Earlier this week, I had to travel to Baltimore from Washington, D.C. (about an hour’s drive), where the missus would pick me up later and we would drive back home together. The original plan was for me to take the car, because I had to make it in time for an early appointment. She would reach later via public transportation: a bus, 4 trains and a couple of medium-distance walks.
I vehemently refused and insisted she take the car instead. And I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it, and about the kind of person that made me.
The missus lived in this country three years longer than I did. She came here on her own, with nobody to give advice, or even directions to the university. She found her way to the bus stop, classrooms, local train stations, her evening workplace, apartment for rent and grocery stores. She figured out how to get a social security number, apply for a telephone line, pay bills, write her thesis and go to the laundromat. She found her first job, bought a car to commute and then learned to drive it. All by herself.
At least three people I know came into the country after she did, but we all had her to show us around and teach us the ways of the new world. She taught all of us to drive, open a bank account, and look up the bus schedule online. I came here on a dependent visa because she was the breadwinner with a job.
And now, four years later, I drive us everywhere, but she still knows the best routes to avoid traffic. I fish out my wallet every time we eat or buy, but she is the one who does the taxes and knows the outstanding balance on each credit card. I pick the restaurant, and she’s the one who knows how much sodium goes into each ingredient. (Answer: too much).
I stay home sick, and she juggles work, daycare, feeding-bathing-diapering the little one, laundry, cooking and cleaning – all in a single day.
And yet I find it hard to let her take a bus at 8:30am, switch a few trains, and walk a few blocks in downtown Baltimore in broad daylight. I still can’t figure out if I’m treating her like a Lady, or as a Woman.
There’s a world of difference between the two, and that’s the problem.