More often than not though, pride — and that narcissistic ego of ours — trumps the bigger picture.
To this day I still struggle to remember what exactly had been the catalyst for our explosive argument that morning, where we screeched at each other like pious Wall Street traders on the verge of another economic meltdown.
We were probably grimacing over typical relationship duties, like whose turn it was to wash the dishes, take out the trash, or maybe something a little worse, like changing the little man's diaper. So it reeked of a chamber in the pit of hell. In hindsight, who cares?
The one thing I do perfectly recall was her final words: "I'm leaving you and I'm not coming back!"
Eight words that pierced right through, like a sleek knife through a sponge. The shouting had ceased by now and her tone had softened, somewhat lethargic on this occasion. A defeated manner that now spoke with an air of nonchalance, beyond care. Whatever it was, her mind made up; it already didn't matter anymore.
"Then go!" I retorted, foolishly. My body language didn't reveal my angst — arms folded, taut neck, nostrils ballooning with each breath. "Go!" I shouted. "Who's stopping you?" These were words I would later come to regret.
She didn't leave immediately. It took a while to pack her necessities: glasses (check), a change of clothes (check), her makeup bag (check). Last but not least, our boy.
As each second passed I let another opportunity to rectify the situation elapse. Say something, Banji! Anything! But amidst the jarring noise of the door as it slammed shut, accompanied by the wailing of a confused toddler, I said nothing.
As I sat there in the aftermath, a hapless soul in the middle of a hollow living room, glancing at my watch every other second, with all but a glass of Jack Daniels to befriend me, I almost shed a tear. Almost.
"She'll be back, won't she?" I asked him. Jack said nothing, as usual. He just listened.
An hour had passed, she hadn't returned. One hour became two. Two, twenty four. The day turned to weeks. But as much as I wanted to, the man in me somehow resisted the urge to call. After all, I was in the right — or so I supposed. She should be the one begging me. No, I wouldn't contact her, even if I was dying.
Unbeknownst to me, I already was. Death wasn't necessarily just the absence of life from one's physical corpse, but rather the fatal crushing of one's very soul while still alive and breathing.
I can't think of another time in my life when I experienced a greater degree of pain than during this period of separation from my wife and son. Oftentimes, I'd stumble across an old photo, like the selfie from Josephine and Frank's wedding. The little man resembling an angel, half asleep, cradled in her arms. I'm crouched behind them over the back of the chair, arms wrapped around my beloved and the other earnestly clutching the phone; teeth baring grins galore.
These pictures would take me back to the mornings he'd annoyingly pounce on me at 7 AM, shouting "Daddy!! Daddy!!" And as much as I'd beseech her back then — "Please sort him out, I beg! You know you're better at this." — I'd give anything to be woken up by him in the morning again. Anything to feel his not-so-gentle tug on my goatee again come 8 PM each night, when I'd arduously attempt to rock him to sleep.
So of course, as I press rewind to then replay the fight scene again from a bird's eye view, I see myself doing things differently. I've held her hands now, softly, drawing her closer into me as I kiss her forehead.
"I love you," I whisper in her left ear, and a little smile begins to crack like dawn as her cheeks redden in the heat of our exchange. "I'm sorry I've hurt you," I'm saying, wiping away a salty droplet caught in the crevice of her eye. "It's all a misunderstanding. Baby, we can fix this?"
Dreams do come true for some, but sadly there's no pause button, no re-run in real life. I can only thank God that there was a sequel to this movie. Things may happen to be a little better in the camp nowadays, fingers crossed, but even after mending, a clay pot that was once broken will still displays its cracks. War scars, evidence that one once partook in the battle.
And it's a shame that we can often get caught up in winning the petty fights, so much so that we lose sight of the ultimate war, the battle to save what's actually important: our marriage, our home, our hearts.
More often than not though, pride — and that narcissistic ego of ours — trumps. (I'll speak for myself, of course.)
I'm gradually learning to let go of all the trivial brawls, though, like my poor driving etiquette in the car on our way to church on a Sunday morning. It's crucial I still speak my mind, have my voice heard, but there's an appropriate time and a place for everything.
One of the greatest lessons I've thus grasped is that I don't always have to win anymore. Does it hurt? Of course it does. But my eyes are now focused on the greater prize.
I get it now. As much as she may still exasperate me from time to time with her avid attempts to touch the wheel as I drive, yelling "Careful!" every time I make an awkward turn in the road, I'd rather have her in the passenger seat any day, riding shotgun as we roam the rough terrain of life together.
This article was originally published at The Good Men Project. Reprinted with permission from the author.