The Voyage – Part Five The Dinner Aftermath Bruce McCorkill
The welcome dinner has been an absolute disaster, with Brian behaving appallingly.
The fixer needs a break, and has handed over the boat to the passengers to self steer for a while.
That night as they were going to bed, Carol struck her husband between the eyes with a lump of concrete. She didn’t of course, but the effect was the same as he reeled back struggling to protect himself from the barrage of verbal blows. He had partly been expecting this, but wasn’t prepared for the ferocity of Carol’s attack. It reminded him of a Vietnam fire fight; you could only hunker down and hope to survive.
‘Brian, you are a fool. You totally destroyed my night. You behaved like an ignorant slob. Do you realise how much I wanted to make the night work. All the work I put into making that special dish, and all you could do was rubbish it, said it tasted like a curry on steroids. Rashid and Samira won’t want to live with a racist pig like you. Where did all those awful jokes come from? From your bogon mates at the club I suppose. We’ve been married a long time, but you’ve never behaved like this. And talking about marriage, I’m not sure I want to stay married to you, we’re on the rocks as far as I’m concerned.’
‘I’m sorry Carol, really sorry.’
‘I really wanted this to work. In some ways I still want our marriage to work, although I don’t really know why. We used to have fun, do things together. Since you lost your job, you have been unbearable. All you do is go down to the club and come home tanked. And on the subject of the club, believe me, I don’t want to learn how to fucking well bowl. And I’m also sick of you talking about the great seniors meals on special there. I can cook you know. I don’t think I can cope with you anymore.’’
‘I’m sorry Carol, really sorry.’
‘And another thing. What’s with all these sudden nightmares? You suddenly start yelling ‘I’m sorry, I’m wrong,’ then you wake up sweaty and crying. This happens every night lately. You won’t tell me what it means. What happened to cause this? Why won’t you tell me? Don’t you trust me? Bloody hell, I’ve lived with you for forty years, I have a right to know if something is so terribly wrong with you.’
‘I don’t know Carol, I really don’t know.’
‘Why did you do this to me? And to Rashid and Samira. What made you behave like that? You were fine at the start. But when we all sat down and Samira tried to be friendly, you suddenly changed. Why? What’s going on in your thick skull?
I don’t know Carol, I really don’t know.’
This exchange went on and on. Not an explosive outburst, just a whole lot of quiet venom, where she systematically slashed Brian and his attitude to shreds. And also used words that Brian didn’t know that his wife of forty years even knew. Carol finished with,
‘I need to think about our marriage, or what is left of it. I need to look at our future, which is not looking good. I need to work out what I want from a partner, which you are not giving me. Now get the hell out of here and sleep on the couch, I can’t stand to be near you. And stop trying to touch me.’
Brian realised he also had a lot of thinking to do, as he slunk down to the couch. Most of that revolved around the fact that he did actually know what had happened earlier on. He knew what caused his sudden behaviour change. The .problem was that he didn’t know how to tell Carol.
Rashid also thought about the night. With Brian’s behaviour he wasn’t worried. He had seen that back home in the province. Men with no tolerance to different points of view, men who thought to be strong was to ridicule others with different beliefs. He understand how Brian might be concerned and even frightened about having to share his home with strangers of a different culture. He perceived that Brian was a proud strong man. Carol had explained how his job loss had changed him, made him sad and morose and lost.
He understood these things. After all, Rashid had gone through the same but much worse. He had been persecuted by the Taliban, just for being a Hazara. Had been prevented from doing his teaching job, had been hounded and decried for his beliefs. Finally he had been reduced to an asylum seeker, forced to travel to a distant country to get some decent life for his family. Rashid’s wife was dead and his daughter had suffered terribly. So he was more curious than insulted. He decided to be patient and try to understand Brian .He saw pain in Brian’s eyes and wondered what happened after they sat down and Brian suddenly changed.
‘What do you make of last night Samira? Why did Brian behave like that?’
‘I’m not sure father. Carol warned me that Brian would be nervous and not sure how to behave. The strange thing was that I liked him from the start. I sense that underneath the bad talk he is a decent man. He reminds me of the Australian soldiers back home; big, strong and tough when fighting the Taliban, but always kind to the women and children. Remember Sergeant Smith who taught us how to play Aussie rules, Brian reminds me of him.’
‘What about his racist jokes and attitude to women? Did they upset you?’
‘Father, you know the abuse I suffered back home and on the journey here. A young Muslim woman with an education, with feminist views, a woman who only wore the full burka under sufferance. I can easily cope with Brian and his ways.
What troubles me is why Brian suddenly changed. When we sat down and I smiled at him, it was as though a shock suddenly shot through his mind. He looked frightened and confused. It seemed as if he looked into his mind and saw something bad. I think Brian is a man in pain. Like many of the men back home. Carol has been kind to us, and Brian is willing for us to live in his home. Let us just be patient and find out what is troubling Brian.’
Issues for the fixer to sort out.
What is going on in Brian’s mind?
Will Carol finish the marriage?
To be continued.