“Your wife is lovely” I said to the man sitting across from me as I nodded toward his wife. She didn’t speak English so I smiled at her. Because we were now in the presence of other men, she had put down her traditional hijab that covered her face. I could see in her eyes that she smiled back in way that said she knew she had been acknowledged.
The man thought for a moment while he finished chewing and said,
“Yes, she is beautiful and kind. Oh but she is a very jealous woman.” He lightly chuckled, silly jealous wives. Hardy har.
– – “Oh.” Dude. She’s right next to me. Not to mention: what.
“She is jealous because I am wanting to take a second wife now.”
– – “Mmhmm…” [For lack of a better idea I give a slow head nod.] May day, may day. Stop nodding why am I nodding.
“But it is time for a second wife. And my first wife, she should not be jealous.”
He said the last part like a rhetorical question; he was clearly keen on discussing this Second Wife Acquisition. His eyes glided back and forth from me to her, as if to say – surely, you can reason…
Meanwhile, unaware of the conversation happening mere inches away, the lovely woman gracefully held up her hijab and navigated her fork underneath it to take a bite. We were sitting right next to each other and our lives were worlds apart. I wished she and I were the ones that overlapped with a language instead of me and her husband. I feel like we would have had some shared opinions about him.
I tried to think up something diplomatic to say.
– – “I’m going to have to side with your first wife on this one. Here would you like some more water? I’ll go get it.”
And that will be the last time I ever compliment anyone.