With a mixed accent of Caribbean and British origins, Dr. Brighton peered from behind his saggy glasses and asked, “Why’re you here?”
Sunday sniffed at the air, wondering the same thing. He also wondered where the whiff of Jamaican beef patty was coming from. He made a mental note to himself to get one after this charade he’d agreed to attend. Adorned in his white lace agbada –to show a type of Nigerian nationalism towards nonsense like this – he shifted in the soft leather couch, and after shooting a side glance at Kim, answered, “Ask her.”
Dr. Brighton’s red-rimmed eyeballs rolled left, even as his balding head stayed trained on Sunday.
“We’re here because we’re having problems,” Kim said as she studied her long, narrow fingers, her head lowered as if held down by a weighty object.
The doctor’s head turned towards her. “What type of problems?”
“All kinds of things could fall under that, I’m afraid. Hopeless?”
“You might say.”
Sunday shifted impatiently, the bile in him rising. “I think that this is a waste of time.”
The doctor shot him an exasperated look. “I don’t think that you believe that. You wouldn’t be here if you did.”
Sunday stood up. “I’m leaving.” He took a few steps towards the door and stopped. He looked at Kim and said, “Are you coming?”
“No.” Kim said the word with such certainty it rattled Sunday’s ego just a bit. Chopping the air with her right hand for emphasis – a Nigerian habit she’d picked up from hanging around Sunday – she added, “We just got here, Sunny. You just can’t up and leave like that.”
“Kim, this is a joke. What are we doing here?” Sunday walked up to her and pulled her gently by her arm. “C’mon, let’s go.”
“You go if you want. I’m staying.” Kim yanked free as she stood up to her feet. She marched across to where Sunday had sat earlier and plunked down on the couch. She folded her arms around her and then put up a defiant, pouty look.
Sunday stood in place and wagged a finger at her. “You’re not supposed to embarrass me in front of strangers like this, Kim. You’re my wife.”
“Not your mule, Sunny.”
Sunday gazed at Dr. Brighton, more as a way to deflect the sting of Kim’s response to him than an authoritative glance. “Did you see that? In my country she would be flogged severely. You can keep her.” He exited the room, slamming the door behind him.
Dr. Brighton leaned back on the couch and flashed a scolding grin. “That’s a live one. I used to be like that, you know?”
Kim sat up and gazed sternly at him. “He’s a good man. All this is his mother’s fault.”
Dr. Brighton placed his pad and pen on the coffee table, took off his glasses and leaned forward towards Kim. “That’s what Rosslyn – my …wife…now deceased, bless her soul – used to say. Blamed it on my mother. But it was all me. See, I’ve changed. For the better.”
Sunday reentered the room, paced around a bit, even as he stared angrily at the doctor and Kim. He stopped by the thick attractively embroidered blinds covering the window, parted them and peered out. He noticed that his Mercedes SUV was now sandwiched by a Jaguar sedan and a Hummer. He wondered who still drove a Hummer in this day of high fuel cost.
Sunday shut the blinds and sat on the couch Kim had been sitting before his exit, effectively switching places with her.
“Shall we continue?” Dr. Brighton said as he donned his glasses and picked up his pad and pen. “From your point of view, Mr. Sunday, what is the problem in your marriage?”
Sunday sucked in air, wondering if to answer. He could still walk out of this place, he told himself. Drive by the Jamaican joint, pick up a patty and some jerk chicken, go home and watch Manchester United against Liverpool live on Fox Sports. But he was a man of his word, so he’d play the game for now. “She wants me to wash the dishes. Can you believe that? Do you wash the dishes at your house?”
Sunday smiled, and then leaned back on the couch. “What kind of a man are you?”
“A man who used to think like you. Do you love him?” Dr. Brighton asked Kim.
Dr. Brighton’s gaze dropped. He sat back and then gazed at Sunday. “Do you love her?”
“Of course. I wouldn’t attend this bullshit thing if I didn’t.”
Kim chuckled. “You see what I’m dealing with?”
“That’s a tangible start,” Dr. Brighton said.
“He doesn’t,” Kim muttered. “He doesn’t love me.”
“Yes, I do, Kim, and you know it.”
“You do, Sunny? Try and show it sometime.”
“Okay.” Sunday walked up to Kim, pulled her up and kissed her passionately, easily fending off her resistence. He let her go, glanced back assertively at Dr. Brighton, and then sat down with an attitude. “See. I do show it. You just refuse to notice.”
“How else, Sunny. Tell me. There’s more to a marriage than kisses and sex.”
Sunday leaned forward. “I go to work every day to bring home the bacon.”
Kim chuckled as she leaned back on the couch. “Sometimes it’ll be nice to bring home some flowers too, Sunny.”
“Nigerian men don’t do flowers.”
“Why not?” Dr. Brighton asked.
“That’s a Western thing. You should know this. Where are you from?”
“American. By way of England,” Dr. Brighton said.
“Flowers are wasteful sentimentalities. You would agree with that, right?”
“Not exactly. I’ve evolved to a point where I see their worth, I’m afraid.”
“Huh?” Sunday wondered where exactly the gentleman sitting to the right of him came from. And why did he keep saying that he was “afraid”? What the fuck was he afraid of? No Nigerian man he knew in Los Angeles did that flower bullshit thing. He said to Dr. Brighton instead, “I don’t cheat on her, I’ve never cheated on her, despite the temptations. Ask her.” He turned to Kim. “Have I ever cheated on you?”
“That’s not good enough, Sunny. I’ve never cheated on you either. But I sacrifice and work to make the marriage work.”
“I do too. That’s why I’m here. Abi?”
“What does she do that makes you unhappy?” Dr. Brighton asked Sunday.
“Are you talking to me?”
“I’m afraid, yes.”
“I did not suggest this consultation, she did. Ask her.”
“So nothing she does offends you?”
“There’s a lot that she does that offends me.”
“Let’s start with one.”
“I would rather discuss that with Kim.”
“He does not play with the kids,” Kim chimed in.
Sunday frowned. “What are you talking about?”
“Sunday, you do not play with the kids!”
“That’s right. I’m not their goddamned schoolmate!”
“But you’re their father. Their father.”
“I’m glad you recognize that. I’m their father, not their friend!”
“The kids hardly know you, Sunday.”
Sunday stood up. “That’s because I work so hard. I have to work so that we can have what we have. Trust me, they know me more than I knew my father!”
Dr. Brighton said, “Do you think that was a good thing?”
“Look at me. I turned out okay.”
“Yes, look at how you turned out,” Kim said derisively.
“You should interact with your children more,” Dr. Brighton said.
“I do. I beat their butts whenever they come home with bad grades. That’s the problem with America. Parents play too much with their children, so much so now the inmates run the asylum. Children need discipline, and I will be a father and not their friend. ”
“You confuse the issue of interaction with discipline, I’m afraid.” Dr. Brighton said.
“They go together, sir, and I’m not afraid.”
“Not in my book.”
“Not in mine either,” Kim said.
Sunday chuckled as he walked back and sat on the couch. “So it’s two against one. Listen. In Nigeria, we beat our children if they misbehave. We don’t have discipline problems in our schools.”
“May be in the society at large?” Dr. Brighton said.
“What are you talking about?” Sunday asked.
“Do you read the papers, Mr. Sunday? Nigerians are arrested every day and everywhere for one fraud or another. Where does this come from other than a breakdown in societal discipline?”
“And I thought that we were here to discuss my marriage,” Sunday said as he leaned forward in his seat. “But since you mentioned it, let’s talk about it. Those thieves you read about in the papers are politicians who went to school here in America and in England. They learned well, sir. They learned how to steal and pillage, and they do it well. The Nigerian villager grew up with discipline, and so is not as prone to such behavior.”
“Can we get back to discussing what we’re here for?” Kim asked, her voice colored with irritation.
Dr. Brighton said, “To your point about Nigerian villagers. Opportunities reveal character. And thus thieves come from all corners of society. A brother of mine – sorry, friend of mine – was attacked in his village in Nigeria, and I’m sure those attackers were not graduates of schools in America or the U.K.”
Kim started humming a tune to get attention.
“For your information, sir. Criminals are not bound to one geographic location, so those village criminals could’ve been graduates of American or British schooling systems.”
Kim sings out loud.
“Sorry. Where were we?” Dr. Brighton said. “Yes, your children. Again, in my humble opinion, Mr. Sunday, I believe that you should interact more with your children beyond the scope of discipline.”
“You’re taking her side.”
“On that point, yes, I’m afraid.”
“She makes more sense.”
“Are you fucking her?”
Dr. Brighton slowly placed the pad and pen on the table. “Don’t be ridiculous, Mr. Sunday. Our relationship is strictly professional.”
“You’re mad,” Kim said to Sunday.
“I think that you should apologize to her right now,” Dr. Brighton said to Sunday. “Don’t mind me. Insults from clients are per the course. But your wife does not deserve that accusation.”
“I can talk to my wife any way I want, sir.” Sunday asked.
Dr. Brighton stood up. “Dr. Brighton to you, Mr. Sunday.”
Sunday stood up. “Mr. Afia to you, sir.”
“Enough!” Kim said. “You two are behaving like little kids.”
Dr. Brighton pointed a finger at Sunday. “He is behaving like a spoiled brat!”
Kim stood up and faced Dr. Brighton. “Hey, why are you yelling at him?”
“He has no manners!” Dr. Brighton said.
“He’s my husband, and we came to you for help.” Kim turned to Sunday. “Sunny, this is not about you. It’s about us and the family. I appreciate the fact that you came with me to this session, but you have to listen for a change, and not be so afraid.”
Sunday waved at them dismissively and walked out of the room, leaving the door open.
“Yeah, get out of here!” Dr. Brighton walked up and slammed the door shut.
“That’s unprofessional,” Kim said.
“Okay, I’ll be professional. You want my professional opinion? Leave him.”
“Are you all right?”
“Are you all right? Why are you still with him? What do you see in that man?”
“He’s my husband and we’re trying to work things out.”
“You wouldn’t need to go through all that shit with me, Kim. Trust me. I told you that already.”
“And I thought that you were joking.”
“I’m not joking. I care for you –“
Kim picks up her purse and makes for the door. “This was a mistake.”
“Wait,” Dr. Brighton said as he leafed through his notes. “This is my prescription.”
Kim slammed the door behind her.