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December 13 2019
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Hamsa Lomi

Tenderness

Tenderness, Ethiopian Style
By: D. G.

She grappled with the idea of leaving, but found the thought too unsettling to fill in the necessary details of a plan. The life she led seemed enough for the time being, although she understood that eventualities would prove it to be wrong for her temperament. She was used to the hustle of life on the edge of survival. It had been exhilarating. Life in three-room bars where men of meager means paid pittance for her services. The brutality of the trade had a certain allure to it. She had felt like a freedom fighter doing what she had to just to survive. That period of time in her life held a special appeal, a sort of nostalgia that can't quite be explained to others.

The grip of her current security is less than comforting. The man who had brought her out of her former life is a man with a gentle soul. He has no real knowledge of her past life and it seems he doesn't find it necessary to inquire. He is reassured to have another body next to him in the wilderness of his exile. The particulars of exile demand that people forgo the fantasy of truth. He has no quarrel with such a rule because somehow it seems to fit his temperament.

She, surprisingly, has grown to love him despite his nonchalant attention. Love, however, is a feeling that holds many contradictions for her; the feeling being never the sum of things that are real. The routine of her current life holds an amusing irony, while the domesticity of a housewife had held promise back home, where she might have enjoyed idle afternoons sipping coffee and gossiping with neighbors. Being a housewife in America is a lonely position. No troublesome neighbors, no Buna ceremony, no maids, only the sound of television with all its meaningless chatter to keep one company. Her duties were simple enough, she would have to cook, clean, and two or three times a week give her self to this man who has come to hold her life in his hand. The work never bothered her, however, the fact that her world consisted of her husband alone disturbed her. Her innate sense of independence was being threatened.

She looks at the time on the VCR and realizes that he will be home in thirty minutes. She walks into her bedroom and opens her closet. She looks at four dresses, which he had bought before he came back home to marry her. He hasn't bought her a new dress since they arrived in the States. She looks at a black dress, and places the dress on the bed. It is a silk dress with spaghetti straps, short with a fit that accentuates her dangerous curves. She also selects black shoes and large gold hoop earrings. She slides the dress on and stares at herself in mirror; she is beautiful, with looks that had destroyed many marriages. Her husband's increasing disinterest in her body was starting to alarm her; the mirror is more reassuring. Satisfied with her choices she goes back in to the kitchen and warms the siga wat and aliCHa fitfit. He arrives home from work before she is done. He greets her with the same lukewarm hello, not for lack of enthusiasm, rather because he is exhausted from his ten-hour shift at the parking lot where he works. He kisses her on the cheeks. His kiss is devoid of passion. Noticing that the dinner table was not yet set, he proceeds to the bedroom mumbling something about taking a shower. As he enters the bedroom he notices her dress on the bed with shoes and jewelry arranged perfectly. He sits on the bed and starts caressing the dress. It feels cold and smooth. He remembers the day she wore this dress to a mels party that was given by his friend when they came to the states after the wedding. She had looked radiant that night; a trophy won through tenhour work days for seven years. He steps back out into the kitchen and tells her that he will be taking her to dinner tonight. He tells her to get ready while he takes a quick shower. She feels a little sad because she knows that the sight of the dress on the bed was the reason he was taking her out to dinner.. However, it was for that exact reason she had set the dress out like that. , Her ability at indirect manipulation gratifies her need for control, yet she hates abusing his weakness. He is a kind man, this much she knows.

When he comes out of the bathroom he notices that she is already dressed. She looks beautiful almost innocent. He is dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt, which he had bought from Costco while they were shopping for groceries. They drive for six miles to the closest Red Lobster restaurant. He tells her it is a [sea food?] fish place. They seat in a booth. She is uncomfortable because she notices that all the people around her are dressed casually. She feels out of place in a silk dress with gold earrings. It hurts her that she doesn't know the latest fashions. He orders the food, and like everything else in her life lately, the food is also plain. She pretends that she likes it, because she likes seeing him confident doing things that have nothing to do with their daily routine. He is relaxed; as he speaks to her, his tone changes sounding more like men from her past who sounded like lullabies, saying words perfumed with lust. They talk for long time until they sip the last of their coffee. She is happy. She feels connected to the world. At home, they make love; she holds on to him caressing his shoulders, pulling him closer to her. She is afraid of coming on too strong in bed, however, this night she uses some of her old tricks. He feels relieved sensing a release in her. He kisses her forehead, pulls away from her and falls instantly asleep. She can't sleep. She is happy tonight but she knows it can't last.

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