My husband was always certain. Perhaps that is what first drew me to him. I loved the conviction with which he made statements, as if his confidence itself could render his verdicts absolute.
On my 26th birthday, my husband offered me a hideous watch he was quite certain I would love. “Enjoy it.” He snickered as he pressed a liquor-scented kiss on my cheek. “When ladies get to 35, they can no longer expect this type of affection.”
He had laughed, alone. I remember the rip in my chest as I clenched my lips tight, preventing unsavoury words of outrage from escaping. I saw it, then and there – a massive clock looming over my head. Right in the middle, where the ’12’ would have been, was the word “MENOPAUSE”, inscribed deep, unapologetically. Instead of the number ” 9 ” was “Weight gain & Breast sag”.
Often I stood in front of the mirror, considering the clock floating ridiculously above my head, like the sexist antithesis to a halo.
I was no angel, and my husband, bless him, knew that. I was born infected, and it was just a matter of time till the rot spread, until it covered all parts of me, matting my skin with cellulite and veins, disfiguring youthful feminine beauty with the hideous marks of progression and wisdom.
Nobody wants a wise wife. And most unfortunately, nobody wants wrinkles on the face they kiss, even if they are the products of years of laughter by the side of a man who promised eternity. Oh how I could laugh now.
I remember 29, I remember the anxiety of idiotic youth, always assuming the worst loomed straight ahead. I remember the migraine of the 30-and-a-day hangover, as if the weight of the clock had suddenly quadrupled on me, bearing down on my poor skull the wrath of angry Gods I had forsaken.
You can never cheat the Gods of time. I tried. And yet, acquaintances’ eyes trailed accusingly on the lithe frame I clung to with hours of cruel cardio, as if attempting to burn a hole in my belly, so as to better see if the rot had already reached its insides.
Why was I not pregnant yet? Did I just want more time to drink? A “fucking embarrassment”, my husband called it. When I was 34, my period stopped. A period at the end of a sentence. The verdict, whatever the cause, was absolute.
They say premature menopause affects approximately one in 45 women. The clock blessed 44 times before it chose to curse me. Time thieved from me what 44 other women deserved, as if my neck had not been steady enough, as if I had not carried the clock relentlessly, as I ran about duties and painted my lips and hydrated my skin?
When I turned 36, my husband kissed me on the brow and asked for a divorce. Time had lent me a home, which I had moved into with my every possession, and now I was getting evicted. The men on the street no longer leered, so my man could no longer for me harden.
The clock was ticking too loudly then, and he did not want to bear the noise. I could come to his new wedding, he offered. She was 23. She reminded him of me, before.
That night, I dreamt of wrenching the clock from my head and bashing it into my skull. Perhaps then, when there was nothing left to take, time would let a woman be, at last.