn’t wait for you to wake up—it was that good.” He said it was tough to carve without a special knife, but Juwan thought it was perfect.
She smiled and blinked, and smiled some more. She looked twice at her husband to make sure he was really serious. Seriously? She thought: He isn’t just feeding me leftovers because he didn’t want to eat the whole thing himself? No, he really prepared this just for me! Such a tender, simple act made her feel so pampered; she loved it. She loved him. It was moments like these that kept Juwan hopefully holding onto her marriage--even if only by a thread.